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Tuesday, October 17, 2017
 
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Trump, McConnell Make Show of Unity    10/17 06:15

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell have reaffirmed their 
alliance of necessity in a raucous Rose Garden news conference that also 
underscored their sharp differences. The garrulous president claimed they were 
longtime friends, now closer than ever; the reserved Senate Republican leader 
allowed that they share goals and speak often.

   It was a spectacle that mesmerized Washington, as Trump and McConnell 
appeared side by side for more than a half-hour, the president tossing off 
answers --- sometimes mini-speeches --- on all topics while McConnell, 
disciplined as always, delivered brief, scholarly explanations about the 
legislative process and the risks to their party of nominating candidates who 
can't win.

   At various points, the president denounced the Russia-Trump campaign 
investigation, lauded himself for his record on judicial nominations, argued 
wrongly that "it took years for the Reagan administration to get taxes done," 
and claimed that past presidents hadn't necessarily contacted bereaved family 
members to mourn lost service members --- before backtracking on that assertion 
when pressed. He also noted, as he often does, that he won the presidential 
election last fall, and he implored Hillary Clinton to run again.

   In front of a hastily assembled White House press corps, jostling each other 
on the lawn because there wasn't time to bring out chairs, Trump began his 
remarks by saluting McConnell and, as he described it, their longstanding 
friendship.

   "We're probably now closer than ever before," the president proclaimed as 
McConnell grinned stiffly at his side. "My relationship with this gentleman is 
outstanding."

   Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, over the weekend declared 
all-out political war on the GOP establishment, including McConnell and 
incumbent Republican senators Bannon has deemed unsupportive of the president's 
agenda. Trump said earlier Monday during a Cabinet meeting that he "can 
understand fully how Steve Bannon feels" and even that some in the party 
"should be ashamed of themselves." But he later suggested he might try to talk 
Bannon out of challenging some Senate Republicans whom McConnell has pledged to 
defend.

   "Some of the people that he may be looking at, I'm going to see if we talk 
him out of that, because frankly, they're great people," Trump said.

   Trump's change in tone suggested that McConnell, whose allies regularly do 
battle with Bannon, might have talked Trump into intervening during their lunch 
together.

   "Just so you understand, the Republican Party is very, very unified," Trump 
insisted.

   McConnell took the opportunity to lay out, for the public and for the 
audience of one standing beside him, why he and GOP allies work to protect 
Senate incumbents. He argued that some conservative Republicans nominated in 
the 2010 and 2012 cycles didn't win because they weren't able to "appeal to a 
broader electorate in the general election."

   "You have to nominate people who can actually win, because winners make 
policy and losers go home," McConnell said.

   Trump briefly pursed his lips as McConnell made those remarks, then took a 
question on another topic.

   Bannon, meanwhile, seemed in no mood to back down. "Senator McConnell and 
the GOP Establishment have 'sown the wind --- now they reap the whirlwind,'" he 
said.

   Bannon's Brietbart News site also reveled in the attention. "Bitter Mitch! 
Triggered by Bannon," one of its Monday headlines read.

   Trump spent August assailing McConnell for his inability to pass legislation 
to repeal the Affordable Care Act, calling the failure "a disgrace" and 
ordering McConnell over Twitter to "get back to work." For his part, McConnell 
has complained that Trump had "excessive expectations" for how quickly Congress 
could act.

   Nevertheless the Kentucky senator seconded the president's latest views.

   "Contrary to what some of you may have reported, we are together, totally, 
on this agenda to move America forward," McConnell said.

   It was not clear what led to Monday's sudden question-and-answer session, 
which followed lunch between McConnell and Trump at the White House. Their 
meeting came at a critical time, with the Senate poised to vote this week on a 
budget that would set the stage for tax legislation that many Republicans view 
as make-or-break following the failure on health care. Both McConnell and Trump 
recommitted themselves to the goal of passing a tax bill by the end of this 
year.

   The last time McConnell was at the White House was early last month. On that 
occasion, Trump bypassed him and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan to cut a 
deal with the Senate's Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, and House Minority 
Leader Nancy Pelosi on debt and spending.

   That kicked off a brief period when bipartisanship was in the air in 
Washington, and it seemed possible that Trump would make common cause with 
Democrats at the expense of Republicans on other issues, too. But the 
suggestion of a deal on immigration appears to have fallen apart. Questioned 
Monday about Schumer and Pelosi, Trump replied: "Well, I hope to have a 
relationship. If we don't, we don't."

   However, he claimed that his recent action to shut off certain payments to 
insurers under the Affordable Care Act, denounced by Democrats as sabotage, was 
forcing bipartisan talks. Indeed there may be a renewed focus on Senate 
bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing the payments, which go to subsidize 
costs for low-income people.

   "Because of that, people are talking now, Democrats are talking to the 
Republicans," Trump said, contending that a short-term fix would be followed 
next year by ultimate success in repealing "Obamacare," and asserting with no 
evidence, as he's done in the past, that the votes are there now to repeal the 
law.

   Trump also denounced the investigation into his campaign's involvement with 
Russia, being conducted by a special counsel and GOP-led congressional 
committees.

   "The whole Russia thing was an excuse for the Democrats losing the 
election," he said.

   "There has been absolutely no collusion. It's been stated that they have no 
collusion. They ought to get to the end of it, because I think the American 
public is sick of it."


(KA)

 
 
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