Instead of America First, Focus Is On North Korea, Syria, Russia, and Hitler

An administration that vowed “America First” is right now almost entirely focused on the rest of the world.

  • In an early morning phone call today China says was initiated by Trump, President Xi told Trump he will coordinate with the U.S. and put pressure on North Korea not to conduct further nuclear tests. He promised to leverage much-needed fuel supplies to North Korea.
  • Is Kim Jong-un the new Rosie O’Donnell? Except with nukes? President Trump started toying with the North Korean leader on Twitter and later on Fox News where he said he was sending an “Armada” North Korea’s way. Reuters U.S.A.???

  • Still the administration’s Russia ties linger. The Washington Post says the FBI got permission to monitor former Trump advisor Carter Page on probable cause he was a foreign agent.
  • A lot of the focus today on Sean Spicer who seemed to compare Hitler favorably to Assad on the grounds that Hitler didn’t “sink to using chemical weapons” and did “not use gas on his own people the same way Assad is doing.”

Here’s what you can look forward to Back in the U.S.A.

  • Republicans held onto their congressional seat in Kansas last night as Republican Ron Estes beat Democrat James Thompson 53% to 45%. The 8 point margin is much closer margin compared to Mike Pompeo’s 31 point victory in November before he took the CIA Director job. The district is nearly 2-to-1 Republican, so last night’s result is sure to give some encouragement to Democrats looking to take the House back in 2018. If the race is this close in Deep Red Kansas, Republicans should be concerned. [Kansas City Star]
  • Obamacare “explosion” may not be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The President could do a lot to push it that way in the wake of Republican health care bill debacle. So maybe it’s surprising that the administration will for now continue cost-sharing payments to insurance companies. Without that, insurers might have been reluctant to offer plans next year. Washington Post suggests White House doesn’t want to take blame for perhaps 10-million people losing coverage. A more cynical view is since the payments go to insurance companies, not individuals, it fits with the Trump doctrine of “you can’t hurt business.” BTW, didn’t Trump mean to say Obamacare will “implode”? (Wouldn’t “explode” be a good thing?)
  • And President Trump really wants his tax plan to pass, which may mean considering huge payroll tax cuts, and the establishment of a Value Added Tax. Good analysis here. The short version: a worker making $60,000 a year could get another $3,720 in take home pay, but would have to pay 20% more on everything they buy, and we’d have to find a new way to fund Social Security.
  • Congress is on recess, and as we mentioned earlier in the week, that means town hall meeting for some brave representatives. They would include South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson, who famously yelled “you lie!” at President Obama. Well, what goes around comes around according to this local newspaper report.
  • Steve Bannon and Donald Trump no longer BFF? The NY Post’s Michael Goodwin says he asked Trump yesterday if he still had confidence in Bannon. Trump didn’t quite say yes. Instead, he said “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late.” For those that like to read the tea leaves, that sounds like Bannon could be on his way out. Or, its just another distraction…

And it’s all building up to an unusually important Saturday

  • Remember when President Trump said on his first day in office he’d name China a “currency manipulator” and take retaliatory action? That could happen Saturday when the Treasury Department issues its foreign currency report. But in a meeting with China’s President Xi, and subsequent Tweets, Trump appears prepared to back off, suggesting if China helps out with North Korea he’ll give them a better deal.