Trump’s military parade delayed until 2019

Jim Mattis and Donald Trump.

The Defense Department, which first planned the parade for November to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, did not give a reason for abrupt change of plan, simply issuing a statement that said it has “agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.” | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

The controversial military parade ordered by President Donald Trump originally scheduled for Veterans Day will be delayed until 2019, the Pentagon announced Thursday night.

The Defense Department, which first planned the parade for November to coincide with Veterans Day weekend and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, did not give a reason for abrupt change of plan, simply issuing a statement that said it has “agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.”

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The announcement came only hours after a report by CNBC that the estimated cost of the parade is now as much as $92 million — far more than previous estimates of between $12 million and $30 million.

Trump originally asked for the military to organize such an event after seeing similar demonstrations on Bastille Day in France, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized the pomp and circumstance as reminiscent of authoritarian regimes.

The parade is expected to include marching troops from different branches as well as a “heavy air component” of modern and historic war planes, the Pentagon said in March. But it will not include some of the heaviest military hardware like tanks to avoid damaging roads between the White House and the Capitol like the last one in 1991 after the Persian Gulf War.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Trump’s military parade postponed to next year, Pentagon says

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand urges opposition to Kavanaugh: Fight for abortion rights ‘is now or never’ Trump claims tariffs on foreign nations will rescue US steel industry: report Bannon announces pro-Trump movie, operation team ahead of midterms: report MORE‘s military parade planned for Veterans Day has been postponed until at least next year, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said in a statement that the Defense Department and White House have agreed to explore potential dates for the parade in 2019.

“The Department of Defense and White House have been planning a parade to honor America’s military veterans and commemorate the centennial of World War I. We originally targeted November 10, 2018 for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019,” Manning said.

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The announcement came hours after the Defense Department released an updated cost estimate for the planned parade, which pegged the price tag for the event at $92 million, including $50 million from the Pentagon and $42 million from interagency partners.

That figure is significantly higher than an initial estimate that three U.S. defense officials provided CNN with last month. That estimate pegged the cost of the parade at closer to $12 million, raising new questions about the overall cost of the event.

The parade, originally planned for Nov. 10, days after the midterm elections, has long been the focus of scrutiny from members of both parties. Lawmakers have questioned the cost and necessity of such a show of force, comparing it to high-profile military demonstrations in countries such as North Korea.

Plans for the parade are widely unpopular with Americans in polls, with 61 percent of voters opposing the plans even before the costs were announced in a survey taken earlier this year. Just 26 percent said they supported the plans in the same poll.

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Papadopoulos’s wife wants him to scrap plea deal with Mueller: report

Simona Mangiante, the wife of former Trump campaign aide George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosFox News host hits Giuliani: Dossier isn’t why Mueller probe was started Omarosa claims Trump knew about hacked emails prior to WikiLeaks release Signs grow that Mueller is zeroing in on Roger Stone MORE, says her husband should end his plea agreement with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE‘s office and refuse to cooperate further with its investigation.

Mangiante told MSNBC on Thursday that her faith in Mueller’s investigation has wavered, and that new evidence in the case made it necessary for her husband to end his agreement with the special counsel’s office.

“I trusted the institutions until they proved me wrong,” Mangiante told MSNBC, adding that she had been made aware of “exculpatory evidences that fully justify him to drop off his plea agreement.”

There were “shady individuals targeting George with a specific agenda” during the campaign, she added, though it was not clear to whom she was referring.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to FBI agents about his communications with Russians and a London professor. He agreed, at the time, to cooperate with Mueller’s ongoing investigation.

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The former Trump campaign aide is credited with sparking Mueller’s Russia probe with statements he made to Australian officials, which were later reported to the FBI. In those statements, Papadopoulos asserted that Russian agents had obtained thousands of emails that could be used to embarrass then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGillibrand urges opposition to Kavanaugh: Fight for abortion rights ‘is now or never’ Bannon announces pro-Trump movie, operation team ahead of midterms: report Fox News host hits Giuliani: Dossier isn’t why Mueller probe was started MORE.

It is unclear whether Papadopoulos would be able to alter his agreement at this time, as his sentencing is set for next month.

Prosecutors estimated in his plea agreement that he will likely serve up to six months in jail and face a fine between $500 to $9,500, provided that he isn’t found to have committed any more crimes. He is one of three former Trump campaign officials to plead guilty to lying to investigators, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and businessman Richard Gates. 

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Trump readies new round of controversial Medicaid changes

The Trump administration is preparing to let conservative-led states impose additional restrictions on the nation’s health program for the poor that could push tens of thousands of people off coverage, POLITICO has learned.

The high-stakes changes, involving work requirements and questions about illegal drug use, have been the subject of intense behind-the-scenes lobbying in recent months by federal and state lawmakers in the latest chapter of the GOP’s long-running efforts to reshape Medicaid — a policy priority extending back to the Reagan era.

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And they are moving forward even after a federal judge blocked Kentucky’s work requirement in June, saying the Trump administration failed to consider how the plan would affect coverage, and new evidence that thousands of Arkansans will lose benefits because of the state’s work requirement. Advocacy groups have sued to stop Medicaid work requirements in both states and threaten further litigation if more changes are OK’d.

Nonetheless, the administration is expected to sign off soon on work requirements in three more states — Arizona, Wisconsin and Maine — while approving limited drug testing questions sought by Wisconsin’s GOP Gov. Scott Walker, according to four individuals with knowledge of the process.

Administration officials say that Medicaid beneficiaries should be encouraged to seek jobs to ensure they move off the program eventually.

“Every American deserves the dignity and respect of high expectations,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in November, as she kicked off efforts to revamp the Medicaid program — a line that she’s repeatedly invoked in the nine months since. “As public officials, we should deliver programs that instill hope and say to each beneficiary that we believe in your potential.”

An attempt by Arizona to protect Native Americans from work requirements is also expected to be denied as part of the review — a move that effectively reiterates the administration’s position that members of tribes might need to get jobs to keep their health care.

HHS and Justice Department officials are additionally finalizing the Medicaid work requirements sought by Maine, amid broader legal uncertainty about the state’s health program under Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who has refused to implement a voter-approved Medicaid expansion.

“Everything’s being steered through the Justice Department right now,” said one official. “They’re trying to make it bulletproof.”

The goal is to make the latest Medicaid changes withstand simultaneous legal challenges, similar to those targeting early versions of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, according to officials familiar with the process.

Advocates say the result will be disastrous for poor and working-class Americans.

“The Trump administration seems intent on moving as quickly as possible to approve these harmful waivers which will clearly result in many more thousands of vulnerable people losing their Medicaid coverage,” said Joan Alker, who runs Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

Alker and other researchers say it is hard to grasp the scope of the Trump administration’s planned changes because states have begun hiding projections of coverage losses. Kentucky’s projection that 95,000 people would lose coverage influenced the judge’s decision to block its overhaul.

CMS declined to comment on details of the pending state waivers or the timeline for approval.

“To protect the integrity of [our] process, we do not comment on pending applications,” a spokesperson said. “While we cannot forecast a decision on components of a state’s application, we strive to review and process applications as quickly as possible.”

States set conditions of Medicaid eligibility with federal approval, and the Trump administration is seen as a boon to conservative states which have long sought to pare Medicaid spending. HHS officials say work requirements aren’t driven by a desire to cut costs.

“There’s actually a clinical rationale for having community engagement,” HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan told POLITICO on Wednesday, arguing there’s evidence that requiring people to work or participate in other activities makes them healthier. “I think it could be additive to health care.”

Wisconsin wins compromise on drug testing

One of the most controversial changes sought by the states is Wisconsin’s attempt to drug test its Medicaid applicants — an effort that advocates and lawyers say is illegal and that also drew objection from the Trump administration. Drug testing has never been allowed as a condition of Medicaid, in any state.

Instead, Wisconsin is expected to win approval to ask applicants to disclose on their Medicaid applications whether they’ve used drugs or are in recovery, but won’t make coverage decisions based on the answers provided, according to three officials with knowledge of the plan.

“It’s a political give to Walker,” said an administration official briefed on the plan, noting the Wisconsin governor has sought drug testing across multiple social programs, including food stamps.

Advocates say a partial effort to collect drug use information is still a step too far.

“Even if it’s technically benign, it might not be — the devil’s in the details,” said Georgetown’s Alker. “If people hear there’s a drug testing requirement, that might be a deterrent from even applying.”

The state had sought to require all applicants to go through drug screening, and if indicated, follow-up drug testing. Those testing positive would be required to complete substance use treatment to be eligible for Medicaid.

“This waiver amendment supports Wisconsin’s multifaceted approach to battle substance abuse, including heroin and prescription drug addiction,” said Julie Lund, the communications director of Wisconsin’s health department. She added the change would help Wisconsin residents “move from government dependence to true independence by encouraging healthy behaviors through wellness and prevention.”

States set to lose attempt to protect tribes

CMS also is poised to reject Arizona’s latest attempt to carve out Medicaid protections for Native Americans — a move that challenges precedent on tribal sovereignty.

Arizona is among several states attempting to walk a policy tightrope: impose work requirements on some Medicaid enrollees, but also exempt Native Americans, given their historic standing as separate governments — and the tribes’ political power.

The tension was exposed after POLITICO reported in April that the Trump administration had determined the tribes were a race, not discrete nations, and shouldn’t be exempted.

“HHS believes that such an exemption would raise constitutional and federal civil rights law concerns,” according to a review by administration lawyers earlier this year.

After tribes threatened lawsuits and key lawmakers like Oklahoma GOP Rep. Tom Cole applied pressure, HHS Secretary Alex Azar and other top officials suggested the issue was “resolved” and would be handled by the states.

“Based on comments made by Seema Verma to the American Hospital Association in early May, we believe the federal government is allowing states flexibility,” said Jo Stainsby, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which is also seeking to add work requirements but exempt the tribes.

However, HHS department lawyers still maintain an exemption amounts to an illegal preference, according to three officials with knowledge of the determination. Arizona’s revised request also was deemed illegal because it was narrowly written, using terms that would exempt Native Americans without expressly referencing the tribes.

The tribes will be “disappointed,” said one official, who added that there was a slim chance the lawyers’ decision could be reversed in time for Arizona’s request. “Despite what Azar told them in May, it doesn’t look like HHS is going to deliver.”

Seeking to build a stronger legal case

To buttress its past and pending coverage decisions, the Trump administration has taken the unusual step of soliciting additional public comments on states’ Medicaid plans.

CMS this week will conclude its second round of collecting comments on Kentucky’s stalled Medicaid overhaul, which was originally set to take effect on July 1. The administration also quietly reopened the comment periods for requests made by Alabama and Mississippi, which are seeking to apply work requirements, too. State waiver applications typically go through one required public review before a decision is made.

POLITICO first reported on the administration’s plan to collect more comments as a legal gambit to address a federal judge’s concerns about Kentucky’s Medicaid overhaul. The judge in June blocked the state’s overhaul from taking effect, saying the Trump administration failed to consider how the plan would reduce access to coverage, and he specifically criticized Azar for disregarding public comments that were overwhelmingly against the plan.

Trump administration lawyers believe collecting more comments will address those concerns and allow them to craft stronger versions of work requirements in other states, according to three officials with knowledge of the strategy.

Administration lawyers last month also told Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin to reinstate Medicaid benefits he had abruptly — and illegally — cut for nearly half a million residents.

Bevin canceled dental, vision and transportation benefits with no notice, effective July 1, after the federal court ruled against his state’s overhaul. The surprise move created problems across the state, with some patients losing coverage in the middle of multiday medical procedures. While Bevin argued the court’s decision forced him to cancel existing benefits, the lack of notice violated federal rulemaking, advocates and administration lawyers concluded. Bevin reinstated the benefits on July 19 — the same day CMS announced it was moving forward with efforts to support Kentucky’s Medicaid changes.

CMS sidestepped questions about the legality of Bevin’s cuts and the swift reversal.

“Kentucky ultimately withdrew the state plan amendments in question and thus no final action was taken by CMS,” said a spokesperson.

Georgetown’s Alker said Bevin’s moves were indefensible. “It certainly was illegal,” she said. “I thought it was one of the most appalling, small-minded things I have ever seen a politician do.”

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White House to honor ICE ‘heroes’ after family separation fiasco

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection patch is displayed.

The move is the latest signal that the Trump administration anticipates the midterm fallout from its zero-tolerance border policy very differently than its critics. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Trump White House is planning an event next week to honor federal immigration agents — even as more than 500 migrant children remain separated from their parents after being split apart at the border.

The East Room “Salute to the Heroes of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs [and] Border Protection” is scheduled for Aug. 20, an administration official confirmed, in the latest signal that the Trump administration anticipates the midterm fallout from its zero-tolerance border policy very differently than its critics.

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The ceremony is ready-made to provoke ire from zero tolerance opponents, some of whom have called for ICE’s abolition.

“Only this White House would give medals for taking thousands of immigrant children from their parents,” said Tom Jawetz, vice president for immigration policy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, “and continuing to detain hundreds of orphaned kids in defiance of court order.”

But many immigration advocates believe that the family separation drama of recent months is much more likely to hurt rather than help congressional Republicans in November.

Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigration America’s Voice, said initially he worried Trump and the Republicans would broadcast their hard-line immigration views in the run-up to the midterms. Now, he said, he feels “nearly gleeful” in welcoming it.

“At this point, I’m like, ‘Keep doing it,’” Sharry said. “Americans are concerned with health care costs, education for their kids and retirement for their parents, and he’s having a pep rally with ICE agents.”

Trump reiterated Thursday his belief that immigration will be a winning political issue. During a televised Cabinet meeting, he said Democrats’ refusal to back his hawkish policies will “hurt them very badly at the polls.”

Plans for the ICE salute are being made even as the administration struggles to fulfill a federal judge’s late-June order to reunite migrant families split apart at the border. From April to June, thousands of families were separated forcibly under Trump’s zero tolerance border strategy, which subjected all suspected crossers — including parents and asylum seekers — to federal prosecution.

A Quinnipiac University poll in late June found that two-thirds of voters opposed the policy. But a second Quinnipiac survey weeks later found that 76 percent of Republican voters backed Trump’s handling of the situation — even as a strong majority agreed that the families should be reunified.

Tyler Moran, managing director of the D.C.-based Immigration Hub, said the White House’s plans to honor ICE and CBP agents are “a ploy to use culture wars to divide people.“

Trump touted the work of ICE officers at the Cabinet meeting Thursday, saying they “have been absolutely abused” and have done an “incredible job” combating MS-13 and other gangs.

“They are tremendous people,” the president said. “They’re brave, they’re strong, they’re tough and they’re good. … Do you think you’re going to send just regular people in to take care of MS-13 and these gangs? Not going to happen.”

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies, cheered the planned White House event for ICE and CPB officials. “They don’t get enough recognition and I don’t think there’s enough public awareness of the dangers they face,” she said.

Trump also appeared to be trying to pressure Congress to take action, Vaughan added. “The president is doing as much as he can,” she said, “but Congress needs to get into the act also.”

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