The Week on Planet Trump: Donald Battles the Big C's - Cohen, Cuts and Conspiracy

Monday: Conflict with Haley on Russia Sanctions

President Trump on Monday put the brakes on a preliminary plan to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia, walking back a Sunday announcement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that the Kremlin had swiftly denounced as “international economic raiding.”

Preparations to punish Russia anew for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government over an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria caused consternation at the White House. Haley had said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that sanctions on Russian companies behind the equipment related to Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attack would be announced Monday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

But Trump conferred with his national security advisers later Sunday and told them he was upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them, according to several people familiar with the plan.

Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Anton Troianovski and Greg Jaffe, The Washington Post

Tuesday: State Secretary Nominee Meets with Kim

CIA Director Mike Pompeo visited North Korea more than two weeks ago for a secret meeting with leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, sources confirmed to CNN.

Pompeo, who is US President Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of State, didn't take any officials from the White House or State Department with him on the trip, only intelligence officials, one source said Tuesday.

The White House declined to comment on Pompeo's visit, which took place around April 1 and was first reported by The Washington Post. The Post reported that Pompeo went as Trump's envoy to lay the groundwork for direct talks between Trump and Kim about North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The two leaders are set to meet in late May or early June, in what would be the first face-to-face encounter between a sitting US President and a North Korean leader.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump dropped hints about top level talks between the US and North Korea during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Jeff Zeleny, Elise Labott and Ben Westcott, CNN

Wednesday: Tweet U-Turns on Trade Pact U-Turn

President Donald Trump shocked Washington on Thursday when he told lawmakers he was looking into rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In his first week in office, Trump withdrew the US from the huge free trade pact after criticizing it sharply as a bad deal for American workers on the campaign trail.

But now it appears he’s changing his mind yet again — back to his original stance.

“While Japan and South Korea would like us to go back into TPP, I don’t like the deal for the United States,” Trump tweeted Tuesday night. “Too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn’t work. Bilateral deals are far more efficient, profitable and better for OUR workers.”

The TPP is a free trade agreement between 11 Pacific Rim countries, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Australia, which eliminates barriers to buying and selling goods and services between them. On his path to the White House, Trump said it would end up killing jobs in the US by exposing them to more foreign competition.

Zeeshan Aleem, Vox

Thursday: Voters Appalled by Cruel Medicaid Cuts

President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicaid and Medicare into law in 1965, and it’s no accident that the two were created simultaneously. Both programs were designed to provide health insurance to vulnerable members of society who previously went without medical coverage  — including the poor and the elderly. Over the past half a century, Medicare and Medicaid have been expanded to cover more people and more services.

Unfortunately, Medicaid has been under siege in Congress ever since the ACA was enacted. When the majority party took control of all branches of government in 2017, they tried relentlessly to gut the program  — starting with Obamacare repeal legislation all the way through President Trump’s first two budgets and various House GOP budget proposals.

The onslaught continues in the Trump administration, which is busy granting waivers for work requirements, drug testing, and other bureaucratic barriers that will result in Medicaid patients being kicked off the rolls.

In a recent poll by the Center for American Progress, a whopping 80 percent of respondents (across party lines) said they oppose cutting Medicaid. “The Trump agenda of dismantling health care is the opposite of what the American people want,” says Vallas. “Americans want their policymakers to ensure that everyone has access to healthcare, not take away programs like Medicaid that make it possible for grandma to be in the nursing home.”

Max Richtman, The Hill

Friday: Democrats Sue Trump Campaign

The Democratic National Committee filed an attention-grabbing lawsuit against the Russian government, WikiLeaks and Donald Trump's presidential campaign that says they conspired to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The suit treats as unified fact what Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller is attempting to establish through his investigation. It's red meat for rank-and-file Democrats.

Trump allies in the House sent a letter to the Justice Department earlier this week "referring" the cases of Hillary Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey and other political enemies for potential prosecution. That referral also is not expected to result in action.

Philip Ewing, NPR

Saturday: Cohen Investigation Imperils POTUS

President Donald Trump said Saturday that he doesn't think Michael Cohen, his embattled lawyer, will turn on him despite an FBI raid on Cohen's offices and ongoing legal battles.

In a series of tweets, Trump claimed some sections of the media are "going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will 'flip,'" but expressed confidence that his longtime personal attorney would stand by him.

The specific focus of the investigation and possible federal crimes have not been disclosed by the U.S. attorney’s office, but in a filing last Friday they did confirm that the investigation that led them to raid Cohen's offices "largely centers on his personal business dealings" and has been going on for months.

Those who spoke to NBC News also relayed a broader fear that the ongoing criminal investigation into Cohen by prosecutors from New York's Southern District is ultimately designed as a way to get to Trump.

Katy Tur and Max Burman, NBC News

Sunday: Attack on Transgender Rights

The Trump administration’s campaign to make life more difficult for transgender Americans entered a new phase this weekend. On Saturday, according to the New York Times, the administration announced that it would gut an anti-discrimination statute when it comes to health care access for transgender patients.

The rule, passed under the Obama administration in 2016, had prevented health care providers receiving federal financial assistance — including those receiving Medicare and Medicaid payments — from discriminating based on “gender identity.” A recent ruling out of Texas, however, found that segments of the rule were unlawful, opening the door for the Department of Health and Human Services to rewrite the rule.

The new rule could have potentially devastating effects on America’s transgender community. As POLITICO reported last month, over 30 percent of transgender Americans “lack regular access to a medical provider, even as their community suffers from high rates of depression, exposure to violence and HIV infection.” Now, health care providers and insurers will make it easier to prevent gender reassignment surgeries — and potentially other procedures as well — for transgender Americans.

Casey Michel, ThinkProgress

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