The Week on Planet Trump: Trapped by Mueller, POTUS Rants at FBI as Florida Survivors Demand Gun Control

Monday: Budget Explodes Deficit and Hits Poor Hardest

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump told the “forgotten men and women of our country” that he would champion them. As evidence that he was a different kind of Republican, he promised not to cut Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that benefit poor and middle-class families.

On Monday, President Trump proposed a budget that would slash spending on Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, transportation and other essential government services, all while increasing the federal deficit.

Mr. Trump’s 2019 budget, combined with the tax cuts Republicans passed last year, would amount to one of the greatest transfers of wealth from the poor to the rich in generations. It would also charge trillions of dollars in new debt to the account of future Americans. It’s a plan that could please only far-right ideologues who want to dissolve nearly every part of the federal government, save the military.

If Congress adopted Mr. Trump’s proposal, millions of people would stand to lose health insurance, subsidized food, low-cost housing and other benefits. The result would be to greatly increase poverty and hunger in America.

Editorial, The New York Times

Tuesday: America Abandons Diplomatic Leadership on Israel-Palestine

Nobody could have expected the Palestinians to accept the U.S. decision on recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as a step toward peace. It is clear the decision was taken for domestic American consumption rather than for the cause of peace in our region. In fact, it contradicts President Trump’s commitment not to impose anything on the parties, and signals the end of an era for the bilateral Palestinian-Israeli process brokered by the U.S.

In Palestine, people talk with cynicism about the “peace process.” To many, the past 25 years have meant the closure of Jerusalem, the siege of Gaza and the unexpected growth of Israeli settlements. The lack of any accountability has been used by Israel as a smokescreen to expand its settlement enterprise in occupied Palestine. Palestinians now wonder whether a two-state solution is still possible. To them, Trump’s announcement was a confirmation that the two-state solution was over.

There is no way to achieve the two-state solution without ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967. The plan is clear-cut and it cannot be overturned to satisfy the irrational desires and the expansionist mindset of Netanyahu to continue the expansion of its illegal settlements in occupied territory.

Issa Kassissieh, Newsweek

Wednesday: President Considers First Fuel Tax Rise in 25 Years

President Trump on Wednesday said he in favor of a 25-cent gas tax hike to pay for his infrastructure plan.

He told lawmakers and senior White House officials that he endorses a gas tax hike, sources familiar with the meeting told Axios.

Sen. Tom Carper (Del.), the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, was in the meeting and confirmed in a statement that the president backed a 25-cent increase.

The gas tax supports the Highway Trust Fund to pay for road projects, and has not been raised in more than two decades.

The White House unveiled Trump’s long-awaited infrastructure overhaul on Monday, a $1.5 trillion package that would include a $200 billion contribution from the federal government.

Avery Anapol, The Hill

Thursday: Florida Shooting Survivors Demand Action on Gun Violence

This morning, on CNN, live from Parkland, Florida, with a backdrop of squad cars parked behind a yellow slash of barricade tape, a reporter interviewed David Hogg, who is a seventeen-year-old senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where, the day before, he survived a shooting that left seventeen people dead. Hogg, addressing policymakers with memorably firm eye contact, told them to “look in the mirror.” He gave a sincere performance of—and about—applying scrutiny.

In its broad outlines, such TV interviews are routine in the aftermath of school shootings, which are themselves also routine. In the course of our gun-violence epidemic, a certain narrative grammar has emerged, and the accounts of eyewitnesses are an enraging staple of morning shows. But Hogg offered a media presence without exact precedent. A student journalist, he had interviewed his classmates on camera while they sheltered in an office as the crime unfolded. A telegenic talent, he was the most polished of many articulate witnesses to a slaughter, exemplifying a student response to school shootings that is rarely seen.

With seventeen people dead on campus, Hogg’s schoolmates have gone viral tweeting back at the President (among other unhelpful commenters) in appropriate tones of disgust and outrage. Scoffing at hot air about thoughts and prayers, the very people being thought of and prayed for were righteously determined to force the story of their classmates’ massacre into a dialogue about gun violence. This energy carried over to television, where, for instance, a sophomore named Isabella Gomez disputed President Trump on MSNBC. Gomez’s message was partly a matter of what she said—“He really needs to take into consideration gun control”—and partly a matter of the calm indignation with which she said it.

Troy Patterson, The New Yorker

Friday: Romney Begins Senate Run with Swipe at White House

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and former governor of Massachusetts, officially announced Friday morning that he is running for the Senate seat being vacated by seven-term GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Romney tweeted a video announcement, after delaying a planned launch on Thursday in the wake of the deadly mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

"Utah welcomes legal immigrants from around the world," Romney says. "Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion. And on Utah's Capitol Hill, people treat one another with respect."

A Sen. Romney would add yet another layer of drama to Washington. During the 2016 campaign, Romney called Trump a "phony" and a "fraud." Trump, who tried to persuade Hatch to run for re-election, responded hotly during the campaign, saying Romney "would have dropped to his knees" for Trump's endorsement in 2012.

From afar, Romney has been critical of Trump's policies. Now, he has the opportunity to do it up close — and with a likely national television spotlight, if he seeks it out, that will beam him right into the White House, in plain view of this president, a habitual cable-news watcher.

Brakkton Booker and Domenico Montanaro, NPR

Saturday: Russian Interference is Now Indisputable

For two years, Donald Trump — as both candidate and president — has frequently dismissed the notion of Russian meddling in U.S. elections as a "hoax" and even denigrated heads of U.S. intelligence agencies for suggesting otherwise.

At times he has also taken Russian President Vladimir Putin's word on the issue.

That view hit choppy waters this week with the FBI indictment of 13 Russian nationals for alleged cyber-meddling.

Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, added a few waves as the highest ranking White House official to say flatly on Saturday that evidence of Russian election meddling "is now incontrovertible.”

The president has not formally commented on the meddling aspect of the FBI's allegations, preferring to claim instead that they prove there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign and show that the outcome of the election was not affected. The indictments took no position on either issue.

Doug Stanglin, USA Todsay

Sunday: Twitter Rant Uses Tragedy to Take Aim at FBI

President Donald Trump took his battle with the FBI to a new level late Saturday night, when he tweeted that the bureau was too caught up in the Russia probe and failed to see the signals leading to Wednesday's shooting massacre at a south Florida high school.

"Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable," the president tweeted. "They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion."

Trump was referring to the FBI's admission earlier this week that it failed to investigate a Jan. 5 tip that warned that Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old man who is accused of killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., posed a deadly threat.

The information was not passed to the bureau's Miami field office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a review of the FBI's handling of the matter. Florida Gov. Rick Scott called on FBI DIrector Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee, to resign.

For his part, Wray said earlier this week: "We have spoken with victims and families, and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy."

Mike Calia, CNBC

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