The Return of Russian Meddling

Wednesday, February 14, 2018Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 8.51.56 AM

Good Wednesday morning, 
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
  • As the midterm elections approach, Russia is likely to throw more propaganda at Americans, using people sympathetic to its messages and fake personalities on social media to sow further divisions in the United States, American intelligence chiefs told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

  • Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, upended the White House’s timeline of events in the Rob Porter scandal, saying the bureau delivered its first report on Mr. Porter months earlier than officials had said.

  • Even as floor debate faltered, a bipartisan group of senators was working behind the scenes to draft an immigration proposal that could garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.

  • President Trump’s proposed overhaul of the country’s core food assistance program would give participants half their benefits in a box of preselected food. Reaction was immediate, and largely negative.
  • Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, said that he paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to a pornographic-film actress who had once claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump.

  • American officials told South Korea’s president they were willing to hold direct negotiations with North Korea, according to two senior Trump administration officials and a spokesman for President Moon Jae-in.
— The First Draft Team
News Analysis

Republicans Have Forgotten They Hate Deficits

By JIM TANKERSLEY
House Budget Committee staff members delivered President Trump's budget for the 2019 fiscal year on Capitol Hill.

House Budget Committee staff members delivered President Trump’s budget for the 2019 fiscal year on Capitol Hill. Eric Thayer for The New York Times

Since the 2008 financial crisis, conservative economists and Republican politicians have claimed several policy errors were holding back economic growth and contributing to a painfully slow recovery, including lackluster wage growth. The government was spending too much, it was borrowing too much and it was sowing “uncertainty” in the business world with expiring tax cuts and other bitter policy battles, they said.
If Republican leaders still believe that, they’re not acting like it.
In a year of controlling power in Washington, President Trump and Republicans in Congress have run up federal spending, approved deficit-swelling tax cuts and presided over a marked increase in “policy uncertainty” in the economy. They still talk about the importance of fiscal discipline, but they have yet to enforce it.
The $4.4 trillion budget Mr. Trump released on Monday spends as much over 10 years as any budget offered by President Barack Obama, whose policies Republicans blamed for ballooning the size of the federal government and hobbling the economy. It does not attempt to achieve balance at the end of that time, despite optimistic economic growth projections that far exceed what most economists say is possible.
Instead, it projects that deficits will grow $7 trillion over the next decade as the United States continues borrowing huge sums of money — a number that could double if the administration turns out to be overestimating economic growth and if the $3 trillion in spending cuts the White House has floated do not materialize in Congress.
Read more »
A book about “Fake News” was displayed last November by a supporter of Roy Moore, who unsuccessfully ran for Senate in Alabama.

Fake News and Bots May Be Worrisome, but Their Power Is Overblown

By BRENDAN NYHAN

It’s very hard to change people’s minds, especially when so many are already committed partisans.

Maggie Haberman, left, and Jennifer Steinhauer participating in a Times Insider panel discussion, “The Journalist and the Source,” last week in Washington.

Haberman on Her Hardest Interview and Predictions for 2018

By JENNIFER STEINHAUER

Maggie Haberman, Times White House correspondent, recently caught up with Jennifer Steinhauer, a colleague and onetime competitor, to discuss the art of interviewing, the Trump effect and more.

Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary, with John F. Kelly, the chief of staff, in August.

F.B.I., Abuse and the White House: A Timeline of the Porter Scandal

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR AND EMILY COCHRANE

The White House has shifted its story about how and when members of the administration learned about the domestic abuse allegations that forced Rob Porter, a top aide, to resign.

Advisers to Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, say he and President Trump have patched up their relationship.

Corker Reconsiders Retirement, but He Must Win Over Trump to Do It

By JONATHAN MARTIN

After announcing retirement, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee is having second thoughts. But without President Trump’s support, he is unlikely to win the nomination.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers pulling a man over during a traffic stop near his Riverside, Calif., house last summer.

ICE Deportation Cases: Your Questions Answered

By NIRAJ CHOKSHI AND VIVIAN YEE

The treatment of people in high-profile unlawful immigration cases can often seem arbitrary. Here is a look at what the authorities can and cannot do.


Trump Pressures Democrats Over DACA and Infrastructure Plan

By EILEEN SULLIVANPresident Trump during a meeting about infrastructure at the White House on Monday.

In two tweets, the president said a March deadline to protect young immigrants would be the “last chance,” and suggested that Democrats should come to a deal on his infrastructure proposal.

Right and Left: Partisan Writing You Shouldn’t Miss
Read about how the other side thinks. We have collected political writing from around the web and across ideologies.
From the Right
Nathanael Blake in The Federalist:
“This is a moral problem.”
There’s a lot that politicians like to ascribe to the moral failings of their ideological counterparts. For some reason, Mr. Blake points out, adding to the national debt is not one of these things. As he explains, the national debt “steals from other people’s futures in a way that mere personal debt does not.” The real solution to the problem, he says, is a tough one for most Americans to swallow. “The real money,” he writes, “is spent on the military and middle-class welfare programs.” If we’re serious about funding these program, he argues, then we should be willing to drastically cut military spending and raise taxes on the middle class. Read more »
From the Left
Matthew Rozsa in Salon:
“During the Obama years, deficit was a four-letter word to the Republican Party.”
The Republicans used to be deficit averse, Mr. Rozsa reminds his readers. So what gave rise to the party’s seemingly newfound tolerance for ballooning debt? Perhaps, he speculates, the party’s fiscal conservatives have been sidelined by President Trump’s ideology. Read more »
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