FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
November 3, 2012

A man is suing a New York church after the crucifix he prayed to every day toppled over and crushed his leg. David Jimenez, 45, says he was cleaning the heavy marble statue in gratitude for Jesus having cured his wife's cancer when it fell on him. Claiming the church was negligent, Jimenez seeks $3 million in damages. The Week Staff

10:37 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The next generation of American spies may be difficult to find, said James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, on Wednesday. The trouble, it seems, is twofold.

First, young Americans aren't exactly keen on mass surveillance. "We need to attract new people, new young people, to the intelligence community," Clapper said, but "they're going to say, 'You know, there's too much Big Brother. There's too much invasiveness and intrusiveness in my life, so I don't think I'm going to work here.' I worry about that."

Second, as FBI Director James Comey has complained, young Americans do like marijuana, for which intelligence agencies have little tolerance. "I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview," Comey said in 2014. Any recent marijuana use, even in states where recreational or medicinal consumption is legal, runs afoul of hiring practices at the FBI as well the CIA, a policy that shrinks the recruiting pool in an age when four in 10 Americans will cop to trying pot. Bonnie Kristian

10:23 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump's much-vaunted plan to implement "one of the greatest military buildups in American history" to make the military "bigger and better and stronger than ever before" looks increasingly unlikely, Politico reports. Trump has called for a $30 billion defense spending increase for 2017 and a $54 billion bump for 2018, but as congressional budget negotiations continue and a government shutdown looms, he may not get what he wants.

Defense contractors, eager for fresh largesse, are "certainly frustrated that the initial hopefulness has not borne out, or at least not borne out yet," Doug Berenson of Avascent, a defense consulting firm, told Politico. "A lot of people in the industry, myself included, sort of allowed ourselves to get ahead of ourselves in the first weeks following the election without fully realizing the budget politics that have been with us for the last five or six years are not completely gone."

The U.S. military budget is already the largest in the world, surpassing the military spending of the next seven nations combined. Despite consistent evidence of large-scale waste and fraud, the Pentagon's books have never undergone a comprehensive audit. Bonnie Kristian

10:03 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The State Department has about 200 high-ranking positions left unfilled during President Trump's transition into power because those roles may soon be eliminated, said department representative R. C. Hammond in a New York Times report published Thursday.

The Trump administration has proposed a 31 percent cut to the State budget, and even a smaller restructuring would make it nonsensical to temporarily fill positions that require Senate confirmation, Hammond argued, employing a shipwreck exploration analogy. "The first step was to find out where the Titanic was, and then it was to map out where everything else is," he said. "I think we're still in the process of mapping out the entire ocean floor so that we understand the full picture."

The mapping process here is a listening tour by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who in coming days will personally explore the State Department's current structure to determine what he would like to change. Critics from left and right alike have suggested this delay — which means the roles that are retained won't be filled until 2018 — is a dangerous decision that leaves diplomatic neophytes at the helm of one of the most important Cabinet agencies. Bonnie Kristian

8:49 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republican lawmakers are privately miffed at having been shut out of the White House's tax reform efforts, and many are none too pleased with what they heard yesterday. "It's not tax reform," one Republican aide told CNN. "Not even close."

Tax leaders on the Hill did not get a notice before the Trump administration announced it would be proposing its reform, multiple aides said, and the White House's proposal pointedly excludes a border adjustment tax on imports that was desired by Republicans. "We get that [the White House wants to] make a big show of leading the way on this, but that's not how this is supposed to work," an aide told CNN. The same aide added that House and Senate tax writers' work is ongoing, and that they are still attempting to reach an agreement about how to proceed.

"It's really easy to talk about big cuts," complained another aide. "We're about solutions. They aren't to that point yet, either on the policy or on the personnel level, and it's both obvious and disruptive to the process."

Publicly, at least, Republicans aren't expressing their annoyance aloud. A measured House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday: "Progress is being made and we're moving and getting on the same page."

Read an analysis of Trump's tax plan that wasn't at The Week. Jeva Lange

7:56 a.m. ET

President Trump has been known to call up television anchors to complain about coverage and feed his own leaks to the tabloids, and in the White House, that sharp sense for shaping the media has not waned. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, for example, has already learned that the best way to satisfy his boss is to ask what he wants to see on TV that day before briefing the press, Politico reports.

It is perhaps no surprise then that Trump has reportedly huddled in the Oval Office with the creator and editor of the massively popular Drudge Report:

…Trump continues to crave attention and approval from news media figures. Trump huddled in the Oval Office with Matt Drudge, the reclusive operator of the influential Drudge Report, to talk about his administration and the site. Drudge and Kushner have also begun to communicate frequently, said people familiar with the conversations. Drudge, whose visits to the White House haven't previously been reported, didn't respond to a request for comment. [Politico]

Drudge has been critical of the Trump administration in recent weeks, saying in early April that "we are trying to save this young Trump administration. And I do think there is a crisis — on many fronts." Trump is also a known reader of Drudge's website, too, retweeting the publication even at odd hours of the night.

Read more about how Trump is promoting his agenda to the media and his meeting at the White House with Drudge at Politico. Jeva Lange

7:08 a.m. ET
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The tax plan President Trump unveiled on Wednesday is really only a single page of bullet points, but it's already pretty clear that a big beneficiary of the proposals would be super-wealthy chieftains of private real estate empires who have children. One big winner from the proposals would be "pass-through" businesses like the Trump Organization and its hundreds of subsidiaries, where owners file business income on their individual returns — depending on how the law is written, such business owners could pay a 15 percent tax rate instead of an individual rate of up to 35 percent. "Trump is the king of pass-throughs," said Steven Rosenthal at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. "He has pass-through businesses everywhere."

Trump's proposal would also eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, and the push to reduce or eliminate taxes on profits that U.S. businesses earn overseas would be a boon for the golf courses and hotels the Trump Organization owns or licenses around the world. "Commercial real estate businesses like those controlled by the Trump Organization stand to benefit greatly," too, The Wall Street Journal says, with one provision slashing "tax rates for many property businesses by more than half."

In fact, "it is striking how many of the categories listed above affect the president and his family," says Neil Irwin at The New York Times. "He is a high-income earner. He receives income from 564 business entities, according to his financial disclosure form, and could take advantage of the low rate on 'pass-through' companies. According to his leaked 2005 tax return, he paid an extra $31 million because of the alternative minimum tax that he seeks to eliminate. And his heirs could eventually enjoy his enormous assets tax-free."

Of course the precise amount Trump and his businesses (now held in trust) would save "couldn't be determined because he has declined to release his tax returns," The Wall Street Journal notes. "Still, from what is known about how his businesses are structured, experts estimate the savings would be in the tens of millions of dollars" a year. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said flatly that Trump has "no intention" of releasing his tax returns, arguing that "the American population has plenty of information." Peter Weber

5:59 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Republican leaders huddled with more moderate members of the GOP caucus for two hours Wednesday night to drum up support for the latest version of the American Health Care Act, after the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus threw its support behind the newly amended health-care bill on Wednesday and influential outside conservative groups dropped their opposition.

After the meeting, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said "we got a few more to yes tonight — yeah, a couple moderates," and did not rule out a House vote as early as Friday. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chairwoman of the House GOP conference, said it is "yet to be determined" if the House votes on Friday, but Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Pa.), one of the few Freedom Caucus members to attend Wednesday night's meeting, said of a Friday vote, "It sounds kind of like they're going to do that."

The new amendment that won over the Freedom Caucus, written with Rep. Tom MacArthur (R., N.J.), a leader of the more centrist Tuesday Group, would allow states to apply for federal waivers to requirements in the Affordable Care Act, including that insurance plans cover a set list of essential health benefits, that prices have to be the same for people with pre-existing conditions, and caps on annual out-of-pocket costs. States could not request waivers for the requirement that insurers offer coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, but health policy experts say the ability to charge higher premiums for those patients, if they let their health-care coverage lapse, would effectively drive sick people out of the insurance market. The AHCA still includes deep cuts to Medicaid and other provisions.

House GOP aides tell The Wall Street Journal that a vote could be held on Saturday, giving President Trump an accomplishment to tout on his 100th day in office, but that depends on picking up centrist GOP support, and many of those lawmakers who opposed the bill in March say they haven't changed their minds. And even if the bill does pass the House, it won't survive a Senate vote as is, says Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a Tuesday Group leader who still opposes the AHCA. A successful vote in the House, he added, would be "an exercise in blame shifting" away from the Freedom Caucus. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads