Trump’s Chief of Staff Bannon “We are a nation with a culture and a reason for being”

Developments on Day 35 of the Trump Administration:

Administration’s Show for GOP Conservatives

The hard-right White House chief strategist Steve Bannon makes an appeal to Republican conservatives who have been wary of him and his allies.

Appearing alongside Chief of Staff Reince Priebus — who has reportedly clashed with Bannon for influence within the White House — at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the strategist hailed “economic nationalism” and slashing of regulations, while maintaining his assault on the “opposition party” of the “corporate globalist media”.

He appealed to the conference that Trump was leading a “coalition”:

Whether you’re a populist; whether you’re a limited government conservative; whether you’re libertarian; whether you’re an economic nationalist — we have wide and sometimes divergent opinions. But I think we — the center core of what we believe, that we’re a nation with an economy, not an economy just in some global marketplace with open borders, but we are a nation with a culture and a -=- and a reason for being.

And I think that is what unites us and I think that is what is going to unite this movement going forward.

And he issued a call to arms to the crowd for a battle against enemies including the media:

Here’s why it’s going to get worse: Because he’s going to continue to press his agenda. And as economic conditions get better, as more jobs get better, they’re going to continue to fight. If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.

Bannon has been responsible for most of Trump’s executive orders and reportedly trying to control both domestic and foreign policy. He played down the reports of factional dispute with Priebus, praising the Chief of Staff’s equanimity and saying, “I can run a little hot on occasion.”

The session opened with an acknowledgement that Bannon, the former editor of Breitbart News, and hard-right ideologues had not been welcomed by the conference and had labelled themselves the “Uninvited”. Moderator Matt Schlapp declared, “We decided to say that everyone is part of our conservative family. That’s what Donald Trump has done to so many of it politically.”

White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway pressed the Trump ascendancy, “Every great movement ends up being a little bit sclerotic and dusty after a time and I think they need new fusion of energy….I think by tomorrow, this will be TPAC [rather than CPAC].”

TOP PHOTO: White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus at the Conservative Political Action Conference

FBI Rejects White House Request to Deny Reports of Trump-Russia Contacts

The FBI has rejected a White House request to publicly refute media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Multiple US officials” said the White House acted after the reports of the contacts were published by New York Times and CNN on February 14, despite long-standing restrictions that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said late Thursday, “We didn’t try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth.”

Reports said Chief of Staff Reince Priebus made the request to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. FBI Director James Comey rejected it because of the ongoing inquiry into the links between the Trump campaign and administration and Russian officials.

Former GOP Speaker of House: There Will Be No Repeal of ObamaCare

The former GOP Speaker of the House, John Boehner, rebuffs the Trump Administration’s proclamation of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, saying it is “not going to happen”.

Boehner told a health care conference that Republicans instead will “fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around” ObamaCare.

Trump Meets CEOs

Donald Trump meets about two dozen chief executives of major U.S. companies on Thursday, telling them he plans to bring millions of jobs back to the US.

Trump offer no specifics of how he would bring about the job increases. Instead, he claimed that the US has lost about one-third of manufacturing jobs since it joined the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 and that about 70,000 factories have closed since China joined the World Trade Organization in 1991.

Treasury Secretary: Tax Reform by August, 3%+ Growth

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the Administration is committed to passage of tax reform legislation by August.

“We are committed to pass tax reform,” Mnuchin said in an interview. “It’s going to be focused on middle income tax cuts, simplification and making (the U.S.) business tax competitive with the rest of the world, which has been a big problem.”

He said implementation of Trump’s economic program including tax cuts and deregulation would make growth in a range of 3 to 3.5% “very achievable”.

The GDP grew by 1.6% last year, and many forecasters are predicting a 2017 rate of 2 to 2.5%.

Republicans in Congress are divided over key elements of tax reform. GOP lawmakers in the Senate have expressed opposition to a House proposal to replace the current 35% tax on corporate profits with a border adjustment tax.

Under the House proposal, companies that produce and sell their products in US would pay a 20% tax on profits. But if the company exports its products, the profits from those exports would not be taxed by the US — instead, foreign companies that import goods into the US would have to pay the 20% tax.

Mnuchin did not commit to supporting the border adjustment tax but said the administration was “looking closely” at the issues.

But Donald Trump said Thursday that the border tax “could lead to a lot more jobs in the United States”.

Trump Hails “Military Operation” v. Immigrants

Donald Trump has hailed a “military operation” to deport undocumented immigrants, even though there are no military units involved.

“We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country,” he said at his meeting with manufacturing CEOs. “And at a rate nobody has ever seen before. And they’re the bad ones. And it’s a military operation.”

An early draft of the Homeland Security guidelines, putting almost all 11 million undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation, included a provision for thousands of National Guards to carry out operations in 11 states. However, this was dropped from later versions of the guidelines, released earlier this week.

See TrumpWatch, Day 33: Homeland Security Outlines Immigration Crackdown

The guidelines encourage more detentions and quicker deportations of immigrants convicted or charged with a criminal offense, but also cover those who have not been involved in criminal activity.

However, Trump framed the crackdown as “all of the sudden, for the first time, we’re getting gang members out. We’re getting drug lords out.”

Trump Calls for Nuclear Build-Up so US “Top of the Pack”

Donald Trump says he wants to ensure the US nuclear arsenal is at the “top of the pack”.

Trump was asked in a Reuters interview about a December tweet in which he said the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capacity “until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes”. He subsequently told reporters, “Let it be an arms race.”

On Thursday, Trump said:

I am the first one that would like to see…nobody have nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power.

It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.

Russia has 7,000 warheads and the US 6,800, according to the Ploughshares Fund.

The new strategic arms limitation treaty, known as New START, between the US and Russia requires that by February 5, 2018, both countries must limit their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons to equal levels for 10 years.

However, in a phone call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in late January, Trump appeared to be unaware of the terms of New START — which he has called “Start Up” — and then, replying to Putin’s willingness to extend the treaty, said he was opposed to it.

Attorney General Reverses Phase-Out of Private Prisons

The Republican Administration reverses President Obama’s plan to phase out the federal government’s use of private prisons.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a memo Thursday to the Bureau of Prisons rescinding an August 16 order advising the bureau not to renew any contracts with private prisons.

Sessions said the order by his predecessor Sally Yates “changed the long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system”.

The Bureau has 12 private prison contracts covering about 21,000 inmates.

Administration Compromised Over Controversial Health Insurance Merger?

The Administration faces claims that it is compromised over a controversial merge of health insurance companies.

Anthem, which gave $100,000 to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, is pressing the administration to settle a federal lawsuit blocking its controversial merger with Cigna.

Meanwhile, Trump has appointed an Anthem lobbyist to a top legal post in the White House, which could position him to take over the Justice Department’s antitrust unit that may ultimately decide the fate of the merger.

Following a state ethics probe in Connecticut, President Obama’s Justice Department moved last year to stop the merger, which critics say would limit medical care options and raise prices for millions of Americans. However, only weeks after a federal court blocked the transaction, Anthem lawyers told a Delaware judge that a “resolution with a new DOJ [Department of Justice]” under Trump could allow the transaction to go forward.

“We’re fighting for it,” said Anthem lawyer Glenn Kurtz, according to court documents. “And we’re reaching out to DOJ, which is new.”

White House Advisor Gorka Phones Expert With Threat After Twitter Criticism

White House “terrorism advisor” Sebastian Gorka has called an expert, who criticized Gorka on Twitter, to threaten legal action.

Gorka, whose views on Islam are considered extremist by many, phoned Michael E. Smith in South Carolina.

“I was like a deer in the headlights,” Smith, a Republican who has advised Congressional committees on the use of social media by the Islamic State and Al Qa’eda, told Newsweek. “I thought it was a prank. He began by threatening me with a lawsuit.”

Gorka apparently used his personal cell phone, with a northern Virginia area code, rather than making the call from his White House office or a government-issued cell phone, where it would be officially logged.

On Tuesday, Smith had tweeted that Gorka “doesn’t know the enemies’ ideologies well enough to combat them.” In an earlier tweet directed at Trump, Smith wrote: “You are endangering the lives of Americans by hiring fake ‘terrorism experts’.”

[Editor’s Note: The White House advisor appears to watch Twitter closely for any mention of his name — when I chided him over his opinions last month, within minutes he blocked me from following his account.]