Britain says it's 'likely' attacker had accomplices as focus turns to his Libya visits – Washington Post

By , and Souad Mekhennet,

MANCHESTER, England — Britain’s top domestic security official said Wednesday it was “likely” that the bomber who killed 22 people at a concert on Monday night was not acting alone, a day after the nation’s threat level was raised and the military deployed to guard public events.

In an interview with the BBC, Home Secretary Amber Rudd did not provide details of who suspect Salman Abedi may have been working with when he detonated explosives in an attack that targeted teenage concertgoers, but she said security services — which had been aware of Abedi “up to a point” before the bombing —  are focusing on his visits to Libya, at least one of which was very recent. 

Her French counterpart, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, told broadcaster BFMTV that Abedi may have also gone to Syria, and had “proven” links with Islamic State.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Tuesday night announcement, which takes Britain’s alert level from “severe” to its highest rating, “critical,” clears the way for thousands of British troops to take to the streets and replace police officers in guarding key sites. 

May announced the move after chairing an emergency meeting of her security cabinet and concluding that Abedi may have been part of a wider network that is poised to strike again. The decision, she said, was “a proportionate and sensible response to the threat that our security experts judge we face.”

The worst terrorist attack on British soil in over a decade was carried out by a British-born son of Libyan immigrants who was born and raised a short drive from the concert hall that he transformed from a scene of youthful celebration into a tableau of horror. 

Health officials said Wednesday that in addition to the dead, 20 people remained in “critical care” and were suffering from “horrific injuries.”

The attack, which came at the close of a concert in this northern English city by American pop star Ariana Grande, was claimed Tuesday by the Islamic State, saying one of its “soldiers” was responsible. 

Even as officials and experts cast doubt on the terrorist group’s assertion, however, authorities were scrambling to execute searches, arrest potential accomplices and reinforce security systems at a spectrum of public events that look newly vulnerable to attacks like Monday’s.

After years of successfully fending off more-sophisticated strikes even as countries across continental Europe have fallen victim to bombings, Monday night’s carnage underscored that Britain is not immune amid a rising tide of extremist violence. 

The highest priority for police, said Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, was to “establish whether [Abedi] was acting alone or as part of a network.”

Earlier he had said that Abedi executed the bombing alone and that he “was carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated, causing this atrocity.”

But unlike in previous high-profile attacks — including one in March in which an assailant driving a speeding car ran down pedestrians on a London bridge, then stabbed to death a British police officer — experts said it was unlikely that Monday’s attack had been carried out without help. 

[Three seconds of silence, then a scream: How the attack unfolded]

“Getting a car or a knife is easy,” said Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism expert at the London-based Royal United Services Institute. “Making a bomb that works and goes off when you want it to go off takes preparation and practice. And it usually involves other people.”

Pantucci said British authorities “are going to try to figure out who [Abedi] knows, who he’s linked to. Did he build the bomb itself, or did someone build it and give it to him?”

If police have an answer, they did not say so publicly Tuesday. But there was ample evidence of a widening security operation, with the arrest of a 23-year-old from south Manchester in connection with the bombing. Police also carried out searches at two homes, including the house in the leafy suburban neighborhood where Abedi, 22, was registered as having lived.

A family friend said Abedi traveled frequently between Libya and Britain. “We have an Daesh problem in Libya. We wonder whether he met people there who trained him,” said the friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

Even before May’s announcement of a “critical” threat level for just the third time ever — the first two came in 2006 and 2007 — authorities from London to Scotland said that they would be reviewing security plans for upcoming public events. Even smaller gatherings that would not have been policed in the past may now get protection, they said.

[The targeting of women and girls in Manchester may have been intentional]

“Over the coming days as you go to a music venue, go shopping, travel to work or head off to the fantastic sporting events, you will see more officers, including armed officers,” said Commander Jane Connors of London’s Metropolitan Police Department.

May’s decision to deploy the military means the public may now see soldiers rather than police. May said the military would operate under police command.

Young victims

The escalation came as the nation grieved for the young victims, with thousands of people converging on Manchester’s graceful Albert Square for a vigil that was part solemn remembrance and part rally against extremism.

To roaring applause, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham vowed that the city — which has seen hardship, having been bombed relentlessly during World War II — would not succumb to division or anger. A poet named Tony Walsh delivered an ode to the city titled “This Is the Place.” And in what has become a dark mainstay of life in Western Europe, passersby left candles, flowers and cards for the dead. 

The casualties included children as young as elementary school students. Police said that among the 59 people injured, a dozen were younger than 16. 

Among the dead was Saffie Rose Roussos, who was just 8 years-old. The first victim to be publicly identified was Georgina Callander, an 18-year-old student. 

[An 8-year-old was separated from her family. She never made it out.]

Other names were expected to be released Wednesday, with authorities bracing the public for deaths among the teens and tweens who form the core of Grande’s enthusiastic fan base.

The Islamic State did not give any details about the attacker or how the blast was carried out, raising doubts about the truth of its claim. Its statement was posted on the online messaging service Telegram and later noted by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant websites.

The Islamic State often quickly proclaims links to attacks, but some previous boasts have not been proved.

In Washington, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said Tuesday that despite the group’s statement, “we have not verified yet the connection.” He noted in a Senate hearing that “they claim responsibility for virtually every attack.” 

Wave of revulsion

In a speech outside 10 Downing Street, where flags were lowered to half-staff, May called the Manchester killings a “callous terrorist attack.” 

“This attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives,” she said.

May later visited Manchester, meeting with local authorities and signing a condolence book honoring the victims.

Queen Elizabeth II, meanwhile, led guests of a garden party at Buckingham Palace in a moment of silence and issued a statement expressing her “deepest sympathies.”

“The whole nation has been shocked by the death and injury in Manchester last night of so many people, adults and children, who had just been enjoying a concert,” she said.

Across the world, other leaders expressed revulsion and scorn toward the bomber.

[The Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared]

During a visit to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, President Trump pledged “absolute solidarity” with Britain and called those responsible for the attack “evil losers in life.”

Organizers of the Cannes Film Festival denounced the bombing as an “attack on culture, youth and joyfulness” and observed a minute of silence Tuesday. Cannes is 15 miles from Nice, where an attacker driving a truck plowed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in July, killing 86 people.

The Monday night attack was the worst terrorist strike on British soil since 2005, when Islamist extremists bombed the London subway and a bus, killing 54 people.

And as with that attack, Monday’s bombing prompted desperate searches for missing loved ones that continued through the night and into Tuesday.

Charlotte Campbell told the BBC that she was “phoning everybody,” including hospitals, trying to locate her 15-year-old daughter, Olivia. She last spoke to her daughter Monday night while she was at the concert.

“She’d just seen the support act and said she was having an amazing time, and thanking me for letting her go,” Campbell said in an emotional interview.

[In the midst of Manchester’s terror, strangers reach out — through Twitter]

On Wednesday, Campbell confirmed on social media that her daughter had been killed.

The attack occurred near one of the exits of the arena, in a public space connected to a bustling train station. 

Jake Taylor, a former security guard at the arena, said its layout makes absolute safety impossible. 

“You can’t stop people from getting through the train station,” Taylor said.

Mark Harrison, who accompanied his 12-year-old daughter to the concert from Cumbria in northern England, said there were no metal detectors or body checks at the arena’s entrance, although bags were inspected and items such as water bottles had to be discarded. 

“There was definitely a security presence, but anyone can come through the train station,” said Harrison, 44. 

[Trump decries the ‘losers’ who wage terrorism]

Pantucci, the security expert, said that authorities had disrupted several plots in recent months but that Monday’s attack somehow slipped through. Understanding why, he said, will be crucial.

“They’ve been dealing with a very high threat tempo,” he said. “But this is one they weren’t able to stop.” 

                     

                     

Adam reported from London. Isaac Stanley-Becker, James McAuley and Rick Noack in Manchester; Paul Schemm in Addis Ababa, Ethi­o­pia; and Devlin Barrett, Brian Murphy and Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.

 Read more         

Three seconds of silence then a scream: How the Manchester suicide attack unfolded  

The targeting of women and girls in Manchester may have been intentional  

Who were the victims of the Manchester Arena attack?  

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world            

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news 

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Trump's budget cuts children's health insurance program – CNN

Breaking News

Live TV

U.S. Edition+

U.S.

International

Arabic

Español

Set edition preference:

U.S. Edition+

U.S.

International

Arabic

Español

Set edition preference:

U.S.
International
Español
Arabic

Set edition preference:

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Trump's budget cuts children's health insurance program – CNN

Breaking News

Live TV

U.S. Edition+

U.S.

International

Arabic

Español

Set edition preference:

U.S. Edition+

U.S.

International

Arabic

Español

Set edition preference:

U.S.
International
Español
Arabic

Set edition preference:

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Trump's budget cuts children's health insurance program – CNN

To continue using CNN.com, you need to update your web browser or use a different one.

You may want to try one of the following alternatives:

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Trump's Budget Scam – Politico

I have a plan to dunk a basketball. First, I’ll grow a foot taller. Next, I’ll recapture the athleticism of my youth, so I can jump a lot higher. I didn’t say I had a serious plan—just a plan.

Today, the Trump administration released a plan to balance the federal budget over the next decade, and it’s no more plausible than my plan to become LeBron James. It does reveal the administration’s fiscal priorities, like deep cuts in spending on the less fortunate and the environment, no cuts to Medicare or Social Security retirement benefits, steady increases in spending on the military and the border, and an abiding faith in the restorative miracles of tax cuts for corporations and well-off families. But its claim to a balanced bottom line is based on a variety of heroic assumptions and hide-the-ball evasions, obscuring trillions of dollars’ worth of debt that it could pile onto America’s credit card.

Story Continued Below

Budget proposals always involve some guesswork into the unknowable, and administrations routinely massage numbers to their political advantage. But this proposal is unusually brazen in its defiance of basic math, and in its accounting discrepancies amounting to trillions-with-a-t rather than mere millions or billions. One maneuver in President Donald Trump’s budget arguably waves away an estimated $5.5 trillion in additions to the national debt from tax cuts, nearly $20,000 for every American alive today, enough to fund the Environmental Protection Agency at current spending levels for nearly 700 years. Trump critics in the budget-wonk world are pointing to another $2 trillion of red ink as a blatant math error—or, less charitably, as an Enron-style accounting fraud.

Numbers that huge tend to melt into abstraction. And the media will help downplay them by declaring the Trump budget dead on arrival in Congress, as if the fact that it won’t be rubber-stamped into law means that nothing in it matters. But a presidential budget is a detailed blueprint for governing—and in this case, the blueprint has a fair amount in common with blueprints offered by the Republicans who still control Congress. It matters for policy and it matters for politics.

It also matters that Trump’s numbers don’t add up. Whether or not you agree with the Tea Party philosophy behind the numbers, Trump and his hard-driving budget director, Mick Mulvaney, deserve credit for backing up their limited-government rhetoric by proposing $3.6 trillion in spending cuts, including politically courageous cuts in farm subsidies, rural development programs and other benefits geared toward Trump’s base. But they do not deserve credit for their aspirations to balance the budget, any more than I deserve credit for my aspirations to dunk. Budgets hinge on assumptions about taxes, spending and economic growth, and the Trump budget plays fast and loose with all three to try to achieve the illusion of balance, relying heavily on spectacular growth assumptions as well as vague and unrealistic promises to eliminate tax breaks and additional spending programs that go conveniently unnamed in the text. It proclaims that “we have borrowed from our children and their future for far too long,” but it is a blueprint for far more borrowing and far more debt.

Ultimately, the Trump budget reads like a corporate prospectus for a shady widget manufacturer who claims that cutting widget prices will spark a massive surge in widget sales, while also promising major cutbacks in ineffective widget salesmen and unnecessary widget costs. It doesn’t pencil out. And it’s worth understanding the main reasons it doesn’t pencil out, because soon Republicans in Congress will get to use their own pencils.

***

The Growth Spurt: Economic growth is as vital to balancing budgets as physical growth is to dunking basketballs. A booming economy means more tax revenue flowing into Washington, because workers have more income and corporations have more profits; and less federal spending flowing out of Washington, because fewer unemployed workers and poor families need the government safety net. “Economic growth,” Mulvaney recently said, “solves all our problems.”

So the Trump budget simply stipulates terrific economic growth. Specifically, it assumes the U.S. economy will expand an average of 3 percent per year over the next decade, more than 1 percentage point higher than the Congressional Budget Office assumes. And it uses that assumption to chop about $3 trillion off the 10-year deficit. “Everything is keyed to getting us back to 3 percent,” Mulvaney said Monday.

Terrific economic growth would be a terrific thing, and we should all hope for a recession-free decade of nonstop boom. But in the budgeting world, diverging that dramatically from the official forecasts is essentially cheating. President Barack Obama’s growth forecasts sometimes slightly overshot the CBO’s, but Trump’s gap with the CBO is nearly three times as large as Obama ever had in eight years. The U.S. economy hasn’t grown at a 3 percent rate for two consecutive years since 2000, which, not coincidentally, was when President Bill Clinton’s last budget balanced.

Trump aides say it makes sense to assume 3 percent growth, since it’s at the heart of the president’s promises to make America great again. Mulvaney calls it the guiding principle of Trumponomics, a rejection of the pessimistic notion that 2 percent is as good as it gets; he suggested yesterday that he probably should have assumed a more aggressive baseline of 3.5 percent or 4 percent growth, because 3 percent should merely be seen as normal. “Honestly, we have aspirations to do better,” one senior OMB official told me.

But 3 percent isn’t just something that will happen automatically, especially at a time when the population is aging, immigration is slowing and productivity is lagging. The Trump budget does not go into great detail justifying its growth assumptions, other than to suggest that rolling back onerous regulations and promoting domestic energy development will help the good times roll. It also suggests that one of the keys to the Trump boom will be tax reform, which happens to be the next area where its math gets fuzzy.

The Tax Dodge: So far, Trump has unveiled only a one-page summary of his tax reform principles, not tax reform legislation. Nevertheless, his budget “assumes deficit-neutral tax reform,” which is a bit like the old joke about the economist on a desert island who assumes a can opener. Trump’s tax reform principles, which he repeats on Page 13 of his budget, do not look deficit-neutral at all. Groups like the Tax Foundation, the Tax Policy Center and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget have estimated that they would add between $4 trillion and $6 trillion to the debt.

That’s because Trump’s principles look like they’re more about tax cuts than real tax reform. His budget proposes lower individual tax rates, lower corporate tax rates, lower investment tax rates, an end to the alternative minimum tax, an end to the estate tax and other tax relief. Its only proposal to offset the cost of those tax cuts is a vague pledge to “eliminate most special interest tax breaks,” but it specifies that tax breaks for mortgage interest, charitable gifts and retirement savings wouldn’t be included, while failing to specify the tax breaks that would be included.

The implication is that the tax cuts would stimulate so much additional economic growth that they would pay for themselves, a supply-side economic theory that has not worked out in practice. President George W. Bush’s tax cuts helped turn Clinton’s surpluses into gaping deficits; the state of Kansas recently had a similar experience of sizable tax cuts creating sizable budget shortfalls. Even the conservative Tax Foundation calculated that the growth effects from Trump’s proposed tax cuts would recoup less than one-third of the lost revenues.

The senior OMB official told me those nonpartisan analysts are all jumping the gun, because the administration really does intend to propose tax increases large enough to offset the tax cuts it has already proposed. It just hasn’t decided which loopholes and deductions it wants to close, so it didn’t mention them in its budget. “What the budget is saying is that tax reform will be paid for,” the official said. “There’s a large conversation to be had about how we’re going to do it.”

But the Trump budget doesn’t just assume that tax reform will pay for itself; it also predicts that the economic growth produced by tax reform will help pay for the rest of his budget, an additional $2.1 trillion windfall.

Budget wonks have seized on this as a classic case of double-counting, presuming that the administration was already relying on that growth to make tax reform deficit-neutral in the first place. That would be like proposing to deposit a $20 bill that you’re not even sure is yours in two separate bank accounts, except with 11 extra zeroes at the end of the bill. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers called it “the most egregious accounting error in a presidential budget in the nearly 40 years I have been tracking them.”

Mulvaney ducked the issue Monday, suggesting that the administration doesn’t yet have enough details in its tax plans to provide more accurate accounting.But the other senior OMB official told me the double-counting accusations are wrong, because the budget assumes tax reform will be deficit-neutral without taking growth into account.

In that case, though, a Republican administration is counting on unspecified tax increases to convert a plan that independent analysts believe will cost about $5.5 trillion in its current form into a plan that will cost nothing at all, and would somehow end up producing $2 trillion worth of deficit reduction through growth. It’s conceivable, but it would be more plausible if the budget had disclosed even one of those potential tax increases. It would back up Mulvaney’s rhetoric about “how important it was and is to this president to try and bring some fiscal discipline.”

The Two-Penny Opera: The Trump budget isn’t really about fiscal discipline, but it does have real elements of spending discipline. It includes more than $600 billion worth of Medicaid cuts on top of the more than $800 billion of cuts in the Republican health care bill that just passed the House. It would eliminate rural housing loans, home heating aid for the poor, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and dozens of other line items. It would slash funding for climate science, foreign aid, medical research, Social Security disability and food stamps. It would boost spending for the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs for 2018, but it would cut the budget of every other Cabinet department.

Congress probably won’t embrace most of those cuts, but they’re specific proposals for cuts that would move the federal budget toward balance. That said, the largest chunk of Trump’s proposed spending reductions come from a non-specific and even less realistic “two-penny plan,” which would reduce nondefense discretionary spending by an additional 2 percent every year. That’s hard to fathom, because nondefense discretionary spending—which includes the FBI, the EPA, NASA and almost every other federal dollar that doesn’t go to the Pentagon or entitlements—is already at its lowest level as a share of the economy since the Eisenhower years. Trump is proposing to cut it by about one-third over a decade, a total of $182 billion by 2027, while continuing to boost the parts of it (like border security) that he likes. He wants to start in 2018 by eliminating agencies like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as programs like 21st Century Community Learning Centers, but he wouldn’t be able to re-eliminate them in the out years; he’d have to find new targets for cuts.

The OMB official told me that his agency has already begun a review of the entire federal bureaucracy with an eye to eliminating inefficiencies, and that it expects to have a streamlining strategy in place by next year to follow through with the two-penny plan. But even many Republicans who hold the purse strings in Congress are unenthusiastic about slicing billions of dollars out of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control or the State Department.

“Give me a break,” one congressional Republican appropriator told me. “A lot of the discretionary spending is already squeezed. You can’t get blood from a stone.”

***

It is tempting to dismiss the Trump budget because so much of it seems unlikely to become law, but it’s still a revealing window into the administration’s priorities. And just because a budget is declared “dead on arrival” does not mean it won’t influence the budget that eventually emerges on Capitol Hill; Trump’s budget may envision larger cuts than Republican leaders want, but it reflects many of the priorities that House Speaker Paul Ryan has included in his budgets in the past. It ought to be taken seriously if not quite literally, to borrow the cliché about Trump.

It just shouldn’t be taken as evidence of fiscal rectitude or a deep aversion to debt, which isn’t really what Trump is about. It looks more like a plan to cut taxes for the rich and spending on the poor, while covering up the effect on the debt by flagrantly violating Washington norms. And that’s exactly what Trump is about.

Michael Grunwald is a senior staff writer for Politico Magazine.

More from POLITICO Magazine

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Tensions in their past, Trump and Pope Francis meet – Washington Post

By Jonathan Lemire and Julie Pace | AP,

VATICAN CITY — Concluding his tour of the ancestral homes of the world’s three largest monotheistic religions, President Donald Trump met with Pope Francis, the famously humble pontiff with whom he has publicly clashed.

Trump, midway through his grueling nine-day maiden international journey, called upon the pontiff at the Vatican early Wednesday where the two will have a private audience laden with religious symbolism and ancient protocol. The meeting will last scarcely more than an hour, yet could provide powerful imagery to Catholic voters back in the United States as well as the possibility for conflict between a president and a pope who have not often seen eye-to-eye.

The president, accompanied by his wife and several aides, arrived at the Vatican just after 8 a.m. local time. The president greeted Francis in Sala del Tronetto, the room of the little throne, on the second floor of Apostolic Palace Wednesday morning.

The men shook hands and Trump could be heard thanking the pope and saying it was “a great honor” to be there. They then posed for photographs before a private meeting.

The two men’s often opposite worldviews collided head-on early last year, when Francis was sharply critical of Trump’s campaign pledge to build an impenetrable wall on the Mexican border and his declaration that the United States should turn away Muslim immigrants and refugees.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said then. The pontiff has been a vocal advocate for aiding refugees, particularly those fleeing the violence in Syria, deeming it both a “moral imperative” and “Christian duty” to help.

Trump has never been one to let an insult, perceived or real, go by without a response, and he made no exception for the world’s best-known religious leader. He called Francis “disgraceful” for doubting his faith.

And even the pontiff’s congratulatory message sent to mark Trump’s inauguration contained a sly reference to their disagreement, as the pope wrote that he hoped the United States’ international stature would “continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need.”

Trump arrived in Rome Tuesday evening, his motorcade closing a busy Italian highway just after rush hour and prompting hundreds of onlookers to briefly step out of their gridlocked cars to gawk at the fleet of armored vehicles. He spent the night at the U.S. ambassador to Italy’s residence.

Though both Trump and Francis are known for their unpredictability, papal visits with heads of state are carefully arranged bits of political and religious theater that follow a specific program, with little room for deviation or unwanted surprises. Trump was expected to be given a tour of the Vatican after he arrived and then meet with the pontiff in his library. The two men were to be left alone with a translator to hold a private discussion before emerging again to exchange gifts and farewells.

Trump is the 13th president to visit the Vatican and, as part of his tour, he will view the Sistine Chapel.

In recent days, Francis and Trump have been in agreement on a need for Muslim leaders to do more against extremists in their own communities. But there are few other areas where their views align.

The president’s prior anti-Muslim rhetoric — including his musing that Islam “hates” the West — is the antithesis of what the pope has been preaching about a need for dialogue with Muslims. Francis also differs sharply with Trump on the need to combat climate change and economic inequality. And he could react to events this week, including the release of Trump’s budget, which would dramatically cut funding to programs that help the poor, and the president’s agreement to sell military equipment to Saudi Arabia,.

Still, experts believe it unlikely the outspoken pope will do anything but be welcoming during his first meeting with Trump. The pontiff said last week he would “never make a judgment about a person without hearing him out” and some Vatican observers suspect he will hold his tongue, at least for now.

“I think that the climate (of the meeting) will be quite good. Because I think there is a mutual interest to close all the polemics of the past and to start working together,” said Massimo Franco, author and political analyst for leading daily Corriere della Sera. He also said the thought a successful staging of the visit could provide Trump with a good news storyline to briefly overshadow the tumult back home over the firing of his FBI director and the ongoing Russia probe.

Trump’s visit to the Eternal City comes after two stops in the Middle East where he visited the cradles of Islam and Judaism. In Saudi Arabia, he addressed dozens of Arab leaders and urged them to fight extremists at home and isolate Iran, which he depicted as menace to the region. And in Israel, Trump reaffirmed his commitment to strong ties with the nation’s longtime ally and urged both the Israelis and the Palestinians to begin the process of reaching a peace deal. No details or timetable have yet to be established for negotiations.

But while Trump received extravagantly warm welcomes in Riyadh and Jerusalem, the reception could grow much cooler now that he’s reached Europe, site of widespread protests after his election. Climate change activists projected the words “Planet Earth First” on the massive dome of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Tuesday night and protests are expected Wednesday in Rome and later in the week when Trump travels to Brussels for a NATO meeting and Sicily for a G7 gathering.

___

Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield contributed reporting.

___

Follow Lemire on Twitter at http:[email protected] and Pace at http:[email protected]

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

British prime minister raises nation's threat level, saying another attack 'may be imminent' – Washington Post

By and ,

MANCHESTER, England — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday night raised the nation’s threat level and deployed the military to guard concerts, sports matches and other public events, saying another attack “may be imminent” following a bombing Monday night that left 22 people dead. 

The announcement, which takes Britain’s alert level from “severe” to its highest rating, “critical,” clears the way for thousands of British troops to take to the streets and replace police officers in guarding key sites. 

May announced the move after chairing an emergency meeting of her security cabinet and concluding that the attacker who carried out Monday’s bombing may have been part of a wider network that is poised to strike again. The decision, she said, was “a proportionate and sensible response to the threat that our security experts judge we face.”

The worst terrorist attack on British soil in over a decade was carried out by a 22-year-old British citizen who lived a short drive from the concert hall that he transformed from a scene of youthful merriment into a tableau of horror. 

But whether Salman Abedi acted alone or with accomplices remained a question that British investigators were urgently trying to answer Tuesday night as they reckoned with an attack more sophisticated and worrisome than any seen here in years. 

The prospect of a wider plot, May said, was “a possibility we cannot ignore.”

The killing of 22 people — many of them teens — following a concert in this northern English city by American pop star Ariana Grande was claimed Tuesday by the Islamic State, which said one of its “soldiers” was responsible. 

Even as officials and experts cast doubt on the terrorist group’s assertion, however, authorities were scrambling to execute searches, arrest potential accomplices and reinforce security systems at a spectrum of public events that look newly vulnerable to attacks like Monday’s.

After years of successfully fending off more-sophisticated strikes even as countries across continental Europe have fallen victim to bombings, Monday night’s carnage underscored that Britain is not immune amid a rising tide of extremist violence. 

The highest priority for police, said Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, was to “establish whether [Abedi] was acting alone or as part of a network.”

Earlier he had said that Abedi executed the bombing alone and that he “was carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated, causing this atrocity.”

But unlike in previous high-profile attacks — including one in March in which an assailant driving a speeding car ran down pedestrians on a London bridge, then stabbed to death a British police officer — experts said it was unlikely that Monday’s attack had been carried out without help. 

[Three seconds of silence, then a scream: How the attack unfolded]

“Getting a car or a knife is easy,” said Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism expert at the London-based Royal United Services Institute. “Making a bomb that works and goes off when you want it to go off takes preparation and practice. And it usually involves other people.”

Pantucci said British authorities “are going to try to figure out who [Abedi] knows, who he’s linked to. Did he build the bomb itself, or did someone build it and give it to him?”

Young victims

If police have an answer, they did not say so publicly Tuesday. But there was ample evidence of a widening security operation, with the arrest of a 23-year-old from south Manchester in connection with the bombing. Police also carried out searches at two homes, including the house in the leafy suburban neighborhood where Abedi was registered as having lived.

A senior European intelligence official said the attacker was a British citizen of Libyan descent. The official, who was not authorized to speak on the record and thus spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the suspect’s brother has been taken into custody.

A family friend said Abedi traveled frequently between Libya and Britain. “We have an Daesh problem in Libya. We wonder whether he met people there who trained him,” said the friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

Even before May’s announcement of a “critical” threat level for just the third time ever — the first two came in 2006 and 2007 — authorities from London to Scotland said that they would be reviewing security plans for upcoming public events. Even smaller gatherings that would not have been policed in the past may now get protection, they said.

[The targeting of women and girls in Manchester may have been intentional]

“Over the coming days as you go to a music venue, go shopping, travel to work or head off to the fantastic sporting events, you will see more officers, including armed officers,” said Commander Jane Connors of London’s Metropolitan Police Department.

May’s decision to deploy the military means the public may now see soldiers rather than police. May said the military would operate under police command.

The escalation came as the nation grieved for the young victims, with thousands of people converging on Manchester’s graceful Albert Square for a vigil that was part solemn remembrance and part rally against extremism.

To roaring applause, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham vowed that the city — which has seen hardship, having been bombed relentlessly during World War II — would not succumb to division or anger. A poet named Tony Walsh delivered an ode to the city titled “This Is the Place.” And in what has become a dark mainstay of life in Western Europe, passersby left candles, flowers and cards for the dead. 

The casualties included children as young as elementary school students. Police said that among the 59 people injured, a dozen were younger than 16. 

Among the dead was Saffie Rose Roussos, who was just 8 years old. The first victim to be publicly identified was Georgina Callander, an 18-year-old student. 

[An 8-year-old was separated from her family. She never made it out.]

Other names were expected to be released Wednesday, with authorities bracing the public for deaths among the teens and tweens who form the core of Grande’s enthusiastic fan base.

The Islamic State did not give any details about the attacker or how the blast was carried out, raising doubts about the truth of its claim. Its statement was posted on the online messaging service Telegram and later noted by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant websites.

The Islamic State often quickly proclaims links to attacks, but some previous boasts have not been proved.

In Washington, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said Tuesday that despite the group’s statement, “we have not verified yet the connection.” He noted in a Senate hearing that “they claim responsibility for virtually every attack.” 

Wave of revulsion

In a speech outside 10 Downing Street, where flags were lowered to half-staff, May called the Manchester killings a “callous terrorist attack.” 

“This attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives,” she said.

May later visited Manchester, meeting with local authorities and signing a condolence book honoring the victims.

Queen Elizabeth II, meanwhile, led guests of a garden party at Buckingham Palace in a moment of silence and issued a statement expressing her “deepest sympathies.”

“The whole nation has been shocked by the death and injury in Manchester last night of so many people, adults and children, who had just been enjoying a concert,” she said.

Across the world, other leaders expressed revulsion and scorn toward the bomber.

[The Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared]

During a visit to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, President Trump pledged “absolute solidarity” with Britain and called those responsible for the attack “evil losers in life.”

Organizers of the Cannes Film Festival denounced the bombing as an “attack on culture, youth and joyfulness” and observed a minute of silence Tuesday. Cannes is 15 miles from Nice, where an attacker driving a truck plowed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in July, killing 86 people.

[In the midst of Manchester’s terror, strangers reach out — through Twitter]

The Monday night attack was the worst terrorist strike on British soil since 2005, when Islamist extremists bombed the London subway and a bus, killing 54 people.

And as with that attack, Monday’s bombing prompted desperate searches for missing loved ones that continued through the night and into Tuesday.

Charlotte Campbell told the BBC that she was “phoning everybody,” including hospitals, trying to locate her 15-year-old daughter, Olivia. She last spoke to her daughter Monday night while she was at the concert.

“She’d just seen the support act and said she was having an amazing time, and thanking me for letting her go,” Campbell said in an emotional interview.

The attack occurred near one of the exits of the arena, in a public space connected to a bustling train station. 

Jake Taylor, a former security guard at the arena, said its layout makes absolute safety impossible. 

“You can’t stop people from getting through the train station,” Taylor said.

Mark Harrison, who accompanied his 12-year-old daughter to the concert from Cumbria in northern England, said there were no metal detectors or body checks at the arena’s entrance, although bags were inspected and items such as water bottles had to be discarded. 

“There was definitely a security presence, but anyone can come through the train station,” said Harrison, 44. 

[Trump decries the ‘losers’ who wage terrorism]

In France, the scene of several terrorist attacks in recent years, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe called on people to be vigilant in the face of “a threat which is more present than ever before.”

Britain’s threat level had been classified as “severe” since the summer of 2014, meaning the chance of an attack at any given time was highly likely.

Pantucci, the security expert, said that authorities had disrupted several plots in recent months but that Monday’s attack somehow slipped through. Understanding why, he said, will be crucial.

“They’ve been dealing with a very high threat tempo,” he said. “But this is one they weren’t able to stop.” 

Adam reported from London. Isaac Stanley-Becker, James McAuley and Rick Noack in Manchester; Paul Schemm in Addis Ababa, Ethi­o­pia; and Devlin Barrett, Brian Murphy and Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.

Read more

Three seconds of silence then a scream: How the Manchester suicide attack unfolded

The targeting of women and girls in Manchester may have been intentional

Who were the victims of the Manchester Arena attack?

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

British prime minister raises nation's threat level, saying another attack 'may be imminent' – Washington Post

By and ,

MANCHESTER, England — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday night raised the nation’s threat level and deployed the military to guard concerts, sports matches and other public events, saying another attack “may be imminent” following a bombing Monday night that left 22 people dead. 

The announcement, which takes Britain’s alert level from “severe” to its highest rating, “critical,” clears the way for thousands of British troops to take to the streets and replace police officers in guarding key sites. 

May announced the move after chairing an emergency meeting of her security cabinet and concluding that the attacker who carried out Monday’s bombing may have been part of a wider network that is poised to strike again. The decision, she said, was “a proportionate and sensible response to the threat that our security experts judge we face.”

The worst terrorist attack on British soil in over a decade was carried out by a 22-year-old British citizen who lived a short drive from the concert hall that he transformed from a scene of youthful merriment into a tableau of horror. 

But whether Salman Abedi acted alone or with accomplices remained a question that British investigators were urgently trying to answer Tuesday night as they reckoned with an attack more sophisticated and worrisome than any seen here in years. 

The prospect of a wider plot, May said, was “a possibility we cannot ignore.”

The killing of 22 people — many of them teens — following a concert in this northern English city by American pop star Ariana Grande was claimed Tuesday by the Islamic State, which said one of its “soldiers” was responsible. 

Even as officials and experts cast doubt on the terrorist group’s assertion, however, authorities were scrambling to execute searches, arrest potential accomplices and reinforce security systems at a spectrum of public events that look newly vulnerable to attacks like Monday’s.

After years of successfully fending off more-sophisticated strikes even as countries across continental Europe have fallen victim to bombings, Monday night’s carnage underscored that Britain is not immune amid a rising tide of extremist violence. 

The highest priority for police, said Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, was to “establish whether [Abedi] was acting alone or as part of a network.”

Earlier he had said that Abedi executed the bombing alone and that he “was carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated, causing this atrocity.”

But unlike in previous high-profile attacks — including one in March in which an assailant driving a speeding car ran down pedestrians on a London bridge, then stabbed to death a British police officer — experts said it was unlikely that Monday’s attack had been carried out without help. 

[Three seconds of silence, then a scream: How the attack unfolded]

“Getting a car or a knife is easy,” said Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism expert at the London-based Royal United Services Institute. “Making a bomb that works and goes off when you want it to go off takes preparation and practice. And it usually involves other people.”

Pantucci said British authorities “are going to try to figure out who [Abedi] knows, who he’s linked to. Did he build the bomb itself, or did someone build it and give it to him?”

Young victims

If police have an answer, they did not say so publicly Tuesday. But there was ample evidence of a widening security operation, with the arrest of a 23-year-old from south Manchester in connection with the bombing. Police also carried out searches at two homes, including the house in the leafy suburban neighborhood where Abedi was registered as having lived.

A senior European intelligence official said the attacker was a British citizen of Libyan descent. The official, who was not authorized to speak on the record and thus spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the suspect’s brother has been taken into custody.

A family friend said Abedi traveled frequently between Libya and Britain. “We have an Daesh problem in Libya. We wonder whether he met people there who trained him,” said the friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

Even before May’s announcement of a “critical” threat level for just the third time ever — the first two came in 2006 and 2007 — authorities from London to Scotland said that they would be reviewing security plans for upcoming public events. Even smaller gatherings that would not have been policed in the past may now get protection, they said.

[The targeting of women and girls in Manchester may have been intentional]

“Over the coming days as you go to a music venue, go shopping, travel to work or head off to the fantastic sporting events, you will see more officers, including armed officers,” said Commander Jane Connors of London’s Metropolitan Police Department.

May’s decision to deploy the military means the public may now see soldiers rather than police. May said the military would operate under police command.

The escalation came as the nation grieved for the young victims, with thousands of people converging on Manchester’s graceful Albert Square for a vigil that was part solemn remembrance and part rally against extremism.

To roaring applause, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham vowed that the city — which has seen hardship, having been bombed relentlessly during World War II — would not succumb to division or anger. A poet named Tony Walsh delivered an ode to the city titled “This Is the Place.” And in what has become a dark mainstay of life in Western Europe, passersby left candles, flowers and cards for the dead. 

The casualties included children as young as elementary school students. Police said that among the 59 people injured, a dozen were younger than 16. 

Among the dead was Saffie Rose Roussos, who was just 8 years old. The first victim to be publicly identified was Georgina Callander, an 18-year-old student. 

[An 8-year-old was separated from her family. She never made it out.]

Other names were expected to be released Wednesday, with authorities bracing the public for deaths among the teens and tweens who form the core of Grande’s enthusiastic fan base.

The Islamic State did not give any details about the attacker or how the blast was carried out, raising doubts about the truth of its claim. Its statement was posted on the online messaging service Telegram and later noted by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant websites.

The Islamic State often quickly proclaims links to attacks, but some previous boasts have not been proved.

In Washington, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said Tuesday that despite the group’s statement, “we have not verified yet the connection.” He noted in a Senate hearing that “they claim responsibility for virtually every attack.” 

Wave of revulsion

In a speech outside 10 Downing Street, where flags were lowered to half-staff, May called the Manchester killings a “callous terrorist attack.” 

“This attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives,” she said.

May later visited Manchester, meeting with local authorities and signing a condolence book honoring the victims.

Queen Elizabeth II, meanwhile, led guests of a garden party at Buckingham Palace in a moment of silence and issued a statement expressing her “deepest sympathies.”

“The whole nation has been shocked by the death and injury in Manchester last night of so many people, adults and children, who had just been enjoying a concert,” she said.

Across the world, other leaders expressed revulsion and scorn toward the bomber.

[The Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared]

During a visit to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, President Trump pledged “absolute solidarity” with Britain and called those responsible for the attack “evil losers in life.”

Organizers of the Cannes Film Festival denounced the bombing as an “attack on culture, youth and joyfulness” and observed a minute of silence Tuesday. Cannes is 15 miles from Nice, where an attacker driving a truck plowed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in July, killing 86 people.

[In the midst of Manchester’s terror, strangers reach out — through Twitter]

The Monday night attack was the worst terrorist strike on British soil since 2005, when Islamist extremists bombed the London subway and a bus, killing 54 people.

And as with that attack, Monday’s bombing prompted desperate searches for missing loved ones that continued through the night and into Tuesday.

Charlotte Campbell told the BBC that she was “phoning everybody,” including hospitals, trying to locate her 15-year-old daughter, Olivia. She last spoke to her daughter Monday night while she was at the concert.

“She’d just seen the support act and said she was having an amazing time, and thanking me for letting her go,” Campbell said in an emotional interview.

The attack occurred near one of the exits of the arena, in a public space connected to a bustling train station. 

Jake Taylor, a former security guard at the arena, said its layout makes absolute safety impossible. 

“You can’t stop people from getting through the train station,” Taylor said.

Mark Harrison, who accompanied his 12-year-old daughter to the concert from Cumbria in northern England, said there were no metal detectors or body checks at the arena’s entrance, although bags were inspected and items such as water bottles had to be discarded. 

“There was definitely a security presence, but anyone can come through the train station,” said Harrison, 44. 

[Trump decries the ‘losers’ who wage terrorism]

In France, the scene of several terrorist attacks in recent years, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe called on people to be vigilant in the face of “a threat which is more present than ever before.”

Britain’s threat level had been classified as “severe” since the summer of 2014, meaning the chance of an attack at any given time was highly likely.

Pantucci, the security expert, said that authorities had disrupted several plots in recent months but that Monday’s attack somehow slipped through. Understanding why, he said, will be crucial.

“They’ve been dealing with a very high threat tempo,” he said. “But this is one they weren’t able to stop.” 

Adam reported from London. Isaac Stanley-Becker, James McAuley and Rick Noack in Manchester; Paul Schemm in Addis Ababa, Ethi­o­pia; and Devlin Barrett, Brian Murphy and Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.

Read more

Three seconds of silence then a scream: How the Manchester suicide attack unfolded

The targeting of women and girls in Manchester may have been intentional

Who were the victims of the Manchester Arena attack?

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Trump's Budget Scam – Politico

I have a plan to dunk a basketball. First, I’ll grow a foot taller. Next, I’ll recapture the athleticism of my youth, so I can jump a lot higher. I didn’t say I had a serious plan—just a plan.

Today, the Trump administration released a plan to balance the federal budget over the next decade, and it’s no more plausible than my plan to become LeBron James. It does reveal the administration’s fiscal priorities, like deep cuts in spending on the less fortunate and the environment, no cuts to Medicare or Social Security retirement benefits, steady increases in spending on the military and the border, and an abiding faith in the restorative miracles of tax cuts for corporations and well-off families. But its claim to a balanced bottom line is based on a variety of heroic assumptions and hide-the-ball evasions, obscuring trillions of dollars’ worth of debt that it could pile onto America’s credit card.

Story Continued Below

Budget proposals always involve some guesswork into the unknowable, and administrations routinely massage numbers to their political advantage. But this proposal is unusually brazen in its defiance of basic math, and in its accounting discrepancies amounting to trillions-with-a-t rather than mere millions or billions. One maneuver in President Trump’s budget arguably waves away an estimated $5.5 trillion in additions to the national debt from tax cuts, nearly $20,000 for every American alive today, enough to fund the EPA at current spending levels for nearly 700 years. Trump critics in the budget-wonk world are pointing to another $2 trillion of red ink as a blatant math error—or, less charitably, as an Enron-style accounting fraud.

Numbers that huge tend to melt into abstraction. And the media will help downplay them by declaring the Trump budget dead on arrival in Congress, as if the fact that it won’t be rubber-stamped into law means that nothing in it matters. But a presidential budget is a detailed blueprint for governing—and in this case, the blueprint has a fair amount in common with blueprints offered by the Republicans who still control Congress. It matters for policy and it matters for politics.

It also matters that Trump’s numbers don’t add up. Whether or not you agree with the Tea Party philosophy behind the numbers, Trump and his hard-driving budget director, Mick Mulvaney, deserve credit for backing up their limited-government rhetoric by proposing $3.6 trillion in spending cuts, including politically courageous cuts in farm subsidies, rural development programs and other benefits geared toward Trump’s base. But they do not deserve credit for their aspirations to balance the budget, any more than I deserve credit for my aspirations to dunk. Budgets hinge on assumptions about taxes, spending and economic growth, and the Trump budget plays fast and loose with all three to try to achieve the illusion of balance, relying heavily on spectacular growth assumptions as well as vague and unrealistic promises to eliminate tax breaks and additional spending programs that go conveniently unnamed in the text. It proclaims that “we have borrowed from our children and their future for far too long,” but it is a blueprint for far more borrowing and far more debt.

Ultimately, the Trump budget reads like a corporate prospectus for a shady widget manufacturer who claims that cutting widget prices will spark a massive surge in widget sales, while also promising major cutbacks in ineffective widget salesmen and unnecessary widget costs. It doesn’t pencil out. And it’s worth understanding the main reasons it doesn’t pencil out, because soon Republicans in Congress will get to use their own pencils.

***

The Growth Spurt: Economic growth is as vital to balancing budgets as physical growth is to dunking basketballs. A booming economy means more tax revenue flowing into Washington, because workers have more income and corporations have more profits; and less federal spending flowing out of Washington, because fewer unemployed workers and poor families need the government safety net. “Economic growth,” Mulvaney recently said, “solves all our problems.”

So the Trump budget simply stipulates terrific economic growth. Specifically, it assumes the U.S. economy will expand an average of 3 percent per year over the next decade, more than 1 percentage point higher than the Congressional Budget Office assumes. And it uses that assumption to chop about $3 trillion off the 10-year deficit. “Everything is keyed to getting us back to 3 percent,” Mulvaney said yesterday.

Terrific economic growth would be a terrific thing, and we should all hope for a recession-free decade of non-stop boom. But in the budgeting world, diverging that dramatically from the official forecasts is essentially cheating. President Barack Obama’s growth forecasts sometimes slightly overshot the CBO’s, but Trump’s gap with the CBO is nearly three times as large as Obama ever had in eight years. The U.S. economy hasn’t grown at a 3 percent rate for two consecutive years since 2000, which, not coincidentally, was when President Bill Clinton’s last budget balanced.

Trump aides say it makes sense to assume 3 percent growth, since it’s at the heart of the president’s promises to make America great again. Mulvaney calls it the guiding principle of Trumponomics, a rejection of the pessimistic notion that 2 percent is as good as it gets; he suggested yesterday that he probably should have assumed a more aggressive baseline of 3.5 percent or 4 percent growth, because 3 percent should merely be seen as normal. “Honestly, we have aspirations to do better,” one senior OMB official told me.

But 3 percent isn’t just something that will happen automatically, especially at a time when the population is aging, immigration is slowing, and productivity is lagging. The Trump budget does not go into great detail justifying its growth assumptions, other than to suggest that rolling back onerous regulations and promoting domestic energy development will help the good times roll. It also suggests that one of the keys to the Trump boom will be tax reform, which happens to be the next area where its math gets fuzzy.

The Tax Dodge: So far, Trump has only unveiled a one-page summary of his tax reform principles, not tax reform legislation. Nevertheless, his budget “assumes deficit-neutral tax reform,” which is a bit like the old joke about the economist on a desert island who assumes a can opener. Trump’s tax reform principles, which he repeats on page 13 of his budget, do not look deficit-neutral at all. Groups like the Tax Foundation, the Tax Policy Center and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget have estimated that they would add between $4 trillion and $6 trillion to the debt.

That’s because Trump’s principles look like they’re more about tax cuts than real tax reform. His budget proposes lower individual tax rates, lower corporate tax rates, lower investment tax rates, an end to the alternative minimum tax, an end to the estate tax and other tax relief. Its only proposal to offset the cost of those tax cuts is a vague pledge to “eliminate most special interest tax breaks,” but it specifies that tax breaks for mortgage interest, charitable gifts and retirement savings wouldn’t be included, while failing to specify the tax breaks that would be included.

The implication is that the tax cuts would stimulate so much additional economic growth that they would pay for themselves, a supply-side economic theory that has not worked out in practice. President George W. Bush’s tax cuts helped turn Clinton’s surpluses into gaping deficits; the state of Kansas recently had a similar experience of sizable tax cuts creating sizable budget shortfalls. Even the conservative Tax Foundation calculated that the growth effects from Trump’s proposed tax cuts would recoup less than one third of the lost revenues.

The senior OMB official told me those nonpartisan analysts are all jumping the gun, because the administration really does intend to propose tax increases large enough to offset the tax cuts it has already proposed. It just hasn’t decided which loopholes and deductions it wants to close, so it didn’t mention them in its budget. “What the budget is saying is that tax reform will be paid for,” the official said. “There’s a large conversation to be had about how we’re going to do it.”

But the Trump budget doesn’t just assume that tax reform will pay for itself; it also predicts that the economic growth produced by tax reform will help pay for the rest of his budget, an additional $2.1 trillion windfall.

Budget wonks have seized on this as a classic case of double-counting, presuming that the administration was already relying on that growth to make tax reform deficit-neutral in the first place. That would be like proposing to deposit a $20 bill that you’re not even sure is yours in two separate bank accounts, except with 11 extra zeroes at the end of the bill. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers called it “the most egregious accounting error in a presidential budget in the nearly 40 years I have been tracking them.”

Mulvaney ducked the issue yesterday, suggesting that the administration doesn’t yet have enough details in its tax plans to provide more accurate accounting.But the other senior OMB official told me the double-counting accusations are wrong, because the budget assumes tax reform will be deficit-neutral without taking growth into account.

In that case, though, a Republican administration is counting on unspecified tax increases to convert a plan that independent analysts believe will cost about $5.5 trillion in its current form into a plan that will cost nothing at all, and would somehow end up producing $2 trillion worth of deficit reduction through growth. It’s conceivable, but it would be more plausible if the budget had disclosed even one of those potential tax increases. It would back up Mulvaney’s rhetoric about “how important it was and is to this president to try and bring some fiscal discipline.”

The Two-Penny Opera: The Trump budget isn’t really about fiscal discipline, but it does have real elements of spending discipline. It includes more than $600 billion worth of Medicaid cuts on top of the more than $800 billion of cuts in the Republican health-care bill that just passed the House. It would eliminate rural housing loans, home heating aid for the poor, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and dozens of other line items. It would slash funding for climate science, foreign aid, medical research, Social Security disability and food stamps. It would boost spending for the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs for 2018, but it would cut the budget of every other Cabinet department.

Congress probably won’t embrace most of those cuts, but they’re specific proposals for cuts that would move the federal budget towards balance. That said, the largest chunk of Trump’s proposed spending reductions come from a non-specific and even less realistic “two-penny plan,” which would reduce non-defense discretionary spending by an additional 2 percent every year. That’s hard to fathom, because non-defense discretionary spending—which includes the FBI, the EPA, NASA, and almost every other federal dollar that doesn’t go to the Pentagon or entitlements—is already at its lowest level as a share of the economy since the Eisenhower years. Trump is proposing to cut it by about one third over a decade, a total of $182 billion by 2027, while continuing to boost the parts of it (like border security) that he likes. He wants to start in 2018 by eliminating agencies like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as programs like 21st Century Community Learning Centers, but he wouldn’t be able to re-eliminate them in the out years; he’d have to find new targets for cuts.

The OMB official told me that his agency has already begun of review of the entire federal bureaucracy with an eye to eliminating inefficiencies, and that it expects to have a streamlining strategy in place by next year to follow through with the two-penny plan. But even many Republicans who hold the purse strings in Congress are unenthusiastic about slicing billions of dollars out of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control or the State Department.

“Give me a break,” one congressional Republican appropriator told me. “A lot of the discretionary spending is already squeezed. You can’t get blood from a stone.”

***

It is tempting to dismiss the Trump budget because so much of it seems unlikely to become law, but it’s still a revealing window into the administration’s priorities. And just because a budget is declared “dead on arrival” does not mean it won’t influence the budget that eventually emerges on Capitol Hill; Trump’s budget may envision larger cuts than Republican leaders want, but it reflects many of the priorities that House Speaker Paul Ryan has included in his budgets in the past. It ought to be taken seriously if not quite literally, to borrow the cliché about Trump.

It just shouldn’t be taken as evidence of fiscal rectitude or a deep aversion to debt, which isn’t really what Trump is about. It looks more like a plan to cut taxes for the rich and spending on the poor, while covering up the effect on the debt by flagrantly violating Washington norms. And that’s exactly what Trump is about.

Michael Grunwald is a senior staff writer for Politico Magazine.

More from POLITICO Magazine

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

British prime minister raises nation's threat level, saying another attack 'may be imminent' – Washington Post

By , and Souad Mekhennet,

MANCHESTER, England — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday night raised the nation’s threat level and deployed the military to guard concerts, sports matches and other public events, saying another attack “may be imminent” following a bombing Monday night that left 22 people dead. 

The announcement, which takes Britain’s alert level from “severe” to its highest rating, “critical,” clears the way for thousands of British troops to take to the streets and replace police officers in guarding key sites. 

May announced the move after chairing an emergency meeting of her security cabinet and concluding that the attacker who carried out Monday’s bombing may have been part of a wider network that is poised to strike again. The decision, she said, was “a proportionate and sensible response to the threat that our security experts judge we face.”

The worst terrorist attack on British soil in over a decade was carried out by a 22-year-old British citizen who lived a short drive from the concert hall that he transformed from a scene of youthful merriment into a tableau of horror. 

But whether Salman Abedi acted alone or with accomplices remained a question that British investigators were urgently trying to answer Tuesday night as they reckoned with an attack more sophisticated and worrisome than any seen here in years. 

The prospect of a wider plot, May said, was “a possibility we cannot ignore.”

The killing of 22 people — many of them teens — following a concert in this northern English city by American pop star Ariana Grande was claimed Tuesday by the Islamic State, which said one of its “soldiers” was responsible. 

Even as officials and experts cast doubt on the terrorist group’s assertion, however, authorities were scrambling to execute searches, arrest potential accomplices and reinforce security systems at a spectrum of public events that look newly vulnerable to attacks like Monday’s.

After years of successfully fending off more-sophisticated strikes even as countries across continental Europe have fallen victim to bombings, Monday night’s carnage underscored that Britain is not immune amid a rising tide of extremist violence. 

The highest priority for police, said Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, was to “establish whether [Abedi] was acting alone or as part of a network.”

Earlier he had said that Abedi executed the bombing alone and that he “was carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated, causing this atrocity.”

But unlike in previous high-profile attacks — including one in March in which an assailant driving a speeding car ran down pedestrians on a London bridge, then stabbed to death a British police officer — experts said it was unlikely that Monday’s attack had been carried out without help. 

[Three seconds of silence, then a scream: How the attack unfolded]

“Getting a car or a knife is easy,” said Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism expert at the London-based Royal United Services Institute. “Making a bomb that works and goes off when you want it to go off takes preparation and practice. And it usually involves other people.”

Pantucci said British authorities “are going to try to figure out who [Abedi] knows, who he’s linked to. Did he build the bomb itself, or did someone build it and give it to him?”

Young victims

If police have an answer, they did not say so publicly Tuesday. But there was ample evidence of a widening security operation, with the arrest of a 23-year-old from south Manchester in connection with the bombing. Police also carried out searches at two homes, including the house in the leafy suburban neighborhood where Abedi’s was registered as having lived.

A senior European intelligence official said the attacker was a British citizen of Libyan descent. The official, who was not authorized to speak on the record and thus spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the suspect’s brother has been taken into custody.

A family friend said Abedi traveled frequently between Libya and Britain. “We have an ISIS problem in Libya. We wonder whether he met people there who trained him,” said the friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. ISIS is another name for the Islamic State.

Even before May’s announcement of a critical threat level for just the third time ever — the first two came in 2006 and 2007 — authorities from London to Scotland said that they would be reviewing security plans for upcoming public events. Even smaller gatherings that would not have been policed in the past may now get protection, they said.

[The targeting of women and girls in Manchester may have been intentional]

“Over the coming days as you go to a music venue, go shopping, travel to work or head off to the fantastic sporting events, you will see more officers, including armed officers,” said Commander Jane Connors of London’s Metropolitan Police Department.

May’s decision to deploy the military means the public may now see soldiers rather than police. May said the military would operate under police command.

The escalation came as the nation grieved for the young victims, with thousands of people converging on Manchester’s graceful Albert Square for a vigil that was part solemn remembrance and part rally against extremism.

To roaring applause, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham vowed the city — which has seen hardship, having been bombed relentlessly during World War II — would not succumb to division or anger. A poet named Tony Walsh delivered an ode to the city titled “This Is the Place.” And in what has become a dark mainstay of life in Western Europe, passersby left candles, flowers and cards for the dead. 

The casualties included children as young as elementary school students. Police said that among the 59 people injured, a dozen were younger than 16. 

Among the dead was Saffie Rose Roussos, who was just 8 years old. The first victim to be publicly identified was Georgina Callander, an 18-year-old student. 

[An 8-year-old was separated from her family. She never made it out.]

Other names were expected to be released Wednesday, with authorities bracing the public for deaths among the teens and tweens who form the core of Grande’s enthusiastic fan base.

The Islamic State did not give any details about the attacker or how the blast was carried out, raising doubts about the truth of its claim. Its statement was posted on the online messaging service Telegram and later noted by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant websites.

The Islamic State often quickly proclaims links to attacks, but some previous boasts have not been proven.

In Washington, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said Tuesday that despite the group’s statement, “We have not verified yet the connection.” He noted in a Senate hearing that “they claim responsibility for virtually every attack.” 

Wave of revulsion

In a speech outside 10 Downing Street, where flags were lowered to half-staff, May called the Manchester killings a “callous terrorist attack.” 

“This attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives,” she said.

May later visited Manchester, meeting with local authorities and signing a condolence book honoring the victims.

Queen Elizabeth II, meanwhile, led guests of a garden party at Buckingham Palace in a moment of silence and issued a statement expressing her “deepest sympathies.”

“The whole nation has been shocked by the death and injury in Manchester last night of so many people, adults and children, who had just been enjoying a concert,” she said.

Across the world, other leaders expressed revulsion and scorn toward the bomber.

[The Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared]

During a visit to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, President Trump pledged “absolute solidarity” with Britain and called those responsible for the attack “evil losers in life.”

Organizers of the Cannes Film Festival denounced the bombing as an “attack on culture, youth and joyfulness” and observed a minute of silence Tuesday. Cannes is 15 miles from Nice, where an attacker driving a truck plowed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in July, killing 86 people.

[In the midst of Manchester’s terror, strangers reach out — through Twitter]

The Monday night attack was the worst terrorist strike on British soil since 2005, when Islamist extremists bombed the London subway and a bus, killing 54 people.

And as with that attack, Monday’s bombing prompted desperate searches for missing loved ones that continued through the night and into Tuesday.

Charlotte Campbell told the BBC that she was “phoning everybody,” including hospitals, trying to locate her 15-year-old daughter, Olivia. She last spoke to her daughter Monday night while she was at the concert.

“She’d just seen the support act and said she was having an amazing time, and thanking me for letting her go,” Campbell said in an emotional interview.

The attack occurred near one of the exits of the arena, in a public space connected to a bustling train station. 

Jake Taylor, a former security guard at the arena, said its layout makes absolute safety impossible. 

“You can’t stop people from getting through the train station,” Taylor said.

Mark Harrison, who accompanied his 12-year-old daughter to the concert from Cumbria in northern England, said there were no metal detectors or body checks at the arena’s entrance, although bags were inspected and items such as water bottles had to be discarded. 

“There was definitely a security presence, but anyone can come through the train station,” said Harrison, 44. 

[Trump decries the ‘losers’ who wage terrorism]

In France, the scene of several terrorist attacks in recent years, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe called on people to be vigilant in the face of “a threat which is more present than ever before.”

Britain’s threat level had been classified as “severe” since the summer of 2014, meaning the chance of an attack at any given time was highly likely.

Pantucci, the security expert, said that authorities had disrupted several plots in recent months but that Monday’s attack somehow slipped through. Understanding why, he said, will be crucial.

“They’ve been dealing with a very high threat tempo,” he said. “But this is one they weren’t able to stop.” 

Adam reported from London. Isaac Stanley-Becker, James McAuley and Rick Noack in Manchester; Paul Schemm in Addis Ababa, Ethi­o­pia; and Devlin Barrett, Brian Murphy and Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.

 Read more         

 Four killed, 40 injured in vehicle and knife assault near Parliament  

 After privileged childhood, London attacker became a troubled loner  

 What we know about the victims of the London attack  

 Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world            

 Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news  

Let’s block ads! (Why?)