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Trump Budget Plan Boosts Defense Over Safety Net, Diplomacy

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
A U.S. Marine, who is part of a military honor guard, takes his position before a welcoming ceremony for German Defense Minister de Maiziere at the Pentagon in Washington

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

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Trump prioritizes defense over diplomacy and safety net

Ahead of President Trump’s speech to Congress tomorrow night, his administration will release a budget outline Monday calling for a “massive” increase in spending for the military, intelligence, and homeland security, NBC’s Peter Alexander reports. But to offset those hikes, the Trump administration will propose spending reductions in other agencies and social safety net programs. “Mr. Trump will demand a budget with tens of billions of dollars in reductions to the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department, according to four senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the plan. Social safety net programs, aside from the big entitlement programs for retirees, would also be hit hard,” the New York Times says. Now remember, budget outlines are merely an administration’s wish list. Congress ultimately decides -- with the president’s signature, of course — on how the money gets spent. But now more than one month into Trump’s presidency, we’re seeing what his budget priorities are — defense over diplomacy, homeland security over the safety net.

Putting Trump’s 44% job-approval rating into perspective

And one month into his presidency, Trump’s job-approval rating is officially underwater, according to the NBC/WSJ poll we released over the weekend. Per the poll, 44% approve of Trump’s job, versus 48% who disapprove — the lowest start for a new president in the history of our poll. There is perfect polarization: 86% of Republicans approve of Trump’s job, while 86% of Democrats disapprove, with independents slightly more negative than positive (38% approve, 47% disapprove). But to put Trump’s 44% job rating into perspective, Barack Obama didn’t hit that level in the NBC/WSJ until after the debt-ceiling standoff of the summer of 2011, while George W. Bush didn’t go that low until after Hurricane Katrina in the summer of 2005. So while Trump’s 44% rating doesn’t seem that low — at least compared with other polls out there (see here and here) — modern presidents haven’t reached this point until some of the lowest moments of their time in office. Here are the number of months it took these presidents to reach a net-negative job rating in our poll:

  • Bill Clinton: 6
  • George W. Bush: 41
  • Barack Obama: 32
  • Donald Trump: 1

WaPo: These Iowans voted for Trump. Many of them are already disappointed

The NBC/WSJ poll is the quantitative look at Trump’s first month in office. Here’s the qualitative look, per this Washington Post story of Iowa voters: “Tom Godat, a union electrician who has always voted for Democrats, cast his ballot for Donald Trump last year as “the lesser of two evils” compared to Hillary Clinton. He’s already a little embarrassed about it. There’s a lot that Godat likes about President Trump, especially his pledge to make the country great again by ignoring lobbyists, challenging both political parties and increasing the number of good-paying jobs. But Godat was surprised by the utter chaos that came with the president’s first month. He said it often felt like Trump and his staff were impulsively firing off executive orders instead of really thinking things through. ‘I didn’t think he would come in blazing like he has,’ said Godat, 39, who has three kids and works at the same aluminum rolling plant where his father worked. ‘It seems almost like a dictatorship at times. He’s got a lot of controversial stuff going on and rather than thinking it through, I’m afraid that he’s jumping into the frying pan with both feet.’”

Issa calls for special prosecutor in Russia probe; Collins says Senate Intelligence Committee must issue a public report on findings

Meanwhile, the Trump-Russia story isn’t going away. Over the weekend, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said a special prosecutor was needed to investigate whether Trump’s 2016 campaign had contacts with Russian officials. "You're right that you cannot have somebody, a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions who was on the campaign and who is an appointee," he told Bill Maher. "You're going to need to use the special prosecutor's statute and office." (Caveat: Issa, who will likely have another competitive race in 2018, is no longer is chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, so he has no jurisdiction here, except as someone who probably doesn’t want to face voters over the issue.) On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) knocked down the idea of a special prosecutor. “I think that's way, way getting ahead of ourselves here,” he said. “There's no allegations of any crime occurring.” And Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) fired off this statement after reports that the Trump administration enlisted the GOP chairs of the Senate and House Intelligence committees to help it push back against these Russia stories. “For the public to have confidence in our findings, it is important that the Committee work in a completely bipartisan fashion and that we avoid any actions that might be perceived as compromising the integrity of our work. It is also important that the Committee ultimately issue a public report on our findings," Collins said. That these moves — from Issa and Collins — are coming from Republicans at this stage is very noteworthy.

Father of slain Navy SEAL wants investigation into what happened in Yemen

Another noteworthy story from over the weekend: According to the Miami Herald, the father of the slain Navy SEAL in that botched U.S. military raid in Yemen said he didn’t want to speak with President Trump at the private transfer ceremony at Dover Air Force Base. “I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” the father said in an interview with the paper. And he called for a full investigation to examine what happened. “I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation,” he said.

Perez’s immediate challenge as DNC chair: Win over the Sanders supporters outside the party

As we’ve been saying over the past couple of weeks, there was more tension OUTSIDE of the party in the DNC chair race than INSIDE of it. And that became true when winner Tom Perez tapped second-place-finisher Keith Ellison to be his deputy chair in a display of unity — but also when Bernie Sanders supporters complained about the outcome after the fact. On “Meet” yesterday, Perez said that Saturday’s Democratic win in Delaware’s special state Senate election is an example of how the party — inside and outside — can come together. “[The Sanders group] Our Revolution, the D.N.C., grassroots activists all coming together. And we won that race. That's the energy. The most frequent question I get is how do we translate the energy into action? Yesterday was a great example.”

Profiling Perriello: Virginia gubernatorial candidate wants to take on Trump and party establishment

“If Democrat Tom Perriello gets his way, this year's gubernatorial race in Virginia will send a message to President Donald Trump and the state's Democratic establishment — as well as possibly change Virginia's politics for a generation,” one of us writes. “But some formidable obstacles stand in his way, including the state's Democratic lieutenant governor who has been the party's heir apparent for the job, and the likely Republican nominee who might be difficult to tie to Trump in a general election. Perriello — a former congressman who was elected in 2008, championed Barack Obama's health-care law and then narrowly lost his conservative-leaning seat in the 2010 Tea Party wave — is now running for governor in arguably the marquee race in 2017. And he sees the contest as a referendum on Trump... ‘I think it's actually accurate to say this is the first test case of elections in the Trump Era,’ Perriello said in an interview with NBC News.”

What were other presidents doing on February 27?

Heading to SXSW? So is Chuck!

Hear from him on March 14th at 5 p.m. CT as he explores if big data is destroying the U.S. political system.