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Remarks by President Trump in Meeting with Energy Sector CEOs – Whitehouse.gov

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Cabinet Room

3:18 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, thank you very much.  It’s a great honor to be with the world leaders in American oil and gas and, really, I could say, the world leaders, period, when it comes to energy and American energy.  The biggest companies anywhere — anywhere in the world.

I want to thank Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt; Secretary of Energy, Dan Brouillette; and Ambassador Robert Lighthizer for being here.

We’re also joined by Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senators John Cornyn, Kevin Cramer, Ted Cruz, and Dan Sullivan.  Thank you.  These are people that really want to see good energy at the good price.

With us as well are Greg Garland of Phillips 66, Dave Hager of Devon Energy, Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, Jeff Hildebrand of Hilcorp Energy, Vicki Hollub of Occidental Petroleum, Mike Sommers of the American Petroleum Institute, Kelcy Warren of Energy Transfer Partners, Mike Wirth of Chevron, and Darren Woods of an extremely small company known as Exxon Mobil.  Well, it’s smaller today than it was four weeks ago — (laughter) — by about half, right?  That’s all right.  It’ll be better than ever.

Today we’ll discuss the impact of the coronavirus on American energy industry.  As the pandemic brought on by global economy — I mean, it’s an incredible thing that’s happened.  Nobody thought this was possible.  We had the greatest economy in the world.  Probably, you were doing — all of you — the best ever.  Everybody was doing the best ever.  And then, all of a sudden, they said, “You have to shut down the country,” and they have to shut down the world, because the whole world is shut down, not the country.  The whole world is shut down: 151 countries.  Probably, it’s higher than that now.  That was as of a week ago.

So the entire world is shut down, trying to get rid of this scourge.  And — and we’ll do it.

I thought what I might do is go around the room and you just introduce yourselves to the media real quickly, and then we’ll have a discussion afterwards.  You know, our 2.2-trillion-dollar relief package includes provisions to allow businesses to deduct their losses this year against taxes they paid in previous years, which gets you a lot of liquidity.  And a lot of companies need the liquidity right now.

And hopefully we’re going to be back in business very soon.  We’re going to be open very soon.  This country wasn’t built to be closed.  And, essentially, we have a closed country.  Nobody has ever heard of a thing like this.

But this was — I was with some of the leading professionals, and they say not since 1917 has there been anything like this.  1917 was a time when, I guess, you could say, 50, 75, or 100 million — you hear different estimates — people died.  Think of that: 100 million.  Maybe 100 million people died.  So they had no communications.  They weren’t able to shut things down like we are doing.

But that was a — that was a plague.  That was a plague.  It started here, actually.  It went to Europe.  We were badly affected, but Europe was really affected.  So that was the worst.

So not since 100 years ago — more than 100 years ago has this — a thing like this happened.

I just want to start by saying it’s an honor to be with you.  I know most of you, one way or the other.  Some of you I know, and — but I know all of you by seeing you on the covers of all the business magazines and the magazines.  And you’ve done a great job, and we’ll work this out and we’ll get our energy business back.  I’m with you 1,000 percent.  It’s a great business.  It’s a very vital business.  And, honestly, you’ve been very fair.  You’ve kept energy prices reasonable for a long period of time.  We’ve got a long period of time with very reasonable energy prices.

So I want to thank you all for being here.  And maybe we’ll start with Mike.  Please.

MR. WIRTH:  All right.  Mike Wirth with Chevron Corporation, Mr. President.  I’m proud of the work our people are doing to support healthcare providers, first responders, and all the other vital industries that keep our economy going.

Thank you for having us.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mike, very much.  Appreciate it.

MS. HOLLUB:  Vicki Hollub of Occidental Petroleum.

THE PRESIDENT:  Hi, Vicki.

MS. HOLLUB:  Thank you for allowing us to be here today and thank you for all you’re doing for us.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Vicki.

MR. HAGER:  Dave Hager, with Devon Energy.  We’re an independent oil and gas company out of Oklahoma City.  And thank you so much for the leadership that you’re providing during this challenging time.  And we — you’re the right man at the right time to balance all the priorities.  And we’re going to be back.  Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ll get it done, Dave.  Thank you very much.

MR. GARLAND:  Mr. President, I’m Greg Garland, Phillips 66.  Again, thank you for your great leadership through this pandemic crisis and all that you’ve done on the stimulus package, really, for the American economy.  I’m proud of our employees.  They’re working to provide energy and improve lives.

THE PRESIDENT:  We think it’s going to come back quickly.  It’s — it’s ready.  We’re ready.  And we’ve got the right packages out there.  So —

MR. GARLAND:  We need it, too.

THE PRESIDENT:  Very good.  We’re looking at a — I think we’re going to be really looking very seriously at a infrastructure package where — it’s so important for our country.

You know, as of this moment, Darren, we have $7 trillion-plus in the Middle East.  For what?  For what reason?  And we don’t put money in our own country.  So we’re going to do a big — a big package on infrastructure fairly soon, I think, and that’s very important.  And it’s great for you, great for everybody.

Darren, please.

MR. WOODS:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Darren Woods, Exxon Mobil Corporation.  I’d like to add my thanks for your leadership in this space, as well, and say I think all of our companies here align with your objective, which is to get the economy moving and to make people’s lives around the world better.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  Great job you’ve done.  Thank you.

MR. HAMM:  Harold Hamm, chairman of Continental Resources, also out of Oklahoma City.  Thanks for having this meeting.  I think this is so timely and necessary.  Really appreciate your leadership, also the friendship that you’ve kept with the Saudis — the Saudi Crown minister — or Crown Prince, and also Vladimir Putin.  I know those haven’t been easy sometimes, but at this time, it was particularly needed.

So I represent our company, as well as DEPA — Domestic Energy Producers Alliance.  And we’re about 10,000 companies and individuals — mostly independent producers.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  Great job you’re doing.

I think President Putin and the Crown Prince want something to happen badly.  Certainly terrible for them, what’s happening, too.  So they want to see something happen.  I’ve spoken to both of them and we’ll tell you about that in a little while.  Okay?

Thank you very much.

MR. HILDEBRAND:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Jeff Hildebrand, founder and chairman, Hilcorp Energy.  Our distinction is we are the only private company here.  This is a company that’s based in Houston, domestic-only exploration and production company.

And I’m really here today to represent the independent energy companies, the family-owned businesses that are in this industry, and to give you, really, that perspective and add to the conversation in that regard.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  That’s great.

MR. HILDEBRAND:  So thank you for your leadership.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

MR. HILDEBRAND:  Appreciate it.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great job.  Thank you.

MR. HILDEBRAND:  You bet.

MR. WARREN:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Kelcy Warren, Energy Transfer.  We’re the only pipeline company.  And so we try to do business with everybody in this room, and I think we successfully do, actually.  So it’s an honor to be here, sir, and it’s an honor to be in this room with these folks as well.

THE PRESIDENT:  And everyone loves that guy, right?  We all do.  Thank you very much, Kelcy.  Great.  Great job you’re doing, too.

He’s not an oil and gas man.  He’s a wonderful person and a wonderful politician and he wants to see the industry get strong again.  So, Kevin, do you have anything to say, by the way?

LEADER MCCARTHY:  Well, first, I want to thank you for doing this.  Just by you reaching out to President Putin and the Crown Prince, things have improved.  You’re looking around at a lot of jobs, but what else you’re not seeing at this table: A lot of these are small businesses that work with all these individuals around here.  And your action today, with signing the CARES Act, getting the small-business loans out, is going very strongly —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

LEADER MCCARTHY:  — because it’s needed.

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s doing well.

LEADER MCCARTHY:  But the American economy — the greatest strength is our — what energy provides us.  You provide us at a good price.  These are great jobs.  But more importantly, it also gives us energy independence.  It changes the whole dynamics around the world.

And so I thank you for the leadership and what you’re doing.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Kevin.  And as you just said, the Bank of America, in particular, has really — of the big banks — has really stepped into it.  They have done a fantastic job.  Today, it’s over —

LEADER MCCARTHY:  Ten thousand in the first two hours.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  Bank of America has been unbelievable.  And I want to thank them.  I want to thank all of the community banks and the smaller banks that have been loaning a lot of money — paycheck.  It’s all about the paycheck.  And that — nobody would have believed it could have gone so well.

So it’s — it’s just a number of hours.  But the numbers are far greater than we would have anticipated.  So it’s been really great.

And thank you to all the banks, but again, in particular, Bank of America.  They really stepped right up and they did it.  There were no big deals.  They weren’t making a big deal out of anything.  So that was terrific.

And I think what we want to do — John Cornyn, please.  I know how you are so involved in this, coming from the great state of Texas.  Would you like to say a couple of words, John?

SENATOR CORNYN:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you for convening the meeting.  Many of us have been talking together, but we can’t get done what needs to be done.  Only you and the administration can.  And particularly, getting the attention of the Saudis and flooding the markets, really adding insult to injury in a time when on our economy was suffering anyway because of the coronavirus.  And so this meeting could not be more timely.

I agree with what’s been said about the importance of affordable energy to our standard of living.  And, really, we’ve changed the — changed the world as a result of the production of domestic energy here, and improved the quality of life for a lot of people.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks very much, John.  Really good job.  And John agrees — we were talking about it the other day — that you’ve all done well, but you’ve also kept energy very affordable, really.  Very, very affordable and very — a lot of it.  We never had any problems.  And we’re going to keep it that way.

Do I see Dan back there?  Dan?

SENATOR SULLIVAN:  Yes, sir, Mr. President.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I was looking — I thought that looked like Dan.

SENATOR SULLIVAN:  I want to thank you for convening this meeting.  You know, under the Trump administration, working with the Congress, the U.S. has become the world’s energy superpower again.  It’s unbelievable.  And these companies have done it.  Obviously it’s a very important issue in my state, the great state of Alaska.  But these are great jobs, as John Cornyn just said, for all of our states.  But it’s really important for the national security of our country too.

And we have been — a number of senators have been reaching out, having frank discussions with the Saudis, saying, “Hey, if you’re a longstanding ally of ours, we’re not — right now, you’re hurting a lot of our citizens.  You’re hurting a lot of the people we represent and shouldn’t take us for granted.”

We have a great military that’s protected Saudi Arabia for decades.  And Senator Cramer and I have some legislation that could possibly change that if they don’t start cooperating.

So again, we appreciate your leadership with the Crown Prince, with the Russians, in calling this meeting.

But this is a great sector of the U.S. economy that, once we get through this, and we will — of this pandemic, this –this sector is going to take off again.  And your — your administration and you have had a lot to do with the strength of the U.S. energy sector.  And we need to keep it strong.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Dan.

And Kevin Cramer, North Dakota.  People don’t realize how big a producer North Dakota is.  Right?

SENATOR CRAMER:  Well, Harold knows.  (Laughter.)

SENATOR CORNYN:  Harold knows.

SENATOR CRAMER:  It sort of allows the others (inaudible).

THE PRESIDENT:  Harold — Harold knows, that’s for sure.

SENATOR CRAMER:  Mr. President, to echo everything and maybe add a little bit: The people around your Cabinet table right now are part of the renaissance of oil and gas in this country.  But since you became President, we went from a renaissance to security, to independence, to dominance.  And that dominance and that security are — right now are in some danger.

Just a quick example: In North Dakota, since Saudi Arabia and Russia announced their little price war, we’ve had $6 billion of cutbacks taken out of our state, planned for this year.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

SENATOR CRAMER:  I was economic development director when the entire gross domestic product of North Dakota was $13 billion.  So that’s significant.  That represents not just capex; that represents lots of jobs, lots of people in the value chain.

And I would just add one word to what Dan talked about with regard to Saudi Arabia.  It is estimated by one report in 2018 that we spent a minimum of $81 billion defending global oil supplies.  We can use that money in national defense and other hotspots in the world, if our friends are going to treat us this way.

So I appreciate your outreach this week.  I think we’re halfway there just with the success of your diplomacy this week.  Thank you for this meeting.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s gone up.  It’s gone up.  And we have to.  Otherwise, we do — we lose a lot of jobs too.  We’re talking about one of the big job producers anywhere, Kevin, right?

Would you have anything to say?

MR. SOMMERS:  Mr. President, thank you.  I’m Mike Sommers.  I’m President and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute.  The folks around this table represent the American energy revolution, and we want to thank you for everything that you’ve done to support that revolution.  And we want to make sure that revolution continues —

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.

MR. SOMMERS:  — after this pandemic crisis is solved.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mike.

MR. SOMMERS:  Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Very good.

LEADER MCCARTHY:  I think Senator Cruz was somewhere —

THE PRESIDENT:  I think he’s around here.

LEADER MCCARTHY:  Right back there.  Ted can’t be seen.

THE PRESIDENT:  Where — where is Senator Cruz?

PARTICIPANT:  He’s hiding behind the press.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I can’t believe it.  He’s gone — he’s gone over to the evil side.  (Laughter.)  That’s terrible.

Cruz, what are you doing there?

SENATOR CRUZ:  Mr. President, thank you for convening this meeting.  This is an important meeting and this is the time, as you know, of crisis all across the country — a public health crisis and an economic crisis.

As you’ve heard, and as you know, from everyone around this table, the energy sector has been a huge part of the economic success and boom that we’ve enjoyed over the last several years.  And the combination of the economic harm of the coronavirus crisis, combined with the Saudis and Russians waging economic warfare on jobs in this country, it’s been a perfect storm in the energy sector.

And I’ll tell you, there are a lot of jobs — there are millions of jobs in Texas and across the country that are represented by the men and women around this table and by energy producers.  And there are small producers throughout Texas and throughout the country who are — who are on the verge of being driven out of business.

And so this — this meeting, I think, is important.  Every one of the senators in this room has had multiple conversations with the Saudis, leaning in hard on the Saudis.  And your leadership and diplomacy with the Crown Prince had a big impact getting them to stop flooding the market and taking advantage of this crisis.

And I would underscore one other issue that a number of the folks around this table have raised and I’m very concerned about: is ensuring that those in energy in this time of crisis have access to capital.  That — there are jobs that are hanging in the balance.  And if the energy producers in this country that have made America the number one producer of oil and gas in the world can’t access capital to get out of this crisis, we’re going to see bankruptcies at a level this country hasn’t seen in decades.

And so this meeting and the continued leadership of your administration is hugely important.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  Thank you very much, Ted.  And while you’re up, the concept, and, for instance — I think we should say it in front of the media — but oil reserves, storing oil.  We’re filling up the national reserves, as you know.  We’re getting the oil at a great price.

But at these prices — in fact, Kevin and I have been speaking about it; John and I have been speaking about it — at these prices, you would think you’d want to fill up every cavity that we have in this country.  And there’s some areas in Louisiana and other areas that could be filled up; they hold a lot of oil.

But at these prices — and it would be good and it would keep everybody working — but you would think you’d want to fill up those areas.  What do you think of that, Ted?

SENATOR CRUZ:  Look, I think that’s exactly right.  I think it makes sense in terms of easing the pressure that is threatening these jobs.  But it also makes sense for the taxpayer.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

SENATOR CRUZ:  That Strategic Petroleum Reserve is there in times of crisis.  And usually the way the federal government works is we buy when it’s expensive, and we sell when it’s cheap.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  No, it’s —

SENATOR CRUZ:  We actually have an opportunity now to buy when it’s cheap.  I think it was inexcusable that Democratic leadership in the House and Senate blocked that in this bill we passed last week.  And then I think Congress needs to go back and address it.

LEADER MCCARTHY:  It was in the bill.

SENATOR CRUZ:  Yep.

LEADER MCCARTHY:  And then the Speaker came in and that’s the one thing — when she held this bill up for the number of days — that she removed.

THE PRESIDENT:  Twenty-dollar oil.  Think of it.

LEADER MCCARTHY:  Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Twenty dollars.

SENATOR CRUZ:  Well, and there are too many Democrats —

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s politics.

SENATOR CRUZ:  — that want to see these —

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s all right.

SENATOR CRUZ:  — jobs go away.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think you should go back though, Kevin.  I think you should go back and see, John, if you guys can go back and do a separate bill.

And beyond that, you know, I think it’s 75 million barrels right now to fill it up.  That’s not that much.  So it’s fairly in pretty good shape.  But we have other areas that are bigger, frankly, that we can fill up too.

But at those prices, we should be — we should be pumping it out.  So maybe you guys can check on it and see what you can do about it.  I don’t think anyone can reject it.  Nobody can reject it.  Ted, you’ll work on that?

SENATOR CRUZ:  Absolutely.

THE PRESIDENT:  Anybody else?  David, you guys okay?  David, you want to say something?

SECRETARY BERNHARDT:  So just one thing, Mr. President.  The Department of the Interior manages a large portion of land and part of the offshore.  And one of the things we have done over the last 15 days as you had the “slow the spread,” we have really had our inspectors out on the frontlines working to make sure that the production that’s taking place is occurring in a safe and a responsible manner, and I thank everybody for their cooperation in that.

These jobs are so important to the American people, and it’s important that we make sure that we dot our I’s and cross our T’s too.

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s the biggest landlord in the country.  (Laughter.)  Meaning, it’s called Interior.  Interior is a lot of land, when you look at it.  Thank you.  Great job you’re doing.

So, Dan, go ahead.

SECRETARY BROUILLETTE:  Mr. President, thank you.  Thank you, sir, for your leadership.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Dan.

SECRETARY BROUILLETTE:  My name is Dan Brouillette.  I serve the President as the Secretary of Energy.  With regard to the storage, Mr. President, I’m happy to announce we went to market this week for 30 million barrels.  Notwithstanding the — the desire of the Congress not to give us new money to pursue this idea, we have found an alternative financing mechanism —

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.

SECRETARY BROUILLETTE:  — so that we can immediately find —

THE PRESIDENT:  I figured you would.  (Laughter.)  I actually wasn’t worried about it.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BROUILLETTE:  — so that can we can find —

THE PRESIDENT:  What are you paying per barrel?

SECRETARY BROUILLETTE:  I’m sorry, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  What are you paying?  (Laughs.)  He didn’t want to answer.

SECRETARY BROUILLETTE:  It’s going to be a little a low.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  What are you paying per barrel?  A flexible price or would it –

SECRETARY BROUILLETTE:  They may be paying us.  This could be a little low.

THE PRESIDENT:  So we’re going to go negative, like interests rates.  Negative.

SECRETARY BROUILLETTE:  But, Mr. President, I just wanted you to know — and for the industry players who are here: We are moving very aggressively.  We’re using every tool that we have at the U.S. Department of Energy, not only to provide immediate relief for this particular industry and the economy itself, but also to look for technologies that over time will reduce the cost structure for the entire industry.

So we’re moving as aggressively as we can, sir.  Thank you for your leadership.

THE PRESIDENT:  Dan, check out other areas where you can store oil.

SECRETARY BROUILLETTE:  Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  And there are some very big ones, bigger than what we have now.  And at these prices, you should do it.
SECRETARY BROUILLETTE:  Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Refill it up, right?

SECRETARY BROUILLETTE:  Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Fill up the tank.

Okay, Bob Lighthizer, you’ve been so great.  And this isn’t your meeting really, but Bob has done some of the best trade deals ever done in our country.  And one of them has kicked — it actually kicked in on April 1st, and that’s with China.  And I hope they’re buying a lot.  I hope.

AMBASSADOR LIGHTHIZER:  I don’t (inaudible) say anything.

THE PRESIDENT:  Want to say something?

AMBASSADOR LIGHTHIZER:  I’m here to answer questions, Mr. President, so I’ll just — I’ll just keep my mouth shut.  But the trade deals are working.  China is good.  We’re on — we’re on track with USMCA.  But I’ll just answer questions.

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s very shy.  That’s good.  He just wants to make deals.  That’s all.  And you’ve done a great job.  Thank you very much.

We will have a news conference at about 5 o’clock, 5:15 maybe.  And so we’ll see you in a little while.  We’ll answer questions.

But this is a great group of leaders, and we’ve got to make sure that we preserve and even make greater our energy industry.  And I want to thank all of the senators and congressmen, the boss here, for being here and for working so hard.  They are — I’ll tell you what: They are calling me constantly.  They want your industry to be successful and they really — and they’re going to make it that way.  We’re all going to make it that way.

So I’ll see you at 5 o’clock and — same place.  We look forward to it.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

Q    One question about testing.  Was anybody in here tested for coronavirus?  We got the new guidance?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, would anybody like to be tested?  How about you?  You want to be tested?

Q    I would love to be tested, actually.

THE PRESIDENT:  Huh?

Q    I think all of us would.

THE PRESIDENT:  We might — we might be able to do that.  You know, it’s a great question.  No, you know what?  I like it.  Let’s test these guys.  You know, they gave us millions of jobs.  Listen, they gave us millions of jobs.  If anybody wants to be tested, we’ll test you.  I want to test the head of Exxon.

Q    Will this be for every meeting?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  Not for every meeting.

END           

3:41 P.M. EDT

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Cabinet slashes budgets to pay for 6 new ministries, including ‘alternate PM’ – The Times of Israel

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Cabinet slashes budgets to pay for 6 new ministries, including ‘alternate PM’ – The Times of Israel_5ed43a3d6fdc5.jpeg

The cabinet on Sunday approved widespread fiscal reforms that will cut the budgets of most ministries in order to fund the establishment of six new ministries, including the office of the “alternate prime minister,” in a series of controversial decisions.

A unity coalition deal between Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz ended over a year of political deadlock when the most minister-rich government in Israel’s history was sworn in earlier this month. New ministerial positions were created to accommodate the cabinet’s 33 ministers, who number over a quarter of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers.

The price tag for the overhead costs of the new government has been estimated as high as a billion shekels ($285 million) over its three-year span. There have been widespread accusations that the government is overlarge and costly at a time when the economy is being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the new offices created Sunday was the Alternate Prime Minister’s Office, which will be held by Defense Minister Gantz for 18 months and then be transferred to Netanyahu as part of a power-sharing deal designed to allow him to keep the prime ministerial title even after vacating the post. Unlike other ministers, a prime minister can remain in his post even after he is indicted on criminal charges.

Other offices are Ze’ev Elkin’s Water Resources and Higher Education ministries; Orly Levy-Abekasis’s Ministry of Community Empowerment; David Amsalem’s Cyber Ministry; and Tzipi Hotovely and Tzachi Hanegbi’s Settlements Ministry.

Gantz — who is currently defense minister, in addition to the new post of alternate premier — is set to take over as prime minister in 18 months under the coalition deal, at which point Netanyahu will become alternate prime minister.

As the Alternate Prime Minister’s Office was approved, Netanyahu on Sunday denied reports that the alternate prime minister would also be granted an alternate prime minister’s residence. “It’s not true. It didn’t come up and it won’t,” he said.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz are seen at the Knesset, May 17, 2020. (ALEX KOLOMOISKY/POOL)

In order to create the new posts, ministers approved a government decision that will see a 1.5% cut to the budgets of all government offices, specifically at the upper personnel level. The move will slash 300 posts from the various offices to free up some NIS 100 million ($28.5 million).

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi opposed the budget cuts to foreign service, whereupon the cuts to his ministry were reduced from NIS 11.5 million ($3.2 million) to NIS 4.8 million ($1.3 million), the Walla news site reported.

Incoming Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, right, with his predecessor, incoming Finance Minister Israel Katz, at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, May 18, 2020 (Foreign Ministry)

On the 22-item agenda, the cabinet was also voting on filling the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, led by Blue and White’s Avi Nissenkorn, and other ministerial panels; appointing directors general of the defense and economy ministries; and giving the green light to new Finance Minister Israel Katz’s program to encourage employment amid the pandemic.

In a Saturday night address, Katz presented his new Finance Ministry plan aimed at encouraging employers to take back employees placed on unpaid leave during the height of the pandemic in March. For every employee called back, places of business will receive a grant of NIS 7,500 ($2,141) starting on June 1, according to the plan. An additional grant of some NIS 3,500 ($1,000) will be handed out to employers for employees called back in May. Katz said some NIS 500 million ($142 million) have been allocated for businesses that would put employees back to work.

Economy Minister Amir Peretz opposed the treasury proposal during the meeting, arguing that it rewards employers who dropped their workers while harming those who kept their employees on the payroll even at a loss, according to the Globes business daily.

Katz retorted: “There is an alternate prime minister. There is no alternate finance minister. I am the finance minister and I will lead the implementation of the government decisions, which I proposed, and which were accepted by an overwhelming majority,” the Ynet news site reported.

Incoming Economy Minister Amir Peretz at a changeover ceremony in Jerusalem on May 18 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Sunday’s cabinet meeting also saw Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri receive building and planning powers that were previously under the treasury’s purview, while the Health Ministry was granted additional powers to combat the coronavirus.

The meeting on Sunday was held in the Foreign Ministry’s auditorium as the regular cabinet meeting rooms were not large enough to accommodate all the ministers while maintaining social distancing, according to reports.

Opposition chairman Yair Lapid issued a statement blasting the government after ministers approved funding for the newly formed offices created by the Gantz-Netanyahu coalition deal.

“The government handed half a billion shekels to itself today. Not for the self-employed, not for the unemployed, not for small businesses, but for itself,” said Lapid.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid at the Knesset as the 35th government of Israel is presented on May 17, 2020. (Knesset/Adina Veldman)

“For redundant offices like the Water Resources Ministry, the nonexistent Community Empowerment Ministry and for deputy ministers that no one needs. Detached lawmakers, we’ve had enough of you.”

Separately, last Wednesday,  a bill allowing ministers to give up their positions as Knesset members in order to enable a different member of their party slate to take their spot in parliament passed its preliminary Knesset plenary reading. The so-called Norwegian Law — which still requires three more votes to become law — would allow any MK who is appointed to a cabinet post to resign temporarily from the Knesset, thereby permitting the next candidate on the party’s list to enter parliament in his or her stead.

The opposition has blasted the bill, and the coalition’s rush to pass it, as a way of pushing more people into sweetheart jobs on the taxpayers’ dime.

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Tapper: Some of Trump’s allies think he’s not up to the task – CNN

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In Days of Discord, President Trump Fans the Flames – The New York Times

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WASHINGTON — With a nation on edge, ravaged by disease, hammered by economic collapse, divided over lockdowns and even face masks and now convulsed once again by race, President Trump’s first instinct has been to look for someone to fight.

Over the last week, America reeled from 100,000 pandemic deaths, 40 million people out of work and cities in flames over a brutal police killing of a subdued black man. But Mr. Trump was on the attack against China, the World Health Organization, Big Tech, former President Barack Obama, a cable television host and the mayor of a riot-torn city.

While other presidents seek to cool the situation in tinderbox moments like this, Mr. Trump plays with matches. He roars into any melee he finds, encouraging street uprisings against public health measures advanced by his own government, hurling made-up murder charges against a critic, accusing his predecessor of unspecified crimes, vowing to crack down on a social media company that angered him and then seemingly threatening to meet violence with violence in Minneapolis.

As several cities erupted in street protests after the killing of George Floyd, some of them resulting in clashes with the police, Mr. Trump made no appeal for calm. Instead in a series of tweets and comments to reporters on Saturday, he blamed the unrest on Democrats, called on “Liberal Governors and Mayors” to get “MUCH tougher” on the crowds, threatened to intervene with “the unlimited power of our Military” and even suggested his own supporters mount a counterdemonstration.

The turmoil came right to Mr. Trump’s doorstep for the second night in a row on Saturday as hundreds of people protesting Mr. Floyd’s death and the president’s response surged in streets near the White House. While most were peaceful, chanting “black lives matter” and “no peace, no justice,” some spray painted scatological advice for Mr. Trump, ignited small fires, set off firecrackers and threw bricks, bottles and fruit at Secret Service and United States Park Police officers, who responded with pepper spray.

The police cordoned off several blocks around the Executive Mansion as a phalanx of camouflage-wearing National Guard troops marched across nearby Lafayette Square. A man strode through the streets yelling, “Time for a revolution!” The image of the White House surrounded by police in helmets and riot gear behind plastic shields fueled the sense of a nation torn apart.

Mr. Trump praised the Secret Service for being “very cool” and “very professional” but assailed the Democratic mayor of Washington for not providing city police officers to help on Friday night, which she denied. While governors and mayors have urged restraint, Mr. Trump seemed more intent on taunting the protesters, bragging about the violence that would have met them had they tried to get onto White House grounds.

“Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence,” the president wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning. “If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least. Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action.”

His suggestion that his own supporters should come to the White House on Saturday foreshadowed the possibility of a clash outside his own doors. “Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???” he wrote on Twitter, using the acronym for his first campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

Asked about the tweet later, he denied encouraging violence by his supporters. “They love African-American people,” he said. “They love black people. MAGA loves the black people.” By evening, however, Mr. Trump’s supporters were not in evidence among the crowds at the White House.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington responded sharply on Saturday morning, saying her police department will protect anyone in Washington, including the president, and by Saturday evening her officers were out in force around the White House.

But she called the president a source of division. “While he hides behind his fence afraid/alone, I stand w/ people peacefully exercising their First Amendment Right after the murder of #GeorgeFloyd & hundreds of years of institutional racism,” she wrote. “There are no vicious dogs & ominous weapons. There is just a scared man. Afraid/alone …”

After his morning barrage, Mr. Trump tried to recalibrate later in the day, devoting the opening of a speech at the Kennedy Space Center following the SpaceX rocket launch to the unrest in the streets and clearly trying to temper his bellicose tone.

“I understand the pain that people are feeling,” he said. “We support the right of peaceful protesters and we hear their pleas. But what we are now seeing on the streets of our cities has nothing to do with justice or peace. The memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters and anarchists.”

The days of discord have put the president’s leadership style on vivid display. From the start of his ascension to power, Mr. Trump has presented himself as someone who seeks conflict, not conciliation, a fighter, not a peacemaker. That appeals to a substantial portion of the public that sees in him a president willing to take on an entrenched and entitled establishment.

But the confluence of perilous health, economic and now racial crises has tested his approach and left him struggling to find his footing just months before an election in which polls currently show him behind.

“The president seems more out-of-touch and detached from the difficult reality the country is living than ever before,” said Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican congressman from Florida who has been critical of Mr. Trump. “At a moment when America desperately needs healing, the president is focused on petty personal battles with his perceived adversaries.”

Such a moment would challenge any president, of course. It has been a year of national trauma that started out feeling like another 1998 with impeachment, then another 1918 with a killer pandemic combined with another 1929 given the shattering economic fallout. Now add to that another 1968, a year of deep social unrest.

It is fair to say that 2020 has turned out to be a year that has frayed the fabric of American society with an accumulation of anguish that has whipsawed the country and its people. But in some ways, Mr. Trump has become a totem for the nation’s polarization rather than a mender of it.

“I am daily thinking about why and how a society unravels and what we can do to stop the process,” said Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University. “The calamity these days is about more than Trump. He is just the malicious con man who lives to exploit our vulnerabilities.”

As the nation has confronted a coronavirus pandemic at the same time as the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, whatever unified resolve that existed at the beginning of the twin crises quickly evaporated into yet another cultural clash. And the president has made everything into just another partisan dispute rather than a source of consensus, from when and how to reopen to whether to wear a mask in public.

Mr. Trump led no national mourning as the death toll from the coronavirus passed 100,000 beyond lowering the flags at the White House, posting a single tweet and offering a passing comment on camera only when asked about it. Rather than seek agreement on the best and safest way to restore daily life, he threatened to “override” governors who prevented places of worship from resuming crowded services.

“Crisis leadership demands much more from the White House than irresponsible threats on social media,” said Meena Bose, director of the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University.

Mr. Trump’s initial response to the rioting in Minneapolis, where a police officer has been charged with murder after kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he cried out that he could not breathe, underscored the president’s most instinctive response to national challenges. Threatening to send in troops, he wrote early Friday morning that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Only after a cascade of criticism did he try to walk it back, posting a new tweet 13 hours later, suggesting that all he had meant was that “looting leads to shooting” by people in the street.

“I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means,” he said, a reformulation that convinced few if any of his critics.

Even some of Mr. Trump’s usual allies were distressed at the original shooting tweet. Geraldo Rivera, the television and radio host who often spends time with Mr. Trump at the president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, decried “the recklessness” of that message and called on the president “to self-censor himself.”

“Come on, what is this, sixth grade?” Mr. Rivera said on Fox News. “You don’t put gasoline on the fire. That’s not calming anybody.” He added: “All he does is diminish himself.”

But many of the president’s defenders rejected the idea that he had mishandled the crises, pressing the argument that Democrats and the news media were to blame for the turmoil in the streets, which spread from Minneapolis to New York, Atlanta, Washington, Louisville, Portland and other cities.

“Keep track of cities where hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and serious injuries and death will take place,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor who has served as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, wrote on Twitter on Friday night. “All Democrat dominated cities with criminal friendly policies. This is the future if you elect Democrats.”

Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who was pardoned by Mr. Trump for tax fraud earlier this year, amplified the point on Twitter. “It should be no surprise that every one of these cities that the anarchist have taken over, are the same cities run by leftist Democrats with the highest violence, murder and poverty rates,” he wrote on Twitter. “They can’t handle their cities normally, so how are they going to deal with this?”

Mr. Trump, who this past week retweeted a video of a supporter saying that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat” (though the supporter insisted he meant that in a political sense), picked up the theme on Saturday.

With crowds visible from his upstairs windows, Mr. Trump reached for his phone and again assailed the “Democrat Mayor” of Minneapolis for not responding more vigorously and called on New York to unleash its police against crowds. “Let New York’s Finest be New York’s Finest,” he wrote. “There is nobody better, but they must be allowed to do their job!”

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