First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter
Confrontation and credibility
This morning, two different — but intertwined — stories are dominating the political news. The first: America’s increasing confrontation with North Korea. “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Friday that military action against North Korea was ‘on the table’ if the country continued to develop its weapons program. ‘If they elevate the threat of their threat weapons program to a level that we believe requires action then that option is on the table,’ he told a press conference in South Korea,” per NBC News. “‘Certainly we do not want for things to get to a military conflict,’ he added. ‘But obviously if North Korea takes actions that threaten the South Korean forces or our own forces then that would be met with an appropriate response.’” And here’s the Washington Post’s headline: “Tillerson says diplomacy with North Korea has ‘failed’; Pyongyang warns of war.”
The second story: The Trump White House continues to have a credibility problem, as it insists that President Obama was either wiretapping or engaged in surveillance on Trump — despite no one on Capitol Hill backing up that claim.
What happens when a president cries wolf so many times?
As the New York Times puts it, “The former president denied it. So did the former national intelligence director. The F.B.I. director has said privately that it is false. The speaker of the House and the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees — all three Republican — see no indications that it happened. But President Trump insists he is right.”
So how do these two different stories relate? As we wrote this earlier this month, “What happens when a president cries wolf so many times? Can anyone believe him — even on matters like wars, national tragedies, and natural disasters?”
Some of the biggest losers in Trump’s budget are his own voters
“Some of the biggest losers in President Trump’s proposed budget are the rural communities that fueled his stunning White House victory,” the Boston Globe says. “Funding that keeps rural airports open, grants that help build rural water and sewer projects, and money for long-distance Amtrak lines that serve rural communities would all disappear under Trump’s budget blueprint released Thursday.”
More: “Trump also wants to kill the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps people, including seniors on fixed incomes and the working poor, to pay their heating bills. It’s a particularly prized resource in New England, with its brutal winters. Also on the chopping block: funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, which seeks to boost economic development in a region that strongly supported Trump. Into the dustbin, too, would go the US Chemical Safety Board, an agency that has open investigations in Mississippi, Florida, Texas, and Kansas, and last September wrapped up a probe of a West Virginia chemical spill that left more than 300,000 people without usable water for a time.”
Tracking “exactly what they voted for”
Yesterday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that voters who backed Donald Trump are getting “exactly what they voted for” with his new $1.15 trillion budget. So, what are the priorities of Trump voters, and has the new president been focused on them? In our January NBC/WSJ poll, we asked respondents to tell us what they thought the new administration’s “absolute priorities” should be, versus what could wait until next year or not be addressed at all. We broke out the results from only people who voted for Trump to determine what was most important to them.
Here are the results:
Speaker Ryan: This is the closest we’ll ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare
On “MTP Daily” yesterday, House Speaker Paul Ryan made his case on his health-care overhaul bill. “This reconciliation bill we're producing is the closest we'll ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare,” he said.
Ryan on if he will need Democratic votes to pass a debt-ceiling hike: “I don’t know the answer to that”
Also on “MTP Daily,” one of us asked Ryan if he will need Democratic votes to pass any debt-ceiling hike later this year. Here was his response: “I don't know the answer to that. I haven't been figuring out the vote coalition and what the bill looks like. But we have been discussing with Treasury the need to do this and the various options we have... We will come up with a solution and we will handle this.”
President Trump welcomes German Chancellor to the White House at 11:20 am ET... At 11:45 am ET, he holds a bilateral meeting with her... And then at 1:20 pm ET, he participates in a joint press conference with her — before departing for Mar-A-Lago for the weekend. Here’s NBC’s Ali Vitali on Trump’s past differences with Merkel.
What were other presidents doing on March 17?