The Week on Planet Trump: Struggling POTUS Falls Back on Spin, Compromise and Conspiracy Theory

Monday: Trumpcare Will Damage Trump

President Donald Trump's cancellation of Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction payments will increase premiums by 20 percent, cost the government $194 billion in higher subsidy payments, widen the deficit, destabilize insurance markets, increase the number of uninsured Americans, and cause chaos in health markets in the runup to the 2018 election. There is literally nothing in the health care system it makes better; it's pure policy nihilism. So why did Trump do it?

Like the Republicans who came before him, Trump is trying to gain leverage by sabotaging the governance of the country; unlike the Republicans who came before him, Trump is responsible for the governance of the country, and so he is sabotaging himself. This would all be quite comic if not for the millions of people who badly need decent health insurance and are going to suffer as Trump teaches himself this lesson.

Ezra Klein, Vox

Tuesday: Sick Joke Signals the Danger of a Mike Pence Presidency

The story, citing two anonymous sources, said Trump enjoys needling the conservative former Indiana governor about his views on abortion and homosexuality and, when a conversation with an unnamed legal scholar turned to gay rights, the president motioned to Pence and allegedly joked, "Don't ask that guy — he wants to hang them all!"

In the past, Pence has said gay couples "signaled societal collapse," opposed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," opposed a law prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people in the workplace and rejected Obama administration guidance on transgender students being able to use bathrooms that corresponds to their gender identity.

John Paul Brammer, NBC News

Wednesday: Muslim Ban Blocked Again

US District Judge Theodore D. Chuang -- who also blocked travel ban 2.0 -- did not go as far as the judge in Hawaii on Tuesday and has only extended his order to "individuals with a bona fide relationship with an individual or entity in the United States."

"Like the two versions before it, President Trump's latest travel ban is still a Muslim ban at its core. And like the two before it, this one is going down to defeat in the courts. Religious discrimination with window dressing is still unconstitutional," said ACLU attorney Omar Jadwat, among those that argued the case in court Monday.

Laura Jarrett, CNN

Thursday: Trump Seeks Tax Compromise with Democrats

President Trump's upcoming push for his tax cut plan next month will include compromises that will limit some of its current benefits for the nation's richest taxpayers, according to White House officials.

Trump’s blueprint collapses individual income tax brackets to three, cuts the top corporate tax rate dramatically and creates a new top rate for small businesses that is lower than the top rate for individuals. It also eliminates two taxes paid entirely by the rich, while taking away a deduction for state and local taxes that is used most heavily in some of the most wealthy, and Democrat-dominated, states.

The plan is drawing criticism for eliminating the estate tax — which benefits the wealthy — while scrapping a state and local tax deduction benefiting many taxpayers living in high-cost states. At the same time, it could balloon the debt by trillions, which Republicans argue would be offset by increased economic growth.

Heidi M. Przybyla, USA Today

Friday: Spinning Trump’s Feckless Phone Call, Kelly Asserts His Authority

Consider this nightmare scenario: a military coup. You don’t have to strain your imagination—all you have to do is watch Thursday’s White House press briefing, in which the chief of staff, John Kelly, defended President Trump’s phone call to a military widow, Myeshia Johnson.

A week earlier, Kelly had taken over the White House press briefing in an attempt to quash another scandal and ended up using the phrase “I was sent in,” twice, in reference to his job in the White House. Now he seemed to be saying that, since he was sent in to control the President and the President had, this time, more or less carried out his instructions, the President should not be criticized.

When Kelly replaced the ineffectual Reince Priebus as the chief of staff, a sigh of relief emerged: at least the general would impose some discipline on the Administration. Now we have a sense of what military discipline in the White House sounds like.

Masha Gessen, The New Yorker

Saturday: Trump Takes Credit for ISIS Defeat

President Donald Trump said Saturday that the United States would soon transition into a "new phase" of involvement in Syria after US-backed forces drove ISIS members from Raqqa, the city they deemed their capital.

"I totally changed rules of engagement. I totally changed our military. I totally changed the attitudes of the military, and they have done a fantastic job," Trump told syndicated radio talk show host Chris Plante Tuesday. "ISIS is now giving up. They are giving up, they are raising their hands, they are walking off. Nobody has ever seen that before.”

Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter disputed that claim in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on "The Lead" Friday, saying the plan to capture the terrorist group's de facto capital of Raqqa was put in place two years ago under Trump's predecessor, then-President Barack Obama.

Miranda Green, CNN

Sunday: JFK Files Release is not motivated by Truth

Conspiracy theories are a way to stand up, through disbelief, against the powerful. Those who spread conspiracy theories in earnest are, whether they mean to or not, partaking in an act of defiance against established institutions as much as they are questioning accepted truths. Usually, then, a refusal to believe the widely accepted explanation of how something happened originates from outside of official channels like government. A president might be the one accused of the conspiracy; rarely is he the one spreading rumors.  

Donald Trump is not like other presidents.

So when Donald Trump suggests he will help the public access long-secret JFK files in the name of transparency, he’s doing it with the same talent for identifying the kinds of stories that captivate people that he’s leaned on his entire career.

Regardless of the files, though, Trump’s attention to them is a window into how he wants to be seen. In one dashed-off tweet, Trump positions himself as doing something noble—advocating for transparency, against the warnings of the intelligence community—while feeding at least two major conspiracies. One, that the press is “the enemy of the American people” working in cahoots with the deep state, and, two, by lending credibility to the idea that the official story of JFK's assassination is indeed suspect.

Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic

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