A trio of Democratic senators from red states joined President Trump for dinner on Tuesday, with the evening's conversation revolving around overhauling the tax code.
The goal of the dinner with Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) was to find common ground on issues like retirement security and keeping jobs in the United States, Politico reports. The three senators did not sign a letter from Democrats that shared their requirements for tax reform, although they haven't said anything that strays too far from the party line, with the exception of Manchin saying he was open to cutting taxes for the rich and corporations. Before the dinner, Manchin told reporters he wasn't sent to Washington to "pick and choose who I want to work with. I was sent here to do the job for my state of West Virginia."
Vice President Mike Pence and three Republican senators — Orrin Hatch (Utah), Pat Toomey (Pa.), and John Thune (S.D.) — also attended the dinner. White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short said Tuesday morning that Trump wants to have bipartisan support for a tax plan, especially after seeing what happened during the GOP's failure to repeal ObamaCare. "We don't feel like we can assume that we can get tax reform done strictly on a partisan basis," he said. Catherine Garcia
John Bolton, a United Nations ambassador under former President George W. Bush, deemed President Trump's debut address Tuesday before the U.N. General Assembly "the best of the Trump presidency." Bolton, known for his neoconservative views, heaped praise on Trump for vowing to "totally destroy" North Korea if it threatens the U.S or its allies and for calling out Iran as a "rogue state," points Bolton described as the "centerpiece of the speech." "I think it's safe to say, in the entire history of the United Nations, there has never been a more straightforward criticism of the behavior, the unacceptable behavior, of other member states," Bolton said on Fox News, where he's now a contributor.
Bolton was also pleased with Trump's blunt criticisms of the Iran deal, which he said made clear this administration will not put up with "half-measures and compromises." Bolton's personal favorite line, however, was Trump's remark that Venezuela is in crisis because "socialism has been faithfully implemented." "There are a lot of people in the U.N. who have never heard anything like that from an American president," Bolton said. "I think this was an outstanding speech, and I think it will serve the president very well."
Watch Bolton praise Trump's speech below. Becca Stanek
Moscow unveiled a 30-foot-tall bronze monument to the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle on Tuesday in a ceremony that "contained no mention of the untold millions of people who have been killed or maimed by the weapon since its creation in 1947," The New York Times reports. Instead, the chairman of the Russian Military Historical Society, Vladimir Medinsky, praised Lt. General Mikhail Kalashnikov, citing the rifle designer as being "the embodiment of the best elements in a Russian man," Russia's Tass News Agency reports.
"[Kalashnikov's] extraordinary natural aptitude, simplicity, integrity, and organizational talent helped him create a whole range of weapons to protect the motherland, among which is, of course, the Kalashnikov assault rifle, a true Russian cultural brand," Medinsky said.
The statue, which is mounted on a 13-foot-tall pedestal, depicts a larger-than-life Kalashnikov holding an AK-47 "like a violin," in the words of the local media.
Muscovites weighed in on the statue to The Moscow Times, with Sveta Agayan, 26, asking, "What's not to like? The size is good. And people should know their heroes." Nadezhda Yermakova, 46, said she also liked the statue, telling The Moscow Times: "I would want my children to know what he's done for the motherland."
One lone protester demonstrated against the statue at the unveiling ceremony with a sign that read "a creator of weapons is a creator of death," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports. The use of AK-47s kill an estimated 250,000 people annually, The Guardian writes. Jeva Lange
A statue of Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the iconic AK-47, was unveiled in Moscow on September 19. pic.twitter.com/oo2QYauN0t
— RFE/RL (@RFERL) September 19, 2017
Louisiana Secretary of Health Rebekah Gee sent a letter on Monday to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) expressing her "deep concerns" about his proposed Graham-Cassidy bill. "In its current form, the harm to Louisiana from this legislation far outweighs any benefit," Gee wrote about the health-care bill, which was introduced last week by Cassidy and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as the Republican Party's last-ditch effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
Gee wrote that she's particularly concerned about the consequences that ending Medicaid expansion in 2020 would have for Cassidy's home state. She noted that in "only one year," Louisiana has been "able to provide more than 433,000 Louisianians with coverage, resulting in more than 100,000 primary care visits, tens of thousands of screenings for cancer, and thousands of new mental health services." "This would be a detrimental step backwards for Louisiana," she wrote, warning that the bill's proposal to end the expansion could cause "thousands" of Louisianians to "lose coverage and access."
She also worried that the Graham-Cassidy bill includes the "same per capita cuts" as the summer's failed health-care bill, which would have resulted "in profound cuts to Louisiana's most vulnerable citizens, including children, the disabled, and pregnant women." Also problematic, Gee wrote, is the fact that the plan makes it easier for states to waive essential health benefits and price protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions or "complex and costly conditions." "Finally, this bill, like ones before it, uniquely and disproportionally hurts Louisiana," she wrote.
Republicans have until Sept. 30 to pass the bill with a majority vote. Three 'no' votes in the Senate would kill it. Already, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has come out firmly as a 'no,' and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is expected to oppose it, too.
Read Gee's letter in full below. Becca Stanek
— Rebekah Gee (@rebekahgeemd) September 19, 2017
President Trump informed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that some countries are "going to hell." "Major portions of the world are in conflict and some in fact are going to hell," Trump said in his debut U.N. address in New York City. Reuters' Jeff Mason noted that leaders at the U.N. meeting reacted "seemingly in bafflement."
Trump tells the UN that major portions of the world are "going to hell." pic.twitter.com/SGW5cuIdiK
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) September 19, 2017
On a brighter note, Trump assured the diplomats and world leaders gathered for the annual meeting that the "powerful people in this room" can "solve many of these vicious and complex problems." In his wide-ranging speech, Trump specifically identified North Korea and Iran as among those problems, warning that North Korea's "Rocket Man" (a.k.a. Kim Jong Un) is "on a suicide mission" and deeming the Iranian government an "economically depleted rogue state" whose chief export is violence.
It was not immediately clear if these were the countries Trump believes are going to hell. Becca Stanek
In his debut address before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, President Trump doubled down on his America First outlook as he warned of the threats posed by "rogue regimes."
He declared that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who he referred to as "Rocket Man," is "on a suicide mission," and noted that the U.S. "will have no choice but to totally destroy" the country if it threatens the U.S or its allies. Vowing to "stop radical Islamic terrorism," Trump also referred to the Iranian government as an "economically depleted rogue state" whose chief export is violence.
President Trump threatened to "totally destroy North Korea" and recycled his Elton John-inspired nickname for leader Kim Jong Un in a speech before the United Nations on Tuesday. "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime," Trump said. "The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That's what the United Nations is all about. That's what the United Nations is for. Let's see how they do."
Trump had originally branded Kim as "Rocket Man" in a tweet that The Washington Post claimed "even some of Trump's critics had to admit" was clever. Others frowned at the reference being made Tuesday in such a serious setting and framed by such chilling threats:
So. "Rocket Man" will be a key takeaway. Was he ad-libbing, or did the WH staff go along with?
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) September 19, 2017
.@POTUS inserts Rocket Man reference into speech, marking first time Elton John tune has been inserted into an UNGA address.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) September 19, 2017
The reaction of the North Korean delegation speaks volumes as President Trump says the US will "totally destroy" the country if needed. pic.twitter.com/8a1hNPpqqz
— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) September 19, 2017
Watch Trump's comments below. Jeva Lange
Trump, speaking at the United Nations, mocks the leader of North Korea as "Rocket Man" pic.twitter.com/mSolKflSoB
— David Mack (@davidmackau) September 19, 2017
The Trump administration's Department of Defense (DoD) has become increasingly inaccessible to journalists, Politico reports, citing interviews with unnamed "numerous reporters who cover the beat." As one such source summarized, "This is the worst relationship I've seen" between the Pentagon and the media in recent years, even considering the Obama administration's poor record on press freedom.
The decline in transparency Politico describes chiefly takes two forms: Secretary of Defense James Mattis offers limited press availability, and the Pentagon has cut down on the number of reporters permitted to join official trips. For example, a recent journey Mattis took excluded the correspondent from Reuters, which traditionally would have had a representative present alongside those from the other two wire services, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse. This exclusion "breaks with decades of standing practice," Reuters said.
The shift in Pentagon-press relations is significantly attributable to Mattis' perception that "the media is trying to pit him against the president and deliberately misinterpret the things that he says," an unnamed Trump administration official told Politico. Mattis has reportedly decided less contact with journalists will make it easier to control his messaging. Bonnie Kristian