Sen. Ted Cruz: 'It's only fitting' cartel money be used for border wall

Apr 26, 2017 18

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that “there’s a justice” to his proposal that money seized from drug cartel capos be used to pay for President Trump’s promised border wall.

“These drug cartels are the ones crossing the border with impunity, smuggling drugs, smuggling narcotics, engaged in human trafficking,” the Republican told host Tucker Carlson. “They’re the ones violating our laws and it’s only fitting that their ill-gotten gains fund securing the border.”

Federal prosecutors are looking to seize $14 billion in drug profits from the Sinaloa Cartel leader, who is facing trial in the U.S. on a multitude of federal charges.

“Now, it so happens, coincidentally, that the estimated cost of the wall is between $14-20 billion,” Cruz said. “So, the legislation I filed yesterday was very simple.” 

On Monday, Cruz introduced the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order (EL CHAPO) Act.

“It said any proceeds that are forfeited from El Chapo and from other drugs lords shall be spent building the wall and securing the border,” said Cruz, who also praised the Trump administration for their willingness to enforce immigration laws. 

“I visited with about 150 Border Patrol agents [in January],” Cruz said. “The relief these men and women had at the election results, it was palpable … And I asked the agents, ‘What’s changed?’ And they said, ‘The only thing that’s changed is the cartels understand now we have an administration that will enforce the law.’ That matters.”

Full Senate heads to rare classified meeting at the White House on North Korea

Apr 26, 2017 23

In an unusual move, all 100 senators were invited to attend a classified meeting later Wednesday at the White House to discuss the North Korea and its growing bellicosity.

Congressional aides told Reuters that the meeting was originally scheduled to take place at a secured room at the Capitol, but President Trump asked to move the meeting to the White House.

Salon reported that the meeting will occur in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building auditorium. It will reportedly be made into a “sensitive compartmented information facility”—which means top secret information can be shared. The briefing will take place at 3 p.m. ET.

Some aides on the Hill have expressed confusion about the circumstances of the meeting. Salon wrote, “this could be a preparation for war—or just a forced attempt at a pre-100 days photo op.”

The meeting will be attended by some of Trump’s top cabinet members, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—who will chair the meeting– and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

Tillerson was interviewed on CBS’ “Face the Nation” earlier this month and was asked about Trump’s interaction with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi. Tillerson said he thinks that Xi agrees that the situation “has intensified and has reached a certain level of threat that action has to be taken.”

The situation has appeared to only intensify over the past 24 hours. Pyongyang conducted a huge live-fire drill that involved up to 400 artillery pieces, according to Reuters. A nuclear-powered Ohio class submarine, the USS Michigan, pulled into the South Korean port of Busan for a “routine” hull check.

Japan has warned that Pyongyang has made technological advancements, and may be capable of launching a missile tipped with sarin nerve gas. Japan estimated that its people would have about 10 minutes to prepare once a missile is launched from the country. Tokyo has been practicing evacuation drills.

Local governments in the Washington, D.C., are planning a “full-scale” terror attack drill for Wednesday. The drill prepares for an attack involving multiple locations and “teams of perpetrators” – and will be staged at six sites across the District of Columbia and the Virginia and Maryland suburbs.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Reuters that he hopes to hear the administration’s next steps.

“It’s (the location of the meeting) their choice,” he said. “I hope that we hear their policy as to what their objectives are, and how we can accomplish that hopefully without dropping bombs.”

Edmund DeMarche is a news editor for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @EDeMarche.

Mnuchin: Trump's tax plan is a 'middle-income tax cut'

Apr 26, 2017 20

INTreasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that President Trump’s tax reform plan would amount to a “middle-income tax cut” and would “make business competitive.”

“This is about massive reductions in business rates for corporations and for small businesses, and many studies show that 70 percent of the tax burden falls on American workers,” Mnuchin told host Tucker Carlson. “So, by cutting business taxes, this will increase wages for American workers and create more jobs.”

TRUMP TEAM PROPOSES ‘MASSIVE’ TAX CUTS IN NEW REFORM PLAN

Trump’s plan would slash the top tax rate for corporations and small businesses to 15 percent, collapse the tax system to three brackets from the current seven, and double the standard deduction for individuals and couples filing jointly. 

Mnuchin denied that the revised tax system would favor wealthy Americans, telling Carlson that the proposed elimination of non-mortgage, non-charitable deductions would ensure that “the effective tax rate will not be a deduction for the rich.”

“I don’t think it will be a [tax] rise, but it won’t be a reduction,” the treasury secretary said. 

Mnuchin expressed hope that the plan could win support from some Democrats in Congress, saying, “this is all about middle-income tax cuts and putting people back to work and making business competitive, so we hope that there are Democrats that cross the aisle and support this. This is good for America, good for the economy.”

Fox News Poll: President Trump's first 100 days getting mixed reviews

Apr 26, 2017 19

A Fox News Poll taken as the Trump administration nears its 100-day milestone gives mixed messages to the president.

President Trump’s job ratings are underwater by three percentage points.  Currently 45 percent approve of the job he’s doing.  That’s down slightly from the 48 percent approval he received when he first took office — and far below Barack Obama’s 62 percent approval and George W. Bush’s 63 percent approval at this same point in their presidencies. 

Trump’s victory came from voters’ desire for change — a big part of which was “draining the swamp.”  Yet only 43 percent think the president is succeeding in bringing real change to Washington.  More, 50 percent, say he’s failing.  

READ THE FULL FOX NEWS POLL RESULTS

Some 46 percent think Trump is keeping his campaign promises in general, while 44 percent disagree.

By a 23-point margin, voters say the United States is less respected rather than more respected compared to one year ago (52 percent less vs. 29 percent more). 

That all leads to over half feeling “discouraged” (51 percent) rather than “encouraged” (45 percent) about the next four years.

It also leads some to tune out.  During the first few weeks of the new administration, 52 percent said they were paying more attention to politics (February 2017).  That’s 33 percent now.

Vice President Mike Pence outperforms his boss:  50 percent of voters approve of the job he’s doing, while 33 percent disapprove.  Sixteen percent are unable to rate him.

Roughly equal numbers of Republicans approve of Pence (85 percent) and Trump (86 percent).

The new poll has positive news for the White House, too.

Two-thirds of voters approve of Trump using airstrikes to punish Syria for chemical weapons (67 percent). 

The number saying the economy is in “poor” shape is lower than it’s been in more than a decade. 

By an 18-point margin, 52-34 percent, voters see the nation’s job situation improving — the first time since 2004 that more than half say so.

By a 5-point margin they say it feels like the economy is getting better rather than worse for their family (42-37 percent), and more voters think Trump’s policies are helping the economy rather than hurting it (37 percent vs. 25 percent).

On terrorism, 38 percent think the president’s actions are making the country safer, while 34 percent say less safe. 

Although 53 percent of voters are dissatisfied with the country’s direction, 45 percent are happy with the way things are going — the highest satisfaction rating since October 2012. 

Satisfaction dropped 46 points among Democrats since the White House changed parties in November — and jumped 58 points among Republicans. 

Most Republicans also feel encouraged by what they’ve seen to date (84 percent), think Trump is keeping his promises (80 percent), and that he’s succeeding at bringing real change (76 percent).

The president’s best job ratings are on handling ISIS (54-37 percent), terrorism (51-43 percent), and the economy (48-44 percent).  He gets lower ratings for his handling of taxes (40-44 percent), foreign policy (43-49 percent), and immigration (44-54 percent). 

His worst ratings come on health care, where he’s underwater by 21 points (35-56 percent).

Folks want Washington to work on health care.  When asked to pick between reforming the tax system and fixing the health care system, 71 percent prioritize health care.  Just 26 percent say taxes.  Among Trump voters, nearly twice as many say health care tops taxes (64-33 percent).

What do voters want to do with Obamacare?  Over half want all or at least part of the law repealed, while a sizable minority wants the law kept in place or expanded. 

The economy remains the most important issue facing the country.  Twenty-two percent feel that way.  After that, there’s a group of four issues prioritized by about 1-in-10 voters:  health care (13 percent), terrorism (12 percent), climate change (8 percent), and foreign policy (8 percent). 

Of the ten issues on the list, “taxes” comes in last at three percent. 

Fully 80 percent of voters want Trump to succeed — even if they didn’t vote for him in November.  That nearly matches the 84 percent who felt that way about Obama in his first year.  (The numbers are about the same even among the opposing party:  63 percent of Democrats want Trump to succeed, while it was 67 percent of Republicans for Obama in 2009.)

An overwhelming majority remains happy with their 2016 vote for president, whether they backed Hillary Clinton (95 percent satisfied) or Trump (97 percent satisfied). 

Some 36 percent of voters would vote to re-elect Trump.  Fifty-five percent wouldn’t, including 47 percent who say they’d “definitely” vote for someone else. 

Among Trump voters, 49 percent would definitely re-elect him. 

For comparison, 64 percent of Obama voters said they’d definitely re-elect him in 2009, and his overall re-elect number was 52 percent at this stage.  

But Congressional elections happen first, and Democrats hold the advantage there.  The poll finds that by a 47-42 percent margin, voters back the Democratic candidate in their House district over the Republican candidate.

Among Trump voters, five percent would switch to the Democratic Party in the midterms, while 87 percent would vote for the GOP candidate. 

Meanwhile, 42 percent of voters say Congress should keep investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but over half, 57 percent, say it’s time to move on.

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cellphone interviews with 1,009 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from April 23-25, 2017.  The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all registered voters.

Bill in Congress would pressure Palestinian gov't to cut off terror-tied payments

Apr 26, 2017 19

Taylor Force was a West Point graduate who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was pursuing his MBA at Vanderbilt last year, and his future was certainly very bright.

“Taylor was stabbed to death while he was in Israel by a Palestinian,” says his mother, Robbi, matter-of-factly.

Taylor, who was 28, was walking along the Mediterranean boardwalk promenade with friends in Tel Aviv, when he was savagely knifed to death on March 8, 2016.

His killer was identified as a Palestinian terrorist, 22-year-old Bashar Masalha, who authorities say went on a stabbing spree that also severely wounded ten others before he was shot dead by Israeli police.

“All dads and all moms are proud of their kids. Taylor basically did everything right, but he was humble about it,” says his father, Stuart.

Taylor’s parents say their grief was compounded by the fact that the family of their son’s murderer is making money off his death. The Palestinian Authority spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year paying jihadists and their survivors who were involved in acts of terrorism, and critics say some of those funds come from U.S. taxpayer money that Washington sends to the P.A. 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to meet with President Trump at the White House on May 3. It is expected that Trump will raise the issue of payments during the visit.

A congressional bill named for Taylor, the Taylor Force Act, would cut off the U.S. aid unless the Palestinian Authority stops the payments.

“Can you imagine growing up in a country where your government will pay you for killing someone else through a terrorist act?” asks South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham incredulously. He is the leading sponsor of the Senate legislation.

“If you die as a terrorist, as a ‘martyr,’ your family will get an annual stipend greater than the average Palestinian earns. In this case, the terrorist who killed Taylor Force…was hailed as a hero, was basically given a state funeral, and his family was given money by the state,” Graham says.

[embedded content]

SEE VIDEO OF THE FUNERAL BELOW

“The practice is inconsistent with American values, inconsistent with peace, and inconsistent with decency.”

The House bill is sponsored by Colorado Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn and New York Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin.

“Taylor Force is an American hero,” says Zeldin. “It’s about letting the Force family know that we stand with him and they stand with their son…the United States Congress and President Trump will do the right thing.”

Graham predicts that if the bill reaches Trump’s desk, he will sign it.

The U.S. government gives the Palestinian Authority more than $300 million a year. According to the  P.A.’s on-line budget, it shells out that same amount to the families, or about 7 percent of its total budget. 

“I think nobody, no Israeli or no American, would be happy to know that his taxpayer money is being used to be paid for families of terrorism,” Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon told Fox News.

“You actually encourage terrorism,” he charges.

“Our position is clear. We are against killing innocent civilians from any side,” counters the Palestinian Authority Ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour. But when Fox News pressed him to comment on Taylor’s case, Mansour was dismissive and would not address it.

“You cannot cherry pick one case here or one case there. There are a large number of Palestinians who are receiving compensation, they are victims of Israeli terrorism or killed by Israeli soldiers.”

Taylor’s parents say the payments to Masalha’s family were an additional shock after learning of their son’s fate. Force was golfing when he suddenly received the phone call that no parent ever wants.

“I was actually out on the golf course, getting some practice putts and my cell phone rang. I recognized the area code, from Nashville, where Vanderbilt is and I figured it was my son calling from Israel, and he is borrowing somebody’s phone. I said, ‘Hello?’ and ‘Mr. Force,'” I said ‘yes Ma’am,’ ‘this is the Chaplin at Vanderbilt University, I am on a speaker phone in a room with the Dean of Students and the Provost,’ and I said to myself that this is not going to be a very good phone call.

“She proceeded to tell me that Taylor had been in a group of six students that had been walking to dinner, and that they had been attacked by someone who they believed was a terrorist, and he was stabbed, and he was transported to the hospital by ambulance but he didn’t make it.

“I sat down on the putting green and tried to collect my thoughts. She went on to say that your cell phone was his emergency contact number, and I said thank you, and I said, have you called home to talk to my wife yet? She said no we haven’t, I said please don’t, give me 15 minutes and let me go home. I essentially threw the clubs on the ground and drove home.”

“I said they had the wrong person, it’s not Taylor,” recalls Mrs. Force.

Since that harrowing moment, the Forces and Taylor’s sister, Kristen, have embarked on a deeply meaningful mission in Taylor’s memory. They are trying to ensure that the incentives to commit terrorism are removed so that there will be no more victims. An important step, they say, is for Congress to pass the Taylor Force Act.

“Our main mission is to spread the word about the legislation,” Force says.

“The Taylor Force Act is a good thing. It is not a Democrat thing, it is not a Republican thing, it’s not Conservative or Liberal. It is to get things going in the right direction, the way they should be.

“It is so important that the Taylor Force Act passes, so that other sons and daughters, brothers and sisters aren’t lost in this way,” he says. “It’s just a senseless loss.”

Ben Evansky contributed to this report.

Follow Eric Shawn on Twitter: @EricShawnTV

Trump urged to resume pursuit of Iranian fugitives let off hook under Obama

Apr 26, 2017 17

House Republicans are pushing the Trump administration to take a hard look at the Obama administration’s release last year of several Iranian prisoners as well as a reported decision to abandon the pursuit of Iranian fugitives – even suggesting some cases be re-opened.

The calls follow an extensive report by Politico earlier this week on the Iran dealings.

The article said some of the prisoners released as part of a January 2016 prisoner swap with Iran had actually been “accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security.” At the time of their release, the prisoners were described by then-President Barack Obama as “civilians,” and their release was framed as a “reciprocal humanitarian gesture” in exchange for the return of several American prisoners held by Iran. 

In addition, the administration reportedly dropped charges against more than a dozen fugitives suspected of aiding Iran’s nuclear and military weapons programs. Politico also suggested that “Justice and State Department officials denied or delayed requests from prosecutors and agents to lure some key Iranian fugitives to friendly countries so that they could be arrested.”

The revelations are now inspiring calls from lawmakers to review some of the cases abandoned by the previous administration.

In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., said the new details prove “the Obama Administration appears to have done serious damage to our national security.”

In light of the claims, Royce recommended the Trump administration “revive law enforcement efforts unwisely abandoned by the Obama Administration to target individuals assisting Iran in its pursuit of its nuclear and missile programs.” Royce says this includes the possibility of re-opening cases that had reportedly been hindered, and “an administration-wide policy directive to encourage investigations of Iranian commodity trafficking efforts that includes a determined extradition process.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., declared on Twitter that it has become clearer than ever that “President Obama’s Iran deal has been an unmitigated disaster.”

“This fits a larger pattern where the Obama Administration consistently downplayed the Iranian threat in order to get a deal done at any cost,” McCarthy added in a statement.

Politico’s reporting, and the sentiments from both McCarthy and Royce, seem to be supported by an expert who testified before Royce’s committee earlier this month.

Dr. David Albright, president of the Institute for Science & International Security, testified earlier this month that “during the [Iran Deal] negotiations and for some time afterwards, the [Obama] administration blocked or did not process several extradition requests and lure memos aimed at arresting and convicting Iranians and their agents engaged in breaking U.S. export and sanctions laws.”

According to Albright, the blocking or delaying of requests also “served to discourage new or on-going federal investigations of commodity trafficking involving Iran.”

The reason for all of this, according to Albright, was a “misplaced fear that Iran would walk away from the [nuclear] deal.”

Fox News’ Rich Edson contributed to this report. 

In rare meeting, White House briefs senators on North Korea threat

Apr 26, 2017 17

In a rare meeting, the Trump administration invited all 100 U.S. senators for a White House closed-door briefing on North Korea, as Pyongyang parades its nuclear might and the U.S. considers action.

President Trump’s secretary of state, defense secretary, top general and national intelligence director were on hand to lay out the North’s escalating nuclear capabilities. Trump was expected to drop in on the Eisenhower Executive Office Building gathering of lawmakers. Senators were bussed in from the Capitol to the White House grounds.

The briefing team was scheduled to meet with House lawmakers later at the Capitol.

The unusual meeting reflects the increased American alarm over North Korea’s progress in developing a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike the U.S. mainland.

The recent flurry of military activity on and around the divided Korean Peninsula has put the world on high alert.

Tensions have escalated since Trump took office three months ago, determined to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile advances.

In the past two weeks, the president has ordered high-powered U.S. military vessels, including an aircraft carrier, to the region in a show of force to deter North Korea from more nuclear and missile tests.

The North on Tuesday conducted large-scale, live-fire artillery drills, witnessed by national leader Kim Jong Un, as a reminder of its conventional threat to U.S.-allied South Korea.

On Wednesday, South Korea started installing key parts of a contentious U.S. missile defense system against North Korean missiles that also has sparked Chinese and Russian concerns.

America’s Pacific forces commander, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., told Congress on Wednesday the system would be operational within days. He said any North Korean missile fired at U.S. forces would be destroyed.

“If it flies, it will die,” Harris said.

The Trump administration has said all options, including a military strike, are on the table. However, a U.S. pre-emptive attack isn’t likely, according to American officials. Instead, they’ve said the administration’s strategy focuses on increasing pressure on North Korea with the help of its main trading partner, China.

Sen. Ben Cardin, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top-ranking Democrat, said he was hoping to hear the Trump administration’s game plan Wednesday.

The U.S. needs a strategy to change North Korea’s economic and security calculus for it to freeze and ultimately eliminate its nuclear and missile programs, he said, adding: There’s no “pretty military solution.”

U.S. officials said Wednesday’s briefings will center on three key issues: intelligence about the North’s capabilities; U.S. response options, including military ones; and how to get China and other countries to enforce existing economic sanctions on Pyongyang, along with ideas for new penalties. The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly about plans for the closed-door briefings and requested anonymity.

“China is the key to this,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said. “The purpose of this briefing is to tell us the situation and the intelligence we have and what (are) the options we have.”

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Harris said he expects North Korea, under Kim’s autocratic rule, to soon be able to develop a long-range missile capable of striking the United States, despite some spectacular failures in its ballistic missile program. “One of these days soon, he will succeed,” Harris said.

North Korea routinely accuses the United States of readying for an invasion, and threatens pre-emptive strikes to stop the U.S.

On Wednesday, North Korea’s U.N. mission said it would react to “a total war” with the U.S. with nuclear war. It said it would win in a “death-defying struggle against the U.S. imperialists.”

A targeted U.S. attack to take out North Korea’s nuclear weapons program could spark a wider war on the Korean peninsula, lawmakers and experts have warned. Harris said the U.S. has “a lot of pre-emptive options,” but he declined to provide specifics in an open setting.

China has been urging restraint by both Pyongyang and Washington. In Berlin, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Wednesday that North Korea must suspend its nuclear activities, but “on the other side, the large-scale military maneuvers in Korean waters should be halted.”

China opposes the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, being installed in South Korea. The U.S. says it will only target North Korean missiles, but China and Russia see the system’s powerful radars as a security threat.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said THAAD would upset the “strategic balance” in the region. He said China will take “necessary measures to defend our own interests.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Tally of designated national monuments

Apr 26, 2017 14

An executive order that President Trump signed Wednesday requires the Interior Department to review the hundreds of millions of acres that former presidents have since 1993 designated as national monuments. 

Here’s the tally of past designations: 

President Bill Clinton:

-19 national monuments      

-5 million acres

President George W. Bush:

-6 national monuments  

-6.6 million acres         

President Barack Obama:

-30 national monuments      

-568 million acres

Tally of designated national monuments

Apr 26, 2017 14

An executive order that President Trump signed Wednesday requires the Interior Department to review the hundreds of millions of acres that former presidents have since 1993 designated as national monuments. 

Here’s the tally of past designations: 

President Bill Clinton:

-19 national monuments      

-5 million acres

President George W. Bush:

-6 national monuments  

-6.6 million acres         

President Barack Obama:

-30 national monuments      

-568 million acres

Trump goes all in on tax cuts

Apr 26, 2017 19

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On the roster: Trump goes all in on tax cuts – No consensus yet on new TrumpCare plan – White House sets up showdown on NAFTA – maybe call it ‘The Trump Global Initiative’ – ‘That’s kind of the excitement of this job’

TRUMP GOES ALL IN ON TAX CUTS
There’s an almost surefire system for winning at roulette. Pick a number, place your bet and keep doubling it until it pays off.

Of course, geometric progression being what it is, a player has to have pretty deep pockets to try it. Start out with $5 and you’ll be placing a $1,280 bet on your eighth turn. But then again, if you hit, the payout that round would be $44,800.

The stack of chips President Trump had on the table was already pretty tall, and with his proposal today for a massive tax overhaul, they’re going to have to call out the pit boss.

We still have a lot to learn about what the president’s plan will actually entail, but the broad-brush outlines painted by his treasury secretary and chief economic advisor live up to Trump’s campaign and post-election hype: slash the corporate tax rate, cut, flatten and simplify personal tax rates and repeal the estate tax.

We also don’t know whether Trump and his fellow Republicans in Congress mean to do this as a temporary stimulus or not. If it were to be jammed through using a procedural maneuver called “budget reconciliation” that would allow for a simple majority in the Senate. Or, the goal could be to broker some bi-partisan agreement for the kind of lasting change Americans have not seen since 1986.

It probably depends on how it goes. Trump can aim for permanent changes but end up settling for sun setting cuts that would expire after he left office like he predecessor George W. Bush did twice.

Whatever happens, though, one gets the sense that we are finally seeing the real Trump agenda.

It is tempting to imagine how these past 97 days would have gone had Trump made this his first initiative rather than opening on the scotched refugee ban and the TrumpCare bust. Even so, this will change the game in Washington.

Americans like tax cuts, and that’s a fact. Democrats know that and will have to come up with better than demanding Trump release his own tax returns before considering his proposal. Americans may want the president to conduct himself more ethically, but it’s doubtful that they would let that get in the way of keeping more of their own money.

Republicans also know the potency of this issue and can’t be as caviler about raising their objections to these policy provisions as they were about those in Trump’s health-insurance plan.

If Trump can make the fight over his tax plan the central conflict for the rest of the year, voters and the press will lose some interest in the stalled initiatives on health insurance and other campaign promises.

With a big win on taxes, a Supreme Court appointment and decrease in illegal immigration, it would be hard not to call the first half of Trump’s term a success. Even staunch conservatives would forgive him for punting on ObamaCare and letting other initiatives slide.

As with our hypothetical roulette player, though, the stakes could become prohibitive before the wheel of fortune delivers a win.

THE RULEBOOK: TWO TO TANGO
“They who make laws may, without doubt, amend or repeal them; and it will not be disputed that they who make treaties may alter or cancel them; but still let us not forget that treaties are made, not by only one of the contracting parties, but by both; and consequently, that as the consent of both was essential to their formation at first, so must it ever afterwards be to alter or cancel them.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 64

TIME OUT: HISTORY REVISITED
NPR: “In the summer of 1945, John F. Kennedy traveled across Europe working as a journalist. He kept a diary during those months on the road, which reveals a future president trying to make sense of a rapidly changing post-war world. The leather-bound diary will be put up for auction Wednesday, after sitting quietly for nearly six decades in the hands of a former campaign worker. … Kennedy wrote the diary in between his military service and first campaign for Congress, when he worked for Hearst Newspapers. Deirdre Henderson, then a research assistant in charge of coordinating one of JFK’s campaign advisory committees, was overworked by the demands of the campaign and couldn’t find the time to read it. … After Kennedy’s election, Henderson found herself with a White House job… She was returning to her office on November 22, 1963 when she heard news of the assassination. After that moment, she says the diary became too painful to consider.”

Flag on the play? – Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -11.4 points
Change from one week ago: Unchanged

NO CONSENSUS YET ON NEW TRUMPCARE PLAN
Politico: “The White House, top House conservatives and a key moderate Republican have finalized a new Obamacare repeal and replace plan they hope will break a month-long logjam on a key priority for President Donald Trump. But it is far from clear that the fragile agreement will provide Speaker Paul Ryan the 216 votes needed for the House to pass the stalled legislation. Optimism is growing among Republican officials on the Hill and in the White House. Leadership will likely need at least 15 to 20 new House Freedom Caucus votes to have any shot at passing the bill. The million-dollar question: Can Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who helped author the changes, deliver the votes needed to get the bill over the finish line? The North Carolina Republican is said to support the amendment, sources say, but it’s still unclear how many of his group will flip from ‘no’ to ‘yes.’”

Plan would exempt members of Congress from cuts – Vox: “House Republicans appear to have included a provision that exempts Members of Congress and their staff from their latest health care plan. The new Republican amendment, introduced Tuesday night, would allow states to waive out of Obamacare’s ban on pre-existing conditions. This means that insurers could once again, under certain circumstances, charge sick people higher premiums than healthy people. Republican legislators liked this policy well enough to offer it in a new amendment. They do not, however, seem to like it enough to have it apply to themselves and their staff. A spokesperson for Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) who authored this amendment confirmed this was the case: members of Congress and their staff would get the guarantee of keeping these Obamacare regulations.”

Conservative groups push for passage – The Hill: “Two influential conservative groups that opposed the GOP’s original ObamaCare repeal-and-replace plan will now support the latest version of it. Club for Growth and FreedomWorks on Wednesday announced their support for the American Health Care Act after seeing proposed text of an amendment that would make conservative changes to the bill. … ‘Today, we believe the hard work of Meadows and MacArthur facilitated by Vice President Mike Pence, has yielded a compromise that the Club for Growth can support,’ Club for Growth President David McIntosh said in a statement.”

HOUSE ‘WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE’ ON SPENDING PLAN
Roll Call: “Appropriators think they are close to a deal to fund the government through September, but the hour is fast approaching where a stopgap might be needed to prevent a shutdown at midnight Friday. Kentucky Rep. Harold Rogers, a former Appropriations chairman and still a senior member of the committee, described the leaders as, ‘within striking distance’ on a fiscal 2017 spending bill.Rogers added there are some still some ‘knotty issues’ lawmakers need to contend with. ‘I don’t want to see an extension,’ Rogers said. ‘I want to see us finish this thing on time. However, if the time runs out on a Friday there is a little extra play room there.’ But House and Senate appropriators always prefer to get their bills through to the president’s desk before a funding deadline rather than resorting to continuing resolutions that effectively lock the government into existing funding and prevent lawmakers from really putting their stamp on operations.”

Pro-lifers frustrated on Planned Parenthood funding – Columnist Terry Jeffrey says Republicans aren’t keeping their promises. CNS News: “The Republican House can pass and send to the Republican Senate a bill that funds the border wall but not Planned Parenthood. Or they can pass one that funds Planned Parenthood but not the border wall. The former course of action would fulfill the campaign promises that got their president elected. The latter would appease congressional Democrats and the liberal press. So, which will it be?

Protest planned for today – Pro-life organization, Students for Life of America, will present over 176,000 baby socks to Congress on Wednesday afternoon. Student groups have been collecting baby socks as a “visual reminder” of every abortion Planned Parenthood did last year, according to their press release.

WHITE HOUSE SETS UP SHOWDOWN ON NAFTA
Politico: “The Trump administration is considering an executive order on withdrawing the U.S. from NAFTA, according to two White House officials. A draft order has been submitted for the final stages of review and could be unveiled late this week or early next week, the officials said. The effort, which still could change in the coming days as more officials weigh in, would indicate the administration’s intent to withdraw from the sweeping pact by triggering the timeline set forth in the deal. The approach appears designed to extract better terms with Canada and Mexico. President Donald Trump pledged on the campaign trail to renegotiate NAFTA, a trade deal signed in 1994 by former President Bill Clinton that removes tariffs and allows for the free flow of goods and services between the three countries in North America. Trump in recent weeks has stepped up his rhetoric vowing to terminate the agreement altogether.”

Conservatives worry –
In an editorial today, WashEx voices concerns about Trump’s new hardline approach on North American trade: “Trump is upset that Canada has been letting its timber industries pay what he considers excessively low royalties to cut down Canadian trees. This means Canadian lumber companies can sell softwood for lower prices to American industries… Trump is standing up to this threat by imposing a retroactive, punitive 20 percent tariff on imports of Canadian softwood lumber. … The U.S. logging industry that Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross are trying to protect from competition employs 53,000 Americans. The construction industry, which prefers to buy wood at lower prices rather than higher ones, employs 7 million, and it is not the only industry that will be hurt by this tariff.”

MAYBE CALL IT ‘THE TRUMP GLOBAL INITIATIVE’
Axios’ Mike Allen reports: “Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe. Both countries and companies will contribute to create a pool of capital to economically empower women ‘The statistics and results prove that when you invest in women and girls, it benefits both developed and developing economies,’ she said. ‘Women are an enormous untapped resource, critical to the growth of all countries.’ Canadians, Germans and a few Middle Eastern countries have already made quiet commitments, as have several corporations, a source said. The fund will provide working and growth capital to small- and medium-sized enterprises. President Trump is a huge supporter of his daughter’s idea, and she has consulted with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim about how to pull it off in a huge way.”

Ethics watchers cry foul – WaPo ‘Right Turn’ columnist Jennifer Rubin was not impressed: “It was bad enough when Hillary Clinton as secretary of state agreed to have meetings with people who had given to her foundation. Now, according to news reports, Ivanka Trump, while a federal employee, is soliciting donations for a new fund from foreigners. This comes on top of instances in which she sat with heads of state (from Japan and China) at a time that her business was doing deals in their countries.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
White House divisions leave hundreds of key posts unfilled at agencies WaPo

House GOP to unveil bill this week to roll back financial regulationsBloomberg

Chaffetz says Flynn may have broken law with Russian payments – USA Today

Poll shows declining Trump support in North CarolinaElon University

Ya think? Neither McConnell or Schumer are viewed positively – Gallup

Obama courts controversy with $400,000 speech to Wall Street groupWaPo

Build the wall and make one Mexican pay for it: Ted Cruz says money seized from drug boss El Chapo should pay for Trump border wall – Dallas Morning News

Naked ambition: Dem House candidate in Montana a regular performer at nudist resort – Free Beacon

AUDIBLE: SLO-PITCH
“You can win by reconciliation, if you just decide to hardball your way through it, but the track record shows it’s not sustainable and it’s not successful.” – Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in an interview with WSJ regarding not hearing from the White House on its tax plan.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Your discussion [on Tuesday] of why the Dems may be overplaying their hand in celebrating Pres. Trump’s not insisting on his $1 billion for the Wall was interesting, but there was a little too much that sounded like “Don’t worry folks, Pres. Trump is coming around. Washington is getting back to normal as defined by all of us wicked smart insiders” for me to be comfortable.  Maybe you are right, but I sincerely hope not.  If you are, Pres. Trump’s presidency will fail and we may see open civil strife. Also interesting is that Dr. Krauthammer acknowledges a slight advantage to the Dems concerning the Wall’s popularity nationwide, but emphasis on the “slight”, and he himself has no objection to one whereas you are almost gleeful at the idea of one not being built.” – Jonathan Kahnoski, Meridian, Idaho

[Ed. note: There is not much for anyone to be “gleeful” about in American politics these days, Mr. Kahnoski, except, I suppose, for fans of rank cynicism. I take no position on whether a wall of any kind should or shouldn’t be built. That’s up to the leaders of our government and, eventually, the voters. What we were discussing on Tuesday was the bizarre penchant among Democrats to try to make an issue out of the president’s abandonment of unpopular positions. You may like the idea of a wall or dislike it, but the polling is unambiguous: Most Americans are opposed to the idea and only a third or fewer are reliably in support. Now, if Trump believes in the wall as a necessity, he can choose to push it through, even at the expense of other, more popular priorities. This is still (mostly) a republic, after all. My point is that certainly as far as shutting down the government over a mostly-symbolic down payment on the project would be a bonanza for Democrats. There is still time enough for Trump to make the wall part of the federal budget for the fiscal year that starts in October, but he is on track right now to not only avoid a shutdown but also increase spending for the very popular idea of enhanced border security. That’s hardly anything for Democrats to crow about.]    

“In [Tuesday’s] column, you state that ‘In legislating, like joke-telling, timing is everything.’  Is it just me, or do the two things seem to be one and the same nowadays?” – Thomas C. Cook, Las Vegas

[Ed. note: See, now that’s funny!]

Share your color commentary: Email us at 
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

‘THAT’S KIND OF THE EXCITEMENT OF THIS JOB’
WCCU: “Charleston Police responded to an unusual call Sunday night about a goat trotting down 18th Street. The Charleston Illinois Police Department posted the pictures on their Facebook page describing what led to the goat’s ‘arrest.’ Officers say they’re not sure where the goat came from, but they are working to locate its owner. Pictures of the goat from the call created quite a stir on Facebook. Officers say this is just another reminder that they never know what they’ll be called out on each day at work. ‘You’ll get a call at 8:30, middle of the night that there’s a goat that needs to be captured and taken somewhere,’ Charleston Police Detective Joel Schute said. ‘From the silly and inane, to the ones that can certainly stop your heart at any given moment… So you’re ready for anything, but that’s kind of the excitement of this job.’”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Look, I think this is Trump proclaiming a principle that we are going to be really tough on trade… And what he’s doing, he is bargaining. He’s a real estate guy saying, ‘Here is my opening bid. I threaten you with tariffs on lumber.’” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I’ll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.