The private life of Sgt. La David Johnson, the slain soldier ensnared in a Trump controversy – Washington Post

The body of Sgt. La David Johnson arrived in Miami on Oct. 17. President Trump called the soldier’s family that same day to give his condolences. According to a Florida congresswoman, Trump told Johnson’s grieving widow, “He knew what he signed up for.” (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

To most of the country, Sgt. La David Terrence Johnson was an American service member killed in action in West Africa.

But to his family and his Miami Gardens, Fla., community, Johnson was known as “Wheelie King,” a nickname he earned for riding his bicycle on one wheel. He rode a lot, usually on his way to work.

“You go slow, though. Make sure you keep your balance. Once you feel that you are comfortable, you could just ride all day,” Johnson told ABC affiliate WPLG in 2013, the year before he enlisted for the Army.

Johnson, 25, and three other American soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger on Oct. 4. He left behind a wife who is six months pregnant and two children, a 2-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl. Now, two weeks after his death, Johnson’s name is entangled in a controversy involving President Trump, who has been accused of making insensitive remarks to the soldier’s young widow. As questions still remain about Johnson’s death and over what Trump actually said to his wife, the fallen soldier’s loved ones have largely remained quiet, except for a few public Facebook posts sharing pictures, condolences and memories of him.

To those who knew him, he was a loving husband who had his wife’s name tattooed across his chest, a soldier who pushed to improve himself, and a son who enjoyed talking about his family. He was also a father who was looking forward to seeing his baby girl.

“He was very excited. He said, ‘Sergeant B, I’m having a girl!’ ” Staff Sgt. Dennis Bohler, Johnson’s close friend, told The Washington Post.

This weekend, friends and family members will hold a “WHEELIE KING 305″ parade to remember Johnson, his wife, Myeshia Johnson, wrote on Facebook.

[Fallen soldier’s mother: ‘Trump did disrespect my son’]

One relative shared images of Johnson’s toddler getting on his bicycle for the first time.

“Ladavid Johnson look at your boy … want (s) to be exactly like you,” Sharri Johnson wrote.

In the 2013 interview with WPLG,La David Johnson said he liked to challenge himself by trying to go farther and farther. At times, he wore a T-shirt with his nickname printed on it.

While riding one afternoon in a Miami Gardens park, a group of women in a car began to take photos of him, WPLG reported.

U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson was among four Special Forces soldiers killed in Niger, West Africa, on Oct. 4, 2017. (U.S. Army Special Operations Command/Reuters)

“We love you, La David!” they said.

YouTube videos showed him riding circles in parking lots, on neighborhood streets and once along a narrow guardrail separating a sidewalk from a major road. He also would ride on one wheel on his way to a South Florida Walmart store, where he worked in the produce department.

Johnson joined the Army in January 2014. He was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) at the Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina.

He was highly regarded by his military peers.Bohler, the friend who also said he was Johnson’s supervisor at Fort Bragg, said Johnson rose through the ranks rapidly — from a private to a sergeant in less than three years.

[Twelve days of silence, then a swipe at Obama: How Trump handled four dead soldiers]

“He caught on quickly. You tell him once, and it’s complete, any task,” Bohler said. “He was just that one soldier that always wanted to better himself every day. Every day, he wanted to do better than he did yesterday.”

Lt. Col. David Painter, commander of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), said in a statement that, “The Bush Hog formation was made better because of Johnson’s faithful service and we are focused on caring for the Johnson family during this difficult period.”

The body of Sgt. La David T. Johnson arrived in Miami on Oct. 17. The U.S. Special Forces soldier was killed at the border of Niger and Mali on Oct. 4 in the deadliest combat incident since President Trump took office. (WPLG/AP)

Johnson loved to talk about his family, particularly about the woman who raised him, Bohler said. His biological mother, Samara, died when he was a child, according to the slain soldier’s obituary. Cowanda Jones-Johnson and her husband, Richard Johnson, were entrusted with his care after his mother died.

Bohler said Jones-Johnson is an aunt who raised Johnson as her own son.

“He’s very thankful for having somebody like his Mom, Cowanda, in his life,” he said. “She wasn’t really his mom, but you couldn’t tell.”

Bohler added: “He had some pretty good upbringing. He didn’t do any drinking. He didn’t do any smoking. He was a family-oriented soldier.”

Johnson attended Dade County Public Schools and graduated from Miami Carol City Senior High School in 2010, his obituary says.

In August 2014, he married his best friend, Myeshia Manual.

[Trump offered a grieving military father $25,000 in a call, but didn’t follow through]

Johnson’s name became a national headline this week after Trump called his wife to offer condolences. In the call, Trump told her, “He must have known what he signed up for,” according to an account of Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), who was riding in a limousine with the soldier’s family when the president called and heard the conversation on speakerphone.

Wilson said Trump’s comments made the young woman cry.

“When she actually hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, ‘He didn’t even know his name.’ That’s the worst part,” Wilson said Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day.”

President Trump’s response to the deaths of four soldiers in Niger is causing an uproar after Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla) said he told Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow that her husband “knew what he was signing up for.” (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Trump pushed back in an early-morning tweet Wednesday, saying Wilson “totally fabricated” her account of the phone call — and that he has proof. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters during a briefing Wednesday afternoon that there was no recording of the conversation but assured reporters that it was “completely respectful, very sympathetic.”

Wilson, who met Johnson while running a mentoring program for black youths in Miami, stood by her statement, saying she was not the only person who heard the call.

In a Facebook message to The Washington Post, Cowanda Jones-Johnson said that she, too, was in the limousine, and that Wilson’s account of the conversation was accurate.

“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Jones-Johnson said.

Anne Gearan contributed to this report.

READ MORE:

Trump may want to study Lincoln, master of the wrenching art of presidential condolences

Sarah Huckabee Sanders just admitted Trump’s ‘proof’ doesn’t exist

Yet again, Trump’s defensiveness makes his handling of a Gold Star family’s grief worse

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Donald Trump’s Unseemly Condolence-Call Bragging Game – The New Yorker

The sordid story of President Donald Trump’s attempt to smear President
Barack Obama as being inattentive to the families of fallen troops took
more turns on Wednesday. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, a Democrat from
Florida, reported that, in what was meant to be a condolence call, Trump
had made Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sergeant La David T. Johnson, who
was killed on October 4th, in Niger, at the age of twenty-five, break
down in tears. “She said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name,’ ” Wilson
told MSNBC, adding that she had heard much of the call on speakerphone.
Wilson described Trump as “almost like joking. He said, ‘Well, I guess
you knew’—something to the effect that ‘he knew what he was getting
into when he signed up, but I guess it hurts anyway.’ ” Trump tweeted
that he had “proof” that Wilson’s account was “totally fabricated”—an
extraordinary response. Even if Trump did not, verbatim, use the words
that Wilson remembered, surely learning that he had failed to console
Myeshia Johnson, a grieving young woman who has two small children and
is pregnant with a third, might have humbled him. He might have just
regretted that he didn’t communicate well; he might have wished that he
had done better. But, later in the day, he again said that Wilson had
lied, and insisted that he’d had “a very nice conversation” with
Johnson. Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, pushed that
line, saying that Trump was “completely respectful” and that is was “a
disgrace of the media” to suggest anything else. As it happens, Sergeant
Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, in an interview with the
Washington Post, backed up Wilson, telling the paper, “President Trump
did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.” Will
Trump call her a liar, too?

This chain of Trumpian insults began when the President, in a press
conference on Monday that served primarily to humiliate Mitch McConnell,
was asked why, in the two weeks since Johnson had died in Niger, along
with Staff Sergeants Bryan Black, Dustin Wright, and Jeremiah Johnson,
he had not said anything publicly about their loss. Instead of
answering, Trump went on a riff about how he planned to call the
families—he had not done so yet, nor had the letters that he said he’d
written been sent—and how this intention set him apart from, and above,
other Presidents. “If you look at President Obama and other Presidents,
most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls,” Trump
said. “I like to call.” Before the press conference was over, he was
asked to justify this statement, which did not tally with Barack and
Michelle Obama’s reputation for reaching out to bereft military families
with calls, meetings, visits to hospitals, and vigils at Dover Air Force
Base, where the bodies of the dead arrived home. (One of Michelle
Obama’s causes, as First Lady, was Joining Forces, an initiative that
she began with Second Lady Jill Biden, to support military families.)

Sergeant La David T. Johnson was twenty-five years old when he was killed alongside three colleagues.

Photograph by U.S. Army Special Operations Command via AP

Trump, in response, partially qualified his remarks by saying that
he’d “heard” that Obama didn’t call often, vaguely attributing this
word on the street to “my generals.” A number of generals said that
Obama had been nothing but deeply compassionate and attentive—but Trump
thought he had a general whom he could throw into the fray. “You could ask
General Kelly—did he get a call from Obama?” Trump asked Brian
Kilmeade, of Fox News, in a radio interview. In 2010, when John Kelly,
who is now Trump’s chief of staff, was a lieutenant general, his son,
Robert, a Marine lieutenant, was killed in Afghanistan. Unnamed White
House officials quickly let it be known that Kelly did not get a call,
dragging Robert Kelly, who deserves better, into battle once again.

John Kelly, as of Wednesday afternoon, had not addressed the issue
publicly. Sanders, in her press briefing, said that he and Trump had
spoken “multiple times” on Tuesday and that his only anger was at
those—meaning the media—who had “politicized” the situation. She also
said that Kelly had been on the call with the Johnsons, and that he
thought that Trump had been entirely respectful and had done “the best
job he could under the circumstances,” thereby pitting the word of a
father who had lost his son against that of a woman who had lost her
son. It would, eventually, be useful to hear more about this from Kelly
himself.

There are so many layers to a Trump attack that trying to make sense of
one layer can obscure the others. Does it matter, for example, that the
Obamas invited General Kelly and his wife to a White House breakfast for
Gold Star families a couple of months after Robert’s death, seating them
at Michelle’s table? Or that Robert had a wife,
Heather, who would have
been his next of kin and thus might have been contacted, too? Robert
died during an intense period in the war in Afghanistan, when it might,
logistically, have been difficult to have the President immediately call
each family. Should the Kellys have been given special treatment because
the General was a general? Does it matter that Trump, who claimed that
he had called all, or “virtually” all the families of those who have
died during his Presidency, seems, according to the A.P., to have missed
a few? (One father who did receive a call told the Washington
Post
that Trump offered him twenty-five thousand dollars but never followed
through; the White House says that the check has now gone out.)

Maybe none of that matters—not even the comments that Skip and Rhonda
Rollins made to CNN when they encountered the Obamas on Veterans Day, in
2009, during an unannounced trip that the Obamas made to Section 60 of
Arlington National Cemetery, where many of the dead from the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. The Rollinses were there to visit the
grave of their son, Justin, who had died in Iraq in 2007, at the age of
twenty-five, and Skip Rollins said that, even though he didn’t agree
with President Obama politically, he and his wife were moved by the
gesture. Why tally that at all? There is something dirty about a
bragging contest built around comparative compassion; it is unseemly and
un-Presidential. But the truth matters, and, with Trump, one needs to be
alert to both the fine print and the big lie.

One needs, also, to return to the evaded questions. Does the Trump
Administration have a coherent account of what happened in Niger, and an
explanation of what might happen with the deployment of troops there?
Does Trump understand how many people may die in the wars he casually
talks about starting? Would he make all the phone calls then? More than
that, does he accept that the deaths, for the troops’ families, have
meanings that have nothing to do with him?

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Sessions Refuses to Discuss His Conversations With Trump About Comey or Russia – New York Times

WASHINGTON — One after another, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee pressed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to provide information. And again and again in nearly five hours of testimony on Wednesday, Mr. Sessions refused.

The lawmakers asked for more details about his conversations with President Trump before he fired James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, and pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff in Arizona. They wanted to know what the two had discussed about Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible links to Mr. Trump.

The senators also asked about topics not involving the president, like whether Mr. Sessions had conversations with the attorney general of Texas about an immigration program the state had threatened to sue over, and whether any evidence supported Mr. Trump’s claim that the Cuban government was behind sonic attacks on American diplomats.

The Run-Up

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

“I’m just not able to comment,” Mr. Sessions said.

Mr. Sessions’s demurrals — and Democratic anger over them — were a recurring theme during his first appearance before the panel for an oversight hearing in the eight months since he became the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

The attorney general had testified in June before the Senate Intelligence Committee and refused then as well to answer questions about his conversations with Mr. Trump, saying they were potentially subject to an assertion of executive privilege by the president. The privilege provides a legal basis to avoid answering questions.

Bracing for more of the same, Democrats had sent Mr. Sessions a letter last week arguing that he would not have a legal basis to continue to refuse to answer unless Mr. Trump invoked the privilege. They demanded that Mr. Trump do so, or that Mr. Sessions be prepared to answer. But from his opening statement, Mr. Sessions made clear that he would frustrate their ambitions.

“Consistent with a longstanding policy and practice of the executive branch, I can neither assert executive privilege, nor can I disclose today the content of my confidential conversations with the president,” Mr. Sessions said.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, told Mr. Sessions that a Reagan-era directive instructed executive branch officials to suspend congressional requests for potentially privileged information long enough to give the president a chance to make a decision. But, the senator added, “You can’t have a situation which the president never has to assert it and the abeyance goes on indefinitely.”

And Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, told Mr. Sessions that he had “stretched this concept of executive privilege, maybe to the breaking point.”

But with Mr. Sessions’s fellow Republicans in charge of the Senate, there appeared to be little chance that the confrontation would lead to a citation of contempt. The committee chairman, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, pointed out that during the Obama administration, Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general at the time, refused to provide internal Justice Department documents related to a botched gun-trafficking investigation. (President Barack Obama eventually invoked executive privilege over them, and the Republican-controlled House cited Mr. Holder for contempt.)

Several other testy exchanges on Wednesday did yield answers from Mr. Sessions, including when Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, pressed him to indicate whether he had been interviewed by Mr. Mueller.

Mr. Sessions initially responded by telling the senator that he would have to ask Mr. Mueller, prompting Mr. Leahy to growl: “I’m asking you.”

Mr. Sessions eventually answered “no,” and when Mr. Leahy pressed further, he reiterated, “The answer’s no.”

Mr. Leahy and Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, also accused Mr. Sessions of changing his answers about his communications with Russian officials last year. They noted that Mr. Sessions had gone from saying he had none, to saying he had none that were campaign-related, to saying he had none about interference in the campaign.

Asked by Mr. Leahy whether he had discussed with Russians the policies or positions of the campaign or the Trump presidency, Mr. Sessions said he was unsure, later adding that it was possible that “some comment was made about what Trump’s positions were.”

At another point, Mr. Franken listed steps the Justice Department had taken on Mr. Sessions’s watch to weaken civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender protections, declaring: “There is an argument to be made that no single Trump administration official has done more to hurt L.G.B.T. people than you.”

Mr. Sessions pushed back, saying his Justice Department had “no hostility” to transgender or gay people, but was simply following the law “scrupulously.”

Asked by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, to commit to not jailing reporters “for doing their jobs” — a reference to the Trump administration’s vow to crack down on leaks to the news media, like reports about what surveillance of Russian officials revealed about contacts with Mr. Trump’s associates — Mr. Sessions demurred.

“I don’t know if I can make a blanket commitment to that effect, but I would say this: We have not taken any aggressive action against the media at this point,” he said.

But asked whether he had talked with the attorney general of Texas, who threatened to sue over an Obama-era program protecting young immigrants from deportation, Mr. Sessions said the answer was privileged.

He frustrated his questioner, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who brought up Mr. Sessions’s own time on the committee.

“This would have been just about the moment when Senator Sessions of Alabama would have blown up,” Mr. Durbin said.

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Senators Are Pushing Ahead with a Health Care Deal as President Trump Sends Mixed Signals – TIME

Less than a full day after cheering a bipartisan deal being worked out in Congress to stabilize the individual insurance marketplace, President Donald Trump suggested he couldn’t support it.

In a tweet sent Wednesday morning, Trump said that while he stood behind Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who worked with Washington Sen. Patty Murray on the compromise, he could “never support bailing out” the insurance companies he says have made a “fortune” with the Affordable Care Act.

The proposal from Sens. Alexander and Murray, who serve as the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, does include two years worth of cost-sharing reduction payments, which help lower the costs of premiums for consumers, but the chair pushed back on the notion that the payments equal a bailout.

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President Donald Trump Speaks At Heritage Foundation Meeting

“We are having the strongest possible language in the Alexander-Murray agreement to make sure the cost-sharing reduction payments for 2018 and 2019 benefit the low income Americans to help them pay for their insurance and don’t benefit the insurance companies,” Sen. Alexander told reporters at the HELP committee on Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was a bit more frank: “The president ought to start understanding what’s in the legislation before he tweets,” he said. “The Murray-Alexander bill specifically prohibited companies from getting CSR payments. There would be no double dipping.”

Such was the dilemma facing Senators on Wednesday. After working to craft a deal to stabilize the insurance markets, selling it to the Republicans in Congress and the White House who want the Affordable Care Act repealed began presenting its own set of challenges shortly after the two sides announced they had a plan.

For his part, Alexander said the plan includes provisions that could be considered victories for Republicans who have been trying to nix Obamacare for the greater part of the past eight years. The two sides agreed to expand access to waivers that allow states to offer plans that don’t meet all of the requirements under Obamacare, something Republicans have been pushing for. They also agreed to expand access to catastrophic plans—the low-premium, high-deductible insurance plans that are currently only available to young people on the individual marketplace. The plan would also redirect funding that could be used by the states to help people enroll, outreach that Democrats have blasted Trump for seeking to undercut.

The point of the bill, Alexander said on the Senate floor on Tuesday, is to avoid the “chaos” of skyrocketing premiums and rising medical debt that are predicted to come if the payments to insurers stop. “I don’t know a Democrat or a Republican who benefits from chaos,” he said.

Some of that chaos appears to have been intentionally inflicted by Trump. On Oct. 12, the president signed an executive order that could give Americans access to cheap insurance plans that offer fewer protections. Then, the White House announced the end of “cost-sharing reduction” payments that are designed to lower insurance costs for poorer Americans. The goal, as Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon said, was to “blow up” President Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

But the president has sent mixed messages on whether he actually wants to do that. He’s argued that his executive actions helped bring Democrats to the negotiating table (they were already in talks) and said he’d back a “short-term fix” only to tweet that he doesn’t support “bailing out” insurance companies and bragged that their stocks tanked. “Lamar Alexander is working on it very hard,” Trump said of the bill on Wednesday. “And if something can happen that’s fine, but I won’t do anything to enrich the insurance companies, because right now the insurance companies are being enriched.”

For now, members of Congress from both parties are moving ahead. Senators are working to make sure the bill has a solid number of bipartisan co-sponsors when the legislative language is released, which could happen as soon as Thursday.

Schumer said that the “overwhelming majority” of Democrats are on board with the plan, noting that Sen. Murray was met with roaring applause when she announced the deal to her colleagues on Tuesday. The goal is to get at least 10 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle to secure the bill’s future.

Outside of the Senate chambers on Wednesday, several Republican Senators were non-committal. Some said they wanted to hear more from Sen. Alexander, while others were not sure if the bill would pass muster as-is. “I think in order to pass the House we’re going to need more than Alexander-Murray,” said Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. “Doesn’t sound like it could pass in the House so if it passes in the Senate, what good does do?”

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said he supports “the continuation of the work so they get to a point where it’s something that the president would encourage.” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who chairs the Senate Republican Conference, said the bill is “kind of an open question.” But not every Senator was non-committal. Sen. John McCain of Arizona said he would support the bill in a statement on Wednesday. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have also cheered the bill.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee told reporters on Wednesday that he is a “proud co-sponsor” of the bill. “It’s a good piece of legislation,” he said while moving his arms in a sweeping motion as elevator doors closed.

It remains unclear whether or not Trump, in the end, would be willing to keep Obamacare alive. But there is agreement among Republicans that securing his support on the legislation would be crucial.

Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, who is also co-sponsoring the bill, said Wednesday that right now, “it’s kind of like weather in South Dakota. It’ll change on a regular basis until we’re all satisfied.”

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Trump offered a grieving military father $25000 in a call, but didn’t follow through – Washington Post

President Trump, in a personal phone call to a grieving military father, offered him $25,000 and said he would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family, but neither happened, the father said.

Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Sgt. Dillon Baldridge, said that Trump called him at his home in Zebulon, N.C., a few weeks after his 22-year-old son and two fellow soldiers were gunned down by an Afghan police officer on June 10. Their phone conversation lasted about 15 minutes, Baldridge said, and centered for a time on the father’s struggle with the manner in which his son was killed — shot by someone he was training.

“I said, ‘Me and my wife would rather our son died in trench warfare,’ ” Baldridge said. “I feel like he got murdered over there.”

Trump’s offer of $25,000 adds another dimension to his relations with Gold Star families and the disclosure follows questions about how often the president has called or written to the parents or spouses of those killed.

The Washington Post contacted the White House about Baldridge’s account on Wednesday morning. Officials declined to discuss the events in detail.

But in a statement Wednesday afternoon, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said: “The check has been sent. It’s disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the President, and using it to advance the media’s biased agenda.”

[Twelve days of silence: How Trump handled the deadliest combat incident of his presidency]

Trump said this week that he has “called every family of somebody that’s died, and it’s the hardest call to make.” At least 20 Americans have been killed in action since he became commander in chief in January. The Washington Post interviewed the families of 13. About half had received phone calls, they said. The others said they had not heard from the president.

In his call with Trump, Baldridge, a construction worker, expressed frustration with the military’s survivor benefits program. Because his ex-wife was listed as their son’s beneficiary, she was expected to receive the Pentagon’s $100,000 death gratuity — even though “I can barely rub two nickels together,” he told Trump.

The president’s response shocked him.

“He said, ‘I’m going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,’ and I was just floored,” Baldridge said. “I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this. He said, ‘No other president has ever done something like this,’ but he said, ‘I’m going to do it.’ ”

The president has been on the defensive since details emerged of his phone call Tuesday with the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was killed Oct. 4 along with three other U.S. soldiers in Niger. After not addressing the incident for 12 days, Trump on Monday falsely claimed that previous presidents never or rarely called the families of fallen service members. In fact, they did so regularly.

White House officials circulated a statement of sympathy for the soldiers killed in Niger after the attack, but it was never released, Politico reported Wednesday. It is not clear why the statement was never released, but it was prepared when the Pentagon had said only that three soldiers were killed and before officials disclosed that a fourth soldier, Johnson, also was killed. His body was recovered Oct. 6, two days after the attack.

Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) said Trump called Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, on Tuesday and said her husband “knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.” Wilson was riding in a limousine with the widow and said she heard the conversation on speakerphone.

Attempts to reach Myeshia Johnson on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Trump denied the allegation Wednesday, saying in a tweet that Wilson had “totally fabricated” what happened and that he had “proof.” But the soldier’s childhood guardian, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told The Post that she also was in the car when Trump called, and said that “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.”

Trump later expanded his denial, saying that he did not say what Wilson alleged and that “she knows it.”

He added: “I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife who was — sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren’t too surprised to hear that.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president, saying in a news briefing that Trump was “completely respectful” during the call. Several White House officials, including Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, were in the room at the time, she said.

In all, seven Gold Star families contacted by The Post said they have had phone conversations with Trump. Most said they appreciated the gesture. Four other families said they have not received a call and were upset. One said Trump had not called but that they knew the late soldier would not want his death politicized. An additional family said it had corresponded with the White House but declined to elaborate.

The Associated Press reached one other family, that of Army Spec. Etienne Murphy, 22. His mother said she received neither a call nor a letter from the president.

Baldridge said that after the president made his $25,000 offer, he joked with Trump that he would bail him out if he got arrested for helping. The White House has done nothing else other than send a condolence letter from Trump, the father said.

“I opened it up and read it, and I was hoping to see a check in there, to be honest,” the father said. “I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking. But I was like, ‘Damn, no check.’ Just a letter saying ‘I’m sorry.’ ”

The experiences of other Gold Star families were more typical.

The family of Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas, a 23-year-old Army Ranger killed April 27 in a raid on the Islamic State in Afghanistan, met with Vice President Pence at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware as the soldier’s casket arrived from overseas. They had a 20-minute call with Trump about two weeks later, said Thomas’s father, Andre.

“He gave his condolences and made some comments how different his paperwork was when it went across his desk,” the father said in a phone interview. “Said most of the paperwork he sees in these types of death says, ‘He’s respected by his peers.’ He said Cameron’s stuck out because it said he was respected and loved by his peers.”

Thomas said he spoke at length about his son’s love for the Army and his determination to become a Ranger, a distinction he earned at age 19. About midway through the phone call, Thomas said he told Trump that he had voted for him, and “that got him on another tangent” that extended the conversation for about 10 minutes.”

The president then spoke about his work in office and “the strides that he’s made in the short time he’d been president,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the family was touched by the phone call. The father of a Mormon family with 12 children, seven of them adopted, Thomas said he was concerned about the attention that his son’s death could bring. But talking to the president helped him put things in perspective and realize that his son “belonged to the country.”

“Politics is politics, and maybe some people wouldn’t care to hear from him,” he said. “But putting politics aside, it does mean a lot to a family, their child.”

William J. Lee, 40, said his entire family spoke by phone with Trump after his brother, Army 1st Lt. Weston Lee, 25, was killed in Mosul, Iraq, on April 29.

“He was very cordial and very nice,” Lee said, of the call, which he said lasted about five or six minutes.

Lee said the president spoke to them about “how impressive my brother was, how he had read the reports, reading everything about Weston, and he could tell how amazing he was. And talking to us, he could tell how strong we were and how strong he must have been. We were all pretty devastated.

“It meant something, the leader of our nation calling us and showing the honor and respect to my brother that I feel my brother earned,” Lee said, his voice cracking.

Quinn Butler, whose 27-year-old brother, Aaron, was killed in August by an explosion in Afghanistan, said that their parents received numerous letters from generals and other leaders, but no call or letter from Trump.

Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler, a Special Forces soldier, was very supportive of Trump and appreciative for what he has done for the military, his brother said. Quinn Butler said his brother believed that Trump helped initiate some changes that have enabled commanders to make more progress against the militants in Afghanistan.

Butler said that he was surprised that his parents did not receive a call from Trump, considering his brother was a “very elite soldier, a soldier who had given everything.” But he said that the soldier would not want his death politicized.

“I think that Aaron would be very upset if anything was manipulated to show that he didn’t support Trump and that he wasn’t appreciative of the things that he did do, because he was,” the brother said.

Euvince Brooks’s son, Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks, 30, was killed Aug. 13 in Iraq. He has not heard from the White House. The president’s claim this week that he had called every military family to lose a son or daughter only upset the Brooks family more.

Brooks said that after watching the news on Tuesday night he wanted to set up a Twitter account to try to get the president’s attention.

“I said to my daughter, ‘Can you teach me to tweet, so I can tweet at the president and tell him he’s a liar?’” he said. “You know when you hear people lying, and you want to fight? That’s the way I feel last night. He’s a damn liar.”

Julie Tate, Anne Gearan and Kristine Phillips contributed to this report.

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Trump, Dem congresswoman feud over his remarks to widow of fallen soldier – CNN

In denying Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson’s account of a condolence telephone call, the President created a fresh political controversy over his response to the Niger attack and his willingness to inject politics into an issue that is typically regarded as sacred by past commanders in chief.
Wilson first made the stunning claim Tuesday night, saying she was present when the call took place. Sgt. La David Johnson was among the four US soldiers killed by enemy fire in the October 4 ambush. She added on CNN’s “New Day” Wednesday morning that Trump didn’t know the name of the service member and that his widow “broke down” after her call with the President.
Trump denied Wilson’s account in both a tweet and a statement made at the White House.
“I didn’t say what that congresswoman said. Didn’t say it at all,” Trump told reporters during a meeting on tax reform in the Cabinet Room. “She knows it. And she now is not saying it. I did not say what she said.”
Trump said he had a “very nice” conversation with Johnson’s widow, “who sounded like a lovely woman.” Referring to Wilson, he added: “I’d like her to make the statement again because I did not say what she said.”
Minutes later, Wilson responded on Twitter to Trump’s remarks, saying she still stood by her account. She then told CNN affiliate WPLG that “Mr. Trump is crazy,” hours after she told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota that the President has a “brain disorder.”
Trump said he has proof Wilson fabricated her claim, but neither he nor the White House immediately provided any evidence or explanation by what he meant. Cowanda Jones-Johnson, a family member who raised Johnson, told CNN Wednesday that Wilson’s account of the call between Trump and Johnson’s widow, Myeshia, was “very accurate.” She said she was in the car when the call happened.
Wilson on “New Day” described herself as “livid” when she heard the call on speakerphone, but when she tried to get on the phone to talk to Trump herself, a master sergeant who was present prevented her from doing so. Per military protocol, the calls from the commander in chief are solely presidential condolence conversations.
Wilson said she was ready to “curse him out” had she had the chance to get on the line. However, the Florida Democrat said she wouldn’t get into the specifics of what she would have said, adding that she didn’t want to “politicize” the incident.
It took Trump days to publicly discuss the attacks, and earlier this week, he falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama didn’t call families of fallen service members, later suggesting reporters contact his chief of staff, John Kelly, whose son was killed in Afghanistan, to ask if Obama reached out to him.

‘I guess it still hurt’

Johnson’s body was returned home to the Miami area late Tuesday afternoon, with the plane receiving a water cannon salute as it arrived near the gate.
The call from the President to Johnson’s widow came shortly before Johnson’s casket arrival, Wilson said on “CNN Tonight” Tuesday night.
“Basically, he said, ‘Well, I guess he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt,’ ” Wilson said to CNN’s Don Lemon.
“That’s what he said,” she added.
Collinson: Trump has repeatedly politicized military service and sacrificeCollinson: Trump has repeatedly politicized military service and sacrifice
Asked earlier if she was sure the President said that, Wilson told CNN affiliate WPLG: “Yeah, he said that. You know … that is something that you can say in a conversation, but you shouldn’t say that to a grieving widow. Everyone knows when you go to war you could possibly not come back alive, but you don’t remind a grieving widow of that. That is so insensitive. So insensitive.”
A White House official said Tuesday: “The President’s conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private.”
Wilson told WPLG that she hoped the President didn’t make similar comments to the ones she heard to the other families of the soldiers killed.
“That is what stood out in everyone’s heart,” she said. “You don’t say that. He is the President of the United States. This is a soldier who gave his life for his country. He is a hero in our minds, in our community’s minds. That is an insult to the entire Miami Gardens community, to the entire District 24, to Miami-Dade County and to this nation. And I hope he didn’t say that to the other three families.”

Evokes Khan family feud

Trump first publicly addressed the soldiers’ deaths in a Rose Garden news conference12 days after they were killed.
“I felt very, very badly about that,” Trump said Monday. “I always feel badly. It is the toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens, soldiers are killed.”
He then claimed that other commanders in chief hadn’t reached out to families of Americans killed in action, saying he’d been told as much by the generals who serve in his administration. On Tuesday, Trump bragged about calling loved ones from all those killed in action during his presidency.
“I really speak for myself. I am not speaking for other people. I don’t know what (George W.) Bush did. I don’t know what Obama did,” Trump said. “I believe his policy was somewhat different than my policy. I can tell you, my policy is I have called every one of them.”
Trump told reporters to ask Kelly if he received a call from Obama when his son was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.
“As far as other presidents, I don’t know, you could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don’t know what Obama’s policy was,” Trump said during a Fox News Radio interview Tuesday. CNN asked the White House to talk to Kelly about this issue, but they declined to make him available. Kelly also has not responded to a direct request from comment from CNN.
Following Wednesday’s back-and-forth between Trump and Wilson, Karen Meredith, who lost her son, 1st Lt. Ken Ballard, in Iraq, called the President’s remarks “disgraceful” and “unbecoming.”
“Mr. Trump, stop. Please, just stop,” Meredith, the Gold Star and Military Families coordinator for VoteVets, said in a statement. “This is not about you, it is about them. It is about all of us who lost our loved ones in war. For once in your life, please stop making everything about you. For once in your life, at least pretend to know what empathy is. For once in your life, at least try to care about other people and their feelings.”
Outrage over Trump’s alleged comments to Johnson’s widow evoke a similar controversy to his public feud with the family of another fallen American soldier.
During last year’s campaign, Khizr and Ghazala Kahn, the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, who was a Muslim American, criticized him from the stage of the Democratic National Convention. Trump responded by saying the family “viciously attacked” him.
Before Trump’s alleged comments on Johnson surfaced, the Khans issued a statement Tuesday accusing Trump of a “lack of empathy” and of “selfish and divisive” conduct that undermined the dignity of the presidency.
“One more time, he has shown us that he is undeserving of the leadership of our great nation,” the family’s statement said.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Wilson was the principal of Johnson’s father.

CNN’s Dan Merica, Kevin Liptak, Noah Gray, Leigh Munsil, Steve Brusk, Danielle Hackett, Jamiel Lynch and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

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Trump opposes Senate Obamacare subsidy plan – Washington Examiner

President Trump said Wednesday he does not support a bipartisan plan to stabilize Obamacare, saying the deal would bail out insurance companies “who have made a fortune” under Obamacare.

“I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made a fortune w/ O’Care,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, referencing Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made a fortune w/ O’Care.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017

Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top two members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, announced Tuesday a deal to fund insurer payments known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies for two years.

Trump ended the cost-sharing reduction subsidies last week, but he signaled support for the deal from Alexander and Murray during a press conference in the Rose Garden on Tuesday.

“It is a short-term solution, so that we don’t have this very dangerous little period — including dangerous periods for insurance companies,” the president said. “For a period of one year, two years, we will have a very good solution.”

Trump also told reporters he was aware of the negotiations between Alexander and Murray.

“Lamar has been working very, very hard with the Democratic — his colleagues on the other side, and Patty Murray is one of them, in particular,” the president said. “And they’re coming up and they’re very close to a short-term solution. The solution will be for about a year or two years, and it’ll get us over this intermediate hump.”

But hours later, in a speech before conservative donors and policy makers at an event for The Heritage Foundation, Trump appeared to walk back his initial support for the bipartisan deal.

“I’m pleased the Democrats have finally responded to my call for them to take responsibility for their Obamacare disaster and work with Republicans to provide much-needed relief to the American people,” Trump said. “While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray, and I do commend it, I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.”

Alexander said he spoke with Trump on Wednesday morning about the bipartisan deal, and told attendees of an Axios event in Washington the president “intends to review it carefully and see if he wants to add to it.”

In addition to funding the cost-sharing reduction subsidies for two years, the deal from Alexander and Murray would also allow insurance companies to sell “copper plans” to consumers who are older than 30.

States could also apply for waivers to adjust Obamacare’s rules, and the process for applying for and receiving those waivers from federal officials would be quicker.

The “bailout” label has been attached by several conservatives skeptical of giving billions of dollars to insurers. In 2016, the federal goverment gave out $7 billion in cost-sharing subsidies to insurers.

The subsidies go to insurers to reimburse them for lowering copays and deductibles for low-income Obamacare customers. Insurers are required to lower the out-of-pocket costs for low-income customers so experts predict they will raise premiums for everyone on Obamacare’s exchanges on the individual market, which is used by people that don’t get insurance through a job or the government, to recoup the costs.

The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that premiums could go up nearly 20 percent in 2018.

Reporter Robert King contributed to this story.

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Second judge rules against latest travel ban, saying Trump’s own words show it was aimed at Muslims – Washington Post

A federal judge in Maryland early Wednesday issued a second halt on the latest version of President Trump’s travel ban, asserting that the president’s own comments on the campaign trail and on Twitter convinced him that the directive was akin to an unconstitutional Muslim ban.

U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang issued a somewhat less complete halt on the ban than his counterpart in Hawaii did a day earlier, blocking the administration from enforcing the directive only on those who lacked a “bona fide” relationship with a person or entity in the United States, such as family members or some type of professional or other engagement in the United States.

[Federal judge blocks Trump’s third travel ban]

But in some ways, Chuang’s ruling was more personally cutting to Trump, as he said the president’s own words cast his latest attempt to impose a travel blockade as the “inextricable re-animation of the twice-enjoined Muslim ban.”

Omar Jadwat, who directs of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and represented those suing in Maryland over the ban, said: “Like the two versions before it, President Trump’s latest travel ban is still a Muslim ban at its core. And like the two before it, this one is going down to defeat in the courts.”

The third iteration of Trump’s travel ban had been set to go fully into effect early Wednesday, barring various types of travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. Even before Chuang’s ruling, though, a federal judge in Hawaii stopped it — at least temporarily — for all of the countries except North Korea and Venezuela.

That judge, Derrick K. Watson, blocked the administration from enforcing the measure on anyone from the six countries, not just those with a “bona fide” U.S. tie. But his ruling did not address whether Trump’s intent in imposing the directive was to discriminate against Muslims. He said the president had merely exceeded the authority Congress had given him in immigration law.

The Justice Department already had vowed to appeal Watson’s ruling, which the White House said “undercuts the President’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States.” Both Watson’s temporary restraining order and Chuang’s preliminary injunction are also interim measures, meant to maintain the status quo as the parties continue to argue the case.

The administration had cast the new measure as one that was necessary for national security, implemented only after officials conducted an extensive review of the information they needed to vet those coming to the United States. Those countries that were either unwilling or unable to produce such information even after negotiation, officials have said, were included on the banned list.

“These restrictions are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our Nation,” the White House said after Watson’s ruling. “We are therefore confident that the Judiciary will ultimately uphold the President’s lawful and necessary action and swiftly restore its vital protections for the safety of the American people.”

Like Watson’s order, Chuang’s 91-page ruling also found Trump had exceeded his authority under immigration law, but only partially.

The order — which has “no specified end date and no requirement of renewal” — violated a nondiscrimination provision in the law in that it blocked immigrants to the United States based on their nationality, Chuang wrote.

But Chuang said he could not determine, as Watson did, that Trump had violated a different part of federal immigration law requiring him to find entry of certain nonimmigrant travelers would be “detrimental” to U.S. interests before blocking them.

Chuang instead based much of his ruling on his assessment that Trump intended to ban Muslims, and thus his order had run afoul of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. When Trump was a presidential candidate in December 2015, Chuang wrote, he had promised a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and all of his comments since then seemed to indicate his various travel bans were meant to fulfill that promise.

After his second ban was blocked, Chuang wrote, Trump described the measure as a “watered down version” of his initial measure, adding, “we ought go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first place.” The president had then revoked and replaced his first travel ban, which had also been held up in court.

In August, with courts still weighing the second version, Chuang noted that Trump “endorsed what appears to be an apocryphal story involving General John J. Pershing and a purported massacre of Muslims with bullets dipped in a pig’s blood, advising people to ‘study what General Pershing . . . did to terrorists when caught.’ ”

[Trump said to study General Pershing. Here’s what the president got wrong.]

In September, as authorities worked on a new directive, Trump wrote on Twitter “the travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific — but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!”

Chuang had pressed challengers at a hearing this week on what the government would have to do to make the new ban legal, and he noted in his ruling that the new directive had changed from the previous iterations. The government, for example, had undertaken a review process before inking the new measure, and had added two non-Muslim majority countries to the banned list.

But Chuang wrote that he was unmoved that government had simply relied on the results of their review, and instead believed they made “certain subjective determinations that resulted in a disproportionate impact on majority-Muslim nations.” He wrote that the government offered “no evidence, even in the form of classified information submitted to the Court, showing an intelligence-based terrorism threat justifying a ban on entire nationalities,” and asserted that even the new measure “generally resembles President Trump’s earlier description of the Muslim ban.”

“The ‘initial’ announcement of the Muslim ban, offered repeatedly and explicitly through President Trump’s own statements, forcefully and persuasively expressed his purpose in unequivocal terms,” Chuang wrote.

The suits in federal court in Maryland had been brought by 23 advocacy groups and seven people who said they would be negatively impacted by the new ban.

Read more:

Why Trump’s latest travel ban included these eight countries

Why did the U.S. travel ban add Chad? No one seems quite sure.

Almost no North Koreans travel to the U.S., so why ban them?

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Deal to Shore Up Obamacare Faces Big Hurdles, Including Trump – Bloomberg

Senators may have struck a bipartisan deal to prop up Obamacare’s insurance exchanges, but it faces a tortuous path to becoming law.

As soon as the deal was announced Tuesday, the Trump administration was sending conflicting signals about the pact reached by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, which also faces ambivalence from some Republican senators and outright hostility from many House Republicans.

Coming days after a decision by President Donald Trump to scrap subsidy payments to Obamacare insurers, the deal is likely the only Obamacare legislation with a chance of passing Congress this year. It could help stem a flight by major insurers out of the individual insurance market in many states, with Americans due to begin signing up for 2018 coverage in two weeks.

But even though a number of Republicans are eager to prevent a collapse of the individual health insurance market, it would likely take a strong push by Trump to get it passed in both chambers.

Trump has appeared to try to straddle the divide in his party on Obamacare, both encouraging Alexander to reach a deal with Murray and reveling in dismantling the Affordable Care Act. Alexander said Trump pushed him in phone calls last week to reach a short-term deal to stabilize the Obamacare exchanges. But the president also gloated on Oct. 14 after shares of health insurers fell following his order to end payments to help cover the cost of policies for low-income consumers.

Trump’s Tweet

“Health Insurance stocks, which have gone through the roof during the ObamaCare years, plunged yesterday after I ended their Dems windfall!” he said on Twitter.

Trump acknowledged Tuesday that he had encouraged Alexander to reach a deal with Murray, but said he wanted to ultimately see states given blocks of money and be allowed to set up their own programs.

“The solution will be for about a year or two years; it’ll get us over this intermediate hump,” Trump told reporters.

But within an hour of his remarks, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told Bloomberg TV that “the president wasn’t interested in signing the original version of Alexander-Murray.” He added, “It could be packaged with some type of larger deal.”

Marc Short, the White House legislative director, emerged from a Tuesday lunch meeting where the deal was discussed saying the White House wants bigger concessions, including doing away with the part of the law requiring everyone to have insurance, either through their own policy or their employer.

Later, speaking at the Heritage Foundation’s annual President’s Club meeting, Trump added: “While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray — and I do commend it — I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.”

‘Limited First Step’

Alexander late Tuesday sought to assuage Republicans who may be wary of taking the limited action on a health program they campaigned to end altogether. On the Senate floor, he said the plan should be seen as an incremental move that can be followed later with other actions.

“Once we complete this limited first step we can take a second and a third step. I want to undersell this proposal instead of oversell it,” he said on the Senate floor. “It has significant advantages. But it is only a limited first step.”

The two-year deal would allow crucial subsidies to health insurers to start flowing again, potentially lowering insurance premiums for those in the program next year.

The package would give states new flexibility on how their Affordable Care Act markets are run. It will also encourage states to meld their markets together, and let more people buy low-cost, limited-coverage plans.

Consumer Protections

The flexibility would allow states to implement Obamacare in a way that provides customers coverage similar in affordability to plans under the current law. At the same time, states can’t degrade consumer protections Obamacare requires plans to offer, such as maternity care, mental health services and a ban on discrimination against pre-existing conditions, Murray said on the Senate floor. 

The agreement also restores some of the money the Trump administration slashed for outreach regarding open enrollment in Obamacare plans.

“We compromised on the outreach funding and have agreed we will spend about twice as much or more than President Trump wanted to spend but we will do most of that in grants to the states,” Alexander said.

The administration had cut advertising spending by 90 percent down to $10 million for the sign-up period starting at the beginning of November. It also reduced payments by 39 percent to groups that help people choose among their health insurance options. 

Perhaps the chief obstacle to the deal being enacted is the wariness of some key Republicans to embrace it.

Resistance in House

Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan praised Trump for planning to end the payments and he has never encouraged any short-term fix to stabilize the exchanges.

Resistance to the proposal is already building in the House. Representative Mark Walker, who heads the conservative Republican Study Committee, said that GOP lawmakers should be focused on repealing Obamacare, not propping it up.

“This bailout is unacceptable,” the North Carolina lawmaker said in a tweet from the group’s account.

But other conservatives sounded more open to the deal, including House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who praised Alexander and Murray and said the deal “is a good start and a welcome expansion from earlier discussions.”

In the Senate, Republican leaders still are recovering from the July collapse of their drive to replace Obamacare. Alexander told reporters this week that the leadership team was focused now on a tax overhaul and not on his efforts to stabilize the exchanges.

‘The Way Forward’

McConnell didn’t commit to putting the compromise plan on the Senate floor after a closed-door meeting Tuesday of all Republicans in the chamber, where Alexander summarized the accord.

“We haven’t had a chance to think about the way forward yet,” McConnell told reporters.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Alexander-Murray package got “broad support” during Senate Democrats’ weekly lunch at the Capitol.

“We think it’s a good solution,” he said. “I think there’s a consensus that we need short-term stability.”

The health-insurance subsidies, called cost-sharing reduction payments or CSRs, have been a major factor in the increased premiums plans say they’ll charge next year. The subsidies help lower-income people with co-pays and other costs they face when they see a doctor or pick up a prescription.

A federal court ruled the CSR payments improper because of how the 2010 law was written, and the matter is currently before an appeals court. The Trump administration announced last week that it was cutting them off, leaving health insurers and hospitals wondering what would happen for the rest of this year and for 2018.

$1 Billion in Losses

Funding the cost-sharing subsidies would spare insurers more than $1 billion in financial losses this year, and could let them lower premiums for 2018. But with rates already set for 2018, it’s not clear whether insurers and state regulators would be able to bring premiums down immediately.

As Republicans examine the emerging deal, at least one Senate Republican leader sounded optimistic.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Republican leader, said he sees potential for a “short-term bridge” similar to what Alexander and Murray are proposing. Republicans could do that and then later seek deeper changes to Obamacare, he said.

Thune said if a final stabilization measure gets broad support, it could be attached to another piece of legislation this fall or be considered on its own. The most likely candidate is the year-end spending bill needed to keep the government open after Dec. 8. 

GOP Senator John McCain of Arizona, whose thumbs-down vote doomed an Obamacare replacement in July, praised Alexander and Murray’s “good faith, bipartisan negotiations” in a statement and said he looks forward to voting for the bill.

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How Xi Jinping’s China stacks up with the rest of the world – CNN

But how does China really stack up with the rest of the world when it comes to the economy, the environment and its military?
When Xi assumed leadership of the ruling Chinese Communist Party in late 2012, the country was in pretty good shape.
While the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession had taken its toll on China’s economy, it still grew by 7.8% in 2012, and the year before had overtaken Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy.
The biggest challenges facing Xi were largely internal — corruption, party factional disputes, and environmental. The first two he dealt with quickly, by launching a (some say self-serving) anti-corruption campaign and centralizing power to make himself the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.
And while the environment remains a major issue, with water pollution and smog particular concerns throughout China, Xi’s government does appear to be taking action, and he has positioned himself, rhetorically at least, as something of a global climate leader, in contrast to US President Donald Trump.
How else has China changed during Xi’s first five years in power, and how does it stack up against other major economies?
China has transformed from a socialist system where workers could be secure in “iron rice bowl” jobs — their employment and welfare supposedly guaranteed for life — to a freewheeling and often brutal capitalist system with record levels of labor unrest.
Up to 40 million jobs were cut in the state sector from 1995 to 2002, and while many were able to find employment in private businesses, others saw the ground give way beneath them and stable futures slip away.
Unemployment is therefore an even more sensitive topic in China than most countries, and one Xi has grappled with since he assumed power. Analysts say that worker unrest is one of the chief concerns of Beijing, and the party has worked to avoid similar mass layoffs.
While unemployment has seen a marginal improvement under Xi, from 4.13% in 2011 to 3.95 this year, that may not last.
The government said last year it wants to cut at least 1.8 million coal and steel jobs in an effort to reduce excess capacity in those sectors.
Beijing has also taken aim at “zombie firms,” state-owned companies which have stopped operating but keep staff on the rolls to avoid social unrest. Some reports have suggested as many as five million further jobs could end up being cut.
While unemployment remains a major concern, overall economic growth has been solid, and average incomes have increased from $5,060 in 2011 to $8,260 in 2016.
The government also appears to be getting income inequality under control. While still one of the most unequal countries in the world, the gap between richest and poorest has shrunk slightly over Xi’s first term.

ENVIRONMENT

In recent years, China’s capital Beijing has become synonymous with smog. While this is perhaps unfair — Delhi suffers pollution just as bad if not worse, as do several other cities — the environment has become a major issue for China’s leaders, who once attempted to censor and ignore air quality indexes and other pollution problems.
From 2010 to 2015, per capita CO2 emissions from factories, coal power plants and vehicles in China grew from 6.7 tons to 7.54 tons, and the country remains the largest emitter of all greenhouse gasses.
The government has said it wants to change this however, with China’s ambassador to the UN Liu Jieyi saying it was committed to “reducing carbon intensity by 40-45% in 2020 compared with 2005 and reaching the peak of carbon emissions by 2030 or even earlier.”
“There has been an embracing of environmental issues generally in China over the last few years,” Matthew Evans, dean of science at the University of Hong Kong, told CNN earlier this year.
This has been seen in major investments in renewables, with China becoming a world leader in solar energy in particular. The amount of energy the country generated from wind and solar has risen from 64 gigawatts in 2011 to 287 last year, well ahead of the US at 123 gigawatts.
However, some experts have said China’s rhetoric does not match its practice, pointing to the country off-shoring much of its emissions, moving investments in coal and other dirty energy to other countries.

POPULATION

One of the most dramatic policy changes during Xi’s first term was China’s scrapping of the one-child policy, an often-brutally enforced form of population control that had been in place for over three decades.
The policy was originally adopted because China’s leaders were worried their population would grow faster than it could be provided for, it was abandoned when they realized they were facing the opposite problem.
Forcing couples to only have one child, combined with traditional preferences for sons, created a huge gender imbalance and millions of surplus young men (though recent research has cast doubt on official figures). It also created a major age imbalance, with one child left to support their aging parents and two sets of grandparents in a country with only limited welfare provisions.
The percentage of China’s population aged over 65 has grown from 8.59% in 2011 to over 10% in 2016, and while that pales in comparison to a staggering 26% in Japan or 15% in the US, it is almost double the 5.8% of neighboring India.
Demographers don’t expect the reversal of the one-child policy to lead to a baby boom, meaning China will have to come to terms with the strains of an aging society: higher health and welfare costs, a shrinking workforce, and even lower fertility rates.
Another major shift under Xi has been a greater focus on nationalism and militarism, with the President bringing the People’s Liberation Army firmly under his control and holding a series of major military parades and drills.
This has corresponded with a more muscular foreign policy: Xi’s government has engaged in territorial disputes in both the East and South China Sea — where China has been building up and fortifying reefs and islets despite an international court ruling against them — and in the Himalayas, which saw a tense, months-long standoff between the PLA and Indian troops earlier this year.
Since Xi took power, military spending has increased from 1.82% of GDP to 1.92%, still a long way off the 3.29% the US spends, while the size of the PLA has remained fairly steady at around 2.2 million active service members, despite calls from Xi and others to modernize the country’s armed forces and reduce the number of troops.

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