“Nothing’s done until it’s done, and that’s always been true in Trump world and this is yet another of many examples,” said a person close to the White House.
The DPC is a little-known but influential office within the White House. During Trump’s tenure, various White House power centers have vied over installing allies to lead the council. The latest jockeying came after Joe Grogan, who had worked closely with departed acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, recently announced he would leave his position.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, floated several people for the role, including both Lyons and Rollins. Newly installed chief of staff Mark Meadows floated his own name, Stephen Miller, an influential immigration policy aide. It was expected that the domestic policy chief would play a significant role in the president’s efforts to reopen the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.
After several days of deliberations, it appeared Kushner and Meadows had selected Lyons to serve as acting DPC director for the rest of Trump’s term, while continuing in his current role as White House staff secretary, a key official who manages document flow to the president.
POLITICO reported on May 6 that Lyons had been selected, citing four people familiar with the decision, including two White House officials. The next day, another White House official didn’t dispute the appointment and provided a comment.
“Derek is a loyal and highly respected member of the Trump White House who has worked to implement Donald Trump’s policy agenda for three and a half years as staff secretary,“ the official said May 7.
But the decision apparently wasn’t final. And the news of Lyons’ likely appointment frustrated some conservatives, given his former affiliation with Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Lyons, a lawyer and Harvard Law School grad, started his career as a law clerk to Brett Kavanaugh when the Supreme Court justice was still a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals. He later worked on Capitol Hill.
But it was his time with Jeb Bush’s campaign that made some conservatives suspicious. His affiliation with Kushner also raised some eyebrows, given that Trump’s son-in-law has pushed for some more moderate policies, including business-friendly immigration changes that hardliners say are too lenient.
“This is not what #AmericaFirst voters signed up for,” tweeted conservative commentator Michelle Malkin May 6 using the hashtag #JaredKushnerIsNotMyPresident. Malkin described Lyons as someone who comes from Jeb Bush’s “Illegal Immigration Is An Act of Love” wing of the GOP.
“Trump has picked Derek Lyons as the head of the Domestic Policy Council…- he’s a former Jeb! Person,” tweeted Ryan Girdusky, a conservative writer and political consultant.
This past Friday, that White House official said Lyons was never officially offered the job. But others in the White House thought Lyons had the gig. They noted that on an internal White House deregulation policy call several days earlier, Rollins even congratulated Lyons on his reported new policy role, according to a White House official familiar with the call.
The first White House official said Meadows received praise internally about Lyons but some in the White House worried that criticism from influential conservative pundits, such as Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson of Fox News, would soon follow.
A senior White House official pushed back on conservative complaints about Lyons’ ideology, noting he has been directly involved in “crafting, finalizing and executing the staunchest border security measures and most rigorous immigration control measures that we have put in place.” Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who worked with Lyons in the White House during impeachment, called him “a true conservative” who has “an excellent relationship with the president.”
In a statement Friday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany praised Lyons.
“Derek Lyons is an invaluable member of the White House and a highly impressive and respected colleague,” she said. “He has been elevated to one of the highest titles in the White House, and for good reason.”
There was another problem that arose during deliberations: Meadows and Kushner had yet to have Trump sign off on Lyons’ appointment when the news broke, according to two White House officials.
The first White House official said Lyons and Rollins were finalists for the job, but the job ultimately went to Rollins in part because she would be able to appear on television as part of “the public facing role” of DPC director.
“There was talk of [Lyons] doing both roles, but it was decided the roles shouldn’t be combined,” the official said.
By the end of this week, Rollins had been tapped to head the DPC in an acting capacity. The New York Times first reported Rollins’ appointment Thursday night. Rollins introduced herself as DPC director on at least two calls with White House staff Friday, according to two people. A formal announcement is expected Monday, according to the White House.
“Brooke is really Jared’s person. … I think that played a big part in it,” said one person close to the White House.
Rollins didn’t respond to a request for comment. Lyons had no comment.
After the White House settled on Rollins to lead the DPC, Lyons was elevated to the title of counselor, making him one of the closest advisers to the president alongside Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway, who have similar titles, although Conway is senior counselor. The move was seen internally by some as a face-saving measure and by others as a Kushner attempt to diminish Conway’s status. But the White House said Lyons was promoted to give him an expanded role on policy issues.
“Derek does extraordinary work in his role as Staff Secretary,” Meadows said in a statement. “Given his large portfolio, elevating him to Counselor to the President made the most sense. This is an expansive role that will put him in an additional advisory role to President Trump on a wide range of legal, policy, and strategic matters.”
Rollins also serves as director of the Office of American Innovation, a Kushner-launched office that handles various policy issues. Rollins and two others in that office, Ja’Ron Smith and Theo Wold, were similarly considered for the DPC job. All three worked with Kushner on criminal justice reform and his long-stalled push to overhaul the immigration system.
Rollins, Grogan said, is “a committed conservative, she’s a team player, she’s very smart, not just on policy but also on communications. I don’t know that there’s a better choice.”
Previously, Rollins served as president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a think tank based in Austin partly funded by the Koch Brothers, and as a top aide to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who went on to become Trump’s first Energy secretary.
Kushner previously suggested Rollins for the DPC job in late 2018, before the job ultimately went to Grogan.
Rollins has more credibility with some conservatives than Lyons on a number of issues, such as fiscal policy. But not everyone was satisfied.
“Picking the former leader of a faux nonpartisan research institute funded by corporations and billionaires like the Koch brothers speaks for itself,” a conservative close to the White House said.
Meridith McGraw contributed to this report.
Cabinet slashes budgets to pay for 6 new ministries, including ‘alternate PM’ – The Times of Israel
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Tapper: Some of Trump’s allies think he’s not up to the task – CNN
In Days of Discord, President Trump Fans the Flames – The New York Times
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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