Feb 28, 2017

Trump's speech: the reality versus the spin

Photo illustration Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The White House is casting President Trump's speech tonight as "an optimistic vision for all Americans."

Here's the reality: The Obamacare repeal and replace process is buckling under enormous strain. Tax reform is a mess, too. But let's stick with healthcare as it's the first priority for Republicans. House GOP leaders need much more from Trump than a gauzy vision speech. They need a specific, forceful declaration of support for the House's Obamacare repeal and replace plan.

Here's what the White House wants you to hear tonight (per an administration background briefing with reporters last night):

  • The speech is inclusive, optimistic and uplifting — a "renewal of the American spirit."
  • It's big on promises made and kept. Trump will spend the early part of his speech running through these fulfilled promises — mostly executive orders and unilateral actions like withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
  • Core themes of the speech: Economic opportunity plus protecting the American people.
  • When asked whether Trump would be attacking his "enemies" (aka the "fake news" media), a senior official responded: "it's fair to say this is a look forward."
  • Trump didn't just rely on his top speechwriter Stephen Miller for the speech. Agencies were consulted. And Trump got lots of info from "listening sessions" with folks from the healthcare industry, business community, coal miners, union officials, and other frontline workers.

Here are two things that have happened in the past 24 hours that have raised the stakes for the President's speech:

  1. Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, told CNN yesterday that he'd vote against the leaked Obamacare repeal bill drafted by House Republicans. He said that refundable tax credits included in the draft "are nothing short of an entitlement program."
  2. Rep. Mark Walker, chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee — which represents some 170 members — also said he'd also vote against the House Obamacare repeal draft. He's opposing it for the same reason as Meadows: the refundable tax credits.

Why this matters: Meadows and Walker represent crucial conservative factions in the House. They can command substantial numbers of votes and potentially make leadership's plan dead on arrival. The only way their members will bend is if Trump bullies them into submission. Tonight Trump has a chance.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 5,931,112 — Total deaths: 357,929 — Total recoveries — 2,388,172Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 1,711,313 — Total deaths: 101,129 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. States: New York to allow private businesses to deny entry to customers without masks.
  4. Public health: Louisiana Sen. Cassidy wants more frequent testing of nursing home workers.
  5. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  6. Tech: Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 27 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S. and was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military, directing users to "get the facts about COVID-19."

Why it matters: The labels were added after criticism that Twitter had fact-checked tweets from President Trump about mail-in voting, but not other false claims from Chinese Communist Party officials and other U.S. adversaries.

Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter, round two

President Trump is escalating his response to Twitter’s fact check of his recent tweets about mail-in voting, issuing an executive order that's designed to begin limiting social media's liability protections. Dan digs in with Axios' Margaret Harding McGill.

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