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Why the CBO Scares Donald Trump

The Trump administration declared its war against facts early, and with panache, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer striding to a podium the day after the inauguration to lay out a series of patently untrue assertions, and Kellyanne Conway christening them “alternative facts” the following day.

The White House’s disdain for facts has become such a given that it was quickly invoked to explain the administration’s broadside against the Congressional Budget Office, which began days before CBO had even completed its analysis of the House’s Obamacare replacement plan. New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, for example, tweeted:

But the attempt to undermine CBO isn’t just about independent sources of information so much as independent conclusions. It represents a different war, or at least a different front, than the war on facts. It’s an assault on independent analysis.

CBO has long been an object of derision for partisans of both stripes who have quibbled with the methods the office has used to assess the cost of bills. In 2009, President Obama complained that the...

Even Trump's Staunchest Defenders Won't Back His Wiretap Claim

Donald Trump’s ability to make outlandish claims is not unusual; after all, if you’re unconstrained by facts or evidence, there’s no limit to the claims you can make. His success has depended on convincing other people to agree with, or at least to publicly back his claims. Mexico will pay for the wall? Sure. Widespread voter fraud? Of course. Terrorist attacks in Sweden? Why not?

But for once, the president seems to have made a claim that even his staunchest defenders—including those whose job is to do so—are unwilling to stand behind: his allegation that Barack Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’  just before the victory.”

During an interview with Cleveland TV station WEWS on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence was questioned on the allegation. Reporter John Kosich (no, not a typo, and not the governor), asked, “Yes or no—do you believe that President Obama did that?”

Pence declined to answer directly. “Well, what I can say is that the president and our administration are very confident that the congressional committees in the House and Senate that are examining issues surrounding the last election, the run-up to the last election, will do that in a...

President Trump Meets the Congress

Sometimes in politics, you’ve just got to give the people what they want.

Donald Trump proved an expert at that particular obligation during his campaign, enthralling his crowds like a rock legend performing his greatest hits—the mockery of his opponents, the off-the-cuff anecdotes and asides, pledging again and again to build that big, beautiful wall.

On Tuesday night, however, the people arrayed before President Trump were not the adoring faithful, but a considerably fussier bunch: the United States Congress. These 535 men and women will determine whether the bulk of Trump’s ambitious agenda becomes a reality. And they (or most importantly, the Republican half) wanted a different, more focused speech—a bit more hope and optimism, at least some substance if not specifics, unifying more than browbeating, an address they could go on TV and call, yes, presidential.

For a full hour, Trump gave it to them. He stayed on script. He reached out, at least rhetorically, to Democrats with calls for infrastructure spending and paid family leave. He didn’t digress into attacks on the press, or his other enemies. It was a subdued speech, even a little staid, and Republicans loved it all the more...

Trump's Budget Proposal Threatens Democratic and Republican Ambitions

President Trump reportedly wants to exclude Social Security and Medicare from budget cuts while severely retrenching other domestic federal functions. That represents a frontal challenge not only to congressional Democrats but also to Republican budget hawks led by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

From one direction, the administration’s emerging budget blueprint represents a clear generational tilt toward the “gray” over the “brown”: It would elevate the spending priorities of a preponderantly white-and Republican leaning-older population over the needs of heavily diverse, and mostly Democratic, younger generations. But the plan would also prioritize the demands of seniors over the long-running effort by Ryan-led House Republicans to restrain the long-term growth in entitlement spending––which almost all budget experts consider the key to controlling long-term federal deficits.

“If you want to solve the budget program, and you must, you have to look at those programs,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a conservative thinktank, and former director of the Congressional Budget Office.

In both respects, the emerging budget proposal––like Trump’s bristling criticism of free trade, foreign alliances and even legal immigration––would mark another milestone in his drive to reconfigure the Republican Party as a nationalist and...

Trump's Performative Presidency

The most enduring image for the Obama presidency may prove to be the photograph that Pete Souza took of the president and his aides during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. There’s no one reason for that—the moment was historic, the tension is engraved on the faces of the participants, the composition is nearly classical—but one reason is that it was such a rare look at what the presidency is like behind closed doors, in rooms full of people with security clearances. It’s like Aaron Sorkin, but in real life, and with blessedly less dialogue.

There are, however, other ways of getting a look inside the presidency at a moment of drama. For example, you can join the Mar-a-Lago club (initiation fees are a steal at just $200,000)—or for those on a budget, be Facebook friends with a Mar-a-Lago member. As news broke over the weekend that North Korea had launched a ballistic missile, President Trump was dining at the club with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and some people present in the dining room got to see a crisis unfolding. From one perspective, this is a dangerous breach of security and protocol...

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