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Monthly Archives: February 2020


“Stable Genius” shows his lack of knowledge once again. MA

Politics

jzeballos@businessinsider.com (Joseph Zeballos-Roig)

Business InsiderFebruary 27, 2020, 12:33 PM CST

  • President Trump defended his huge CDC budget cuts during a press conference on the federal government’s response to the coronavirus.
  • “I’m a businessperson. I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them,” Trump said. “When we need them, we can get them back very quickly.”
  • Experts said restoring funding to a government agency could be a cumbersome process, which requires an act from Congress that needs to be signed into law.
  • The White House has spent two yearscutting the CDC’s budget.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump defended his huge budget cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during a Wednesday press conference on the federal government’s response to the coronavirus.

He said it was easy to bolster the public-health agency and cited his business approach toward running the federal government.

“I’m a businessperson. I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them,” Trump said. “When we need them, we can get them back very quickly.”

The president said some of the experts targeted by the cuts “hadn’t been used for many years” and that additional federal money and new medical staffers could be obtained swiftly since “we know all the good people.”

The remarks came as CDC experts warned that the virus’ spread in the US was “inevitable” and urged Americans to prepare. But the Trump administration has spent the past two years cutting critical positions and gutting programs, which health experts said weakened the federal government’s ability to manage a health crisis.

In 2018, the White House eliminated a position on the National Security Council tasked with coordinating a global pandemic response. The CDC that same year also axed 80% of its efforts to combat disease outbreaks overseas because its funds were depleted.

In its latest budget proposal, the Trump administration proposed a 16% cut to CDC funding — even as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar seeks emergency spending from lawmakers to combat the coronavirus.

It has spread to at least 47 countries so far after originating in China. Europe has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus. The US has 60 confirmed cases so far, though the vast majority of them came from infections overseas.

Jen Kates, the director of the Global Health and HIV Policy Program at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in an email to Business Insider that the latest round of proposed budget cuts “would certainly hamper the work of the agency.”

She said CDC has “already been grappling with tight resources for addressing the nation’s public health, as well as domestic and global health security threats.”

“To date, such funding has been episodic, typically coming only after outbreaks hit a tipping point and rarely being enough to shore up resources in the long run,” Kates said.

Other experts elaborated on the cumbersome process to shore up a government agency that’s been battered by rounds of budget cuts.

Don Moynihan, a public-management professor at Georgetown University, said in a tweet that “once you have gutted institutional capacity you cannot, in fact, quickly restore it.”

Appropriating federal money to the CDC would require a bill from Congress that passes both chambers and gets Trump’s signature, Bobby Kogan, the chief mathematician for the Senate Budget Committee, said.

“In addition to requiring a new law to be passed to hire people, you have to actually, you know, spend the time to hire people,” Kogan said in a tweet.

Business Insider

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Smartest Idea I have heard in this election season.MA

Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times

18 hrs ago

 

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

 

If this election turns out to be just between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath, we will be in a terrible, terrible place as a country. How do we prevent that?

That’s all I am thinking about right now. My short answer is that the Democrats have to do something extraordinary — forge a national unity ticket the likes of which they have never forged before. And that’s true even if Democrats nominate someone other than Bernie Sanders.

What would this super ticket look like? Well, I suggest Sanders — and Michael Bloomberg, who seems to be his most viable long-term challenger — lay it out this way:

“I want people to know that if I am the Democratic nominee these will be my cabinet choices — my team of rivals. I want Amy Klobuchar as my vice president. Her decency, experience and moderation will be greatly appreciated across America and particularly in the Midwest. I want Mike Bloomberg (or Bernie Sanders) as my secretary of the Treasury. Our plans for addressing income inequality are actually not that far apart, and if we can blend them together it will be great for the country and reassure markets. I want Joe Biden as my secretary of state. No one in our party knows the world better or has more credibility with our allies than Joe. I will ask Elizabeth Warren to serve as health and human services secretary. No one could bring more energy and intellect to the task of expanding health care for more Americans than Senator Warren.

“I want Kamala Harris for attorney general. She has the toughness and integrity needed to clean up the corrupt mess Donald Trump has created in our Justice Department. I would like Mayor Pete as homeland security secretary; his intelligence and military background would make him a quick study in that job. I would like Tom Steyer to head a new cabinet position: secretary of national infrastructure. We’re going to rebuild America, not just build a wall on the border with Mexico. And I am asking Cory Booker, the former mayor of Newark, to become secretary of housing and urban development. Who would bring more passion to the task of revitalizing our inner cities than Cory?

“I am asking Mitt Romney to be my commerce secretary. He is the best person to promote American business and technology abroad — and it is vital that the public understands that my government will be representing all Americans, including Republicans. I would like Andrew Yang to be energy secretary, overseeing our nuclear stockpile and renewable energy innovation. He’d be awesome.

“I am asking Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to serve as our U.N. ambassador. Can you imagine how our international standing would improve with youth worldwide with her representing next-gen America? And I want Senator Michael Bennet, the former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, to be my secretary of education. No one understands education reform better than he does. Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna would be an ideal secretary of labor, balancing robots and workers to create “new collar” jobs.

“Finally, I am asking William H. McRaven, the retired Navy admiral who commanded the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014 and oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, to be my defense secretary. Admiral McRaven, more than any other retired military officer, has had the courage and integrity to speak out against the way President Trump has politicized our intelligence agencies.

Only last week, McRaven wrote an essay in The Washington Post decrying Trump’s firing of Joe Maguire as acting director of national intelligence — the nation’s top intelligence officer — for doing his job when he had an aide brief a bipartisan committee of Congress on Russia’s renewed efforts to tilt our election toward Trump.

“Edmund Burke,” wrote McRaven, “the Irish statesman and philosopher, once said: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’”

If Bernie or Bloomberg or whoever emerges to head the Democratic ticket brings together such a team of rivals, I am confident it will defeat Trump in a landslide. But if progressives think they can win without the moderates — or the moderates without the progressives — they are crazy. And they’d be taking a huge risk with the future of the country by trying.

And I mean a huge risk. Back in May 2018, the former House speaker John Boehner declared: “There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”

It’s actually not napping anymore. It’s dead.

And I will tell you the day it died. It was just last week, when Trump sacked Maguire for advancing the truth and replaced him with a loyalist, an incompetent political hack, Richard Grenell. Grenell is the widely disliked U.S. ambassador to Germany, a post for which he is also unfit. Grenell is now purging the intelligence service of Trump critics. How are we going to get unvarnished, nonpolitical intelligence analysis when the message goes out that if your expert conclusions disagree with Trump’s wishes, you’re gone?

I don’t accept, but can vaguely understand, Republicans’ rallying around Trump on impeachment. But when Republicans, the self-proclaimed national security party — folks like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton — don’t lift a finger to stop Trump’s politicization of our first line of defense — the national intelligence directorate set up after 9/11 — then the Republican Party is not asleep. It’s dead and buried.

And that is why a respected, nonpartisan military intelligence professional like Bill McRaven felt compelled to warn what happens when good people are silent in the face of evil. Our retired generals don’t go public like that very often. But he was practically screaming, “This is a four-alarm fire, a category 5 hurricane.” And the G.O.P. response? Silence.

Veteran political analyst E.J. Dionne, in his valuable new book, “Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates Can Unite to Save Our Country,” got this exactly right: We have no responsible Republican Party anymore. It is a deformed Trump personality cult. If the country is going to be governed responsibly, that leadership can come only from Democrats and disaffected Republicans courageous enough to stand up to Trump. It is crucial, therefore, argues Dionne, that moderate and progressive Democrats find a way to build a governing coalition together.

Neither can defeat the other. Neither can win without the other. Neither can govern without the other.

If they don’t join together — if the Democrats opt for a circular firing squad — you can kiss the America you grew up in goodbye.

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Trump says he was ‘never a fan’ of Harvey Weinstein, says Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton ‘loved him’

Michael Collins and Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY
USA TODAY

NEW DELHI – President Donald Trump said Tuesday he was “never a fan” of Harvey Weinstein and told reporters that Democrats should return campaign money they collected from him.

“I was never a fan of Harvey Weinstein,” Trump told reporters in India, where he is on a 36-hour trip. “I was just not a fan of his. I knew him a little bit. The people that liked him were the Democrats. Michelle Obama loved him. Hillary Clinton loved him.”

A jury in New York found Weinstein guilty on Monday of a first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape but acquitted him on the two most serious charges of predatory sexual assault and one charge of first-degree rape.

Politics updates, once a day: Get them distilled, explained and delivered straight to your inbox

The split verdict followed a weeks-long trial featuring graphic testimony from six of the movie mogul’s tearful accusers.

Weinstein will be sentenced on March 11. He faces a prison sentence of at least five years and possibly as long as 25 years. The acquittal on the most serious charges spared him the possibility of life in prison.

The New York trial is considered historic because it’s the first major celebrity sex-crime trial of the #MeToo era. It culminated more than two years of world-wide condemnation of Weinstein and scores of other powerful men in multiple industries for an array of alleged crimes and misconduct.

Trump himself has faced allegations of sexual misconduct. At least 20 women have accused him of sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior dating as far back as the 1970s. He has never been charged with a crime involving any of those allegations.

Contributing: Patrick Ryan and Maria Puente

 


Another case of  sleight of hand by TOTUS, abetted by a neer do well Congress.MA


By Paul Krugman, New York Times, FEB. 24,2020

Opinion Columnist

It may have slipped by you, but last week Donald Trump suggested that he may be about to give U.S. farmers — who have yet to see any benefits from his much-touted trade deal with China — another round of government aid. This would be on top of the billions in farm aid that Trump has already delivered, costing taxpayers several times as much as Barack Obama’s auto bailout — a bailout Republicans fiercely denounced as “welfare” and “crony capitalism” at the time.

If this sounds to you like a double standard — Democratic bailouts bad, Republican bailouts good — that’s because it is. But it should be seen as part of a broader pattern of breathtaking fiscal hypocrisy, in which the G.O.P. went from insisting that federal debt posed an existential threat under Obama to complete indifference to budget deficits under Trump. This 180-degree turn is, as far as I can tell, the most cynical policy reversal of modern times.

And this cynicism may win Trump the election.

If Trump does win, there will be many recriminations among Democrats, especially about the vanity candidates who continue to fragment the field despite having no realistic chance of becoming the nominee. But while these recriminations will have much truth to them, the biggest factor working in Trump’s favor is a strong economy — not as strong as he claims, but good enough to provide a significant political lift (unless growth is derailed by the coronavirus).

And what’s driving the U.S. economy now is the very deficit spending Republicans pretended to be horrified by during the Obama years.

Trump likes to bad-mouth the Obama economy. In reality, from 2010 onward, America experienced steady growth in both G.D.P. and employment — and there was no upward break in the trend after 2016. But recovery from the 2007-9 recession could and should have been faster.

What slowed recovery? Unprecedented fiscal austerity. In particular, government spending grew far more slowly during the Obama recovery than it did under either George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan.

Does fiscal austerity hurt growth? Yes. We’ve seen this fact demonstrated again and again over the past decade, most recently in Japan, where an ill-advised effort by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to reduce the budget deficit sent the economy plunging at a 6 percent annual rate. And the austerity of the Obama years definitely slowed recovery; without those spending cuts, unemployment might well have fallen to 4 percent as early as 2014.

So who was responsible for all this austerity? The answer, overwhelmingly, is Republicans in Congress. Remember, they threatened to create a financial crisis by refusing to raise the debt limit unless Obama cut spending.

Again, they insisted that austerity was essential because government debt was an enormous threat to America. But they lost all interest in deficits as soon as one of their own occupied the White House. Trump inherited a $600 billion deficit; he’s blown that up to $1 trillion — and hardly a single Republican in Congress has expressed dismay.

How much have Trump’s deficits boosted the economy? Well, they’re poorly designed stimulus; the biggest item was tax cuts for corporations, which corporations used to buy back stock rather than to expand their businesses or raise wages. But while the Trump stimulus probably didn’t deliver much bang per buck, it involved a heck of a lot of bucks.

And Trump’s economy also gets a lift from the fact that Republicans have ended the de facto economic sabotage that prevailed throughout the Obama years.

Incidentally, the experience of the past three years also refutes two of the main arguments used to justify the disastrous turn to austerity after the financial crisis — claims that deficits would hurt confidence and lead to a sharp rise in interest rates. None of this has happened.

So how can Democrats run against Republican fiscal hypocrisy? Not by warning about the dangers of deficits — that’s both wrong on the substance and politically ineffective, because nobody cares.

They might do better by pointing out that while Trump has rushed to cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, he has been shortchanging the future. Ignoring his campaign promises, he has done nothing to raise much-needed spending on infrastructure. And despite its obvious indifference to budget deficits, his administration seems determined to deprive children of the adequate health care and nutrition they will need to become productive adults.

And there’s an important lesson for Democrats going beyond this election — namely, how to deal with what I’ve called the Very Serious People, centrists who spent years insisting that government debt was the most important issue of our time (and also believing, or pretending to believe, that Republicans were sincere in their supposed concern about debt).

The V.S.P.s have gone oddly silent under Trump — funny how that works — but they’ll surely be back if Democrats retake the White House. But they have no idea what they’re talking about, and never did. If and when they re-emerge, Democrats should ignore them.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on FacebookTwitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Paul Krugman has been an Opinion columnist since 2000 and is also a Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He won the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on international trade and economic geography. @PaulKrugman

A version of this article appears in print on Feb. 25, 2020, Section A, Page 26 of the New York edition with the headline: Republican Cynicism May Win Trump Re-election. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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By CALVIN WOODWARD, HOPE YEN and JOSH BOAK, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — In their boisterous presidential debate, several Democrats sold short the health care plans of rivals and Mike Bloomberg distorted his position on the “stop and frisk” police strategy when he was New York City mayor. In an audacious league of his own, President Donald Trump celebrated the elimination of a tax that still exists and went deep and wide in distorting what he’s done in office.

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)© Provided by Associated Press President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)A look at some of their recent claims and reality:

TAXES

TRUMP: “We got rid of it. No more death tax, no more inheritance tax.” — Colorado rally Thursday.

THE FACTS: False. The “death” tax is still alive.

He’s referring to the estate tax, also known as the inheritance tax. He didn’t get “rid of it.”

The 2017 tax overhaul doubled the threshold at which the estate tax gets levied. A couple worth less than $22.4 million would avoid the tax. But the increase of the threshold isn’t permanent. It’s set to expire in 2026.

TRUMP, on the effects of the estate tax on people inheriting family farms: “You know what? They go out and they would borrow a lot of money and they would lose the farms. The number is staggering.” — Colorado rally.

THE FACTS: He’s inflating the peril to family farms from the estate tax, which is aimed at the hugely wealthy. After his 2017 tax cuts, the Agriculture Department published estimates that 38,106 farm estates would be created in 2018. Of those, only 230 would have to file an estate tax return and only 133 would have any estate tax liability.

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TRADE

TRUMP: “If our formally targeted farmers need additional aid until such time as the trade deals with China, Mexico, Canada and others fully kick in, that aid will be provided by the federal government, paid for out of the massive tariff money coming into the USA!” — tweet Friday in all capital letters.

THE FACTS: That’s a flatly false account of where the money for the farm subsidies comes from. It comes from U.S. taxpayers. There is no “massive tariff money coming into” the country, from which the subsidies could be drawn.

Since the start of his trade war with China, Trump has been consistently deceptive about who is paying for it. Tariffs are principally paid by U.S. importers and those costs are usually passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices for goods. China and other exporters are not cutting the U.S. a check. The money to help farmers hurt by the trade war comes from the U.S. treasury at the expense of other federal programs and the debt.

President Donald Trump delivers the commencement address at the "Hope for Prisoners" graduation ceremony, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)© Provided by Associated Press President Donald Trump delivers the commencement address at the “Hope for Prisoners” graduation ceremony, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says household income takes a hit from the tariffs. It estimated last year that the tariffs then in play would bring down average inflation-adjusted household income by $580 from 2018 to 2020.

STOP AND FRISK

BLOOMBERG, on the stop-and-frisk policing policy when he was New York City mayor: “What happened, however, was it got out of control and when we discovered — I discovered — that we were doing many, many, too many stop and frisks, we cut 95% of them out.” — Democratic debate Wednesday.

THE FACTS: Bloomberg did not have a sudden crisis of conscience as mayor on stop and frisk, leading to its decline. He began cutting back on the practice under threat of a class-action lawsuit and defended the practice up until a few months ago.

In Bloomberg’s first 10 years in office, the number of stop-and-frisk actions increased nearly 600% from when he took office in 2002, reaching a peak of nearly 686,000 stops in 2011. That declined to about 192,000 documented stops in 2013, his final year as mayor.Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks during a campaign event, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Bloomberg achieved his claim of a 95% cut by cherry-picking the quarterly high point of 203,500 stops in the first quarter of 2012 and comparing that with the 12,485 stops in the last quarter of 2013.

His campaign has said the decline started in 2012 after he implemented better police training. But the police department announced the new efforts just as a federal judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit by New York residents alleging they were being unfairly stopped. Ultimately, a judge found in 2013 that stop-and-frisk intentionally and systematically violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of people by wrongly targeting black and Hispanic men. Bloomberg blasted the ruling at the time, calling it a “dangerous decision made by a judge who I think does not understand how policing works and what is compliant with the U.S. Constitution.”

Even after leaving office at the end of 2013, Bloomberg continued to defend the practice and only apologized a few weeks before declaring his 2020 candidacy for president.

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COAL

BLOOMBERG, citing his philanthropy’s work with the Sierra Club: “Already we’ve closed 304 out of the 530 coal fire plants in the United States, and we’ve closed 80 out of the 200 or 300 that are in Europe.” — Democratic debate.

THE FACTS: He’s wrongly taking credit for driving the U.S. coal industry to its knees.

The U.S. coal industry’s plunge is largely due to market forces, above all drops in prices of natural gas and renewable energy that have made costlier coal-fired power plants much less competitive for electric utilities. Bloomberg has indeed contributed huge sums to efforts to close coal plants and fight climate change, but against the backdrop of an industry besieged on other fronts.

U.S. coal production peaked in 2008, but since then has fallen steadily. That’s due largely to a boom in oil and gas production from U.S. shale, begun under the Obama administration, that made natural gas far more abundant and cheaper, and falling prices for wind and solar energy, partly because of improving technology in the renewable sector.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reaffirmed in a report in December the extent to which the market has turned away from coal.

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HEALTH CARE

TRUMP, on Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan: “Think of this: 180 million Americans are going to lose health care coverage under this plan. But if you don’t mind, I’m not going to criticize it tonight. Let them keep going and I’ll start talking about it about two weeks out from the election.” — Arizona rally Wednesday.

THE FACTS: That’s a thorough misrepresentation of the Vermont senator’s plan as well as similar plans by Democrats in Congress. People wouldn’t “lose” coverage. Under Sanders, they would be covered by a new and universal government plan that replaces private and job-based insurance. Democrats who stop short of proposing to replace private and job-based insurance would offer an option for people to take a Medicare-like plan, also toward the goal of ensuring universal coverage.

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ELIZABETH WARREN on Amy Klobuchar’s health plan: “It is like a Post-it note, insert plan here. … Amy, I looked online at your plan. It’s two paragraphs.” — Democratic debate.

THE FACTS: That’s not true. Klobuchar’s health care policies run thousands of words online, addressing coverage, substance abuse and mental health, prescription drugs and the elderly. Some of her material lacks specifics found in the plans of several of her rivals. Yet aspects of her agenda are grounded in detailed legislation led or supported by the senator from Minnesota.

It’s true that Klochuchar’s main health policy page devotes two paragraphs to summarizing her way of achieving universal coverage. But that’s not the extent of her plan.

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SANDERS, to Pete Buttigieg: “Let’s level, Pete. Under your plan, which is a maintenance continuation of the status quo. …“ — Democratic debate.

WARREN: Buttigieg’s health care plan is “not a plan. It’s a PowerPoint.”

THE FACTS: It’s more than the status quo and more than a PowerPoint presentation. Buttigieg’s plan would cover almost all U.S. citizens and legal residents, even if it’s not as far reaching as the proposals of Sanders and Warren, a Massachusetts senator.

An analysis of health care overhaul plans by the Urban Institute and the Commonwealth Fund found that an approach like the one advocated by Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, would reduce the number of uninsured people from more than 32 million to less than 7 million. Those 7 million or so would mainly be people who are in the country illegally.

The proposal from Buttigieg features a new government-sponsored “public option” plan that even people with employer-sponsored coverage could join voluntarily.

Warren’s put-down of Buttigieg’s plan comes after she reconsidered her own approach to “Medicare for All,” deciding to proceed in stages. She would first expand coverage by building on existing programs and postpone the push for a system fully run by the government until the third year of her presidency.

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TRUMP: “We are now offering plans that are up to 60% less expensive than they were, and it is better health care.” — Arizona rally.

THE FACTS: Cheaper, yes. But not cheaper and better.

The bargain health insurance plans Trump talks about are cheaper because they skimp on benefits such as maternity or prescription drug coverage and do not guarantee coverage of preexisting conditions.

The short-term plans the Trump administration is promoting as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act provide up to 12 months of coverage and can be renewed for up to 36 months.

Premiums for the plans are about one-third the cost of fuller insurance coverage. They’re intended for people who want an individual health insurance policy but make too much money to qualify for “Obamacare” subsides.

___

TRUMP: “We are protecting people with preexisting conditions … we are trying to get rid of ‘Obamacare’ … we are trying to get rid, so we can give you a great health-care plan and protect preexisting conditions.” — Arizona rally.

THE FACTS: Not really. People with preexisting medical problems have health insurance protections because of Obama’s health care law. As Trump notes, he is trying to dismantle it.

One of Trump’s major alternatives to Obama’s law — short-term health insurance — doesn’t have to cover preexisting conditions. Meanwhile, his administration has been pressing in court for full repeal of the Obama-era law, including provisions that protect people with preexisting conditions from health insurance discrimination.

He and congressional Republicans say they would put new protections in place, but they have not spelled them out.

With Obama’s law still in place, preexisting conditions continue to be covered by regular individual health insurance plans. Insurers must take all applicants, regardless of medical history, and charge the same standard premiums to healthy people and those who had medical problems before or when they signed up.

Before the Affordable Care Act, any insurer could deny coverage — or charge more — to anyone with a preexisting condition who was seeking to buy an individual policy.

___

PRESIDENTIAL POWERS

TRUMP, on one of the people who benefited from his round of pardons and sentence commutations: “Rod Blagojevich did not sell the Senate seat. He served 8 years in prison, with many remaining. He paid a big price. Another Comey and gang deal!” — tweet Wednesday.

THE FACTS: That’s misleading at best. The FBI closed in on Blagojevich when he was trying to make the sale. He was convicted of trying to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat as well as trying to shake down a children’s hospital. Trump commuted the sentence of the former Illinois governor on Tuesday.

James Comey, the FBI director fired by Trump, had nothing to do with the case. Comey was working in the private sector when Blagojevich was indicted, tried and convicted. As for Comey’s “gang,” Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor who brought the case against Blagojevich, is a Comey friend and one of his lawyers.

___

TRUMP: “I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country.” — remarks Tuesday to reporters.

THE FACTS: That’s disputed.

Several veterans of Obama’s administration described Trump’s assertion as simply wrong on the law, while conservative legal minds say they think Trump is right.

“While the president is in charge constitutionally, as a matter of good policy, presidents have kept law enforcement at arms length,” said John Yoo, a University of California at Berkeley law school professor and Justice Department lawyer during President George W. Bush’s Republican administration. “Neutrality in law enforcement is important if the government is to have the credibility and integrity to convince judges and juries, who are the ones who ultimately render the verdict.”

Trump’s push for leniency for convicted confidant Roger Stone drew condemnation from more than 2,400 former Justice Department officials who served in Democratic and Republican administrations.

Martin Lederman, a Georgetown law professor and former Obama Justice Department official, said on Twitter that Congress, not the president, gives the authority to prosecute to the attorney general. It’s also the attorney general’s responsibility, Lederman said, to stand up to a president who charts an unlawful course, “knowing that it might … lead to removal.”

Chris Lu, who managed Obama’s Cabinet in his first term, said the Obama White House followed its predecessors in adhering to strict rules on who could communicate with the Justice Department and on what topics.

“What Trump is suggesting is at odds with this longstanding precedent and dangerous to the principle of impartial justice,” Lu said.

___

Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Ellen Knickmeyer, Eric Tucker, Mark Sherman and Paul Wiseman in Washington, Jonathan Lemire in New York, and Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed to this report.

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Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd

Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APFactCheck

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The EPA under TOTUS (Trump) is being gutted, the scientists who once provided the science behind climate science and its affects as well as the effects of commercial oil and gas exploration on protected Government lands have all been replaced by the very people who are seeking to exploit those lands. The “business man” who so many of his base supporters voted is doing business as he has always done -to his benefit alone. His loyal supporters have not been convinced of how dangerous he is. Now that the neer do well Congress has essentially set him free, the real TRUMP will emerge and as always with Tyrannical despots the people will suffer for it. We (all of us) have an opportunity to stop him with our vote and at the same time make big changes in the Congress that currently supports him. There is no better country than ours and we have handed it over to a miscreant manager with no appreciable skills beyond the constant stream of lies and deceit flowing from the bowels of our White House. For all of the reasons Trump supporters voted for him are the same reasons we need to vote him out. I am reminded of a quote from Edmund Burke (1796-1860 ) “The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse”. WE are currently approaching a dangerous time if TOTUS gets a second term.

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William H. McRaven
a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Joseph Maguire© Matt McClain/The Washington Post Joseph MaguireEditor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman and philosopher, once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Over the course of the past three years, I have watched good men and women, friends of mine, come and go in the Trump administration — all trying to do something — all trying to do their best. Jim Mattis, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Sue Gordon, Dan Coats and, now, Joe Maguire, who until this week was the acting director of national intelligence.

I have known Joe for more than 40 years. There is no better officer, no better man and no greater patriot. He served for 36 years as a Navy SEAL. In 2004, he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral and was chosen to command all of Naval Special Warfare, including the SEALs. Those were dark days for the SEALs. Our combat losses from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the highest in our history, and Joe and his wife, Kathy, attended every SEAL funeral, providing comfort and solace to the families of the fallen.

But it didn’t stop there. Not a day went by that the Maguires didn’t reach out to some Gold Star family, some wounded SEAL, some struggling warrior. Every loss was personal, every family precious. When Joe retired in 2010, he tried the corporate world. But his passion for the Special Operations soldiers was so deep that he left a lucrative job and took the position as the president of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that pays for educating the children of fallen warriors.

In 2018, Joe was asked to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, a job he knew well from his last assignment as a vice admiral. He accepted, but within months of his arrival came the announcement of Coats’s departure as director of national intelligence. Maguire didn’t seek to fill the job; he was asked to do it by the president. At first he declined, suggesting that Sue Gordon, Coats’s deputy, would be better suited for the job.

But the president chose Maguire. And, like most of these good men and women, he came in with the intent to do his very best, to follow the rules, to follow the law and to follow what was morally right. Within a few weeks of taking the assignment, he found himself embroiled in the Ukraine whistleblower case. Joe told the White House that, if asked, he would testify, and he would tell the truth. He did. In short order, he earned the respect of the entire intelligence community. They knew a good man was at the helm. A man they could count on, a man who would back them, a man whose integrity was more important than his future employment.

But, of course, in this administration, good men and women don’t last long. Joe was dismissed for doing his job: overseeing the dissemination of intelligence to elected officials who needed that information to do their jobs.

As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.

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Hey Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins and Rob Portman, do you think TOTUS has learned his lesson and will do better now? Right now TOTUS is purging his administration of good public servants who only want to serve the country in the best possible way. The standard of removal is whether they are loyal (to a fault) to the President. The liar in chief wants his administration to follow his lead in that respect. This is a quasi dictatorship in the making and the cure is the voters installing a Congress that works for us (the voters) not a vindictive little child who has no qualms about ruining our country for his own purposes. Even Darth Vader realized the Emperor was evil and did something about it, though I doubt TOTUS will rise from the defeat in the upcoming election. It is our duty to elect a Congress that works for us not the President and a President that works for us not him or her self. Governing is not an entertainment show and should not be treated as such. You can laugh and guffaw all you want when TOTUS ridicules people and makes poor decisions on public and foreign policy but in the end it falls on the backs of ALL Americans.It is well to remember every action taken by this administration will touch all of us (American Voters) from the richest to the poorest at some point.

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Toluse Olorunnipa, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey
President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal, a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election.

a man wearing a suit and tie: White House aide Johnny McEntee, left, follows President Trump to board the Marine One helicopter on the South Lawn of the White House June 7, 2017.© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post White House aide Johnny McEntee, left, follows President Trump to board the Marine One helicopter on the South Lawn of the White House June 7, 2017.Johnny McEntee, Trump’s former personal aide who now leads the effort as director of presidential personnel, has begun combing through various agencies with a mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty, according to several administration officials and others familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The push comes in the aftermath of an impeachment process in which several members of Trump’s administration provided damning testimony about his behavior with regard to Ukraine. The stream of officials publicly criticizing Trump’s actions frustrated the president and caused him to fixate on cleaning house after his acquittal this month.

“We want bad people out of our government!” Trump tweeted Feb. 13, kicking off a tumultuous stretch of firings, resignations, controversial appointments and private skirmishes that have since spilled into public view.

The National Security Council, the State Department and the Justice Department are targets of particular focus, according to two administration officials, and there have recently been multiple resignations and reassignments at each of those agencies.

John C. Rood, the official in charge of Defense Department policy who had certified that Ukraine had met anti-corruption obligations, was let go this week. Victoria Coates, the deputy national security adviser who was viewed with suspicion by some White House aides, was removed from her post and was moved to an advisory position in the Energy Department.

McEntee spent part of this week asking officials in various Cabinet agencies to provide names of political appointees working in government who are not fully supportive of Trump’s presidency, according to administration officials.

The president instructed McEntee to find people in the administration who aren’t aligned with Trump and “get rid” of them, according to someone familiar with the president’s directive. Trump did not provide additional specificity on what exactly he wanted beyond a workforce that more fully reflects his instincts, the person said, and it is unclear what criteria are being used to determine an official’s fealty to the president. McEntee’s discussions with Cabinet agencies were first reported by Axios.

The 29-year-old former campaign aide is planning to prepare a presentation for Trump about what he has found. While Sean Doocey, the former director of presidential personnel, reported to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s deputy, McEntee reports directly to the president, according to a senior administration official.

What began as a campaign of retribution against officials who participated in the impeachment process has evolved into a full-scale effort to create an administration more fully in sync with Trump’s id and agenda, according to several officials familiar with the plan. It is unclear whether civil servants will be targeted as well, but it would be harder to dislodge them than removing political appointees. Civil servants, however, could be sidelined in other ways.

As he became the third president in American history to be impeached, Trump seethed against his own appointees who defied White House lawyers to comply with congressional subpoenas and testify about his conduct. The process clarified for Trump and his top advisers that they had not focused enough on personnel in the early part of the presidency, creating a loyalty deficiency the president is moving quickly to correct, officials said.

The burgeoning effort was reflected in Trump’s decision this week to appoint Richard Grenell as the next acting director of national intelligence, placing a fiercely loyal but inexperienced ally atop an intelligence structure against which the president has frequently railed.

Mulvaney used a speech this week at the Oxford Union in Britain to inveigh against the “deep state,” and he lamented that the administration could not fire more agency employees who do not implement the president’s orders. He referred to some of testimony of the witnesses who participated in Trump’s impeachment inquiry.

Bureaucrats who want to make policy instead of implementing it “should put their name on the effing ballot and run” for office, he said during remarks to a group of several hundred people, according to audio of a speech obtained by The Washington Post.

Trump’s family members have been among the main champions of the effort to force out officials who have not proved their devotion to Trump.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior adviser in the White House, has played a central in the push, concentrating more power in the West Wing and working to combat leaks, officials said.

Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. wrote on Twitter that the impeachment investigation was helpful in “unearthing who all needed to be fired.”

Cliff Sims, a former White House adviser who wrote a book titled “Team of Vipers,” about his time in the White House, has said Trump’s presidency has been repeatedly undermined by disloyal underlings.

“Loyalist shouldn’t be a dirty word,” he said. “Loyalty to the duly elected president and his agenda is exactly what we should expect from our unelected appointees.”

Brendan Buck, a longtime adviser to former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), said that while Trump is entitled to have political appointees who support his agenda, the purity tests could make it difficult to find qualified people.

“If they also insist on hiring only people who’ve never taken issue with something the president has done, it’s going to be slim pickings,” he said.

Trump selected Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, to lead the intelligence community in place of Joseph Maguire after becoming angry last week when he learned that a U.S. intelligence official had told lawmakers that Russia wants to see him reelected, according to people familiar with the matter.

Grenell has moved quickly to concentrate power within the intelligence agencies. Maguire’s deputy, Andrew P. Hallman, resigned Friday. Grenell hired Kash Patel, a National Security Council aide who has worked in the past to cast doubt on the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference. Grenell has requested access to information from the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies, the New York Times reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.

The moves reflect the skeptical view the president has had of the intelligence community after his campaign’s links to Russia were investigated and several of his associates were prosecuted.

The anger extends beyond the intelligence agencies, and Trump has also called for law enforcement officials who investigated his campaign to be investigated or prosecuted. Even some Trump allies are feeling heat over not being aggressive enough about taking on the president’s perceived enemies.

At a donor roundtable Tuesday at the Montage Hotel in Los Angeles, one participant pointedly questioned Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) on why he was not holding accountable people who were responsible for the Russia investigation.

“I see you on Fox News every night, and then you do nothing about it. What are you going to do about it?” the donor asked, according to an attendee.

“What a fantastic question!” Trump said.

Meanwhile, administration officials are conducting a search for the “Anonymous” author of a tell-all book about Trump titled “A Warning,” according to White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who told CNN on Friday that the search had become a “vocation with everybody.”

McEntee, who lost his job in 2018 over concerns about his online gambling, has long expressed an interest in the personnel office despite having no previous government experience, two administration officials said. Within the West Wing, he is seen as fiercely devoted to the president and is well liked by first lady Melania Trump, the officials said.

Some within the White House have bristled at his lack of experience and aggressive approach to ferreting out “Never Trumpers.”

McEntee “does not have the relevant experience to do this job, unless the job is to purge Never Trumpers and reward loyalists,” one official said.

Another senior administration official countered that McEntee was talented and up to the task, with the key qualification of having the president’s confidence.

As he gears up for the reelection contest, Trump has moved to surround himself with longtime allies who have proved their devotion to him while pushing away those who have not earned his trust.

This month, Trump rehired Hope Hicks, one of his longest-serving aides and closest confidants.

During a podcast interview last week, Trump concurred when Fox News analyst Geraldo Rivera described the White House as “a nest of vipers and snitches and backstabbers and rats”

“I inherited a place with, you know, many different administrations, and they worked there for years and were civil service and with unions and all of it,” he said on Rivera’s “Roadkill” podcast. “You can’t do what you’d like to do.”

toluse.olorunnipa@washpost.com

ashley.parker@washpost.com

josh.dawsey@washpost.com

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The recent news cycle has covered the emboldened actions of TOTUS. He has pardoned convicted felons and probably will do the same for recently the  sentenced Roger Stone. We were warned by Previous associate  Anthony Scaramucci that TOTUS is capable and will do exactly what he doing now, Pardoning loyalists even though they are convicted criminals. Now this:

Lawmakers Are Warned That Russia Is Meddling to Re-elect Trump

Adam Goldman, Julian E. Barnes, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos

8 hrs ago

WASHINGTON — Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, a disclosure to Congress that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him.

The day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, the president berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Mr. Trump was particularly irritated that Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the leader of the impeachment proceedings, was at the briefing.

During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that he had been tough on Russia and that he had strengthened Europe Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying the conclusions could have been delivered in a less pointed manner or left out entirely to avoid angering Republicans. The intelligence official who delivered the briefing, Shelby Pierson, is an aide to Mr. Maguire and has a reputation for speaking bluntly.

Though intelligence officials have previously told lawmakers that Russia’s interference campaign was continuing, last week’s briefing included what appeared to be new information: that Russia intended to interfere with the 2020 Democratic primaries as well as the general election.

On Wednesday, the president announced that he was replacing Mr. Maguire with Richard Grenell , the ambassador to Germany and an aggressively vocal Trump supporter. And though some current and former officials speculated that the briefing might have played a role in that move, two administration officials said the timing was coincidental. Mr. Grenell had been in discussions with the administration about taking on new roles, they said, and Mr. Trump had never felt a kinship with Mr. Maguire.

Spokeswomen for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and its election security office declined to comment. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A Democratic House Intelligence Committee official called the Feb. 13 briefing an important update about “the integrity of our upcoming elections” and said that members of both parties attended, including Representative Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the committee.

In a tweet on Thursday evening , Mr. Schiff said that it appeared that Mr. Trump was “again jeopardizing our efforts to stop foreign meddling” with his objections to the briefing.

Mr. Trump has long accused the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s 2016 interference as the work of a “deep state” conspiracy intent on undermining the validity of his election. Intelligence officials feel burned by their experience after the last election, when their work became a subject of intense political debate and is now a focus of a Justice Department investigation.

© Doug Mills/The New York Times Mr. Trump believes that Russian efforts to get him elected in 2016 have cast doubts about the legitimacy of his campaign victory.

Part of the president’s anger stemmed from the administration’s reluctance to provide delicate information to Mr. Schiff. He has been a leading critic of Mr. Trump since 2016, doggedly investigating Russian election interference and later leading the impeachment inquiry into the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Schiff would “weaponize” the intelligence about Russia’s support for him, according to a person familiar with the briefing. And he was angry that he was not told right away about the briefing, the person said.

Mr. Trump has fixated on Mr. Schiff since the impeachment saga began, pummeling him publicly with insults and unfounded accusations of corruption. In October, Mr. Trump refused to invite lawmakers from the congressional intelligence committees to a White House briefing on Syria because he did not want Mr. Schiff there, according to three people briefed on the matter.

The president did not erupt at Mr. Maguire, and instead just asked pointed questions, according to the person. But the message was unmistakable: He was not happy.

Ms. Pierson, officials said, was delivering the conclusion of multiple intelligence agencies, not her own opinion. The Washington Post first reported the Oval Office confrontation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Maguire, but not the substance of the disagreement.

The intelligence community issued an assessment in early 2017 that President Vladimir V. Putin personally ordered a campaign of influence in the previous year’s election and developed “a clear preference for President-elect Trump.” But Republicans have long argued that Moscow’s campaign was intended to sow chaos, not aid Mr. Trump specifically.

Some Republicans have accused the intelligence agencies of opposing Mr. Trump, but intelligence officials reject those accusations. They fiercely guard their work as nonpartisan, saying it is the only way to ensure its validity.

At the House briefing, Representative Chris Stewart, Republican of Utah, who has been considered for the director’s post, was among the Republicans who challenged the conclusion about Russia’s support for Mr. Trump. Mr. Stewart insisted that the president had aggressively confronted Moscow, providing anti-tank weapons to Ukraine for its war against Russia-backed separatists and strengthening the NATO alliance with new resources, according to two people briefed on the meeting.

Mr. Stewart declined to discuss the briefing but said that Moscow had no reason to support Mr. Trump. He pointed to the president’s work to confront Iran, a Russian ally, and encourage European energy independence from Moscow. “I’d challenge anyone to give me a real-world argument where Putin would rather have President Trump and not Bernie Sanders,” Mr. Stewart said in an interview, referring to the nominal Democratic primary race front-runner.

Under Mr. Putin, Russian intelligence has long sought to stir turmoil among around the world. The United States and key allies on Thursday accused Russian military intelligence, the group responsible for much of the 2016 election interference in the United States, of a cyberattack on neighboring Georgia that took out websites and television broadcasts.

The Russians have been preparing — and experimenting — for the 2020 election , undeterred by American efforts to thwart them but aware that they needed a new playbook of as-yet-undetectable methods, United States officials said.

They have made more creative use of Facebook and other social media. Rather than impersonating Americans as they did in 2016, Russian operatives are working to get Americans to repeat disinformation, the officials said. That strategy gets around social media companies’ rules that prohibit “inauthentic speech.”

And the Russians are working from servers in the United States, rather than abroad, knowing that American intelligence agencies are prohibited from operating inside the country. (The F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security are allowed to do so with aid from the intelligence agencies.)

Russian hackers have also infiltrated Iran’s cyberwarfare unit, perhaps with the intent of launching attacks that would look like they were coming from Tehran, the National Security Agency has warned.

Some officials believe that foreign powers, possibly including Russia, could use ransomware attacks, like those that have debilitated some local governments, to damage or interfere with voting systems or registration databases.

Still, much of the Russian aim is similar to its 2016 interference, officials said: search for issues that stir controversy in the United States and use various methods to stoke division.

One of Moscow’s main goals is to undermine confidence in American election systems, intelligence officials have told lawmakers, seeking to sow doubts over close elections and recounts. American officials have said they want to maintain confidence in the country’s voting systems, so confronting those Russian efforts is difficult.

Both Republicans and Democrats asked the intelligence agencies to hand over the underlying material that prompted their conclusion that Russia again is favoring Mr. Trump’s election.

Although the intelligence conclusion that Russia is trying to interfere in the 2020 Democratic primaries is new, in the 2019 report of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, there is a reference to Russian desires to help Mr. Sanders in his presidential primary campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2016. The report quoted internal documents from the Internet Research Agency, a troll factory sponsored by Russian intelligence, in an order to its operatives: “Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest except for Sanders and Trump — we support them.”

How soon the House committee might get that information is not clear. Since the impeachment inquiry, tensions have risen between the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the committee. As officials navigate the disputes, the intelligence agencies have slowed the amount of material they provide to the House, officials said. The agencies are required by law to regularly brief Congress on threats.

While Republicans have long been critical of the Obama administration for not doing enough to track and deter Russian interference in 2016, current and former intelligence officials said the party is at risk of making a similar mistake now. Mr. Trump has been reluctant to even hear about election interference, and Republicans dislike discussing it publicly.

The aftermath of last week’s briefing prompted some intelligence officials to voice concerns that the White House will dismantle a key election security effort by Dan Coats, the former director of national intelligence: the establishment of an election interference czar. Ms. Pierson has held the post since last summer.

And some current and former intelligence officials expressed fears that Mr. Grenell may have been put in place explicitly to slow the pace of information on election interference to Congress. The revelations about Mr. Trump’s confrontation with Mr. Maguire raised new concerns about Mr. Grenell’s appointment, said the Democratic House committee official, who added that the upcoming election could be more vulnerable to foreign interference.

Mr. Trump, former officials have said, is typically uninterested in election interference briefings, and Mr. Grenell might see it as unwise to emphasize such intelligence with the president.

“The biggest concern I would have is if the intelligence community was not forthcoming and not providing the analysis in the run-up to the next election,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a former intelligence official now with the Center for a New American Security. “It is really concerning that this is happening in the run-up to an election.”

Mr. Grenell’s unbridled loyalty is clearly important to Mr. Trump but may not be ideally suited for an intelligence chief making difficult decisions about what to brief to the president and Congress, Ms. Kendall-Taylor said.

“Trump is trying to whitewash or rewrite the narrative about Russia’s involvement in the election,” she said. “Grenell’s appointment suggests he is really serious about that.”

The acting deputy to Mr. Maguire, Andrew P. Hallman, will step down on Friday, officials said, paving the way for Mr. Grenell to put in place his own management team. Mr. Hallman was the intelligence office’s principal executive, but since the resignation in August of the previous deputy, Sue Gordon, he has been performing the duties of that post.

Mr. Maguire is planning to leave government, according to an American official.

Adam Goldman, Julian E. Barnes and Nicholas Fandos reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York. Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington.

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