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Trump Uses Crisis to Push Agenda       04/05 08:56

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump is taking an old political adage 
to heart: Never let a crisis go to waste.

   The coronavirus is projected to kill more than 100,000 Americans. It has 
effectively shuttered the economy, torpedoed the stock market and rewritten the 
rules of what used to be called normal life. 

   But in this moment of upheaval, Trump and his advisers haven't lost sight of 
the opportunity to advance his agenda.

   A look at some of the president's notable moves:

   BRINGING BACK THE ENTERTAINMENT TAX DEDUCTION 

   Trump has called on Congress to revive the tax deduction for 
business-related expenses on meals and entertainment, arguing it would help 
bolster high-end restaurants hammered by the outbreak.

   Trump's own tax law in 2017 sliced the tax rate for corporations from 35% to 
21% and eliminated the deduction.

   "This is a great time to bring it back," Trump said of the resurrecting the 
tax break. "Otherwise a lot of these restaurants are going to have a hard time 
reopening," he said at White House briefing Wednesday.

   During a Rose Garden briefing last Sunday, Trump said he had spoken with 
celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck about the idea. Trump also name-checked prominent 
restaurateurs including Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges 
Vongerichten as he tried to make the case for reviving the deduction. 
Vongerichten is a tenant at the president's Trump Tower in New York.

   "Congress must pass the old, and very strongly proven, deductibility by 
businesses on restaurants and entertainment," Trump tweeted recently. "This 
will bring restaurants, and everything related, back - and stronger than ever. 
Move quickly, they will all be saved!"

   ___

   USING VIRUS TO MAKE CASE FOR TIGHTER BORDERS

   Trump has repeatedly credited himself with moving in late January to bar 
entry from foreigners who had recently been in China.

   The president later also ordered the temporary suspension of travel from 
much of Europe to the United States, and has largely closed the U.S. borders 
with Canada and Mexico.

   But Trump has notably used the crisis to remind Americans about his 2016 
campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He argues a wall 
would help contain the coronavirus. In a tweet last month, he said the 
structure is "Going up fast" and "We need the Wall more than ever!"

   Leading public health experts disagree. Robert Redfield, director of the 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told lawmakers last month that he 
was unaware of any indication from his agency that physical barriers along 
America's borders would help halt the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. 

   Still, Trump argues that the virus has only spotlighted that his instincts 
on the border wall were right.

   The virus --- and the subsequent opportunity to invoke emergency powers --- 
has allowed Trump to lock down the borders and make sure virtually no 
immigrants are getting in.

   ___

   PANDEMIC UNDERSCORES NEED FOR PROTECTIONISM, TRUMP SAYS

   Trump in recent days has grumbled that American companies such as 3M and GM 
are not doing enough to provide American medical workers and first responders 
with vital equipment they need.

   But the president and his aides have also made a broader argument about the 
need for the country to retool regulations to encourage the manufacturing of 
medicine and other key safety equipment on American soil.

   Peter Navarro, a senior trade adviser to Trump, said the pandemic, which has 
left hospitals short of ventilators and protective masks, has underscored the 
president's "buy American, secure borders, and a strong manufacturing base" 
philosophy.

   "Never again should we have to depend on the rest of the world for our 
essential medicines and countermeasures," Navarro said.

   ___

   ADMINISTRATION ROLLS BACK MILEAGE STANDARDS

   On the same day that the White House announced projections that 100,000 to 
240,000 Americans are likely to die from coronavirus, the Environmental 
Protection Agency introduced a controversial new federal rule that will relax 
mileage standards for years to come.

   The rollback is a victory for Americans who like their SUVs and pickup 
trucks, but it's hardly without a cost. The government's own projections 
indicate that the new standards also mean more Americans will die from air 
pollution, and there will be more climate-damaging tailpipe exhaust and more 
expense for drivers at the gas pumps.

   Trump hailed the new rule as reason for Americans to go out and buy big, new 
cars.

   "Great news! American families will now be able to buy safer, more 
affordable, and environmentally friendly cars with our new SAFE VEHICLES RULE," 
Trump tweeted. 

   Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups condemned the rollback, and 
years of legal battles are expected, including from California and other states 
opposed to the change.

   ___

   KEEPING AN EYE ON OVERHAULING COURTS

   Trump announced Friday he was nominating a young, federal judge to fill a 
high-profile vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia 
Circuit.

   Judge Justin Walker, 37, was confirmed less than six months ago for a seat 
on the U.S. District Court in Western Kentucky after a contentious nominating 
fight about his credentials.

   The former clerk to retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is one of 
the youngest federal judges in the country. He also has deep ties to Senate 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who hailed the 
nomination as an opportunity to "refresh the second-most-important federal 
court in the country." Walker also clerked for Justice Brett Kavanaugh when 
Kavanaugh was a judge on the D.C. appeals court.

   Walker drew a rare "Not Qualified" rating from the American Bar Association 
when Trump nominated him last year to be a federal judge. Despite reservations 
from Democrats and the legal community about Walker's credentials, his 
nomination was approved, 50---41. Opponents noted he was barely 10 years out of 
law school and had never served as co-counsel at trial when he was tapped for 
the federal bench.

   The Trump administration has worked feverishly to overhaul the federal 
courts, nominating and winning Senate confirmation for more than 190 judges 
over the past three years, a pace unseen since Ronald Reagan was in the White 
House.

   Even in the midst of battling a pandemic, Trump hasn't lost sight of the 
long-term impact his nominations to the federal bench will have on his legacy.


(KR)

 
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