Quick Takes: More Broken Campaign Promises From Trump

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* Perhaps to distract us from all of his other troubles, today Trump offered a nothingburger plan on prescription drug prices. In doing so, he broke yet another one of his so-called “populist” campaign promises.

President Trump vowed on Friday to “derail the gravy train for special interests” as he outlined what he called a comprehensive strategy to lower the cost of prescription drugs by promoting competition and pressing foreign countries to raise their drug prices to alleviate pressure on American consumers.

But he dropped the popular and populist proposals of his presidential campaign, opting not to have the federal government negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare or allow American consumers to import low-cost prescriptions from abroad…

But his proposals hardly put a scare into that system. Ronny Gal, a securities analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, said the president’s speech was “very, very positive to pharma,” and he added, “We have not seen anything about that speech which should concern investors” in the pharmaceutical industry.

Drugmakers’ stocks jumped immediately after the speech, as did the stocks of pharmacy benefit managers, the “middlemen” who Mr. Trump said had gotten “very, very rich.”

* Speaking of broken campaign promises

You might be forgiven for missing what looked like the end of Donald Trump’s infrastructure crusade. The faux populist’s campaign promise to “build the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports and the railways of tomorrow” gave way nearly two years later to an admission on Wednesday by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that “I don’t know that there will be [an infrastructure bill] by the end of the year.” Since after this year Republicans will have presumably lost seats in Congress and maybe even lost control of the House, she might as well have said, “RIP Infrastructure Week.”

* Trump said that the Iran nuclear deal couldn’t be fixed to his specifications. Surprise, surprise…apparently he lied.

It was all there on paper in black and white, down to the precise number of centrifuges: the terms of a potential “fix” that President Donald Trump had demanded for the United States to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.

Dragged kicking and screaming into five months of negotiations, America’s closest allies in Europe had finally agreed in principle to the toughest of Trump’s demands. They conceded that some expectation could be put into place in perpetuity that Iran should never get closer than one year from building a bomb. All that was left was to figure out creative language for how that constraint would be phrased that everyone could support.

Trump walked away from the deal anyway. Announcing the U.S. was out…

* North Korea’s announcement that they would halt their nuclear weapons testing program wasn’t a voluntary gesture of good will, but the only option they had after the cavity in which the site was located underground collapsed. Apparently the damage was even worse than we were initially led to believe.

The damage to the nuclear test site that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has promised to shut down is more extensive than earlier assessments showed, according to a new study by a team of international scientists.

Space-based radar showed that after the initial impact of North Korea’s latest nuclear test in September last year, a much larger part of the Punggye-ri test site caved in over the following hours and days, according to a study published in Science magazine on Thursday. The study was conducted by researchers from Singapore, Germany, China and the U.S.

“This means that a very large domain has collapsed around the test site, not merely a tunnel or two,” said Sylvain Barbot, one of the authors who is an assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

* I’ve been tracking the story about Rep. Nunes’ attempts to discredit DOJ and threaten both AG Sessions and Deputy AG Rosenstein. Yesterday he and Rep. Gowdy met with senior intelligence officials to discuss his subpoena for documents that could put an intelligence asset at risk. Devlin Barrett at the Washington Post and Kimberly Strassel at the Wall Street Journal have wildly different takes on the outcome of the meeting. Here’s Barrett:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) backed away from an open confrontation with the Justice Department on Thursday after a private meeting with senior intelligence officials who said they could not give him top-secret information about an intelligence source who had aided special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, according to people familiar with the matter.

Here’s Strassel:

The Department of Justice lost its latest battle with Congress Thursday when it allowed House Intelligence Committee members to view classified documents about a top-secret intelligence source that was part of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. Even without official confirmation of that source’s name, the news so far holds some stunning implications.

Since Strassel goes on to repeat every conspiracy theory about this investigation that has been touted by Sean Hannity, I suspect that Barrett has the more accurate take.

* White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has once again demonstrated that he is a stone cold racist. Here is what he said during an interview with NPR:

On the administration’s recently announced “zero tolerance” policy that calls for separating families who cross the border illegally and prosecuting them:

Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS-13. … But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society. They’re overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm. They don’t speak English; obviously that’s a big thing. … They don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills. They’re not bad people. They’re coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws. … The big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States, and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.

Beyond all of the lies about immigrants and his suggestion that it is OK to separate parents with low skills from their children, Kelly ignores his own family history.

Kelly grew up a few blocks from the small park, up the hill on Bigelow Street. His father, John F. Kelly, was of Irish descent; his mother, Josephine “Honey” Pedalino, was the descendant of Italian immigrants (a “mixed marriage,” as John Kelly likes to say). Her father never spoke a word of English and made his living peddling a fruit cart in East Boston.

* Speaking of racism in the Trump administration…

On also has to wonder if any members of the military have spouses who are husbands.

* The must-read of the day comes from Michael McFaul, Obama’s coordinator of Russian policy on the national security council prior to being appointed as the U.S. ambassador to Russia. He describes what happened during during the transition from Medvedev to Putin.

Several months before Obama’s inauguration, Dmitry Medvedev took over in the Kremlin — a change we believed might help us “reset” relations with Moscow. By June 2010, when Medvedev made his first visit to Washington, we were succeeding beyond our expectations: We’d signed a treaty to shrink our nuclear arsenals, jointly imposed tougher sanctions on Iran and added a supply route to Afghanistan through Russia, reducing our reliance on Pakistan. Soon we would help secure Russia’s membership in the World Trade Organization. And in 2011, we even persuaded Medvedev to abstain on (rather than reject) U.N. Security Council votes authorizing force in Libya. No Soviet or Russian leader had ever acquiesced to Western military intervention in a sovereign country…

In September 2011, Putin announced that he was going to run for president the following spring, an election that of course he would win. Putin had little enthusiasm for the reset — he didn’t believe in the win-win approach we’d developed with Medvedev. Massive demonstrations a few months later over a falsified parliamentary election intensified Putin’s sentiment, since he blamed us for sparking those protests. To rally his supporters and undermine the protesters, Putin would need an enemy, and he turned to the most reliable one in Russia’s recent history: the United States and then, by extension, me. As soon as I became the new proxy for Washington, Moscow launched a full-scale disinformation campaign alleging that, under my direction, the United States was funding the opposition and attempting to overthrow Putin. State propagandists and their surrogates crudely photoshopped me into pictures, spliced my speeches to make me say things I never uttered and even accused me of pedophilia.

* Finally, we all (hopefully) have our ways of maintaining our sanity during these troubling times. Given that it is finally spring—even up here in the tundra—here’s one of mine.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.