Trump's got foes guessing, but can he deliver?

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On the roster: Trump's got foes guessing, but can he deliver? - Trump prepares to end ObamaCare subsidies - Trump kicks Iran nuke deal to Congress - Trump said to be willing to delay for DREAMers - Motivation is key

TRUMP'S GOT FOES GUESSING, BUT CAN HE DELIVER?Would President Trump really deprive millions of middle-class Americans of health insurance coverage? 

Would he really scrap the North America Free Trade Agreement, disrupting the livelihoods of millions of his constituents? 

Would he really order the deportation of hundreds of thousands of young adults who grew up as Americans, but who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children?

Would he really shut down the federal government or default on debts if Congress will not fund his border wall? 

Would he really risk setting off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East by walking away from the Iran nuclear deal?

Would he really launch a unilateral preemptive strike on North Korea? 

The very fact that neither Trump’s political adversaries nor his allies could answer all of these questions with certainty may represent the president’s skills as a negotiator. 

You don’t have to have read “The Art of the Deal” to know that his negotiating technique depends on his adversaries believing him to be a man capable of almost anything. If he can spread the field of his potential actions, then he can prevent you from massing your response around just a few potential gambits. 

Uncertainty favors individuals with higher tolerances for risk. Trump wants people to believe that he has the highest tolerance of them all. 

Trump is obviously listening to the people in the status quo caucus within his cabinet, but pretty clearly remains unconvinced that his job description includes reassuring an anxious public and world. Quite the contrary. 

So far, Trump has not taken these kinds of reckless actions. He did not, for example “lock her up.” 

And the one real damn-the-torpedoes moment he had – unceremoniously dumping the FBI director – rained down such consequences on him and his administration that perhaps the president now agrees with his former chief strategist’s assessment that it was the single biggest blunder in modern political history. 

We will not waste any time talking about whether the president is obliged to be a reassuring presence. That’s not in his job description and, while nice, is not strictly necessary.

What we wonder is whether Trump’s strategy of capitalizing on chaos will work.

Democrats and Republicans alike certainly take seriously Trump’s threats on health insurance, DREAMers, trade and other topics. His critics have to at least hold open the possibility that Trump really is the monster they make him out to be.

That’s a great, if risky, way to keep your opponents off balance. What we have yet to see is how it delivers politically useful policy outcomes that can help Republicans in the next two election cycles. 

“It is ESSENTIAL to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it…” – James MadisonFederalist No. 39

Time: “If the number 13 scares you, you’re not alone. Millions of people in the world, including prolific horror writer Stephen King, have an irrational fear of the number 13. The phenomenon is so widely reported, it even has its own hard-to-pronounce name: triskaidekaphobia. Those who suffer from triskaidekaphobia associate the number 13 with bad luck or danger due to superstitions. They may avoid staying at hotel rooms with the number 13, going up to the 13th floor of any building or sitting in the 13th row in airplanes — if such floors or aisles even exist. People with more deeply rooted triskaidekaphobia, like King, might also skip the 13th step on staircases, get anxious watching Channel 13 or, while reading books, make a point not to pause on pages in which the digits add up to 13, like page 94. ‘It's neurotic, sure. But it's also . . . safer,’ King wrote about his phobia in 1984.”

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Trump net job-approval rating: -20.6 points
Change from one week ago: down 4.6 points

[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

Politico: “President Donald Trump plans to cut off subsidy payments to insurers selling Obamacare coverage in his most aggressive move yet to undermine his predecessor's health care law. The subsidies, which are worth an estimated $7 billion this year and are paid out in monthly installments, may stop almost immediately, since Congress hasn’t appropriated funding for the program. The decision … delivered a double whammy to Obamacare after months of failed GOP efforts to repeal the law. With open enrollment for the 2018 plan year set to launch in two weeks, the moves seem aimed at dismantling the law through executive actions. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the decision in a statement emailed to reporters Thursday night. ‘Based on guidance from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare,’ she said.”

Schumer says there is still a way for funding - WashEx: “Congress still has ways to fund Obamacare even after a recent decision by President Trump to no longer authorize insurance payments, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday. ‘We Democrats are going to work very hard to get these cost-sharing payments restored,’ the New York Democrat said in a call with reporters. ‘A whole lot of Republicans want to get them restored, too.’ The funds, which are expected to reach about $9 billion in 2018, could be appropriated through a bipartisan deal on healthcare or through an omnibus spending deal, Schumer said. … The funds initially had been authorized under former President
Barack Obama after Congress would not appropriate them. The GOP-controlled House sued in response, and a judge sided with its position.”

Fox News: “President Trump announced Friday he will decertify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, saying he believes the ‘radical regime’ has committed multiple violations of the agreement as he kicked a decision over whether to restore sanctions back to Congress. ‘I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification,’ Trump said during a speech at the White House. ‘We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran's nuclear breakthrough.’ Friday's announcement does not withdraw the United States from the Iran deal, which the president called ‘one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.’ But the president threatened that he could still ultimately pull out of the deal. ‘In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, the agreement will be terminated,’ he said.”

James Robbins: ‘Trump and Iran nuclear deal: Smart chess play could motivate the mullahs’ - USA Today: “So, it would be reckless for the White House to routinely certify Iran’s compliance every four months when there is really no way to know for certain. This is a prudent decision. Failing to certify Iran’s compliance with the agreement does not abrogate the JCPOA, nor does it automatically engage the ‘snapback’ sanctions mechanisms that are part of the agreement itself. But it does give Congress the opportunity to initiate legislation that would reimpose sanctions on an expedited schedule, if it so chooses. And it may motivate Iran to give greater access to international inspectors before Congress takes action, or before the next deadline for Trump to issue sanctions waivers — or not.”

WaPo: “President Trump will extend a March 5 deadline to end protections for young undocumented immigrants if Congress fails to act by then, according to a Republican senator who spoke directly with the president about the issue. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Trump told him he was willing to ‘give it some more time’ to allow lawmakers to find a solution for ‘dreamers,’ unauthorized immigrants brought to this country as children, if Congress does not pass legislation extending protections before time is up. ‘The president’s comment to me was that, ‘We put a six-month deadline out there. Let’s work it out. If we can’t get it worked out in six months, we’ll give it some more time, but we’ve got to get this worked out legislatively,’’ Lankford said outside a town hall here Thursday night. Trump did not specify how long an extension might last, Lankford said. ‘He wants a legislative solution,’ the senator said. ‘His focus was, ‘We’ve got to get a legislative solution.’”

Politico: “House Republicans are moving closer to keeping some form of the state and local tax deduction, and President Donald Trump isn’t standing in the way, signaling a possible breakthrough in an early spat over tax reform. Several lawmakers who huddled with GOP leaders Thursday indicated that the talks were going well. ‘They’re trending towards a solution,’ said Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. ‘I think there’s a good-faith position by all the members involved to try to come up with something that works for everybody.’ Legislators from high-tax states and districts are loath to let the century-old deduction — targeted for elimination by Hill GOP leaders and the White House — slip away. They’re trying to sway leadership to leave it alone or limit it to a degree so voters back home — particularly those in the middle class — don’t see their overall tax bills increase because of tax reform.”

And if not, Ryan has already put his foot down - Roll Call: “Nothing seems to push lawmakers to get their jobs done and pass legislation more than the threat of having to be in Washington over the holidays. Knowing this, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan made it clear Thursday that Congress staying in session over Christmas is an option if they have not advanced a tax overhaul bill by then. ‘We’re going to keep people here for Christmas if we have to,’ the Wisconsin Republican said at a Heritage Foundation event in Washington. ‘I don’t care. We have to get this done.’

Republicans consider options for corporate tax rate - Reuters: “Republican lawmakers are considering indirect paths to meeting President Donald Trump’s goal of slashing the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, one of the toughest challenges they face in trying to overhaul the U.S. tax code. Tax writers in the House of Representatives may opt to phase in the 20 percent corporate rate over three to five years by lowering it in stages from the current 35 percent, said two sources close to the tax discussions. A phase-in surfaced as an option among Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee as it closed in on completion of actual tax legislation, working off of a nine-page ‘framework’ unveiled by Trump on Sept. 27.”

WaPo: “Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced Friday that she will not run for governor in 2018, renewing her commitment to serve in a sharply polarized Senate where her centrist Republican positions have made her a key bulwark against much of President Trump’s agenda. Ending months of speculation about her political future, Collins, who does not face reelection until 2020, opted to stick with the job she has held for the last two decades, even as other moderate GOP lawmakers including Rep. Charlie Dent (Pa.) and Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) are heading for the exits. ‘The best way that I can contribute to these priorities is to remain a member of the United States Senate,’ Collins told the business crowd, capping a speech in which she described her role as a bipartisan figure on such issues as health care and national security in Washington.”

Trump in talks to stump for Gillespie - WaPo: “A former chairman of Donald Trump’s Virginia campaign said Thursday that the White House is in ‘very serious talks’ with Ed Gillespie’s gubernatorial campaign about having the president stump for him in the state. A Trump rally could fire up Trump supporters for Gillespie, a longtime Republican Party fixture who has struggled to find the right footing regarding the anti-establishment Trump. A Trump appearance could pose risks for Gillespie in purple Virginia, where Trump’s approval ratings are well below 40 percent. Hillary Clinton beat Trump by five points in Virginia last year — the only Southern state won by the Democrat. Most public polls show Gillespie tied or slightly trailing the Democrat, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam.”

Feinstein draws a primary challenger - Free Beacon: “Another potential primary challenger to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) is signaling his intent to enter the race for the Senate seat she has held since 1992. California Democratic state senate president Kevin de León will throw his hat into the ring to challenge Feinstein in the 2018 race, according to three sources who spoke to CNN. The 84-year-old senator announced Monday she would run for reelection, causing consternation on the progressive left even as she tried to get out ahead of de León.”

Fox News: “President Trump underscored his administration’s commitment to families and religious freedom Friday, saying that ‘times have changed ... now they’re changing back.’ Trump addressed the Values Voter Summit Friday, marking a milestone as the first sitting president to appear before the group. ‘In America, we don't worship government,’ Trump said. ‘We worship God.’ The Values Voter Summit was created in 2006 to ‘preserve the bedrock values’ of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life, and limited government ‘that make our nation strong,’ according to the group’s website. Then-candidate Trump spoke at the summit last year, promising to return. ‘I pledged that in a Trump administration, our nation’s religious heritage would be cherished, protected and defended like you have never seen before,’ Trump said. ‘That’s what’s happening, and you see it every day.’ Trump pointed to the Founding Fathers, noting that ‘Our Creator was invoked four times in the Declaration of Independence.’”

Mnuchin has no plans to fill No. 2 position in his department - Politico

House approves Puerto Rico disaster funds - Reuters

Twitter’s privacy policy led to deletions of Russian info wanted for probe - Politico


This weekend, Fox News colleague James Rosen will be in for Mr. Sunday. James will sit down with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster to discuss the president’s strategy in Iran and North Korea as well as the travel ban. Plus, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy will be on to discuss the gun control debate. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

“I want to tell you a story about the backside of a president that I have come to know very well.” – Rep. Mark Meadows R-N.C., with a bit of a gaffe, speaking at the Values Voter Summit this morning about his close relationship with the president. Meadows presumably meant background, not backside.

“I read routinely during the repeal arguments last year that between 40 and possibly 160 million people would begin to be able to afford decent care without double digit rate increases and deductibles exceeding $10k.  If this is still true then that benefit I would think vastly outweighs the difficulties for 16 to 24 million people and should in principle be able to be dealt with much more cheaply than the socialized medicine costs and tax increases proposed by the Democrats.” – Leland SchoffFernley, Nev.

[Ed. note: One of the big complaints, Mr. Schoff, about ObamaCare was that the disruptions outweighed the benefits. If the purpose of the legislation was to get health insurance for those 16 to 24 million people you describe, there were simpler answers on the left and the right then the construct the president and Congress chose.]

“I was following you pretty well on your exploration through darkest Lower Bureaucratia in search of real health-insurance reform, at least for a while.  Toward the bottom, though, when you reached the treacherous Association whitewaters, I got hopelessly lost. Pssst: I think you did, too. Maybe this whole exercise was just you looking for an opportunity to show off by telling us you know some people who live southwest of Indianapolis are ‘Terre Hautetians.’” – Jack Lavelle, Phoenix

[Ed. note: I will have you know, Mr. Lavelle, that my grandmother went to school in Terre Haute and everyone on my father’s side pretty well hailed from the Wabash River Valley. I could have taken us down to Jasper or Vincennes! As for association health insurance plains, the idea is to allow companies to band together to create new risk pools to provide cheaper insurance for workers. It’s an idea we’ve talked about before, and was part of the discussion in the 2008 election. Basically, it is the health insurance equivalent of a tax shelter.]

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KWQC: “Olympic Tavern on Route 2 in Rockford [Ill.] has grown weary of months of road construction. ‘We are actually in our second year of three years of Route 2 construction,’ said Zak Rotello, Olympic’s food and beverage manager. ‘The IDOT crew has done a great job of keeping our entryway open (but) overall traffic is down.’ Rotello thought maybe IDOT crews could use an incentive to finish their work, so he is using the tavern’s outdoor sign to offer ‘free beer’ if the work is finished by Monday. The message struck a chord among Reddit users across Illinois and beyond who ‘upvoted’ the sign after it was posted on the site while also complaining about their own local road construction woes. No word yet on what impact, if any, the sign will have in Rockford. ‘The guys working on the street thought it was hilarious,’ Rotello said, but ‘no official response from IDOT and, no, they're still not done.’”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.