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Image: US President Donald J. Trump visits Saudi Arabia

Trump's latest jobs boast falls apart almost immediately

05/26/17 12:41PM

Just this morning, Donald Trump turned to Twitter to announce he'd arrived in Italy for a G-7 meeting, which led him to reflect on the "very successful" foreign trip he believes he's having. "We made and saved the USA many billions of dollars and millions of jobs," the president said.

Just as a general rule, when Trump makes claims about jobs he's created and/or saved, it's best to skeptical. His track record in recent months has been breathtaking in its mendacity, so it's not as if the president has built up a reservoir of credibility.

But let's try to have an open mind. The Republican president has been abroad for about six days, and in that time, he believes he's managed to create and/or save "millions of jobs." If that were in any way true, it'd be a remarkable feat: in a good year, the United States will create between 2 million and 3 million new jobs over the course of 12 months.

If Trump's managed to match that in less than a week, he'd finally have something to brag about. Fortunately, the Washington Post took a closer look:
As for the number of jobs [connected to an arms deal with Saudi Arabia], thousands appears to have morphed into millions. But an analysis published by The Washington Post reported that the companies involved would not confirm any specific number of jobs saved or supported, suggesting that Trump's original estimate of "thousands" was more guesswork than reality.

A White House official said Trump was not talking just about the Saudi deals but "benefits to trade from the entire trip from Saudi Arabia to the G7." He noted that "any improvement on trade would save many jobs. Stopping even one bad trade deal can save millions. Changing the infrastructure of global trade to tilt it back toward the U.S. would save and create millions."
Well, maybe. We can certainly have a conversation about the effects trade deals can have on domestic employment, but at the risk of sounding picky, Trump hasn't signed, stopped, or changed any U.S. trade deals with anyone -- neither this week nor at any point in his brief term thus far.

What Trump World is saying, in effect, is that Trump may someday change the direction of international trade -- itself a dubious claim -- which in turn may someday improve job creation in the United States.
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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.26.17

05/26/17 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* In a curious tweet that touted a dubious poll, Donald Trump thought it'd be a good idea yesterday to promote the fact that most Americans disapprove of his job performance.

* Yesterday morning, the DCCC unveiled a last-minute radio ad in Montana that asked, "If Greg Gianforte could be sentenced to jail, should he really be elected to Congress?" It didn't change the outcome, but it's interesting to see how quickly the parties can create a new ad nowadays.

* The Federal Election Commission determined this morning that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), during his 2012 campaign, "improperly accounted for loans" he received from Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. It's something to keep an eye on as Cruz runs for re-election next year.

* In the race to take on Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in Ohio next year, state Treasurer Josh Mandel is considered the top Republican contender, but GOP officials are not necessarily optimistic about his chances. Instead, some Republicans are reportedly taking a look at Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance.

* In Utah, where Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) has gone back and forth about retiring next year, the longtime Senate incumbent said yesterday he's convinced that Mitt Romney is not going to run for the seat.

* In New Jersey, the latest Stockton University Poll shows Kim Guadagno (R) and Phil Murphy (D) as the top contenders in their parties' respective gubernatorial primaries. The primary in the Garden State is June 6, which is a week from Tuesday.
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President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence wave as they visit to Carrier factory, Dec. 1, 2016, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump's boasts about jobs saved at Carrier start to evaporate

05/26/17 11:00AM

During the transition period between Election Day and Inauguration Day, Donald Trump claimed one notable achievement. The Republican, following through on a promise he made on the campaign trail, announced in late November that he'd reached an agreement with Carrier that would keep hundreds of jobs in Indiana.

It sounded great, but even at the time, the boasts came with fine print. Trump exaggerated the number of jobs saved, rewarded a company with taxpayer money that was closing a plant and shipping jobs to Mexico, and fudged the facts about how many of the saved jobs will be eliminated anyway.

The Washington Post reported this week that, six months after the president's most important economic accomplishment, Trump's victory is starting to look like a failure.
Carrier, the company President Trump pledged to keep on American soil, informed the state of Indiana this week that it will soon begin cutting 632 workers from an Indianapolis factory. The manufacturing jobs will move to Monterrey, Mexico, where the minimum wage is $3.90 per day.

That was never supposed to happen, according to Trump's campaign promises. He told Indiana residents at a rally last year there was a "100 percent chance" he would save the jobs at the heating and air-conditioning manufacturer.
The more one compares Trump's 2016 promises to 2017 reality, the worse his assurances look.
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Some U.S. health care consumers confront a 'Trump Tax'

05/26/17 10:13AM

There's been a fair amount of discussion of late about Donald Trump undermining the U.S. health care system in tangible ways with his political antics, but CNBC highlighted what appears to be the most obvious evidence to date.
North Carolina's largest Obamacare insurer wants to raise premiums by nearly 23 percent, but said most of the increase is due to the failure of President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans to guarantee crucial payments to insurers.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina said Thursday it would have asked the state regulators for an 8.8 percent increase if Trump and the GOP-led Congress agreed to continue funding payments to insurers for so-called cost-sharing reductions.

Instead, the insurer is requesting an average increase of 22.9 percent for Obamacare plans that now cover about 502,000 people.
There's no real ambiguity here. The private insurer in this case was prepared for a much more modest increase in premiums -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina said its exchange is fairly stable -- but it felt the need to rate rates more, largely because of the uncertainty Donald Trump created on purpose.

In effect, these consumers are now going to be hit with a "Trump Tax" on their health care costs.
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To our allies' dismay, Donald Trump appears lost in Europe

05/26/17 09:29AM

A couple of months ago, at a White House press conference alongside Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, Donald Trump whined at some length about U.S. trade deals with Germany. "Right now, I would say that the negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the United States," the American president complained. "But hopefully we can even it out."

Despite focusing on trade policy for two years, Trump apparently did not realize that Germany, as an EU member, does not make individual trade deals with the United States. He also didn't brush up on this fairly obvious fact before welcoming the German leader to the White House.

A month later, a senior German official told The Times of London that Trump asked Merkel 10 times about negotiating a trade deal. According to the official, she replied every time, "You can't do a trade deal with Germany, only the EU." The official added, "On the eleventh refusal, Trump finally got the message."

I'm not at all sure that's true. Consider this Slate report from yesterday:
Donald Trump had some tough words for the Germans at the NATO summit in Belgium on Thursday. "The Germans are bad, very bad," he reportedly told Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Union. "Look at the millions of cars that they're selling in the USA. Horrible. We're gonna stop that."

It is certainly true that Germany runs a big trade surplus with the world and with the United States.... But Trump can't stop the German cars from coming in to the U.S. because, to a large degree, they're already here.... Trump could try to stop the sales of German cars in the U.S. But that would involve shutting down a bunch of factories on American soil that employ American workers and use a lot of U.S.-produced parts. Yes, that would be bad -- very bad.
Yesterday was not a successful day for the amateur president. European leaders went out of their way to try to accommodate Trump and his, shall we say, unique qualities, but he managed to alienate many of America's closest allies anyway. There was the cringe-worthy shove of Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic. There was the equally embarrassing handshake with French President Emmanuel Macron. There was the speech in which Trump chose not to explicitly endorse his commitment to Article V of the NATO treaty, despite expectations.

But in the end, what struck me as the most significant development was Trump's brazen ignorance.
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Image: GOP Congressional Candidate Greg Gianforte Campaigns In Great Falls, MT

GOP's Gianforte prevails in Montana, despite assault charge

05/26/17 08:40AM

DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan gave us a pretty good hint of what to expect in Big Sky Country this week, telling reporters that the party faces "a tough road" in Montana's congressional special election. This was borne out in the overnight results.
Republican Greg Gianforte declared victory in Montana's special congressional election, barely a day after he was charged with misdemeanor assault following accusations that he slammed a journalist to the ground. [...]

Quist, who is a country singer, later conceded the contest for Montana's lone seat in the U.S. House.
With just about every precinct reporting, it looks like the Montana Republican won by six percentage points, 50.2% to 44.1%.

The election, of course, was held just one day after Gianforte allegedly assaulted a reporter -- an incident the Republican's campaign was caught lying about -- though it's worth emphasizing that most of the state's ballots had already been cast via early voting.

We'll never know what might have happened if Montanans knew in advance that that the GOP candidate is the kind of guy who turns violent with a journalist who asks for his reaction to a Congressional Budget Office report about a health care bill.

So, what does the election tell us about the national landscape? While Republicans are no doubt pleased to have prevailed, they have every reason to be nervous about what it took to win.
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Image: FILE PHOTO --  U.S. President Trump and German Chancellor Merkel give a joint news conference in Washington

As Russia investigation moves forward, Kushner draws FBI scrutiny

05/26/17 08:00AM

It was late last week when the Russia scandal first made the leap from Donald Trump's campaign operation to the White House itself. The Washington Post reported that the investigation "has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest," adding that the person drawing scrutiny "is someone close to the president."

There was considerable speculation about whether the Post was referring to the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Yesterday, as Rachel noted on the show, NBC News moved the story forward.
Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and one of his senior advisers, has come under FBI scrutiny in the Russia investigation, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News.

Investigators believe Kushner has significant information relevant to their inquiry, officials said. That does not mean they suspect him of a crime or intend to charge him.
There's a lot about the nature of the investigation that we do not yet know, including the seriousness of the scrutiny. That said, the Washington Post published a related piece late yesterday that added, "Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow, is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, the people said."

Let's note for context that we also know from previous reporting that Kushner had a previously undisclosed meeting with the head of a Russian bank -- an institution with direct ties to Vladimir Putin and Russian spy services -- which came after his previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States. When Kushner sought the top-secret security clearance, he was required to disclose those interactions, but initially failed to do so.
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Thursday's Mini-Report, 5.25.17

05/25/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The U.K. isn't happy: "President Donald Trump on Thursday called the alleged intelligence leaks following the Manchester Arena bombing 'deeply troubling' and ordered the Justice Department to find out who was behind them."

* I guess the "Joementum" didn't last: "Former senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman withdrew himself from consideration to be the next director of the FBI on Thursday, saying his work with an attorney President Trump has retained to represent him in the Russia investigation would be a potential conflict of interest."

* One of them can brag about large, supportive crowds: "Thanks to an awkward coincidence, President Trump is in Brussels at the same time as predecessor Barack Obama is in Berlin. These two trips are certainly offering contrasting views of the United States' relationship with Europe."

* The Speaker of Israel's parliament said "a proposal that Donald Trump would speak before the Knesset during his visit to Israel was scrapped over fears that the American president would be interrupted and heckled by some lawmakers."

* The result of a two-month probe: "A Pentagon investigation has found that more than 100 civilians were killed after the U.S. dropped a bomb on a building in Mosul, Iraq, in March. The probe found that the U.S. bomb triggered secondary explosions from devices clandestinely planted there by ISIS fighters. And the military says the secondary blasts caused the concrete building to collapse."

* Trump World: "A top Mar-a-Lago employee is also working for the government to help prepare for President Trump's visit to Taormina, Italy, for the G-7 Summit -- an unconventional arrangement that further blurs the line between the president's business empire and the White House."

* Virginia: "Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) pardoned an undocumented mother of two on Wednesday for a years-old conviction for driving without a license in the hope that it will help spare her from deportation. But the fact that she is no longer defined as a criminal might not matter to the Trump administration."
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