Will Donald Trump’s address to Congress have specifics or be just another campaign speech?
You are living through The Art of the Deal's first step. Going into the president's Tuesday night speech, optimism isn't strong for the fate of Donald Trump's agenda. Numerous media outlets have stories citing Trump's record low approval ratings. People are skeptical as to whether Trump can pay for a wall on the southern border and a national infrastructure bill while also spending more on the military. Republicans remain in disarray on health care, with the GOP yet to show a clear path forward on an alternative to the Affordable Care Act.
But Trump would tell you it's a market ripe for disruption. His 1987 book, Trump: The Art of the Deal, lays out an 11-step formula for success in business. The candidate who rose out of the fray to win the White House now finds himself poised to do what he says he does best: negotiate. Dismissing his strategy a month into his presidency is foolish — perhaps even risky — for those opposed to him.
Ever the negotiator, Trump will use Tuesday night to articulate how he will "Think Big" — step one of his formula. In other words, don't expect specifics. Members of Congress understand what Trump wants, but they don't understand how he plans to pull off his proposals. Draft talking points for Trump's speech seem to offer more of what the president has articulated in the past: non-specific proposals described using big adjectives. Some key themes Trump will discuss:
• Overhauling the American health insurance system: On Tuesday morning, Trump reiterated his Monday statement that health care is a complex subject that will take time to solve. "They've been working on health care for 30 years," Trump said. "I've only been here, what is this, my fifth week?" That said, he promised his plan will be "really respected."
• Immigration: The president invited three people related to victims of murders committed by undocumented immigrants to be his guests at the speech. That signals Trump will continue to stress a need for a border wall, more deportations and another executive order on immigration — which he plans to sign on Wednesday.
• Education: Another presidential guest is a woman who struggled in a public school in Florida before attending a private school. According to the White House, Denisha Merriweather was the first in her family to graduate from college. Trump is sure to highlight this story as justification for more voucher programs and charter schools.
• Military and the budget: Trump's speech comes a day after he proposed a $54 billion increase in military spending. More below.
• Taxes and trade: Both topics are important to Trump, but neither are a priority until health care is resolved. Taxes especially require a firm resolution to unanswered questions about health insurance.
• Something to note: Trump gave himself a "C or a C+" for messaging. "I think I've done great things but I, and my people, I don't think we've explained it well enough to the American public," Trump said on Fox & Friends Tuesday morning. Watch for the president to use this speech as an opportunity to right the ship.
Immediately following the speech, Mic will stream a panel that asks where activists should focus their energy. The central question: adapt or resist?
This is Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America — and how it affects you.
All eyes on Trump's speech
• Today: Trump's speech tonight will be step one from his formula for business success, as outlined in 1987's Trump: The Art of the Deal. How will that strategy fare?
• More: Democrats will troll Trump during his speech. Meanwhile, the president's budget proposal appears DOA on Capitol Hill.
• Even more: Jeff Sessions is moving quickly to change the role of the Justice Department. Meanwhile, are all these Congressional investigations into Russia going to yield anything?
• Confirmed: Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross was voted in Monday night as the secretary of commerce.
• Soon to be confirmed: Congressman Ryan Zinke (MT-00) as secretary of the interior.
• Trump's agenda today: The president meets with the national association of attorneys general. Signing two House resolutions. Signing an executive order to bring management of a program to bolster historically black colleges and universities back into White House control. Signing another order to dismantle expanded federal protection of streams, waterways and wetlands. Giving his first joint address to Congress.
The varying degrees of Democratic opposition
Dozens of Democrats boycotted Trump's inauguration, but their strategy is different for his first address to Congress. (This time, Rep. Maxine Waters has said she will not attend the speech. Rep. John Lewis may skip too.) Democratic senators and congressmen are bringing refugees, Muslims from countries targeted by Trump's travel ban and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Rep. Keith Ellison is bringing new Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. These and other guests are intended to put Trump up close with people who have been targeted by his policies or plan to challenge them in a big way. Here's a running list of who is bringing who.
Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will offer the Democratic rebuttal to Trump. Beshear presided over the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in the impoverished state that voted for Trump by nearly 30 points.
While the Democrats are practicing solidarity to oppose Trump, some internal angst over last week's leadership vote in Atlanta continues. Mic's Andrew Joyce breaks down the groups pushing the progressive #DemExit movement.
"You lie." Remember when South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson called then-President Barack Obama a liar during his congressional address on health care reform? That moment came in September 2009, when Obama was making his case for the Affordable Care Act. Watch the crowd Tuesday night to see if emotions become as charged as they were that night.
The budget proposal that landed with a thud
No one — no one — on Capitol Hill knows how the president plans to pay for this. That was the narrative out of Monday's announcement that Trump wanted to spend $54 billion more on the military — on top of the estimated billions needed for a wall with Mexico and $1 trillion he's promised to repair bridges, roads, trains and airports. Republicans plan to go their own way on budget proposals; Democrats will never support the deep cuts to federal agencies the president has proposed. (Note that this budget would need 60 votes in the Senate to pass, and Republicans have only 52.)
This initial budget proposal looks dead on arrival. But again, you're dealing with the president who likes to think big. This is only Trump's lead-off bargaining position. Republicans may have to be ready to "deal with it."
A dynamic to watch: Mick Mulvaney vs. Steve Mnuchin on entitlements. The budget director and treasury secretary appear at odds over whether the president should take on entitlements reform in his first budget. Asked Monday about whether entitlements like Medicare and Social Security could be cut, Mulvaney dodged the question and answered: "The full budget would contain the entire spectrum of the president's policy changes." Mnuchin answered the question directly on Sunday, saying the first budget would not touch Social Security or Medicare — two programs for older Americans Trump has promised to preserve. On Tuesday morning, Trump declined to address who was right. "I'm not saying anybody's wrong. ... I think our country's gonna sail," the president said.
More executive branch news: Wilbur Ross was easily confirmed Monday night as the next commerce secretary. Known for shipping jobs to China during his time as a billionaire investor, Ross has been charged by Trump with rethinking America's trade agreements. Another contrast: Ross used to own a coal mine in West Virginia where a dozen miners died, and more broadly, he "cut jobs, wages, pensions and health benefits" in order to profit from failing industrial companies, according to the Nation. Recall that Trump promised to save the ailing coal industry.
Jeff Sessions, your very different attorney general
It has not taken Jeff Sessions long to make a big splash. Less than two weeks since his confirmation as attorney general, Sessions is dramatically changing the direction of the Justice Department. Here is news he made on Monday alone:
• During his first press conference as attorney general, he specifically said people who commit crimes with guns will face harsh penalties to deter further criminal activity.
• He said the reports released during the Obama administration about policing in Ferguson, Missouri, and Chicago were "pretty anecdotal." Sessions said he had not read the full documents, only summaries, of the investigations that took months. The Chicago report said the police engaged in rampant abuse against minorities.
• The Department of Justice will no longer pursue a case that argued a voter ID law in Texas was discriminatory against minorities. The move "reverses six years of litigation."
• Sessions questioned states passing laws to distribute marijuana around the country, prompting a belief a federal crackdown on marijuana is looming.
Speaking of attorney generals, Loretta Lynch spoke in New York City on Monday. She expressed concern over the new administration rolling back protections for immigrants and LGBTQ Americans.
Bomb threats against Jewish community centers and schools
A new spate of bomb threats against Jewish institutions has brought the total number of those threats to 90 in 2017, the Anti-Defamation League said Monday. That came after 20 bomb threats were issued against Jewish community centers and schools on Monday alone. Two Jewish cemeteries have also been vandalized in the past week.
Trump and his surrogates have denounced these threats in recent days. But they come as Trump is contemplating steep budget cuts at the State Department, which could cut an envoy focused on fighting anti-Semitism. Other retooling would focus a counter-extremism program entirely on Islamic terrorism, ignoring threats from white nationalists and other threats more prevalent in the U.S.
The latest on the Russia inquiries
Get up to speed, fast: There are five Congressional investigations into Russian hacking. None of them are special — meaning they're all being conducted by existing committees — and all of them are led by Republicans. Some of those leading the key investigations — like on the Senate Intelligence committee — are close to Trump. As Mother Jones details, these committees have heavy workloads on top of these investigations that require digging into information coming out of numerous federal bureaucracies. On Monday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said he has seen nothing that shows links between Trump's campaign and Russia. And he cautioned against a "witch hunt" against those named in stories about alleged Trump ties to Russia. Most of these Republicans are also pledging to search for the sources of leaks that continue to fuel stories about the White House and Russia.
News and insight you cannot miss:
• The president sat down with Breitbart in the Oval Office, giving an exclusive interview to a website that is a proud platform for leaders of the alt-right. The first release from that exchange featured Trump again attacking media outlets like the New York Times.
• "I don't like the racism." Those are the words of former President George W. Bush on the political climate following the election. (Mic)
• The president is signing two executive orders on Tuesday.
• Sen. Bernie Sanders gave a speech on Trump, Israel and the Middle East. Read it here.
• The military says the raid that killed a U.S. Navy SEAL in Yemen yielded "no significant intelligence," a departure from what the White House had been saying about the mission that also killed civilians. (Mic)
• The Pentagon has sent the president its preliminary ideas for how to ramp up the fight against ISIS. One option under consideration is putting more Americans on the ground, though not in direct combat roles. (CNN)
• Betsy DeVos said HBCUs started as champions of school choice. Actually, they started to give African-American students educational opportunities when other universities kept them from attending. (Mic)
Jon Stewart is back — albeit briefly
The former Daily Show host reprised his role on Monday night on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Stewart emerged from beneath Colbert's desk to criticize Trump's loose relationship with the truth and to encourage journalists to aggressively cover the president's every move. Watch the video below.