Trump 101: What he means by “America first” - Axios
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Trump 101: What he means by “America first”

Photo Illustration Greg Ruben / Axios

You hear "populism" all the time, but that's the wrong label for President Trump's vague ideology. A better one: America-first, Trump-style nationalism.

When you parse his Inaugural address — and watch the unmistakable prominence and power of deeper-thinking nationalists like chief strategist Steve Bannon, policy guru Stephen Miller and Attorney General-in-waiting Jeff Sessions — you see a Trump form of nationalism emerging.

What Trump believes: According to advisers, Trump's core beliefs boil down to pro-America, pro-U.S. jobs, pro-strong-borders. One of those advisers told us that while Trump might not think much about philosophy or specifics, he's the perfect vehicle to carry their ideas because he has an intuitive sense of how to sell them, especially to the white working class.

Its origin: Trump has bounced all over the place on most issues. But he has been a fairly consistent critic of trade deals, outsourcing and China. Starting several years back, Bannon, Miller and others searched for a vessel for their more fully formed version of nationalism, just as a similar wave swept across Europe. Trump embraced the notion, if not the specifics, and the inauguration speech was the advisers' victory lap. It was also Trump's fullest public embrace of it.

Its clout in Trump White House: The true believers share views that run counter to the Paul Ryan-wing of the GOP on everything from immigration and infrastructure spending, to bullying corporations. They are anti-"corporatists" who want to methodically destroy conventional conservatism. The group includes Bannon, Miller, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Sessions and his top adviser, Jeff Dearborn, Peter Navarro (the head of the National Trade Council), Wilbur Ross, the longtime Trump friend and Commerce Secretary-nominee, and others. They have planted true believers throughout the White House, so the roots run deep and will soon run deeper.

The policy ideas that will define it:

  • Trade: The White House is intent on slapping tariffs (or the equivalent) on imports from Mexico and other nations. Trump genuinely feels the United States gets shafted in trade deals such as NAFTA, and his team plans to use tax reform and other openings to impose penalties on imports. This is also about gaining leverage over China for all upcoming talks about currency and trade practices.
    • Interesting subplot: We hear the House Speaker is privately referring to his tariff-like border adjustment policy — crucial to raising revenue via taxing imports — as "responsible nationalism." He's speaking Bannon's language.
  • Infrastructure: On trade and infrastructure in particular, many Trump aides proudly say they are closer to Bernie Sanders than Paul Ryan. Watch for a very high-profile push for huge spending on U.S. infrastructure executed by U.S. workers, using U.S. products. The Bannon wing believes minorities who benefit from this spending will open their eyes and minds to Trump's politics. This also see it as a way to jam Republican leaders into rethinking their pro-business-at-all-cost mentality.
  • The wall: Trump told us in our interview last week he will use existing law to force a fast start to building a big stretch of wall on the Mexican border. At the same time, he said he can't imagine deporting fewer illegal immigrants than President Obama did in 2016. That said, he seemed to soften his tone on deportation to put the emphasis on a wall built by U.S. workers.
  • NATO: Trump and his base love attacking NATO member nations for relying on U.S. security without kicking in their fair share of troops or money. He's not likely to change NATO itself much but he will escalate the fight Obama and others started to force others to contribute more to the cause.
  • China: This is a core obsession of nationalists internally. All other topics overseas are small ball to them. They talk of dismantling the bipartisan, Henry Kissinger-esque strategy of cautious harmony. Instead, they want to force U.S. interests to the forefront on trade, currency and security. They are true believers in the arguments made by defense experts such as Michael Pillsbury, author of "The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower," that this is an existential fight for the nation's future. Bannon, a Navy veteran, is a student of China's provocative and expansive activities in the South China Sea, a source close to him emphasized.
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Collins will oppose Senate health care bill

Sen. Susan Collins said she opposes the Senate's health care plan. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Sen. Susan Collins officially said she will oppose the Senate's latest bill to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act — yet another nail in the coffin for a bill that's moving further away from the 50 votes it would need to pass.

Why it matters: It would only take three "no" votes to kill the bill. And Collins' opposition makes it a total of four Republicans who say they won't vote for the bill — two moderates (Collins and Sen. John McCain) and two conservatives (Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz).

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Report: 'Iranian missile test' Trump tweeted about never happened

Missiles are on display in Tehran on Sunday during the country's annual Defense Week. Photo: Vahid Salemi / AP

On Friday, Iran claimed to have tested a new medium-range ballistic missile capable of striking Israel with multiple warheads — but, according to Fox News, that missile launch never actually took place. Video footage purporting to show the launch was actually from a failed test back in January.

Why it matters: The world is waiting to hear President Trump's decision — he claimed to have made up his mind last week — on whether or not to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. It's significant that Trump used the "launch" to again decry the deal, tweeting on Saturday: "Not much of an agreement we have!"

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Irma captured America's attention more than other storms

It's been a busy hurricane season, with three powerful hurricanes hitting and one just missing U.S. territories. Here's when and how often Americans' searched Google each of them.

Data: Google Trends; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Why it matters: Irma received the most attention, according to Google, likely due to reports it'd be the most powerful hurricane ever to hit the U.S. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico has been devastated by Hurricane Maria, but interest from the U.S. is substantially less than during both Harvey and Irma.

Note: This search data does not include Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans were highly interested in both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, with the least interest in Harvey.

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Target to raise minimum wage to $11 per hour, $15 by 2020

Elise Amendola / AP

Target has announced it will raise its minimum wage from $10 per hour to $11 across all U.S. stores, CNBC reports. The changes will begin in October and are part of Target's $7 billion re-investment in the company. Target has promised an hourly minimum wage of $15 by 2020.

The context: Target has been in a wage war with Wal-mart, which raised base hourly pay to $10 in 2016. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and it has not increased since 2009.

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White House: "We've not declared war on North Korea"

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivers a news briefing at the White House. Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

Sarah Sanders said Monday that the White House has "not declared war on North Korea," as the country's foreign minister claimed this morning. Sanders added that "frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd."

  • On criticism of Trump's NFL comments: "This isn't about the president being against anyone, but about millions of Americans being for something." Later Sanders said that if NFL players are protesting police brutality, then "they should protest the officers on the field," not the flag.
  • Did Trump go too far in calling some players SOB's that should be fired? "It's always appropriate for the president to defend our flag, defend our national anthem."
  • On Trump tweeting about NFL but not Puerto Rico: "He's emphasizing something that should be unifying... Celebrating and promoting patriotism in our country is something that should bring everyone together."
  • Puerto Rico recovery efforts: Federal response to Hurricane Maria is "anything but slow," said Sanders. Trump sent FEMA Administrator Brock Long, Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert to Puerto Rico today.
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NFL won't punish players who didn't take field for national anthem

At a Sunday game, the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans are absent from the sidelines during the national anthem. Photo: Mark Zaleski / AP

Despite a rule in the NFL game operations manual that requires players to be on the sidelines when the anthem is played, league spokesman Joe Lockhart said, "There will be no discipline handed down this week for anyone who was not there [during the playing of the national anthem]."

Why it matters: President Trump used Twitter to urge the NFL to discipline its players, but the league, along with several franchise owners and coaches, is standing behind the players who chose to protest the anthem.

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Supreme Court cancels hearing on Trump's travel ban

Justice Neil Gorsuch shakes hands with Chief Justice John Roberts outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The Supreme Court will no longer hold a hearing on October 10 on the constitutionality of President Trump's travel ban, now that the ban has been replaced by an updated order barring or restricting travel from 8 countries.
Where things stand: The court has not cancelled the case altogether, but will allow both sides to file fresh briefs on Trump's new order by October 5. But, per the NYT's Adam Liptak, "by canceling the arguments for now, the court signaled that it may never decide the case."
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Huffington: Brands like Uber can no longer "hide behind" ad campaigns

Arianna Huffington sits on Uber's board of directors. Photo: Charles Sykes / Invision via AP

Arianna Huffington, who co-founded the Huffington Post and is an Uber board member, reflected on Uber's culture crisis at Fortune and TIME's CEO Initiative, saying "the days when brands could hide behind expensive advertising campaigns are gone." Today, private company memos and comments at board meetings quickly become public — a trend that contributed to the development of the Uber crisis over the summer, Huffington said.

The gritty details: Uber's hyper-growth came at the cost of "worshipping top performers," Huffington said. "If you were a top performer, a lot was forgiven ... I named them 'brilliant jerks.'"

More from Huffington's interview:

  • On private company matters going public: "The consumer needs to love all of the company ... The world has changed. You can't just have a great product. You also need to be a great company."
  • On diversity at Uber: "If you have a workplace that has a couple of ping-pong tables but not a corner for young mothers to pump milk, that's not hospitable to women."
  • On the importance of sleep: Sleep deprivation "costs businesses." Huffington's company Thrive Global recently published a piece by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on why shareholders benefit when he gets 8 hours of sleep.
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GOP senators propose conservative alternative to Dream Act

From L-R, Tillis, Lankford, Hatch. Photo: Screengrab via CSPAN

GOP Sens. Thom Tillis and James Lankford, joined by Sen. Orrin Hatch, announced the Succeed Act, a conservative alternative to the Dream Act that would give Dreamers a pathway to citizenship with a host of Republican-friendly restrictions.

Why it matters: President Trump has expressed a desire to allow Dreamers to stay in the United States, indicating to Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi that he'd support the Dream Act — provided that it came packaged with increased border security measures. The Tilis-Lankford plan might give Republicans another path forward on immigration.

Lankford said Trump called him late at night to discuss his ideas on the issues, while Tillis said the "far-right and the far-left" don't seem interested in reaching a permanent solution. Hatch said he wanted to pass something that would recognize the "positive contributions" Dreamers were making in U.S. society.

The model:

  • Eligibility would be extended to undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. under the age of 16 and have been in the country since DACA's inception in June 2012.
  • Young immigrants need to pass a criminal background check and receive a high school diploma, and pay off any back taxes in order to gain "conditional permanent residence," a status they'll have to maintain for 10 years via a college education, steady employment, or military service before they can obtain a green card.
  • Once the young immigrants get a green card, they can apply for citizenship after 5 years.

The big restriction: Young immigrants wouldn't be able to sponsor their parents or family members for permanent residency until they became citizens, essentially creating a 15-year window to prevent "chain migration."

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Report: Hill aide stock trades pose conflicts of interest

An aide whispers to Sen. Dick Durbin as the Senate Judiciary Committee questions top Obama administration officials about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Some senior Congressional aides buy and sell stocks that could have a conflict of interest with their work, according to reporting by Politico. Since May 2015, around 450 aides have bought or sold stock of more than $1K value. There are probably more instances, as aides who make less than $124,406 are not required to report their stock purchases.

Why it matters: It's the aides who often have the more hands-on role in writing the details of legislation that impacts these companies, not the members. While the executive branch is far more strict about violating federal conflict-of-interest laws, and actual members of Congress might face much tougher scrutiny, Congress refuses to crack down on rules about stock trading.

Example: In the nine days between the drug company Mylan being accused by Senate Judiciary Committee leaders of violating Medicaid laws and reaching a multi-million dollar settlement, a Senate Judiciary Committee aide sold $4,004-$60,000 worth of stock in the company, according to Politico.

Throwback: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price faced criticism during his Senate hearing for buying stocks in a small biotech company after sitting in health care committees with influence on legislation that would effect the company. Shortly after Price's harsh questioning, several Congressman also invested in the same biotech company.

See Politico's piece for other aides who are known to have traded stocks.