First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Trump’s own voters would be among hardest hit by his budget
In his June 2015 presidential announcement speech, Donald Trump focused on two issues that ultimately helped him win the general election, especially the Midwest battlegrounds — and made him different than Mitt Romney in 2012, or Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in 2016. The first was his explicit condemnation of immigration and Mexico. “When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best… They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” The second issue was his call to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. “Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it,” he said.
Those two subjects — seizing on immigration/race and protecting entitlements — eventually made him the first Republican since 1988 to carry Pennsylvania and Michigan, and the first since 1984 to win Wisconsin. So it’s striking that President Trump’s first budget cuts Medicaid and a part of Social Security, arguably hurting many of the voters who helped him win in 2016.
Big cuts to Medicaid, Social Security disability insurance and food stamps
Here’s NBC’s Benjy Sarlin on the budget proposal the White House released yesterday: “The administration proposes reducing spending on Medicaid programs by more than $600 billion over the next decade, a massive cut that appears to go on top of $839 billion in Medicaid cuts included in the House bill. [OMB Director Mick] Mulvaney said the difference was due to the White House's use a formula that would grow Medicaid spending at a slower rate... The president also strongly opposed cuts to Social Security during the campaign, but the new budget would make cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance, which covered over 10 million recipients as of December 2015. It would save about $72 billion through changes to disability programs over the next ten years. Asked about the discrepancy, Mulvaney suggested that the president intended his promises to apply only to retirement benefits. 'If you ask 990 people out of a thousand, they'd tell you Social Security disability is not part of Social Security,' Mulvaney said." More from Sarlin: “Other cuts include $193 billion to the food stamp program SNAP over the next decade. The overall goal, Mulvaney said, would be to tighten work requirements in order to get able-bodied adults off social safety net programs.”
A budget that represents Tea Party values more than what Trump campaigned on in 2016
All presidential budget proposals are political documents; Congress traditionally dismisses them out of hand. But what’s extraordinary about this Trump budget — released just six months after his presidential victory — is how it undercuts a central campaign promise. Indeed, as the Huffington Post’s Matt Fuller notes, it more reflects Mulvaney’s values as a former House Freedom Caucus member than what Trump campaigned on in 2016. "This is, I think, the first time in a long time the administration has written a budget through the eyes of the people paying the taxes," Mulvaney told reporters yesterday, per Sarlin. That sounds a lot more like Ayn Rand and the Tea Party than Trump and Steve Bannon, no?
Team Trump tries to block disclosure of ex-lobbyists working for administration
Meanwhile, this news appears to undercut another of Trump’s campaign promises -- to drain Washington’s swamp. “The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose the names of former lobbyists who have been granted waivers to work in the White House or federal agencies,” the New York Times says. “The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information.
Trump asked his intel chiefs to push back on Russia probe
Combined with the firing of FBI Director James Comey, this story allows opponents to build their case that President Trump was tampering with an ongoing federal investigation. “President Trump asked two top intelligence officials in March to say publicly that they saw no evidence the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 election,” per NBC’s Ken Dilanian and Robert Windrem. “Trump asked both the director of national intelligence and the director of the National Security Agency to make the statement, and both declined, the former official said. The officials, DNI Dan Coats and Adm. Mike Rogers, were sufficiently concerned about the requests that one of them wrote a memo about it, the former official told NBC News. The two men also exchanged notes about their conversations with the president, the source said.” The Washington Post, which first reported this story, has additional details: “Trump sought the assistance of Coats and Rogers after FBI Director James B. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that the FBI was investigating ‘the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.’”
Trump says terrorist attack in Britain was perpetrated by “evil losers”
NBC News: “President Donald Trump branded those responsible for the deadly suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert and other terrorist attacks ‘evil losers’ on Tuesday. ‘So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers,’ he said in Bethlehem while standing next to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. ‘I won't call them monsters because they would like that term, they would think that is a great name.’ He added: ‘I will call them, from now on, losers because that's what they are: losers.’”
The GOP price tag for Trump putting Tom Price, Ryan Zinke, and Mike Pompeo in his cabinet: About $16 million so far
“When the dust settles next month, it's possible that Republicans will have successfully fended off Democratic challenges in each of the competitive special election races to replace President Donald Trump's cabinet appointees. But it's going to come with a hefty price tag for national Republican groups,” one of us writes. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the Republican National Committee and the Paul Ryan-affiliated super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund have already spent more than $15.5 million combined on a trio of unexpectedly competitive races in deep red congressional districts, according to independent expenditure and disbursement reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. More: “[N]ational Democratic groups have spent only a fraction of what their Republican counterparts have pumped into competitive races so far. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the DNC and the House Majority PAC have spent about $4.2 million combined on the three special elections in Georgia, Kansas and Montana, according to FEC reports and statements from the organizations.”