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‘A tidal wave of threats that the Secret Service can’t ignore’

‘A tidal wave of threats that the Secret Service can’t ignore’

It’s never easy for a new president to transition into his security bubble, but Donald Trump comes with unconventional protection challenges — including his active Twitter life — that are testing the Secret Service in unpleasant and costly ways.

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Trump’s free-flowing tweets have invited more threats than his security detail can keep pace to investigate. On top of that, he’s been telegraphing his movements for the bad guys by establishing regular travel patterns in his first 100 days in office. And his very famous family is jetting around the world, draining the resources of a bureau still gasping from the frenzied pace of the 2016 campaign.

All presidents live in a target-rich environment — agents often talk of mentally-ill people approaching the White House gates making threats against long-gone leaders like Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan. But law enforcement experts say the new Republican president has particularly upped his exposure levels through Twitter, with the missives emanating from his phone giving the masses the impression they can correspond directly with Trump.

“The Twitter thing is creating a lot of hassles,” said Dan Bongino, a former protective detail agent for presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “It’s generated a tidal wave of threats that the Secret Service can’t ignore.”

Bongino, who has written a book on the Secret Service’s challenges in protecting Trump that’s scheduled for publication later this summer, said the Secret Service is ill-equipped to make its way through all the social media threats. It can’t tell Trump to stop tweeting. And it also is still haunted by the example of Sara Jane Moore, a woman who attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975 months after the Secret Service evaluated her but found she wasn’t a threat.

“It’s an arithmetic impossibility to interview every single person who sends a threat. It’s not possible,” he said. “By necessity they have to triage what’s credible and what’s not and it’s tough to do by just looking at a 140-character tweet.”

Another big challenge in protecting Trump — codenamed “Mogul” to commemorate his billionaire business background — starts with the way he’s been traveling around the country. While the president has managed to keep hotel costs down by spending all his nights since inauguration at either the White House or his South Florida seaside retreat, it’s the recurring weekend trips to his private Mar-a-Lago club that are giving current and former Secret Service agents some pause.

“I used to joke if we don’t know where we’re going then the jackal doesn’t either,” Bongino said. “Patterns always hurt.”

The Secret Service — battered by years of bad public relations tied to fence jumpers, prostitutes and the lowest morale of any government sub-agency — is also spread painfully thin as it acclimates to the Trump era.

A third of the New York field office’s 200-plus staffers are being pulled on any given day from their regular duties, including criminal investigations, to protect the Trump family members based in Manhattan,

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Trump tweets draw 'tidal wave of threats'

Trump tweets draw 'tidal wave of threats'

It’s never easy for a new president to transition into his security bubble, but Donald Trump comes with unconventional protection challenges — including his active Twitter life — that are testing the Secret Service in unpleasant and costly ways.

Story Continued Below

Trump’s free-flowing tweets have invited more threats than his security detail can keep pace to investigate. On top of that, he’s been telegraphing his movements for the bad guys by establishing regular travel patterns in his first 100 days in office. And his very famous family is jetting around the world, draining the resources of a bureau still gasping from the frenzied pace of the 2016 campaign.

All presidents live in a target-rich environment — agents often talk of mentally-ill people approaching the White House gates making threats against long-gone leaders like Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan. But law enforcement experts say the new Republican president has particularly upped his exposure levels through Twitter, with the missives emanating from his phone giving the masses the impression they can correspond directly with Trump.

“The Twitter thing is creating a lot of hassles,” said Dan Bongino, a former protective detail agent for presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “It’s generated a tidal wave of threats that the Secret Service can’t ignore.”

Bongino, who has written a book on the Secret Service’s challenges in protecting Trump that’s scheduled for publication later this summer, said the Secret Service is ill-equipped to make its way through all the social media threats. It can’t tell Trump to stop tweeting. And it also is still haunted by the example of Sara Jane Moore, a woman who attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975 months after the Secret Service evaluated her but found she wasn’t a threat.

“It’s an arithmetic impossibility to interview every single person who sends a threat. It’s not possible,” he said. “By necessity they have to triage what’s credible and what’s not and it’s tough to do by just looking at a 140-character tweet.”

Another big challenge in protecting Trump — codenamed “Mogul” to commemorate his billionaire business background — starts with the way he’s been traveling around the country. While the president has managed to keep hotel costs down by spending all his nights since inauguration at either the White House or his South Florida seaside retreat, it’s the recurring weekend trips to his private Mar-a-Lago club that are giving current and former Secret Service agents some pause.

“I used to joke if we don’t know where we’re going then the jackal doesn’t either,” Bongino said. “Patterns always hurt.”

The Secret Service — battered by years of bad public relations tied to fence jumpers, prostitutes and the lowest morale of any government sub-agency — is also spread painfully thin as it acclimates to the Trump era.

A third of the New York field office’s 200-plus staffers are being pulled on any given day from their regular duties, including criminal investigations, to protect the Trump family members based in Manhattan,

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The education of Donald Trump

The education of Donald TrumpThe 70-year-old leader of the free world sat behind his desk in the Oval Office last Friday afternoon, doing what he’s done for years: selling himself. His 100th day in office was approaching, and Trump was eager to reshape the hardening narrative of a White House veering off course.

So he took it upon himself to explain that his presidency was actually on track, inviting a pair of POLITICO reporters into the Oval Office for an impromptu meeting. He sat at the Resolute desk, with his daughter Ivanka across from him. One aide said the chat was off-the-record, but Trump insisted, over objections from nervous-looking staffers, that he be quoted.

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He addressed the idea that his senior aides weren’t getting along. He called out their names and, one by one, they walked in, each surprised to see reporters in the room—chief of staff Reince Priebus, then chief strategist Steve Bannon, and eventually senior adviser Jared Kushner. “The team gets along really, really well,” he said.

He turned to his relationships with world leaders. “I have a terrific relationship with Xi,” he said, referring to the Chinese president, who Trump recently invited for a weekend visit at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Finally, he rattled off the biggest hits of his first three months and promised more to come.

It was classic Trump: Confident, hyperbolic and insistent on asserting control.

But interviews with nearly two dozen aides, allies, and others close to the president paint a different picture – one of a White House on a collision course between Trump’s fixed habits and his growing realization that this job is harder than he imagined when he won the election on Nov. 8.

So far, Trump has led a White House gripped by paranoia and insecurity, paralyzed by internal jockeying for power. Mistrust between aides runs so deep that many now employ their own personal P.R. advisers — in part to ensure their own narratives get out. Trump himself has been deeply engaged with media figures, even huddling in the Oval Office with Matt Drudge.

Trump remains reliant as ever on his children and longtime friends for counsel. White House staff have learned to cater to the president’s image obsession by presenting decisions in terms of how they’ll play in the press. Among his first reads in the morning is still the New York Post . When Trump feels like playing golf, he does — at courses he owns. When Trump feels like eating out, he does — at hotels with his name on the outside.

As president, Trump has repeatedly reminded his audiences, both public and private, about his longshot electoral victory. That unexpected win gave him and his closest advisers the false sense that governing would be as easy to master as running a successful campaign turned out to be. It was a rookie mistake. From the indignity of judges halting multiple executive orders on immigration-related matters—most recently this week—to his responses to repeated episodes of North Korean belligerence,

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GOP repeal bill would unravel protection for sick Americans

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The proposal backed by House conservatives would give states sweeping power to opt out of core Obamacare provisions. | Getty

Republicans’ latest bid to dismantle Obamacare threatens to turn back the clock on protections for the sickest Americans — and stealthily undermine one of President Donald Trump’s biggest health care promises.

The proposal backed by House conservatives — and negotiated with moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) — would give states sweeping power to opt out of core Obamacare provisions. Those states would instead set up “high-risk pools,” tried by about three dozen states, red and blue, in the years before the Affordable Care Act to cover people with expensive medical conditions. Most of the pools didn’t work, leaving countless people with cancer, diabetes and other expensive diseases with inadequate coverage — if they had anything at all .

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The latest legislation satisfies demands from the party’s rightmost flank, which had wanted a sharper break with Obamacare. Yet it’s not clear that it can pass the House, particularly after moderates repeatedly pledged to protect the millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions who are likely to lose their current coverage and end up in these high-risk pools.

The compromise legislation would allow insurers in those states to charge sicker people higher premiums. That marks the revival of a system that could stick the nation’s most vulnerable with skyrocketing insurance costs and far skimpier benefits — and renege on Trump’s promise not to cut Americans’ health coverage.

“Except pre-existing conditions, I would absolutely get rid of Obamacare,” Trump said a year ago during a CNN-Telemundo campaign debate. “I want to keep pre-existing conditions. I think we need it, I think it’s a modern age, and I think we have to have it.” The House GOP has also committed to protecting people who need expensive treatments, vowing on its website not to let insurers charge anyone more for having a pre-existing condition.

This bill doesn’t meet those standards. The Congressional Budget Office estimated than an earlier version of the legislation would mean 24 million fewer people would have coverage in ten years — and that figure is likely higher with this approach.

“The bottom line is that many people will not be able to afford insurance,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said. Trump repeatedly promised to come up with a better plan, but this, Cummings said, would leave people with “no plan.”

The MacArthur amendment would clear the way for states to eliminate the health law’s “community rating” requirement, which prevents insurers from charging different prices based on whether someone is sick or healthy. But the state would then have to have a fallback such as a high-risk pool for those priced out of the market.

States often turned to high-risk pools in the pre-Obamacare era, in an attempt to modestly expand coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. But enrollees often paid twice as much as healthy people and received both skimpier benefits and caps on coverage. Their policies often excluded

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Hopes for Trump's military buildup dimming

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President Donald Trump's supplemental request for Pentagon funding for the rest of this fiscal year and his broad outline for fiscal 2018’s defense spending face serious hurdles on Capitol Hill. | Getty

Hopes for Trump's military buildup dimmingDefense hawks are starting to lose hope in President Donald Trump’s promises of a “historic” military buildup.

Trump vowed during the campaign to make the military so big and powerful that “nobody — absolutely nobody — is going to mess with us,” and since his inauguration he has rattled sabers at North Korea, launched an airstrike on Syria and dropped an enormous bomb on Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.

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But nearly 100 days into his presidency, Republican legislative stumbles have fueled doubts that Congress will approve the $84 billion defense boost he has proposed for this fiscal year and next — a jump that many advocates have already slammed as too small.

And without serious new spending, military leaders have warned Congress, the services’ readiness will continue to erode.

For example, three Navy ships set to deploy this year to Europe and the Middle East will stay in their home ports without the supplemental funds Trump requested. And the Marine Corps has said it will have to ground all of its planes from July to the end of September unless Congress gives it more money in a fiscal 2017 spending bill.

Over the long term, Trump’s plans to grow the military simply won’t happen without more money.

Building and operating a 355-ship Navy would cost $102 billion a year through 2047, about a third more than the amount appropriated in fiscal 2016, according to a Congressional Budget Office report . And personnel costs for the Army and Marines would increase dramatically under Trump’s proposal, which would add more than 70,000 troops between the two services.

“The industry is certainly frustrated that the initial hopefulness has not borne out, or at least not borne out yet,” said Doug Berenson, a managing director of the defense systems practice for the consulting firm Avascent. “A lot of people in the industry, myself included, sort of allowed ourselves to get ahead of ourselves in the first weeks following the election without fully realizing the budget politics that have been with us for the last five or six years are not completely gone.”

The dimmed hopes are already having an impact on defense companies, which are holding back on major investments or hiring decisions until they see whether the boosted Pentagon budgets materialize, said Marc Numedahl, executive vice president at the lobbying firm Crossroads Strategies.

For example, he said, shipbuilders would need to ramp up to handle the type of buildup Trump has called for, including expanding the Navy to at least 350 ships. That would include modernizing shipyards and hiring skilled workers like welders, who can take years to train. But he doesn't expect the defense industry to invest big money until it’s sure more federal dollars are coming.

“Industry is going to be ready to pull the trigger

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