Trump And Mitch McConnell Come Together, For Right Now

President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faced reporters side by side on Monday amid the stagnation of the Republican congressional agenda and a looming civil war over Republican Senate candidates.

Both Trump and McConnell made clear that they would work to wave Steve Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, off races where a contested GOP primary may yield a candidate who can't win in a general election. The two leaders — at odds for weeks over tactics, pace, and priorities — projected unity on agenda items from tax reform to healthcare, promising speedy results in the dwindling number of days left on the year's legislative calendar.

McConnell came to the White House at the president's invitation. Vice President Mike Pence, chief of staff John Kelly, and White House legislative director Marc Short had pressed for a public detente between Trump and McConnell, a Republican close to the White House told the Washington Examiner.

"Their differences are never going to be quelled. McConnell is an institutionalist, and Trump is a shot against institutionalism," said Ford O'Connell, a GOP strategist.

O'Connell said the two likely came together this week because remaining opposed could sink both of their futures as elected officials.

"They may be strange bedfellows, but their political livelihoods are basically intertwined," O'Connell said. "Their political livelihood rests with their ability to actually do things."

Read more from Sarah Westwood at the Washington Examiner

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Trump, GOP Play Defense In Middle-Class Tax Cut Pitch

The Trump administration is pushing back against criticism from Democrats that its tax-reform plan will be a boon for the rich, casting the GOP bid to slash corporate taxes as a win for workers.

The White House has reason to worry that arguments made by Democrats and other critics are resonating. A CBS News poll released Sunday found 58 percent believe Republicans’ tax proposals would favor the wealthy, with just 18 percent saying it would favor the middle class. 

President Trump emphasized the middle class in comments on the tax effort on Monday.

After the failure to repeal ObamaCare, the stakes are high for Republicans to deliver on their tax-reform promises, with some in the party suggesting the GOP could lose one or both houses of Congress in the midterm elections next year if they fail.

Complicating matters for the White House is that at times, key players have made comments that stray from that message.  

But by and large, the Trump administration has been trying to stay on message and explain how their efforts would benefit typical households.

“There’s no question about it that the White House knows exactly what message obstacles they have to overcome,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

Read more from Naomi Jagoda at The Hill

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Trump Tries To Turn Back Clock On Obama Era

President Trump is trying to turn back the clock on the Obama era, even as he has been frustrated by the slow pace of progress on his legislative agenda.

In a 24-hour period beginning Thursday evening, Trump took aim at former President Obama’s major domestic and foreign policy achievements — the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, and the nuclear deal with Iran.

In both cases, he began hollowing out his predecessor’s accomplishments — in the first instance by announcing he would end government subsidies for insurers, and in the other by refusing to certify that Iran was in compliance with the terms of the 2015 agreement.

Those moves by Trump can be added to a lengthy list of actions aimed at unpicking the Obama legacy.

Since coming to office in January, Trump has promised to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, rolled back LGBT rights, withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and approved the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — the Obama-era initiative that offered a measure of protection to around 800,000 people who had entered the United States illegally as children — will expire in March unless a legislative fix is found.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, a Trump supporter, said, “I think what President Trump is experiencing is exactly what President Obama experienced in a lot of ways, even though they are very different people. 

“They realize that we are living in a highly polarized country with a highly polarized Congress. Procedural rules make it such that you can get very little done. And so presidents have to use executive actions to deliver what they said they were going to do.”

Read more from Niall Stanage at The Hill

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In A Sudden Flurry, Trump Looks To Deliver For His Voters

For the moment, U.S. President Donald Trump is going it alone.

After weeks of seeing his agenda imperiled by Republican divisions and infighting among his aides, Trump has been a whirl of activity this week, reasserting his campaign priorities and trying to deliver wins for his fervent but frustrated base of supporters. 

Trump took steps to dramatically undercut the Obamacare health system, sent notice he was willing to scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, moved to roll back coal-plant limits, and again demanded a wall along the Mexican border.

And on social media the Republican president appeared to relish his feuds with the news media, senior Republicans in Congress, and National Football League players who have protested during the national anthem. 

In a sense, it was the vintage, freewheeling Trump: throwing red meat to his voter base, following his gut, and haranguing his critics. 

But by the end of the week, he had made more progress in undoing the policy accomplishments of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, than he had in some time. 

“Trump knows he has to make good on several of his campaign promises,” said Ford O‘Connell, a Republican strategist. “The clock is ticking, Congress is useless and portions of his base are growing frustrated.”

Read more from James Oliphant at Reuters

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As Trump Escalates Feud With Corker, Bannon Targets Rest Of Senate GOP

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended President Donald Trump’s Twitter tirades against a prominent member of his own party Tuesday, but experts say the infighting could endanger Republicans’ lagging legislative agenda.

“I don’t think he’s alienating anyone,” Sanders said at a press briefing. “I think that Congress has alienated themselves by not actually getting the job done that the people elected them to do.”

She also echoed President Trump’s criticism of Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell cautioned that Corker’s decision to take his concerns about the president public hinders Republicans’ ability to advance tax reform and other key agenda items, and in the long run, it could even cost them their slim Senate majority.

“I think Sen. Corker’s decision to go all ‘Bulworth’ on President Trump was highly irresponsible…,” O’Connell said. “I don’t think that Corker hurt Trump in any way. All Corker did is put his Senate GOP colleagues in a tough spot with the media.”

The mending of that relationship points to a basic political truth that may mitigate the damage of the Corker feud: on most issues, Trump and congressional Republicans want the same things and they have to work together to get them.

“Whether you like Trump or not, it’s not like you’re going to get any of this done with the other side in power,” O’Connell said.

For Bannon, success in several key races could usher in a new generation of Trump-inspired Republican leaders, but experts say that potential reward comes with enormous risks.

“If Bannon doesn’t do this properly, everyone’s going to go home a loser,” O’Connell said. “You conceivably could have two Democrat senators in Arizona. How does that better serve the party?”

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at WJLA

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Pence Leaves Game Over NFL Protest

Vice President Mike Pence walked out of a football game in Indianapolis after several players knelt during the national anthem yesterday — re-igniting a conflict between the Trump administration and the NFL that boiled over two weeks ago.

Pence, Indiana’s former governor, was attending an Indianapolis Colts game in which former quarterback Peyton Manning was being honored.

But Pence left before kickoff after Colts players linked arms during the anthem and a dozen members of the opposing team, the San Francisco 49ers, knelt.

“I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” Pence tweeted right after leaving. “At a time when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their courage, resolve, and resilience, now, more than ever, we should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us.

“While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem,” Pence tweeted. “I stand with @POTUS Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem.”

But Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said the anthem issue was a winning one with Trump’s base, and that Pence’s participation was a show of unity.

“Maybe Pence didn’t come at this on his own, but what Trump is trying to say is that his administration is walking in unison,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Dan Atkinson at the Boston Herald

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U.S. Democrats Push For Gun Control, Despite Gloomy Prospects

In the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, Democrats on Wednesday began a push to tighten gun control, although they are unlikely to get far, experts said.

Sunday saw the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The identified shooter, Stephen Paddock, attacked concert-goers at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas and later took his own life, killing at least 59 people and injuring more than 500 others.

Local police found over a dozen additional firearms and explosives in his room, according to local authorities and news reports.

In light of the horrific event, Democrats on Wednesday pushed for new gun control legislation. Congressman John Lewis, who has spearheaded the push for tougher laws, called for Americans to have "moral courage" in this issue.

However, experts said Democrats are unlikely to get far in gun control for the following two reasons: First, Republicans, supporters of the constitutional right to bear arms, control both the Congress and the White House, and GOP lawmakers are firmly against anti-firearms legislation.

Second, there is historical precedent. Even after the 2012 shooting incident at Sandy Hook elementary school in the U.S. state of Connecticut, which resulted in the deaths of so many children, Democrats failed to pass a gun control bill.

"If they can't get any (gun control) measures after Sandy Hook, I find it hard to believe they can get any measures through a GOP-controlled congress," Republican Strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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GOP Feuds With Outside Group Over Analysis Of Tax Framework

The hottest feud in Washington is between Republicans and the Tax Policy Center (TPC).

Some prominent GOP lawmakers and conservatives are outraged with the wonky joint venture of the left-leaning Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. The group released a study Friday that said the GOP’s tax reform framework would mostly benefit the rich, increase taxes on some middle-income people and lower federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over a decade.

The study was widely covered in the press, drawing front-page stories in The New York Times and Washington Post. The coverage ran counter to the White House’s messaging, which labeled the tax plan the “middle-class miracle.”

Republicans have responded by going after the Tax Policy Center, arguing the group is biased and used inaccurate assumptions to reach its conclusions.

The group “essentially sandbagged a Romney tax proposal,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

“The lesson here is that if Republicans want to pass tax reform, they better be prepared to fight back at every turn,” he added.

Read more from Naomi Jagoda at The Hill

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Trump Visit To Puerto Rico: A Chance To Deflect 'Katrina' Comparisons

President Trump has been praised for his administration’s response to last month’s hurricanes in Texas and Florida – no small feat. It was the first time two Category 4 storms had hit the United States in the same year.

But Puerto Rico has been another story. Hurricane Maria left the island in utter devastation, and critics have accused the Trump administration of lagging in its response. Mr. Trump, in turn, attacked local officials as “politically motivated ingrates” and called coverage of the devastation “fake news.”

Complicating it all is Trump’s prickly relationship with Latinos, who have never seen this president as an ally. Trump’s visit Tuesday to Puerto Rico represents an opportunity to turn the page, but a narrative is already setting in: Maria is Trump’s “Katrina,” a reference to the charge that President George W. Bush had failed a devastated New Orleans after its own hurricane in 2005.

Can today’s downward spiral of recriminations and distrust be reversed?

“I’ve got to be honest, there’s a lot of dishonest politics going on here,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “The Democrats are clearly trying to make this Trump’s Katrina through identity politics, just because of questionable statements made about Hispanics throughout the campaign.”

Another political dimension that roils the Puerto Rico story centers on Florida: If waves of Puerto Ricans move to the Sunshine State permanently, and begin voting there, that could be a game-changer in this critical battleground state.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Trump's Las Vegas Response Draws Praise But Gun Control Debate Looms

President Trump's unifying response on Monday to a massive shooting in Las Vegas may have earned bipartisan accolades, but the president could soon find himself drawn into a political debate about how and whether to tighten regulations on guns.

Trump's prepared remarks about the Las Vegas attack -- which he read Monday morning from a TelePrompTer at the White House -- made no mention of the fierce partisan debate that typically surrounds guns and mass shootings. The moment of silence he conducted on the South Lawn struck a solemn chord around the country. And his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, declined to answer a series of gun control questions on Monday by telling reporters she considered it "premature" to discuss policy while investigators still searched for the shooter's motive.

Meanwhile, Democrats -- including Hillary Clinton, Trump's former election rival -- hinted at the political slog over gun control that likely awaits the president and his fellow Republicans.

"I think that President Trump's response was pitch perfect. I mean, he captured the somber mood and framed it perfectly without getting political," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist. "Now, there's no question about it that the left is gunning for another gun control showdown and debate."

Trump may avoid encountering the gun control debate on Tuesday when he travels to Puerto Rico to survey the damage from Hurricane Maria, O'Connell noted, and he may stave off the showdown on Wednesday by visiting the families of shooting victims in Las Vegas.

"The left is really going to push on this come Wednesday night, Thursday," O'Connell said. "I mean, they're just sort of building up."

Read more from Sarah Westwood at the Washington Examiner

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