**HOLD FOR STORY S HALL** Show is a Twitter mobile phone icon in Philadelphia, Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

While the storm and anguish of President Trump’s latest controversy rolls over the news, we’ve learned a lot more about the Russian influence operation supporting Donald Trump’s candidacy last year. Over recent weeks we had already found out about those few hundreds of accounts on Facebook and something in the range of $100,000 in paid advertising on the Facebook platform. Then there was a comparable series of findings on Twitter. More is in the process of emerging from Google and the various platforms it controls. But over recent days, as the information keeps coming, the very repetitiveness of the new findings or the constancy of the flow has perhaps obscured its newness and how much it expands the story.
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President Donald Trump, left, sitting next to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, right, speaks during a meeting of the committee and members of the President's economic team in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Another simply bizarre new thread in the Trump bereavement call story. The Post called the families of service members who’ve died in the line of duty since Trump became President. There were some good stories, some bad; some had never heard from the President. There were a lot of what you might call Trumpian moments. But the really bizarre story was his conversation with Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, killed in Afghanistan.
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We’re now getting all the accounts of just what President Trump said last night to the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, how she interpreted it, how her Congresswoman did, how her family did. These are harrowing situations under the best circumstances. Even for a normal person, a normal President, it’s hard to know just what to say. But why are we here? Why is this whole thing happening? It’s happening because, for whatever reason, Trump went silent on this, not only with the families but even with the public.
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Here’s the President’s comment on the Alexander-Murray Obamacare stabilization proposal from his speech this evening at the Heritage Foundation.

“And I’m pleased the Democrats have finally responded to my call for them to take responsibility for their Obamacare disaster and work with Republicans to provide much-needed relief to the American people. While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray — and I do commend it — I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.”

… per the White House pool report.

Here’s my backgrounder (sub req) on the likely fall out of this Obamacare stabilization bill which has been tentatively agreed to in the Senate. It puts Republicans in an awful bind.

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters about Puerto Rico upon his return to the White House in Washington, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The United States has been in a more or less perpetual state of war since the fall of 2001. That’s more than fifteen years. Whether you support or oppose wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and lower intensity conflicts in various other countries, it has left thousands of American men and women dead and far more with longterm injuries. The number of US military deaths is down dramatically from the middle years of the Bush presidency and even from the early years of Obama’s presidency. Military deaths in Afghanistan actually went up dramatically during Obama’s first term as he refocused the country from Iraq to Afghanistan. (According to iCasaulties.org, 1,544 American military personal died in Afghanistan during Obama’s first four years in office. The number to date this year is 11.)
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President Donald Trump speaks as he stands next Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., after their meeting at the White House, Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A week ago there was a raft of articles suggesting that President Trump was somehow coming undone. Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman had prominent Republicans speculating about the ex-generals having to wrestle the nuclear ‘football’ away from the President. Quotes had him “unstable”, “losing step”, “unraveling.” Retiring Senator Bob Corker said: “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him.”
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Why did President Trump make up this lie about President Obama not calling the families of bereaved soldiers? It wasn’t just Obama. He seemed to say that previous presidents didn’t do this at all or only did it rarely. Anyone who follows the news knows that’s not true. Basically all Presidents at some point talk about these conversations.

It seems hard to believe that he didn’t come up with this because he had no good explanation for the fact that he’s gone more than a week without making any contact with the families or even making any public statement on what happened.

The following is a rush transcript of President Trump’s comments a few moments ago on Obamacare. There may be small textual errors. But it will give you a broad sense of what he said. It’s important to read.
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President Trump just gave an angry, thrashing, desperate sounding series of remarks about Obamacare. He pressed the point that people think it’s an emergency now that he’s cut off CSR payments. And he thinks that’s good. He went on about how the health insurers only fund Democrats, lashed out at Democrats, says healthcare is going to be great once they repeal Obamacare. It struck me as more unhinged and febrile than usual for Trump. One continuing theme is that even through his anger and need to lash out he seems not to understand even the most elemental details of how the health care system or Obamacare works.

Here’s a bit of video that capture the tone …
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In Austria’s legislative elections, from which a Chancellor will be chosen, the free market People’s Party (OVP), campaigning on a promise to reduce the number of refugees (primairly from the Middle East) and to limit benefits for immigrants, led the field with 31.6 percent. The Social Democrats (SPO) came in with 26.7 percent, which is a postwar low for a party that has been in power, or shared power, for most of the last 70 years. And the Greens, whose candidate had won the presidency last year, came in at 3.8 percent, less than enough to qualify for parliamentary representation.


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President Donald Trump smiles as he announces in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017,  that Kirstjen Nielsen, a cybersecurity expert and deputy White House chief of staff is his choice to be the next Homeland Security Secretary. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Going on two years ago I read something formative to my understanding of Donald Trump. It was a column by then-Times business columnist Joe Nocera. The column was about a particular swindle with a golf resort. Standard Trump. But the part that mattered was Nocera’s observation about Trump’s fundamental way of doing business and interacting with other people, one he knew from years of covering Trump.
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A key moment today at the ‘Values Voters Summit’. Steve Bannon was listing off all the great things the President has done since his favored candidate went down to defeat in Alabama. Among them, Bannon admitted what the White House has repeatedly denied, which is that Trump decided to cut off CSR payments to make the health insurance exchanges blow up, thus making prices skyrocket.

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on Iran policy from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Trump straight up lied in his speech today on ‘decertifying’ the Iran nuclear deal. He said: “The Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement.” This is not true. The US, the Europeans, outside observers, the inspectors all agree that Iran is meeting the conditions of the deal. If Iran were violating the deal, all of this drama wouldn’t have been necessary. Trump could have just canceled the deal without any need to justify the decision. He would have had broad support for doing so. That’s the bind he’s been in. The Iranians are keeping their end of the bargain. So Trump really hasn’t had a good rationale – legal or geopolitical – for getting out.

But there’s a different part of the speech I want to focus on. In addition to all the things the President says his new policy will accomplish he made this pledge. “We will deny the regime all paths to a nuclear weapon.”
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President Donald Trump speaks during an energy roundtable with tribal, state, and local leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, June 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The big news out this morning is the overnight decision to end so-called CSR payments to insurers. We’ll have articles out today with technical details. But these are payments which are part of the framework which keeps insurance rates affordable in the Obamacare markets. Doing this directly, intentionally makes rates spike. They may not say it out loud. But many Republicans, especially in the Senate, had no appetite for this action, mainly because they know the consequences will fall largely on them.
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We were getting hints of this late this afternoon and now Politico, first, then the Washington Post are reporting, citing anonymous sources, that President Trump will end Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction payments. This move, in combination with the executive order Trump signed earlier in the day, threatens to begin the unraveling of the Obamacare marketplaces.

CBO projects cutting off the payments will make premiums 20 percent higher by 2018 and 25 percent higher by 2020, while raising the budget deficit by nearly $200 billion by 2026.

What the GOP Congress could not do – repeal Obamacare – Trump is attempting, ham-handedly, with no replacement plan of any kind even contemplated. Just break it and let Congress, maybe, sort it out.

Late update: The White House press secretary just put out a statement confirming the CSRs will end:


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What Republicans are calling “tax reform” is shaping up as the worst kind of legislative mess. To the degree we know specifics, the plan would amount to a massive windfall for the wealthiest Americans. This is hardly surprising. What is surprising are the ways the chaos and disorganization within the GOP (and perhaps also a sense of invulnerability) have led to the creation of a law which would actually hurt a lot of people who really don’t need to be hurt and are politically powerful to boot.

Let me explain what I mean.
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