The Week on Planet Trump: NFL Stunts, Legislative Sabotage and Diplomatic Chaos

Monday: Pence Pulls NFL Stunt, But Silence on Charlottesville

A mockery was made of the national anthem all right. But it wasn’t by the San Francisco 49ers. Vice President Mike Pence turned the anthem into a prop Sunday, co-opting it for a stunt that served no other purpose than to sow division, further enrage the administration’s conservative base and try to cow NFL owners. That it likely deflected attention from yet more neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville was all the better.

This isn’t about patriotism or love of country or any other garbage excuse. This was a carefully orchestrated PR move — one staged at no small expense to taxpayers, given Pence flew to Indianapolis from Las Vegas on Saturday night and was heading back out West to Los Angeles later Sunday.

Nancy Armour, USA Today

Tuesday: Warring Corker Warns of World War III

If Senator Bob Corker was hoping his blunt criticism of President Trump would inspire his fellow Republicans to join him in publicly confronting the leader of their party, he would be disappointed. And if the president was hoping that a chorus of GOP legislators would rise to his defense, he, too, should be dismayed.

With their shrugs and with their silence, Republican senators responded on Monday to the Trump-Corker feud with a resounding plea: Keep us out of it. Few elected Republicans chose to take sides between the president and the powerful chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who on Sunday likened Trump’s White House to “an adult day care” and warned that his reckless stewardship was leading the U.S. “on the path to World War III.”

The reticence of Republican senators to take sides was notable, but not surprising. Party lawmakers are keenly aware that while they may be rankled by Trump’s pugnacious tweeting and his relish of a fight, the GOP base remains loyal to the president.

Russell Berman, The Atlantic

Wednesday: POTUS Blusters as Puerto Rico Suffers

“Nobody could have done what I’ve done for Puerto Rico with so little appreciation. So much work!” he tweeted on Sunday. The tweet was posted along with a White House video of helicopters and trucks in Puerto Rico, and a title card saying, “What the fake news media will not show you in Puerto Rico.”

However, the Trump administration has limited insight into whether food is getting distributed and how many hungry Americans are struggling to find food.

Trump is receiving little appreciation from the American people for his response to the Puerto Rico disaster. According to a recent poll for the Associated Press, just 32% of Americans approve of Trump’s performance after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

Richard Wolffe, The Guardian

Thursday: Failing on Obamacare Repeal, Trump Resorts to Sabotage

With the failure by Republicans in Congress to repeal Obamacare this year, President Trump is taking matters into his own hands, signing an executive order Thursday that targets the health care law.

Trump is asking federal agencies to look for ways to expand the use of association health plans, groups of small businesses that pool together to buy health insurance, and to broaden the definition of short-term insurance, which is exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s rules, administration officials said.

Policy experts warn that together, these changes could represent a serious threat to Obamacare: Trump wants to open more loopholes for more people to buy insurance outside the health care law’s markets, which experts anticipate would destabilize the market for customers who are left behind with higher premiums and fewer insurers.

Dylan Scott, Vox

Friday: Obamacare Cuts Will Be Devastating

Top Democrats scolded President Donald Trump on Thursday night after the White House announced the president would end cost-sharing reduction payments, a crucial subsidy designed to help low-income people afford health insurance.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer decried the move in a joint statement Thursday night. "Sadly, instead of working to lower health costs for Americans, it seems President Trump will single-handedly hike Americans' health premiums," they said.

Pelosi and Schumer called the move a "spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage levelled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America."

“Trumpcare collapsed because Americans overwhelmingly recognized the cruelty and higher costs it meant for them and their loved ones. Now, millions of hard-working American families will suffer just because President Trump wants them to.”

Bryan Logan, Business Insider

Saturday: Iran Deal Rollback Threatens Global Security

If the U.S. terminates the Iran nuclear deal or reimposes sanctions, it could result in Tehran developing nuclear weapons and increase the likelihood of war close to Europe, Germany’s foreign minister [Sigmar Gabriel] warned Saturday.

Trump on Friday dealt a blow to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal by refusing to formally certify that Tehran is complying with the accord even though international inspectors say it is.

The leaders of Germany, France and the U.K. immediately issued a joint statement in which they declared that they are committed to the Iran deal and its full implementation. They urged Trump and Congress to consider the security implications of their actions.

Gabriel also said that if the United States terminated the deal or if sanctions were reimposed on Tehran, it would give Iranian hardliners, who are against negotiations with the West, the upper hand.

“Then they might revert to developing nuclear weapons,” Gabriel said, adding Israel would not tolerate that and “then we will be back where we were 10, 12 years ago with the danger of war relatively close to Europe.”

Jacopo Barigazzi, Politico

Sunday: Castrated Tillerson Attempts to Mediate

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that President Donald Trump had instructed him to continue diplomatic efforts to calm rising tensions with North Korea, saying “those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.”

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Tillerson downplayed messages that President Trump had previously posted on Twitter suggesting Tillerson was wasting his time trying to negotiate with “Little Rocket Man,” a derogatory nickname Trump has coined for North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea has conducted a series of nuclear tests in recent weeks and ago and launched two missiles over Japan.

Tillerson has been in talks with China to enlist its help on getting North Korea to back down.

But Trump’s recent Twitter messages appeared to undercut Tillerson’s efforts, prompting the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker to complain that Trump was publicly castrating Tillerson and hurting diplomatic talks.

Sarah N. Lynch, Reuters

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