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.”

On Wednesday, British Parliament announced that “due to the raised national security threat” all public tours would be stopped, with immediate effect. The Changing the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace — a popular tourist attraction — was also cancelled.

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?”

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, 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.

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 being released Wednesday. By mid-morning, nine people had been named among the dead.

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.

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 

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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

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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 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 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         

 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  

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The Latest: Some of Trump's GOP allies slam budget plan – Washington Post

By Kelsey Snell, Damian Paletta and ,

President Trump’s proposal to cut federal spending by more than $3.6 trillion over the next decade — including deep reductions for programs that help the poor — faced harsh criticism in Congress on Tuesday, where even many Republicans said the White House had gone too far.

While some fiscally conservative lawmakers, particularly in the House, found a lot to praise in Trump’s plan to balance the budget within 10 years, most Republicans flatly rejected the White House proposal. The divide sets up a clash between House conservatives and a growing number of Senate Republicans who would rather work with Democrats on a spending deal than entertain Trump’s deep cuts.

“This is kind of the game,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.). “We know that the president’s budget won’t pass as proposed.”

Instead, Cornyn said he believes conversations are already underway about how Republicans can negotiate with Democrats to avoid across-the-board spending cuts that are scheduled to go into effect in October. Those talks could include broad spending increases for domestic and military programs that break from Trump’s plan for deep cuts in education, housing, research and health care.

“I think that’s the only way,” Cornyn said of working with Democrats on spending. “It would be good to get that done so we can get the Appropriations Committee to get to work.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said such spending talks would be inevitable.

“We’ll have to negotiate the top line with Senate Democrats, we know that,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “They will not be irrelevant in the process, and at some point, here in the near future, those discussions will begin.”

As Senate Republicans were discussing a bipartisan spending agreement, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney stood across town pitching Trump’s proposal to dramatically alter the role of government in society, shrinking the federal workforce, scaling back anti-poverty programs and cutting spending on things like disease research and job training. The $4.094 trillion proposal for fiscal 2018 includes $1 trillion in cuts over 10 years to anti-poverty programs including Medicaid, food assistance and health insurance for low-income children.

It would slightly increase spending on the military, immigration control and border security and provide an additional $200 billion for infrastructure projects over 10 years. It would also allocate $1.6 billion for the creation of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Budget experts questioned many of the economic assumptions that the White House put into its plan, saying it was preposterous to claim that massive tax cuts and spending reductions will lead to a surge in economic growth. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, for example, said that using normal economic projections, the White House’s proposal would not eliminate the deficit and would allow U.S. debt to continue growing into the next decade.

“Rather than making unrealistic assumptions, the president must make the hard tax and spending choices needed to truly bring the national debt under control,” it said.

The White House proposals represent a defiant blueprint for a government realignment that closely follows proposals made in recent years by some of the most conservative members of the House, a group that once included Mulvaney himself. Trump has alleged that safety net programs create a welfare state that pull people out of the workforce, and his budget would cull these programs back.

Mulvaney pointed specifically to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the modern version of food stamps. The White House plans to propose forcing states to pay a portion of the benefits in the program, which reached more than 44 million beneficiaries in 2016.

“We are not kicking anybody off of any program who really needs it,” Mulvaney said. “We have plenty of money in this country to take care of the people who need help. . . . We don’t have enough money to take care of . . . everybody who doesn’t need help.”

Mulvaney, who served in the House from 2011 until earlier this year, is a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus. Many of the provisions in Trump’s first budget reflect long-standing priorities of the Republican Party’s far right in cutting back federal spending to get the nation’s long-term fiscal picture under control — largely by cutting entitlement programs that mainly benefit the poor.

Republicans are keenly interested in passing a budget this year because they hope to use that legislation to lay the groundwork for a GOP-friendly rewrite of the tax code. Many GOP members hope to attach the tax reform to the budget process in order to advantage of special Senate rules that would allow both the budget and tax rewrite to pass with 51 votes, rather than the 60 that are needed to pass most other legislation. That special treatment could be critical to the success of the GOP tax effort in the Senate, where Republicans control a slim 52-to-48 majority.

White House officials knew their budget proposal would be jarring and launch a political fight, but they think it is a necessary debate given a wing of the Republican Party that wants the government to shrink.

But the cuts were met with intense criticism even among the majority of GOP members who hailed Trump’s desire to pare back spending, including many who worried about the size of some of the proposed cuts.

Rep. Mark Meadows (N.C.), chairman of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, said he was encouraged by early reports of new curbs on food stamps, family welfare and other spending. But he said he draws the line on cuts to Meals on Wheels, a charity that Mulvaney earlier this year suggested was ineffective.

“I’ve delivered meals to a lot of people that perhaps it’s their only hot meal of the day,” Meadows said. “And so I’m sure there’s going to be some give and take, but to throw out the entire budget just because you disagree with some of the principles would be inappropriate.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he backs Trump’s proposal for a temporary burst of new defense spending, which White House officials say would allow them to add 56,400 service members in 2018. But he worries that Trump would finance those increases by cutting critical programs like the National Institutes of Health.

“My number one goal is to have a more balanced budget,” said Graham, who also endorsed the idea of entering into spending talks with Democrats. “NIH is a national treasure, and it would be hurt, too.”

Graham is part of a long-standing alliance between defense hawks who want increased military spending and Democrats who are willing to back military programs in exchange for more spending on domestic priorities. The two sides have forged several past agreements, including a two-year plan for increased spending that is set to expire at the end of September.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that formal spending discussions have not yet begun but that he is prepared to work with GOP leaders when the time is right.

“The idea that we’ll work on a bipartisan budget independent from the president’s is ripe in the air,” Schumer said.

But such a deal is sure to anger conservatives in the House, where many of the most hard-line members staunchly defended aspects of Trump’s proposal.

Although Meadows said Meals on Wheels cuts might be “a bridge too far,” he praised much of the rest of the Trump budget. “It probably is the most conservative budget that we’ve had under Republican or Democrat administrations in decades,” he said.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.), a Freedom Caucus member, rejected the argument that Trump’s budget represented a betrayal of some of his populist campaign promises, notably to protect Medicaid spending.

“If we don’t do something to protect the program for the people who really need it, then they’re not going to have access to that, so I think we can’t continue to ignore these big-ticket items,” he said. “If we’re ever going to get our budget to balance and pay down our debt, we’re going to have to make these tough choices and have these tough votes.”

Read more at PowerPost

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Fox News Retracts Story Linking Murder of DNC Aide to 2016 Presidential Campaign – New York Times

Fox News on Tuesday retracted a story linking the murder of a Democratic National Committee staff member with the email hacks that aided President Trump’s campaign, effectively quashing a conspiracy theory that had taken hold across the right-wing news media.

It was a rare acknowledgment of error by the network. But it also underscored a schism between the network’s news-gathering operation and one of its biggest stars: the conservative commentator Sean Hannity, who has unapologetically promoted the theory and remained defiant on Tuesday.

“These are questions that I have a moral obligation to ask,” Mr. Hannity said on his radio show, shortly after Fox News announced its mistake. “All you in the liberal media — I am not Fox.com or FoxNews.com. I retracted nothing.”

The story of the murdered aide, Seth Conrad Rich, who was 27 when he was shot in the back near his Washington home in July, has been seized on by Mr. Hannity and other right-wing pundits as an alternative narrative to the cascade of damaging revelations about the Trump administration’s ties to Russian officials who meddled in the presidential election.

On Fox News on Tuesday night, Mr. Hannity said that he had been in touch with Mr. Rich’s brother and that, “out of respect for the family’s wishes — for now — I am not discussing this matter at this time.”

But, he promised his viewers, “I am not going to stop doing my job.”

He added, “At the proper time, we shall continue, and talk a lot more.”

Citing unnamed sources, Fox News’s website published an article last week suggesting that Mr. Rich’s death was in retaliation for his sharing D.N.C. emails with WikiLeaks — a theory that, if true, would undercut the notion of Russian political interference and, in turn, offer cover for Mr. Trump.

No evidence to support that theory has emerged, and the Washington Metropolitan Police Department is still investigating the death of Mr. Rich. Mr. Rich’s family, believing he was murdered during a failed robbery, has called for retractions from news organizations that promoted the story; on Tuesday, Fox News agreed.

“The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting,” the network said in a statement. “The article was found not to meet those standards, and has since been removed.”

The statement did not address Mr. Hannity’s coverage of Mr. Rich’s death, and Fox News representatives deferred to his comments on air Tuesday night.

The speculation about Mr. Rich’s death — and its implications for an embattled president — captivated audiences in the right-wing media sphere, from Mr. Hannity’s prime-time show to more obscure but influential websites like The Gateway Pundit, which rose to prominence last year in part by spreading rumors about Hillary Clinton’s health.

The theory also surfaced on Fox News beyond Mr. Hannity: Newt Gingrich, a network contributor, discussed the case on “Fox and Friends” on Sunday, and Geraldo Rivera, a correspondent at large, posted on Twitter about it.

On the radio Tuesday, Mr. Hannity mocked journalists who questioned his interest in the subject, equating the theory about Mr. Rich’s murder to the reports that Mr. Trump’s campaign operation colluded with Russian officials during the election.

“For those who accuse me of pushing a conspiracy theory, you are the biggest phony hypocrites in the entire world,” said Mr. Hannity, who speaks regularly with Mr. Trump.

This was the second high-profile break between Mr. Hannity and his employer in two months: In April, he warned publicly of “the total end” of Fox News if the network fired Bill Shine, a top executive and close friend of Mr. Hannity’s. Mr. Shine ultimately resigned, but Mr. Hannity stayed put, even as the television news industry speculated about his plans.

Mr. Hannity stoked that speculation again on Tuesday, promising an announcement about “my future at Fox.” On the air, he made clear that he had no plans to leave. “I serve at the pleasure of the Fox News Channel,” he said. “I am here to do my job every night. I am under contract, as long as they seem to want me.”

Mr. Hannity is the remaining member of Fox News’s once-invincible prime-time lineup, after the departures of Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly. The network’s prime-time ratings have fallen, especially as Mr. Trump’s troubles have grown.

Some Fox News employees said this week that they had been angered by Mr. Hannity’s continuing broadcasts about the Rich theory, calling it an embarrassment to the network’s journalists.

Other employees expressed shock that the network was willing to retract the story at all. Under Roger E. Ailes, its pugnacious former chairman, who died last week, Fox News followed a mantra of “never apologize,” weathering all manner of controversies over its coverage. But since Mr. Ailes’s exit amid a sexual harassment scandal, the network has been more willing to admit error.

It apologized in January after inaccurately describing a suspect as Moroccan after a mass shooting at a Canadian mosque. In March, the network briefly sidelined Andrew Napolitano, its senior legal analyst, after he made an unsupported accusation about Britain’s top spy agency.

Before the retraction, Mr. Hannity had promised to feature an account on his program from Kim Dotcom, an internet entrepreneur who is wanted in the United States on racketeering charges. Mr. Dotcom has said he has evidence that Mr. Rich was a WikiLeaks source, but he has not offered the evidence publicly. Fox New said he was never booked.

On Tuesday, Aaron Rich, the brother of Seth Rich, sent a letter to Mr. Hannity’s executive producer asking that Mr. Dotcom not be allowed on the air.

“Nobody wants to solve Seth’s murder more than we do,” Aaron Rich wrote. “However, providing a platform to spread potentially false, damaging information will cause us additional pain, suffering and sorrow.”

A spokesman for the Rich family, Brad Bauman, said Tuesday that they were grateful for the formal retraction. He declined to say if Fox News had offered an apology.

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Ex-CIA Chief Reveals Mounting Concern Over Trump Campaign and Russia – New York Times

WASHINGTON — John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, described on Tuesday a nerve-fraying few months last year as American authorities realized that the presidential election was under attack and feared that Donald J. Trump’s campaign might be aiding that fight.

Mr. Brennan, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, said he was concerned by a series of suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and Mr. Trump’s associates. The C.I.A. learned about those meetings just as it was beginning to grapple with Russian hackers and propagandists trying to manipulate the presidential race.

His remarks were the fullest public account to date of the origins of an F.B.I. investigation that continues to shadow the Trump administration.

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The podcast that makes sense of the most delirious stretch of the 2016 campaign.

“I know what the Russians try to do,” Mr. Brennan said. “They try to suborn individuals and try to get individuals, including U.S. individuals, to act on their behalf, wittingly or unwittingly.”

When he left his post in January, he said, “I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.”

Mr. Brennan acknowledged that he did not know whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives and said the contacts might have been benign.

American intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, tried to damage Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and help Mr. Trump. On Aug. 4, as evidence of that campaign mounted, Mr. Brennan warned Alexander V. Bortnikov, the director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, known as the F.S.B., not to meddle in the election. Not only would such interference damage relations between the countries, he said, but it was also certain to backfire.

“I said that all Americans, regardless of political affiliation or whom they might support in the election, cherish their ability to elect their own leaders without outside interference or disruption,” Mr. Brennan said. “I said American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in the election.”

Mr. Brennan’s prediction proved inaccurate. Though intelligence agencies are unanimous in their belief that Russia directly interfered in the election, it has become a divisive partisan issue, with Democrats far more likely than Republicans to accept the conclusion. Mr. Trump has declared that “Russia is fake news” and has tried to undermine the conclusions of his own intelligence services.

He has also tried repeatedly to beat back news reports about his campaign’s ties to Russia. White House officials tried to enlist the F.B.I. and C.I.A. to dispute stories early this year. Then, after the F.B.I. publicly confirmed its investigation, Mr. Trump asked Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, to publicly deny any collusion between Russia and his campaign, according to two former American officials. The Washington Post first reported Mr. Trump’s entreaties.

On the day of the F.B.I.’s confirmation, a call from the White House switchboard came in to Mr. Coats’s office with a request to speak to the director, a former intelligence official said. Calls from the switchboard are usually from the highest-ranking officials at the White House — the president, the vice president or the national security adviser.

Mr. Coats took the call. The official would not confirm what was discussed.

Mr. Coats, who testified on Tuesday in a separate congressional hearing, declined to discuss his conversations with the president.

The White House regarded Mr. Brennan’s testimony as the latest example of a former official from the Obama administration describing great concern but offering no public proof of wrongdoing.

“This morning’s hearings back up what we’ve been saying all along: that despite a year of investigation, there is still no evidence of any Russia-Trump campaign collusion,” the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

During the campaign, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump declared that “there was no communication” with foreign entities. And in January, Vice President Mike Pence flatly denied that there had been any contacts with Russians. Journalists have since reported repeated undisclosed meetings with Russians. Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, was forced to resign over misstatements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak.

A Justice Department special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is investigating whether any collusion took place. A grand jury in Northern Virginia has issued subpoenas for information related to Mr. Flynn’s lobbying and businesses. That investigation is separate from multiple congressional investigations into Russian meddling. Mr. Flynn has declined to be interviewed or provide documents to Congress, citing his constitutional right not to incriminate himself.

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday issued subpoenas for documents from two businesses owned by Mr. Flynn — Flynn Intel L.L.C. and Flynn Intel Inc. — escalating efforts to learn more about his potential business ties to Russia.

Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the committee’s chairman, left open the possibility of holding Mr. Flynn in contempt of Congress.

“At the end of that option is a contempt charge,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill. “And I’ve said that everything is on the table.”

But the committee’s members are not ready to take that step, Mr. Burr said, adding that they want to give Mr. Flynn the opportunity he requested to tell his story.

During his testimony on Tuesday, Mr. Brennan described Russia’s efforts around the world to use politicians to further Moscow’s objectives. “I certainly was concerned that they were practicing the same types of activities here in the United States,” he said.

He added that American targets were often unwitting in such efforts. “Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late,” he said.

In late July, officials established a group of N.S.A., C.I.A. and F.B.I. officials to investigate the election interference. The information was tightly held, and the F.B.I. took the lead on investigating potential collusion, Mr. Brennan said.

“I made sure that anything that was involving U.S. persons, including anything involving the individuals involved in the Trump campaign, was shared with the bureau,” he said.

That investigation was on Mr. Trump’s mind this month when he fired James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, the president has said. And the next day, Mr. Trump told Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting that firing Mr. Comey had eased pressure on him. Such comments, in addition to Mr. Trump’s efforts to publicly undermine the F.B.I. investigation, have fueled suspicion among Democrats and some Republicans that Mr. Trump is trying to obstruct the case.

Mr. Brennan said Russia was trying to capitalize on the turmoil in Washington. “Even though the election is over,” he said, “I think Mr. Putin and Russian intelligence services are trying to actively exploit what is going on now in Washington to their benefit and to our detriment.”

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Trump advisers call for privatizing some public assets to build new infrastructure – Washington Post

By ,

The Trump administration, determined to overhaul and modernize the nation’s infrastructure, is drafting plans to privatize some public assets such as airports, bridges, highway rest stops and other facilities, according to top officials and advisers.

In his proposed budget released Tuesday, President Trump called for spending $200 billion over 10 years to “incentivize” private, state and local spending on infrastructure.

Trump advisers said that to entice state and local governments to sell some of their assets, the administration is considering paying them a bonus. The proceeds of the sales would then go to other infrastructure projects. Australia has pursued a similar policy, which it calls “asset recycling,” prompting the 99-year lease of a state-owned electrical grid to pay for improvements to the Sydney Metro, among other projects.

In the United States, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) explored privatizing Midway International Airport several years ago but dropped the idea in 2013, after a key bidder backed away. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao says such projects should be encouraged.

[Parking meter deal undercut effort to privatize Chicago’s Midway airport]

“You take the proceeds from the airport, from the sale of a government asset, and put it into financing infrastructure,” Chao said. St. Louis is working with federal officials to try to privatize Lambert International Airport, she said.

Officials are crafting President Trump’s initiative, and he has yet to decide which ideas will make the final cut. But two driving themes are clear: Government practices are stalling the nation’s progress; and private companies should fund, build and run more of the basic infrastructure of American life.

A far-reaching proposal from the Trump administration earlier this year to take the nation’s air-traffic control system out of government hands was fueled, in part, by frustration at sluggish efforts to modernize technology.

To speed up infrastructure projects, officials are preparing to overhaul the federal environmental review and permitting system, which they blame for costly delays. Trump asked advisers whether they could collapse that process, which he said takes at least 10 years, down to four months. “But we’ll be satisfied with a year,” Trump said. “It won’t be more than a year.”

In a bid for broader support, Trump and some of his advisers have also signaled an openness to raising the gas tax to pay for needed projects. The 18.4-cent-per gallon levy is the federal government’s main source of highway funds and was last raised in 1993.

The infrastructure initiative is being shaped by White House officials and a task force representing 16 federal departments and agencies. In addition, there is a committee of outside advisers co-chaired by billionaire developer Richard LeFrak, a Trump friend.

LeFrak said the administration’s effort, which is being led by Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, Chao and others, is a sweeping attempt to rethink how the nation’s infrastructure gets built. LeFrak said the issues are intensely personal for Trump, who spent his career in real estate and sees this as an area where he can make a lasting impact.

“He does think he’s the president to rebuild America. He’s a builder. It’s just logical,” LeFrak said. “He’s highly enthusiastic about this idea and getting it done.”

Critics said Trump and his advisers are putting ideology ahead of the national interest, and oversimplifying how the process works.

Public stewards should not be “trying to figure out how to extract maximum value” by selling off government assets or “making huge, multibillion-dollar wagers” that span decades, said Kevin DeGood, director of infrastructure policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy group. “Building infrastructure faster and without adequate study or time for community input may be good for developers, but it’s lousy for everyone else.”

Still, there are bipartisan concerns that important projects have been stymied by politics and bureaucracy, and that Washington has been unwilling to allocate the money for needed improvements. A civil engineering group in March tallied a “$2 trillion, 10-year investment gap” in the nation’s roads, transit systems, bridges, water systems, power grids, parks, ports and schools.

In February, Trump told Congress he would seek legislation “that produces a $1 trillion investment” in infrastructure and creates “millions of new jobs.” Officials have since said the plan will likely include $200 billion in direct federal funds, which would be used to “leverage” the larger figure over a decade. LeFrak sees the chance for a deal, noting that Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) also “wants a trillion-dollar program.”

“So you’ve already got two important people — one very, very important person and one very important person — both from different sides of the aisle, who come in favor of this,” LeFrak said.

But on Tuesday when Trump’s budget was released, Schumer condemned the president’s “180-degree turn away from his repeated promise of a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan,” saying it contains deep cuts in spending on roads, transit projects, public housing and more.

“The fuzzy math and sleight of hand can’t hide the fact that the President’s $200 billion plan is more than wiped out by other cuts to key infrastructure programs,” Schumer said in a statement.

Trump administration officials disputed Schumer’s calculations, saying they included budget items that should not be considered cuts. They cited a projected “drop-off” in federal highway funds that could be eliminated as part of the broader infrastructure agreement.

The budget places a heavy emphasis on market solutions, such as making it easier for states to toll interstates, saying that the federal government has become “a complicated, costly middleman.” The budget also talks about leasing vacant space in Veterans Affairs hospitals and selling off major power facilities as ways of “disposing underused capital assets.”

[Senate Democrats unveil Trump-sized infrastructure plan]

Faster is always better

At a recent White House event, Trump stood alongside one of his top infrastructure aides, DJ Gribbin, who held up a 7-foot-long flow chart illustrating the highway permitting process. The colorful boxes and baffling array of crisscrossing lines were meant to drive home a point about regulatory overreach.

The chart also could have been a graphic representation of the difficulty of crafting a $1 trillion package capable of making it through Congress at a time beset with political division.

Democrats, including Schumer, and some Republicans favor a heavy reliance on federal spending, while others in the GOP want to cut that spending and push more responsibility onto states. Agreeing on ways to better manage arcane state and federal regulations would be tough in even the most forgiving of climates.

Add in the priorities of numerous government agencies, and the puzzle becomes even more complex.

“This is a democracy,” Chao said. “They’re not easy questions.”

So Chao and others crafting the president’s plan have cut the problem into smaller, more digestible pieces: regulation and permitting; government procurement, which Trump officials say is too clunky and doesn’t make enough use of private options; government revenue and private capital; and lessons from abroad.

They also are trying to account for dizzying technological advances. How do you plan for a 10-year broadband expansion, for example, when the technology could easily shift in five years? Chao asked.

LeFrak, who co-chairs the advisory committee with another Trump friend, Vornado Realty Trust chairman Steven Roth, said they have also been wrestling with another challenge,the controversy over high-speed rail, “which is one of the things people dream about.”

But he has seen studies showing a much lower per-mile cost for using driverless cars instead. So should the government invest in rail, which takes passengers station to station or “some kind of road network which is going to allow these cars to travel at relatively high speeds” and take a passenger door to door? he asked.

The administration’s focus on shortening the environmental review process has concerned environmental groups that point to Trump’s moves to reverse efforts to fight climate change.

Trump’s advisers say it’s possible to speed up projects that have clear support and a good business case — while also doing more to protect the environment. But Trump’s push for strict new deadlines would require major changes to environmental laws, which would face fierce opposition.

“There’s no reason why the U.S. cannot function as efficiently as other Western-style democracies in getting worthy projects through the system and permitted,” LeFrak said. “The math speaks for itself. What we’re doing in six years, seven years, eight years, 10 years, these other countries get done in a year or two.”

DeGood said Trump’s team is relying on exaggerated figures and playing down recent reforms to speed approvals. Administration officials cited a report saying it took the Federal Highway Administration more than six years to approve major environmental reviews for projects that need them. While that was true in 2011, DeGood said, that figure has since dropped to 3.6 years.

Chao said things still move too slowly, and many permitting processes can be done simultaneously rather than sequentially. Officials will cut “duplicative or wasteful steps,” she said.

“If we can make these construction projects come online faster without compromising the environmental concerns, it’s good for the quality of life of a community. . . . It helps people. It creates more jobs. It creates less congestion,” Chao said. And faster approvals create less-risky, more attractive opportunities to invest in America. “What I heard from the private sector is there’s lots of money available, but there are not enough projects.”

Partnership pros and cons

The administration plans to push states to use public-private partnerships — P3s in industry jargon.

In such arrangements, a private firm might bring together investors and low-cost federal loans to expand a highway, for example, then collect tolls from motorists to recoup costs and earn a profit. Companies can more nimbly tap technology and other innovations in building and maintaining such projects, advocates say. Critics say relying on tolls will not work in rural or distressed communities.

Some of those partnerships have worked as intended, such as the Washington region’s Interstate 495 Express Lanes, where 14 miles of toll and carpool lanes opened in 2012. Although the tolls are unpopular, the partnership gave drivers more options for faster travel. Maryland’s proposed Purple Line light-rail system also would be built with a public-private partnership.

Other such arrangements have failed, with ill-prepared governments saddling themselves with bad deals. Chicago’s inspector general cited the 75-year lease of city parking meters to a private firm for $1.16 billion in 2008. Under the same terms, the city would have earned at least $974 million more by keeping the meters, the IG said.

‘Asset recycling’ in Australia

Australia, which has long advocated privatization, launched its “asset recycling initiative” in 2014. Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, said officials are looking at importing the idea.

“Instead of people in cities and states and municipalities coming to us and saying, ‘Please give us money to build a project,’ and not knowing if it will get maintained, and not knowing if it will get built, we say, ‘Hey, take a project you have right now, sell it off, privatize it, we know it will get maintained, and we’ll reward you for privatizing it,’ ” Cohn told executives at the White House. “The bigger the thing you privatize, the more money we’ll give you.”

So far, one Australian state and two territories have chosen public resources to sell off. The central government kicks in 15 percent of the value of what’s sold.

The Australian treasury said the central government has reached agreements to pay out $1.7 billion in “incentive payments” that will “unlock” $12.6 billion in spending, including for a light-rail line in Canberra. For that project, the Australian Capital Territory sold public housing projects, a tourism information center and a public gambling operation, according to government documents.

Some critics called the moves shortsighted.

“You can’t perform that deal again,” said John Quiggin, a professor of economics at the University of Queensland.

The program has at times been a lightning rod, as when the Northern Territory government leased the Port of Darwin to a Chinese-owned firm for 99 years, sparking a debate over national security.

Big-ticket possibilities

That still leaves the question: How do you get to $1 trillion?

“Everything’s on the table,” Chao said.

Administration officials are putting together a menu of options to hit that total, including big-ticket possibilities like “repatriating” funds parked overseas by U.S. firms, and smaller ideas such as privatizing highway service plazas, Chao said.

Chao said congressional leaders — she is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — have made clear “the administration has to have a bill with pay-fors before they will accept it. So we understand that.”

LeFrak says there is money lying around in government assets that can be privatized and that people can get “socialized” to paying tolls.He said uncollected Internet sales taxes could go to states to help pay the infrastructure bill. He also thinks Washington should borrow large sums at today’s low interest rates.

LeFrak also noted that the federal gas tax hasn’t been raised in nearly a quarter-century, and that more than 20 states have raised or indexed their gas taxes since 2013. For federal officials, that presents “a test in political courage,” LeFrak said.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that the wish of everybody is we have divine intervention, that somehow a bridge gets floated down from on high. People say, ‘Wow, we got a free bridge!’ ” LeFrak said. “But the answer is, it’s an expensive investment.”

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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.

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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 Minority Business Development Agency 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.”

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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.

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