Trump Vowed to “Absolutely Prioritize” Black Colleges. Then Came His Budget. – BRANDON E. PATTERSON JUN. 1, 2017 6:00 AM


Is the White House betraying a promise to HBCUs?

On the morning of February 27, more than 70 presidents of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) stood in a West Wing corridor, waiting to enter the Oval Office. The meeting with President Donald Trump would be historic—the first time that the head of every HBCU in the country had been invited to meet with the president at the White House. Top aides Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Reince Preibus mixed and mingled with the group. According to Morgan State University president David Wilson, who was among those attending, Bannon voiced a promise: “If you give us a plan, we will execute it.” The implication was clear, Wilson says: Tell us what resources HBCUs need and the administration will find a way to pay for them in Trump’s budget.

The Oval Office meeting was one of many conversations and phone calls since Election Day between HCBU presidents, leaders of HBCU advocacy groups, and the Trump White House. Earlier that day, the White House had promoted a newspaper story headlined “President Trump Seeks to Outdo Obama in Backing Black Colleges,” which alluded to a plan for “historic” support for the schools. The next day, Trump signed an executive order that relocated a federal office devoted to helping fund and support black colleges from the Department of Education into the White House.

“We will make HBCUs a priority in the White House,” Trump said at the signing, “an absolute priority.”

“What we see now certainly does not meet my definition of substantial investment.”

But for leaders and advocates of these institutions, the release of Trump’s budgetin late May did nothing of the sort. Not only was there no new funding for HBCUs in the budget, Trump called for slashing millions of dollars from federal programs that also support degree programs at the schools. Trump’s plan appeared to boost Pell grants by extending their use to year-round—but meanwhile called for taking away $5 billion-plus in reserves from the Pell program and cutting at least $1.5 billion from other federal financial aid programs, including work study. Taken together, these cuts would disproportionately affect low-income students at black colleges, and cost the schools millions in revenue.

“The perception that many HBCU presidents were operating under was that the administration was making a commitment to follow up with a substantial investment in the institutions,” Wilson told me recently. “What we see now certainly does not meet my definition of substantial investment.”

“The budget doesn’t match” earlier messaging from the White House, said Walter Kimbrough, the president of Dillard University. “I’ll be interested to see how members of his team will say this undergirds his recent support for HBCUs. At least for Dillard, I can say it’s a loss.”

Advocates were further perplexed by Trump and questioned his commitment when he suggested in a statement in early May that special funding for black colleges could be unconstitutional. (After his comments drew a backlash, Trump expressed his “unwavering support” for HBCUs again in another statement.)

According to HBCU advocates, the Trump administration’s outreach has been spearheaded by senior communications aide Omarosa Manigault and Ja’Ron Smith, who leads urban renewal efforts on Trump’s domestic policy team. Manigualt and Smith, who are Howard University graduates, did not respond to requests for comment.

Early this year, HBCU advocacy groups jointly proposed a plan for federal funding to the Trump administration. They asked that two key Department of Education programs that support HBCUs be funded at $500 million, the maximum level permitted by Congress, and that the Trump administration commit to increasing for HBCUs the percentage of grants and contracts reserved for institutions of higher education in the federal budget. They argued passionately that HBCUs could play a key role in a Trump plan to create new opportunities for African Americans: The schools have an outsize impact, enrolling eight percent of all black college students in America and producing approximately 15 percent of those who earn bachelor’s degrees. (The nation’s approximately 100 HBCUs constitute three percent of the nation’s colleges and universities.) The schools also graduate large numbers of first-generation college students; roughly 70 percent of the more than 290,000 students enrolled at HBCUs are low-income—more than twice the rate for college students nationally. Howard University is especially known for its many graduates who become lawyers, dentists, doctors, and engineers.

Johnny Taylor, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, says the news about Trump’s budget hasn’t been all bad—HBCUs were mostly insulated from a proposed 13 percent across-the-board cut hitting the Department of Education, which supplies the majority of federal funding to HCBUs. Even being able to retain that core funding under Trump “is something that our community should celebrate,” Taylor says.

Making matters worse, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos described HBCUs in a statement as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.”

But Kimbrough sees that as “moving the goal posts,” especially after promise was in the air from the White House. He and Wilson told Mother Jones that the other cuts, including those to financial aid programs, could cost their schools six- or possibly even seven-figure sums in revenue, and would impact hundreds of their schools’ students. “When you take away any money from any of the students that are on Pell Grants or coming from limited resource families, you are putting them closer and closer to going back home,” Wilson said. Even with as little as a few hundred dollars per semester—”those dollars actually mean the world for our students.”

For many HBCU families, “it’s a sacrifice to get students to go to school,” Kimbrough said. So even relatively small cuts in federal aid can be devastating for them. Morgan State already spends around 15 percent of its budget on financial aid—a larger percentage than any other college in Maryland, according to Wilson; the school simply can’t afford to subsidize cuts to government aid for more students.

Even after the first Trump budget proposal in March, skepticism was already stirring about the promises from the Trump White House. “This budget proposal is not a new deal for African Americans,” Congressional Black Caucus chairman and Morehouse College alumnus Cedric Richmond said, speaking broadly of Trump’s first budget proposal, which proposed lesser cuts to HBCU funding than the May version. “It’s a raw deal that robs the poor and the middle-class to pay the richest of the rich.”

Article continues:

POTUS nearing a decision on whether to pull U.S. from Paris climate deal, breaking ranks with more than 190 countries


Play Video 1:18

What you need to know about the Paris Agreement on climate change

 The Paris Agreement is an international agreement to lower worldwide greenhouse gas emissions in order to mitigate climate change. Here’s what you need to know.(Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

This story has been updated.

President Trump is nearing a final decision on whether to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, with one White House official saying Wednesday that the president is leaning toward an exit but three others cautioning that he has not reached a verdict.

The matter has deeply divided the administration for months. Ivanka Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have urged the president to remain in the deal, and White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have been pushing for a withdrawal.

[Whatever Trump decides on Paris, he has already taken the U.S. out of the climate game]

A withdrawal would put the United States in the same camp as Nicaragua and Syria: a tiny group of countries refusing to participate in the almost universally supported Paris climate change agreement.

Trump added to the intense speculation about the future of the agreement Wednesday morning, tweeting that his decision will be announced “over the next few days.”

Later in the day, he again stoked the uncertainty during a brief appearance with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the White House. He told members of the White House press pool that he would have a decision about the Paris agreement “very soon.”

“I’m hearing from a lot of people, both ways,” he said.

More than 190 nations agreed to the accord in December 2015 in Paris, and 147 have since formally ratified or otherwise joined it, including the United States — representing more than 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

A U.S. withdrawal would remove the world’s second-largest emitter and nearly 18 percent of the globe’s present-day emissions from the agreement, presenting a severe challenge to its structure and raising questions about whether it would weaken the commitments of other nations.

[These experts say it may actually be best if the U.S. left the Paris climate agreement]

Trump has already, through executive orders, moved to roll back key Obama administration policies, notably the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, that comprised a key part of the U.S.’s Paris promise to reduce its emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025.

As of 2015, emissions were 12 percent lower, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The Paris decision has deeply divided the administration, with internationalists, such as Tillerson, arguing that it would be beneficial to the United States to remain part of negotiations and international meetings surrounding the agreement, as a matter of leverage and influence.

Conservatives, such as Pruitt, have argued that the agreement is not fair to the United States and that staying in it would be used as a legal tool by environmental groups seeking to fight Trump environmental policies.

Article continues:

Macron says long POTUS handshake ‘not innocent’ – By KAIT BOLONGARO 5/28/17, 11:30 AM CET Updated 5/28/17, 12:43 PM CET


Holding onto U.S. president’s hand showed he won’t make even small concessions, French leader explains.

French President Emmanuel Macron said his extended handshake with Donald Trump before a NATO summit was “not innocent” and intended to show he did not make even small concessions.In an interview with the Journal du Dimanche published on Sunday, the French leader said his interaction with the American head of state was “a moment of truth.”

Article continues:

Source: Macron says long Trump handshake ‘not innocent’ – POLITICO

POTUS reportedly urged James Comey to drop Michael Flynn investigation -Tom McCarthy, Lauren Gambino, Sabrina Siddiqui and Ben Jacobs First published on Tuesday 16 May 2017 18.00 EDT


Comey memos show president asked the former FBI director to ‘let go’ investigation, and House Republicans have called for a release of any documents

Trump reportedly asked James Comey to drop an investigation into the former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

Donald Trump directly asked the former FBI director, James Comey, to drop an investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, according to notes kept at the time by Comey and first reported on Tuesday by the New York Times.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey, according to Comey’s record of the meeting, as reported by the Times. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

The latest crisis to beset the White House came just 24 hours after the first reports emerged of Trump having shared classified intelligence with Russia during Oval Office talks.

The new development spurred Republicans in the House of Representatives, whose support Trump needs, out of their stance of passive support for the president. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the oversight and government reform committee, formally asked the FBI to turn over to the committee all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings referring or related to any communications between Comey and the president”.

A spokesperson for House speaker Paul Ryan encouraged the move. “We need to have all the facts, and it is appropriate for the House oversight committee to request this memo,” Ryan’s office said.

Article continues:

Members of Congress Demand POTUS Provide Legal Justification for Syria Attack


NEARLY THREE WEEKS AFTER ordering a cruise missile attack against one of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s airfields, Donald Trump has yet to explain how that was legal without congressional authorization.

Two Democratic members of Congress are demanding that Trump offer some sort of legal justification beyond off-the-cuff remarks from administration officials.

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Rep. Adam Schiff of California sent a stern letter to the White House on Tuesday, warning that Trump could be setting a dangerous precedent for conducting pre-emptive strikes and risking war with major powers, while cutting Congress out of the picture.

Two days after the missile strike, Trump sent Congress a notice that he had ordered it and that he had the “constitutional authority” to do so.

Source: Members of Congress Demand Trump Provide Legal Justification for Syria Attack

Only 2 Percent of Americans Who Voted for POTUS Regret It – By Daniel Politi APRIL 23 2017 9:48 AM


President  Trump is getting ready to mark his 100 days in office as the least popular commander in chief of the modern era at this point in their presidency. But among his supporters, 96 percent of those who voted for Trump said they would do it all over again if the election were held today, and only 2 percent say they regret supporting him, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll. In contrast, 85 percent of Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton said they’d vote for her if the election were held today. That’s not because Clinton voters would support Trump, but rather because they say they’d be more willing to back a third-party candidate or not vote at all.

The poll makes clear what numerous surveys have already pointed out: Trump has not enjoyed the typical 100-day honeymoon period. Overall, only 42 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s performance as president, and 53 percent disapprove. The number is worse in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that puts Trump’s overall job-approval rating at 40 percent, 4 points lower than it was in February. That is in sharp contrast to the average 69 percent approval for past presidents at or near the 100-day mark. President Barack Obama, for example, had a 69-26 percent approval rating near his 100 days in office.

More than half of Americans don’t think Trump has accomplished much in his first 100 days. Forty-five percent of Americans flat out say that Trump’s presidency is off to a poor start while 19 percent say it’s been “only a fair start.” That compares to the 35 percent who say the president’s first 100 days have been “good” or “great,” according to the NBC/WSJ poll.

That doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom for the president. The Post/ABC poll also finds some surprisingly positive evaluations of the commander in chief’s performance on certain issues. More than half of Americans—53 percent—say Trump is a strong leader, including 25 percent of Democrats. Plus 73 percent of Americans approve of the way he has been pressuring companies to keep jobs in the country. A plurality—46 percent—also approve of the way he has been handling North Korea. The president also gets high marks for his recent military actions in Syria, which 62 percent of Americans say they support, according to the NBC/WSJ poll.

Article continues:

POTUS, GOP Race to Avoid Government Shutdown as They Juggle Health-Care Revamp – WSJ By Louise Radnofsky, Siobhan Hughes and Kristina Peterson Updated April 20, 2017 11:04 p.m. ET


The president and his allies in Congress are rushing to sort through two sensitive issues—how to avoid a government shutdown next week while reviving a failed overhaul of the Affordable Care Act—as Mr. Trump nears the end of his first 100 days in office.

WASHINGTON—The White House has thrust a new set of proposals into talks to avoid shutdown of the government next week, while also seeking to revive a health-care overhaul that had collapsed last month.

With less than a week to pass legislation funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year, negotiations are beginning to take shape. Democrats are demanding that the legislation include money for insurance companies, without which fragile insurance markets could implode, while the White House in return wants additional money for defense, the border wall and border enforcement.

Failure to extend the funding would trigger a partial government shutdown on April 29, the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Republican leaders will need Democratic votes in the Senate, and likely in the House, to pass a spending bill, giving the minority party unusual leverage in negotiations. Discussions now hinge on Democratic demands that the government continue payments that help support Affordable Care Act insurance plans. The money, known as “cost-sharing” payments, helps insurers lower costs for low-income consumers.

Article continues:

Source: Trump, GOP Race to Avoid Government Shutdown as They Juggle Health-Care Revamp – WSJ