Priebus: Trump will seek Democratic support on health care

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“I think it’s time for our folks to come together, and I also think it’s time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board as well,” Priebus said. | Getty

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Sunday that President Donald Trump’s administration would seek support from moderate Democrats going forward in the ongoing efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“I think it’s time for our folks to come together, and I also think it’s time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board as well,” Priebus told anchor Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”

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While continuing to fault congressional Democrats for taking down the House GOP health care bill Friday, Priebus also stressed that Republicans — who own a 237-193 edge in the House (with five vacancies) — needed to start taking command in Congress.

“We had no Democrat support. We had no votes from the Democrats. They weren’t going to give us a single vote,” Priebus said. “But … at the end of the day, I believe that it’s time for the party to start governing. I think that’s important.”

Asked whether Trump was set on letting the health care law “implode,” as he alluded to Friday, or whether he would seek to compromise and seek to augment the existing law, Priebus said Trump was keeping his options open.

“I don’t think the president is closing the door on anything,” Priebus said.

Priebus also expressed some degree of frustration with members of the House who expressed their opposition to the bill, implying that their actions had not remained “loyal” to the president.

“The fact,” he said, “that some of these members took that and decided not to move forward with it I think is a real shame and I think the president is disappointed in the number of people that he thought were loyal to him that work.”

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California governor: We won’t ‘bring stupid lawsuits’ against border wall

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“But we’re not going to bring stupid lawsuits or be running to the courthouse every day. We’re going to be careful. We’ll be strategic,” Jerry Brown said. | AP Photo

California Gov. Jerry Brown said in an interview that aired Sunday that California will “fight very hard” against President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, but will not “bring stupid lawsuits” to the table.

During an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Brown told host Chuck Todd that “if everything’s a lawsuit, yeah, we’re in trouble,” adding that both Republicans and Democrats like to escalate things and that Brown is “going to keep everything on an even keel.”

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“I don’t like that wall, number one. And to the extent that that violates law, certainly I would enforce that,” Brown said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “We’re not going to sit around and just play patsy and say, ‘Hey, go ahead. Lock us in. Do whatever the hell you want. Deport 2 billion, 2 million people.’ No, we’re going to fight, and we’re going to fight very hard.”

“But we’re not going to bring stupid lawsuits or be running to the courthouse every day. We’re going to be careful. We’ll be strategic,” he said.

Brown added that California is going to the “Christian thing,” from his point of view. He went on to bash Trump, who he said is supposed to “Mr. Religious Fellow,” adding that he hopes conservative evangelicals tell the president that undocumented immigrants are “human beings, they’re children of God. They should be treated that way.”

The Democratic governor, however, said he wants to work with the president “where there’s something good.”

“I’m not going to just turn over our police department to become agents of the federal government as they deport women and children and people who are contributing to the economic well being of our state, which they are,” Brown said.

When asked by Todd about critics who say allowing undocumented immigrants who have only committed small crimes to stay encourages more people to come, Brown said that he has signed a bill that listed over 50 separate offenses where local police should cooperate with immigration services.

“So we’re not here to protect criminals. But we do recognize that America’s the land of opportunity. All of our parents came here at one time, our grandparents, our great-grandparents, they came here. That’s what builds the state.”

Brown added that some swing states don’t have enough immigrants to build their economy.

“We’re building it. And we’re the gateway to the Pacific. Right now, more Mexican people are going back to Mexico than are coming. So I think we have to create a human, a decent sense with respect to our immigrants,” Brown said. “And maybe I can convince the president that he has to take a more enlightened view.”

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London attacker acted alone, British police say

Flowers around a photo of police officer Keith Palmer, who was killed in the March 22 terror attack in Westminster | Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

“We must all accept there is a possibility we will never understand why he did this.”

British police investigating an attack on Parliament that killed four people and injured 50 believe that the attacker acted alone and for motives that may never be known.

Khalid Masood, who was shot dead outside of parliament after using a car to mow down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, was a convert to Islam who spent significant time in Saudi Arabia and had been identified as a potential jihadist.

But after four days of investigation, the Metropolitan police said they had not found any evidence to indicate that Masood was acting on orders from any group. They were also unable to establish why he had carried out his attack, despite Islamic State propaganda claiming that he was a “soldier” for the terrorist group.

“We still believe that Masood acted alone on the day and there is no information or intelligence to suggest there are further attacks planned,” Metropolitan Police Commissioner Neil Basu said.

While police rounded up 11 people in the aftermath of the attack, nine have been released. A 58-year-old man in Birmingham remains in custody and a 32-year-old woman from Manchester was released on bail. Police are still looking into media reports that Masood might have sent a message on the instant messaging app Whatsapp before launching his attack, as such behavior may indicate he had the help of an accomplice.

So far the investigation had failed to turn up conclusive evidence. “We must all accept there is a possibility we will never understand why he did this. That understanding may have died within him,” added Basu.

Investigators piecing together Masood’s background describe an intelligent but angry man who became estranged from school friends in Kent shortly after leaving secondary school in the 1980s, and had a history of violent explosions often involving knives. Jailed for two years in 2000 for slashing a man’s face in a pub row, he converted to Islam and gained qualification to teach English as a foreign language in Saudi Arabia, where he spent several years.

Jihadism experts told POLITICO that Masood’s profile was different from most ‘lone wolf’ jihadists due to one main factor: his age, 52. In an analysis of attacks by attacks by Islamist radicals or far-right attackers in 31 countries, the Royal United Services Institute think tank said that the vast majority were carried out by people under the age of 40, with most jihadist attacks carried out by people aged under 25.  

British investigators are continuing to delve into Masood’s background to gain an understanding of his motives. “Even if he acted alone in the preparation, we need to establish with absolute clarity why he did these unspeakable acts to bring reassurance to Londoners and to provide answers and closure for the families of those killed and the victims and survivors of this atrocity,” added Basu.

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The Ugly History Behind Trump’s Attacks on Civil Servants

Last week, as the House Intelligence Committee questioned FBI Director James Comey, it was as if two parallel hearings were taking place: one on Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and one on the torrent of leaks emanating from sources throughout the federal government—what President Donald Trump’s allies are calling the “deep state.”

The claim that an entrenched federal bureaucracy is betraying American democracy is preposterous, but it serves the Trump administration’s objectives: As the president blames a disloyal federal workforce for the messes he has made, he is simultaneously rallying popular support to slash the federal workforce and revise U.S. Civil Service laws.

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Well before Trump proposed a budget that would result in widespread layoffs throughout the government, he promoted the idea that many federal workers are disloyal and pursue their own political agenda. He’s tweeted that “national security ‘leakers’ … have permeated our government for a long time.” In August, he suggested that high-ranking federal employees should be forced to sign nondisclosure agreements, worrying that they might otherwise author tell-alls about him. In January, after State Department workers began to use the long-established official “Dissent Channel” to voice their opposition to Trump’s travel ban, White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivered an ultimatum: they can “either get with the program, or they can go.” Conservative media outlets are piling on, too. Breitbart, the right-wing news site formerly led by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, recently published a top-10 list of “holdover Obama bureaucrats” whom Trump should fire immediately.

Such partisan efforts to undermine public confidence in the integrity of government workers have a long and ugly history in American politics. Proponents of limited government have almost by definition been hostile to federal “bureaucrats”—the word itself has become a slur—but that hostility has been more broadly based and widely shared at certain pivotal moments in our history. When national security threats have coincided with rapid economic and social change, Americans have been more susceptible to demagogues peddling paranoid portrayals of politically and morally suspect civil servants.

We again are living in such an era. And if the past is any guide, the attacks on the Civil Service will become uglier.

***

Attacks on federal employees have long carried more than a whiff of emasculation, with the American ideal of rugged individualism weaponized against supposedly effeminate public workers bilking upstanding taxpayers. Since the “snivel service” reform battles of the 1880s, which made government employment contingent on qualifications rather than party loyalty, conservatives have questioned the masculinity of male government workers, casting them as non-entrepreneurial types who prefer to follow rules for modest pay rather than take risks in pursuit of profit. That the federal workforce was sexually integrated earlier than others invited further ridicule.

The Red Scare of the early 1920s—which followed waves of Catholic and Jewish immigration, black migration northward for wartime work, and women’s enfranchisement, not to mention the Bolshevik Revolution—included conservative attacks on government agencies, especially state and national labor and welfare departments, which employed many women. Margaret Robinson, a conservative and antisuffragist leader, warned that state bureaucracy “offers jobs for women in politics,” which could “destroy our form of government” as well as the very basis of society. But that Red Scare was short-lived, and those agencies were not powerful.

As the U.S. government expanded under Franklin D. Roosevelt, the attacks became more virulent. The challenges of the Great Depression, global war and nuclear weaponry expanded the federal bureaucracy and shifted power away from legislators to career civil servants (who often were better-educated and more cosmopolitan than elected officials). Lawmakers, especially rural conservatives, resented this change. Aided by media outlets such as the Hearst empire, they derided civil servants as eggheads, know-it-alls, and, in a pejorative phrase of the day, “short-haired women and long-haired men.” A best-selling “nonfiction” book by two Hearst journalists, Washington Confidential (1951), took readers on a gossipy, pulp-filled tour of the nation’s capital, and described its inhabitants as robots of indeterminate gender who enjoyed lifetime security on the government’s “perennial payroll.”

During the Second Red Scare, which reached a crescendo in the 1950s, this populist hostility to government experts became a useful tool for those who sought to roll back liberal policies. The anticommunist crusade spawned a sprawling federal loyalty program that did not catch any spies (other measures did that) but destroyed thousands of lives, stifled political debate and stymied effective policymaking long after the scare subsided.

When national security threats have coincided with rapid economic and social change, Americans have been more susceptible to demagogues peddling paranoid portrayals of politically and morally suspect civil servants.

The Second Red Scare’s momentum derived from claims that communist spies in government positions were serving Soviet masters. The exposure of a spy ring in Canada in 1946 increased the credibility of such charges. In 1947, President Harry Truman expanded existing procedures for weeding out employees deemed “disloyal” to the U.S. government. From 1947 to 1956, more than 5 million federal workers were screened for communist ties. Loyalty standards were vague and ever-changing; investigators looked not only for association with allegedly subversive organizations but also for subversive “tendencies”—which, depending on the eye of the beholder, sometimes included homosexuality, a woman’s use of her birth name rather than husband’s surname, “sympathy for the underdog,” and socializing across “the color line.” About 25,000 underwent the FBI’s “full field investigation,” about 2,700 were dismissed, and about 12,000 resigned. The stigma of investigation—regardless of outcome—destroyed careers. Chronic unemployment plagued the accused, as loyalty tests spread to the private sector.

The State Department was especially vulnerable to accusations. The espionage trial of former State employee Alger Hiss in 1950 made the department an obvious target for crusading anti-communist Senator Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.). But that case reflected deeper conflicts. To men like McCarthy and Senator Richard Nixon (R-Calif.), State’s “striped-pants diplomats” represented the patrician East Coast establishment. Their careers in government signaled an inability to compete in, or disdain for, the private sector. Their internationalism suggested a dearth of patriotism. Their advanced Ivy League degrees and social exclusivity indicated condescension, with a whiff of homoeroticism. McCarthy charged that “communists and queers” at State had aided Mao Zedong’s victory in China, and he vowed to drive the “prancing mimics of the Moscow party line” out of the department.

McCarthy also appealed to his base by targeting the career women of Foggy Bottom. State was one of the agencies in which a few highly educated women had achieved positions of authority; early cohorts of white female professionals found that the government would hire them when the private sector would not. Senator McCarthy’s very first case was against the former judge Dorothy Kenyon, State’s delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women; she was cleared, but her career never recovered.

The damage went far deeper than individual lives. The purges led to an exodus of experts in fields from foreign affairs to national health insurance. Those who remained lived in fear of saying or doing anything that might strike some unknown informant as suspicious. That repressive climate weakened the government’s capacity to respond effectively to complex challenges both domestic and international.

Although some of the policy damage was irreversible, by the 1960s, McCarthyism was remembered as an embarrassing episode of national hysteria. Few politicians questioned the loyalty of public servants, and when they did, the charges did not gain much traction with voters.

***

Until now. Many of the forces that fueled the last American inquisition are resurgent. The public sector is under siege by an alliance of corporate robber barons, right-wing media and free-market ideologues. Much of the population, especially but not only in rural areas, feels economically and culturally insecure in the face of globalization, multiculturalism and gender fluidity. Hostility to experts and susceptibility to conspiracy theories are rampant. Those fundamental forces weigh more heavily than the fact that President Trump’s onetime mentor was the lawyer Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s right-hand man—but that connection, too, is worrisome.

There is one key difference, of course: The Cold War is over, and Trump seems unconcerned about Soviet espionage or “un-Americanism.” Indeed, he rejects the notion of American exceptionalism, or unique moral duty, and admires Russia’s authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin. Trump demands loyalty not to a political ideology but to himself—hardly reassuring for civil servants, who may face even more capricious expectations than the anticommunists’ loyalty program imposed.

Trump’s goal is not just a smaller bureaucracy, but a more ideologically congenial one (“White House installs political aides at Cabinet agencies to be Trump’s eyes and ears,” read a Washington Post headline on Monday). Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an unofficial adviser to Trump, called for the president to clean out “leftists” from the State and Justice departments. Bannon has called not only for ridding the government of holdovers from past administrations, but for deconstructing the “administrative state.”

A government of sycophants selected for personal loyalty rather than expertise cannot check authoritarianism or protect the public interest from exploitation for private gain. The last purges ended only after the U.S. Senate censured McCarthy, the press exposed key accusers as frauds, and Supreme Court rulings reined in the federal loyalty program. Today, the demagogue is in the White House, and the Republican-controlled Congress seems disinclined to put country above party. To defend the roughly 2 million civil servants who help sustain American democracy, we need independent journalists and judges even more desperately now than we did in McCarthy’s day.

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Silicon Valley sends ambassador to Trump’s coal country

PAINTSVILLE, Ky. — President Donald Trump won this state by a landslide after promising to reopen Appalachia’s coal mines and put its miners back to work. But here, along the banks of Paint Creek in eastern Kentucky’s legendary coal fields, some displaced workers are pinning their hopes instead on Silicon Valley.

And the celebrity of the moment is California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, who came from the Valley’s deep-blue heart last week to see what this emptying corner of coal country might have to offer the technology industry — and how Appalachia can reap its benefits in the form of jobs and tech training.

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“It’s just exciting for them to think what we’re doing is interesting enough to make the trip,” former coal worker and budding app developer Steve Bowling said in a cinder-block classroom in Paintsville — referring to Khanna and, by extension, the tech industry itself. “That means a whole lot to us.”

The 40-year-old freshman congressman and son of Indian immigrants might seem an unlikely ambassador to a conservative region: He supports what he calls “common-sense” gun laws, not to mention the Obama-era energy regulations that the coal industry blames for shuttering dozens of coal plants in the past decade. But he hopes that by expounding upon the Silicon Valley success story across the U.S., he might help boost the economic prospects of places like Paintsville. And if he can convey the woes of non-coastal regions to leaders back home, the tech industry might find a way to steer where the country goes from here.

“The election was a wakeup call about how much discontent there is from technological progress and globalization, that it’s not just all a clear good thing,” Khanna said in his still-bare Capitol Hill office just before his trip, where he visited a training program for mobile app developers at Big Sandy Community & Technical College. And it’s time, he said, for an industry that has played a role in shedding American jobs — by advancing artificial intelligence, among other things — to invest in helping communities like this one share in the upside.

“There’s got to be greater empathy among those in Silicon Valley for some of the pain that has been caused,” he said.

At the same time, he’s looking to spread Silicon Valley’s aspirational spirit around a country in need of big thinking. “It’s just getting people to dream that they can go try to be like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs,” Khanna said.

Khanna came here at the invitation Kentucky Rep. Hal Rogers¸ a 79-year-old Republican who joined Congress the year Ronald Reagan moved into the White House.

Rogers’ sprawling district is among the poorest in the country — ranked 432nd out of 435 in median per-capita income according to the Almanac of American Politics — and the setting for the best-selling guide-to-Trump-country “Hillbilly Elegy.” By contrast, companies including Apple, Intel, eBay, Yahoo, LinkedIn and Tesla are all stuffed within Khanna’s overwhelmingly Democratic, wealthy and compact district; Google, while headquartered in nearby Mountain View, has offices there, too.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and Megan Smith, the Google executive who served as Barack Obama’s U.S. chief technology officer, also came to the event, giving speeches and chatting over foam-containered chicken salad sandwiches and potato chips. But for the crowd of about 150 people, Khanna’s attention was what they craved.

Rogers was eager to have him in what he calls “Silicon Holler,” because Khanna has quickly become a one-man proxy for a swath of glitteringly brand-name and geographically concentrated Silicon Valley companies. “It’s a chance for us to sell him, and therefore them, that this is a place to look at,” said Rogers. That he’s actually come, joked Earl Gohl, co-chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission — founded in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy — makes Khanna his “new best friend.”

Still, shortly after he stepped off stage with Khanna, Rogers fielded a question on whether he holds any bad feelings over the tech industry’s growing disdain for coal, such as Facebook’s new hydropowered data center in Luleå, Sweden. His answer? If the goal is keeping Appalachian people in the rolling hills of Paintsville and Pikesville and Harlan County, not fleeing to places like Ypsilanti and Cincinnati, America’s tech boom might be the last best hope.

“We can’t afford to be too resentful,” said the Republican. “We’d rather sleep here.”

Khanna, a lawyer and former official in the Obama-era Commerce Department, came to the tan-bricked, 1950s-built community college, where every other car in the parking lot is a hulking, mud-spattered American-made pickup truck. Founded in 1790 as Paint Lick Station, this is a town that honors its coal history. The bricked-and-columned 43-room mansion built on the cusp of World War I by John C. Mayo, the teacher-turned-entrepreneur regarded as the father of the eastern Kentucky coal industry, stands a block over. It’s now Our Lady of the Mountains School.

But gone are the days where you could get a $70,000 job in the mines with a ninth-grade education and buy one of the lovely homes dotting the hills here. Since 2008, coal jobs in eastern Kentucky have dropped from more than 14,000 to fewer than 4,000. And even the jobs still available don’t look like a smart long-term bet, making scraping out a living underground even less attractive than it’s ever been.

The event on display here, convened more or less in Khanna’s honor, amounted to speeches, a roundtable discussion and demonstrations about a program called TechHire Eastern Kentucky, or TEKY — pronounced, conveniently, “techie.” The program, backed by $2.75 million in federal funds, trains a crop of would-be mobile app developers for four months and puts them in a four-month paid internship with a Louisville software company called Interapt.

(That money flowed through the Appalachian Regional Commission, which Trump, in his first budget, included on the list of agencies he’d completely defund. Rogers called those cuts “draconian, careless and counterproductive.”)

TechHire, a federal program begun in the Obama White House in 2015, was inspired by the tech industry’s complaint that it has 600,000 job openings it can’t fill, a major drag on its bottom line and ambitions, and part of its justification for seeking more visas for specialized workers from overseas. But the people who have brought Khanna argue that this crunch exists partly because the industry simply doesn’t hire the sort of people sitting in cinder-block classrooms in eastern Kentucky.

The former coal worker Bowling, 41, said his wife found out about TEKY on Facebook after he’d been laid off from a job in a coal mine filling blasting holes with ammonium nitrate. He chose the Android app training track over the more structured Apple iOS track because his instructors “described it as, ‘It’s the Wild Wild West.'”

Others have come to the program to avoid coal. Sean Crowl, 29, says he lost his job when the Kmart in town closed.

Crowl sat at a roundtable of young men — the class of 35 trainees, from a pool of 800 applicants, is overwhelming male and white — who came from a bank, a school, a restaurant or unemployment to build apps like one for a local nonprofit that helps track elementary school students’ reading progress. The $400 a week was appealing, as a two-bedroom apartment can be had here at that price. (One trainee says it was so good he thought it was a “scam” until he heard about the paycheck.) All six said four months was plenty of time to learn how to build apps good enough for the Google Play marketplace or Apple’s App Store.

The pitch Rogers and others are making here is that Silicon Valley hiring managers would be smart to open their eyes to places beyond San Francisco and New York — and they’re pitching eastern Kentucky as the type of undervalued investment that venture capitalists love to go on about.

They argue that the internet erases some of the region’s traditional limitations, such as a dearth of well-maintained roads in many places, as well as of flat ground for building factories. The people say they are hard-working and open to low wages. And unlike, say, Bangalore, it’s in a reasonable time zone.

But for all the tech industry’s talk of meritocracy, “when employers say they can’t hire people with skills, what they’re really saying is that they can’t find people with a certain pedigree,” said Byron Auguste, a former deputy director of the White House National Economic Council who helped create TechHire. The result, he said, is that people from places like Paintsville don’t get access to the enormous sums that companies like those in Khanna’s district invest in training.

“People are on the outside looking in, forever,” Auguste said. “People say, ‘How many former coal miners can learn to code?’ And my answer is: It’s too early to tell. Only a handful have been given an opportunity, and they’ve done pretty damn well.”

Of Khanna, Auguste said: “We want him to be able to go back to Silicon Valley and his constituent companies and say, ‘No joke, there’s really a lot of talent here.’”

Being taken seriously is, in fact, a recurring theme. Interapt CEO Ankur Gopal wants Khanna to see that what’s going on here isn’t some “cute thing.” Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, quotes a colleague saying he wants to prove “we’re not just a dancing bear.”

Khanna said he’s listening. “The tech companies and tech industry have an incentive to rethink their own labor practices so that they aren’t just hiring in Stanford and Santa Clara, but are broader about what their hiring practices are and the skills they need,” he said.

That said, Khanna told the crowd in Paintsville, “it has to be a partnership. I don’t think it’s an act of Silicon Valley’s charity. It’s in their interest to harness the talent, the energy and the spirit here. That’s going to make their companies better. That’s going to make our country better.” And that, says Khanna, is what he’s going to go back and tell the tech industry.

The event included no talk of Trump, his campaign pledge to “bring those miners back” or the attacks he’s heaped on the tech industry for everything from manufacturing its products abroad to refusing to open up its consumer products to law enforcement.

But Auguste said the warm feelings for the tech industry evident at Big Sandy Community College aren’t widely distributed across the U.S. “The country should love Silicon Valley. It’s a gem and a treasure,” he said. “But when push comes to shove, in a lot of parts of the country, it’s difficult to find people who’d say, ‘Silicon Valley has done much for me.’”

Khanna said he also wants to help his own home-district industry expand its thinking on Silicon Valley’s role in society.

“What I want to do is to help shape the thinking of the Valley to start caring more and engaging more in policy that’s not narrow,” Khanna said. “You get almost the same talking points about [tax] repatriation, encryption, patent trolls. I say, ‘What an impoverished vision for a place that literally believes it wants to change human civilization.'”

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