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Inside Trump (Aug 14th, 2017)

After President Trump's first statement about violence at this weekend's white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, sparked controversy, the White House released a second response via email. Trump's initial remarks, made from his Bedminster, New Jersey golf resort on Saturday, declined to mention white nationalists or white supremacists, and blamed the chaotic situation on "many sides." The follow-up email, which was sent to reporters on Sunday and not credited specifically to the President, did single out white supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis for the outbreak of violence - which included the killing of counter-protester Heather Heyer - but also closed with a rebuke of "all extremist groups." This morning, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier - one of the nation's most prominent black chief executives - quit President Trump's manufacturing council in protest of the Charlottesville comments. The President responded by criticizing Merck's "ripoff drug prices" on Twitter. – NYT

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As North Korea issued a new threat Monday morning, Trump administration officials continued to press for a diplomatic solution. After a few days of silence from the North Korean government, this morning, state media announced that, should the US continue "to wield a nuclear bat in front of a nuclear power, it will only accelerate its own self-destruction." In an editorial in Monday's Wall Street Journal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis argue that the administration is not interested in "regime change" in North Korea, but wants to negotiate for peace with Pyongyang. (It's made clear these negotiations are contingent on an end to the threats and nuclear tests by that country.) Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, is in Seoul today to meet with South Korea's president. As well, the US and Japan are currently conducting joint military exercises on Japan's northernmost island, including the installation of four missile interceptor systems that could be used to defend against North Korean missiles. – CBSNEWS

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On Saturday, President Trump signed an emergency spending bill allotting $2.1 billion for a program providing private medical care to veterans. The VA Choice and Quality Employment Act provides funds to make up for a budget shortfall at the Department of Veteran Affairs. The money will extend by six months the Veterans Choice Program, which allows veterans to seek private medical care in the case of excessive wait times. Another $1.8 billion will go to other VA health care programs, including the leasing of 28 new VA medical facilities. The VA Choice program started in 2014, after it was discovered that VA hospitals around the US were covering up lengthy wait times for care by falsifying records. During the 2016 campaign, Trump frequently criticized the VA for mismanagement. – TIME

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This afternoon, the President is expected to launch an investigation into China's handling of intellectual property, a move which Beijing has warned could "poison" US-China relations. The President announced on Twitter early this morning that he was returning to Washington to "focus on trade"; this will apparently involve signing a memorandum that directs US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to look into allegations of intellectual property theft by China from US companies. The section 301 investigation could ultimately allow Trump to unilaterally impose trade restrictions or tariffs on China, and could also lead to sanctions. The US trade deficit with China was a frequent topic for Trump on the campaign trail, and it's estimated that intellectual property theft costs the US economy between $225 billion and $600 billion annually. The state-run China Daily newspaper ran an editorial urging the Trump administration against the move, arguing that it would harm the two countries' relationship and add to US "economic woes." – BBC

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Over the weekend, Donald Trump's re-election campaign released a new ad criticizing Democrats, career politicians and the media for obstructing his agenda. The ad touts Trump's accomplishments, including low unemployment levels, a strong stock market and "the strongest military in decades," while arguing that "the President's enemies don't want him to succeed." The White House declined to provide reporters with some background information about the ad, including how much was spent on the marketing campaign and where it will air. Many noted the unexpected timing of the partisan ad's release, just a day after Trump urged Americans to "come together with love for our nation" in response to the violence in Charlottesville. – CNN

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This week, senior White House officials will conduct a number of high-level strategy meetings in New York City, aimed at developing plans for the debt ceiling, the 2018 federal budget, tax reform, infrastructure spending and, potentially, health care reform. Some in the administration, including strategist Steve Bannon, are apparently hoping to continue pushing through plans for a Mexican border wall, while economic advisor Gary Cohn and Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin want to first focus on the quick passage of a tax reform package. The end goal of the project, which some unnamed aides described to Politico as "brutal" and "really tough," was to help set expectations for the President when dealing with Congress, and to generally get the administration "on a better track." – POLITICO

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