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Donald Trump returns in triumph to CPAC with Breitbart as supporting cast

Six years after he was loudly booed there, Trump will take the main stage as the Republican president with some new allies at the conservative confab

When Donald Trump first spoke at the largest annual gathering of conservative grassroots activists, he was loudly booed for taking a shot at one of their heroes.

The room erupted in jeers when Trump, in 2011, told the conservative political action conference (CPAC) that prominent libertarian Ron Paul can not get elected, partly because Congress was in recess.

Six years later, Trump will appear as the Republican president at the conservative confab that mixes policy, paranoia and partying in equal measures.

By day, it draws college students and ardent activists to speeches from elected officials and panels on topics such as If Heaven Has a Gate, a Wall and Extreme Vetting, Why Cant America?

By night, the college kids, many of whom at past conferences have been passionate libertarian supporters of Ron and Rand Paul, start drinking and can go to parties where top Republican operative Grover Norquist tends bar, or a disgraced congressman can be spotted lounging in a hot tub.

The four-day event has been held in recent years at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, a huge complex featuring a new casino that is placed just outside Washington on the Potomac river. While the location is geographically outside the Beltway, it is physically as convenient as possible to Alexandria, Virginia, the DC suburb that is the heart of the conservative political establishment.

CPAC, though, has never been a place for country club, establishment Republicans. It was founded by the nascent conservative movement in the 1970s in a successful effort to move the Republican party to the right.

In recent years, it flatly refused to extend speaking invitations to Chris Christie, who was perceived as insufficiently conservative, and prevented a gay conservative group from sponsoring the event.

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Deportation orders threaten Trump’s own turf: the real estate market

Immigrants represent a large share of the demand supporting house values, says a demographics expert amid warnings the system could be tested

Is Donald Trump, the property tycoon turned president, about to bust the housing market? Thats potentially one of the unanticipated impacts of the Trump administrations crackdown on illegal immigration, according to demographics experts and immigrants rights groups.

The effect of the mass deportations outlined in Department of Homeland Security memos released this week may not only affect real estate values at the lower and middle end of the housing market, they warn: they could resonate up to the top of the housing chain, testing the entire system in ways that are both novel and not clearly understood.

There are consequences for the economy and the whole of society, and the public doesnt understand the value immigrants bring to the housing market, warns Dowell Myers, director of the Population Dynamics Research Group at the University of California.

They represent a large share of the demand supporting house values. If you were to subtract any part of that demand, it would jeopardize house values across the board.

In a comprehensive 2013 study, Immigrant Contributions to Housing Demand in the United States, Myers estimated that in this decade, immigrants nationwide will account for 32.2% of the growth in all households, 35.7% of growth in homeowners and 26.4% of growth in renter households.

The study found that the volume of growth in foreign-born homeowners has increased each decade, rising from 0.8 million added immigrant homeowners in the United States during the period from 19801990 to 2.8 million in the current decade.

While immigrants were once concentrated in a few gateway states, such as California, New York and Florida, the pattern of immigration after the 2007 economic crash is less concentrated, making the economic effect of mass deportation less easy to predict.

According to Alex Nowrasteh, a policy analyst for the Cato Institute, the effect of an immigrant crackdown on property values has already been seen, albeit on a small scale, after Arizona passed its controversial SB 1070 and Legal Arizona Workers Act.

Two hundred thousand people left because of those immigration laws at the same time as we had a housing collapse. So Phoenix suffered more than any other city except for Las Vegas, Nowrasteh says. We saw a huge increase in rental vacancies and a decline in home prices immediately after these laws were passed.

Immigrants, he says, have a disproportionate effect on the housing market because they rent property and buy houses. So now Trump wants to do nationally what the Arizona immigration laws did to the Phoenix housing market.

In California, the state with the largest immigrant population, a sustained crackdown on immigration could not only affect the lower end of the market but, in some areas, the top end of the market as well.

Its pretty clear what will happen, warns Myers. One way that people afford houses is by pooling incomes. So if you were to deport one of the three mortgage payers, that can destabilize the whole rest of the household. Immigrants are so interwoven into many communities that when you unravel one thread, you can destabilize it entirely.

House values, he considers, are like a pyramid. If you pull out a chunk from the bottom, the pyramid starts to collapse. The loss of the immigrants coming in at the bottom end doesnt directly affect prices in Beverly Hills or Silicon Valley but it will undermine the whole structure of pricing in a way that hasnt been tested before.

Myers report, published by the Research Institute for Housing America, corresponds with a report issued last year by the real estate website Trulia that found that the homeownership gap between native-born and immigrant homeowners has shrunk over the past two decades.

That gap is about 15 percentage points, down from nearly 21 points 15 years ago. While the rate of US homeownership stands at 66%, homeownership for foreign-born nationals has risen about 2.3 percentage points to more than half.

Critics of the Trump immigration orders say the value of the immigrant housing market is often overlooked, in part because undocumented workers who nonetheless qualify for mortgages are frequently not identified as such in official figures.

Further analysis by the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute found that 33%, or 3.4 million, of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US own their homes or live with family members or friends who do.

In a separate study, the Migration Policy Institute estimates that about a million undocumented immigrants in the US hold college-level degrees.

Its wrong to think of undocumented homeowners as people working in low-skilled jobs and living together in a marginal neighborhood, says the institute director, Michael Fix. A large share, around 60%, of college-educated undocumented immigrants are working in middle- or high-skilled jobs.

The real danger here is the long-term chilling of immigration flows, legal and illegal, into the country, and that would be felt in our housing market, and people do not properly appreciate that almost half the number of recent immigrants to the US are college graduates.

A further consideration, says Fix, is that infrastructure projects, including a border wall, could be complicated by immigrant deportation efforts. Undocumented immigrants, in particular men, typically enjoy very high rates of employment as high as 95%.

While its residential projects that typically hire unauthorized immigrants, there will still be ripple effects on big public projects. They may not be undone, but they will certainly be complicated, Fix says.

According to a Pew Research projection, future immigrants and their descendants will account for 88% of the US population increase, or 103 million people, between 2015 and 2065.

Those figures alone should give the administration pause for thought, say analysts, since immigrant-driven housing demand will be needed to buoy the market as native-born baby boomers as move into retirement.

The housing market may not be the first concern, but President Trumps immigration orders could destabilize whole communities, says Myers. Were not playing around here. This is a serious business. Its pretty clear what could happen.

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How Trumps political playbook evolved since he first ran for president in 2000

His bid for the Reform party was a preview of threats and paranoia that would characterize his successful 2016 run but some key elements were different

On a windy night 17 years ago, the pre-Apprentice, pre-Twitter, pre-president New York developer Donald Trump could be found greeting Reform party members at his Florida Mar-a-Lago mansion.

Trump 2000 campaign badges had been laid out on an ornate table: the same table where, two weeks ago, Trump tweeted a selfie captioned with the claim he was composing his inaugural address.

The curious numbered in the dozens, mostly Reform party members and off-season Palm Beach society, joined in the strangeness of Trump world by an enthusiastic British man from Yorkshire who made a living doing Al Jolson blackface impressions.

Weve come really from being a very successful businessman to being a very serious candidate, the 53-year-old Trump told the crowd. I am looking very, very seriously on whether it can be won.

Back then, Trump was seeking the nomination of the party created in 1992 as a vehicle for Texan businessman Ross Perot. He was unsuccessful, and he would ultimately withdraw in March 2000, conceding to far right candidate Pat Buchanan, whom Trump had accused of being a Hitler lover.

But what guests heard was a preview of the promises, threats, attention-seeking and paranoia that would characterize his successful 2016 run nearly two decades later. It sounded like a salesmans pitch a string of semi-articulated views construed semi-political policy positions.

Donald Trump testing the political waters in California. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/AP

Trump told guests his ideas included a one-time tax on the rich to eliminate the national debt. He declared North Korea the greatest threat to the US. He described himself a big fan of the economic embargo against Cuba and accused Japan (not China) of ripping us off.

He disparaged the field of Republican contenders as a bunch of stiffs. He criticized politicians who make too much of their humble origins as just losers, while wealthy establishment candidates were dismissed as members of a lucky sperm club.

Asked about his image as a womanizer, he offered that if that was an impediment to his candidacy, Im not going to bother.

Trump, who had resigned his membership of the Republican party, told reporters he believed the GOP has become just too crazy right.

Nevertheless, key elements of the extreme Trump familiar to the US in 2017 were not in evidence back then.

Back then, he followed the Reform party view that abortion rights should be kept out of politics. In this era before 9/11, when the country was politically obsessed with Monica Lewinsky and pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura, Trump said nothing about Muslim immigration, torture or energy dependence.

Through his Reform party flirtation, Trump sought the counsel of the New York divorce attorney Raoul Felder.

He was not a political person then and he was not this time, Felder told the Guardian. He wouldnt initiate a conversation about politics. Hes not a politician, hes not a political animal. Nor did he ever explicitly discuss why he sought the presidency, he said. As a deal-maker, Felder said, he just thought he could make a difference.

Through late 1999 and into early 2000, Trump readied his bid. He pledged a personal campaign investment of $100m. Swimwear model Melania Knauss, then 26, his girlfriend, posed on a large presidential seal for Talk magazine and said she would be a traditional first lady, like Jackie Kennedy. I would do social obligations, social events. I will do charities. I love children. On political life, she offered (with Talk magazine attempting to replicate her accent): You play a role. Its a beez-ness.

Melania Knauss in Talk magazine in 2000. Photograph: Talk magazine

Writing for the Observer, this reporter concluded that Trump cannot be entirely dismissed from the presidential race but, in a precursor of 2016, also dismissed him as politically incoherent and guessed he was toying with politics … a plaything for a brash property magnate consumed with the importance of his own celebrity.

In 2000, Trumps political director Roger Stone, another divisive figure who would reappear in 2016, was already predicting that the time was right for Trumps candidacy because popular culture was beginning to overwhelm the political establishment.

Trump said he believed non-politicians represent the wave of the future.

Im not prepackaged. Im not plastic. Im not scripted. And Im not handled. Ill tell you what I think. Its quite a departure from the usual office-seeking pols, Trump wrote in The America We Deserve, a book published to coincide with his Reform party bid.

Trumps plan was to urge 6.5 million Trump customers people who had stayed in a Trump hotel or gambled in one of his casinos to request a Reform party ballot. He wondered if some of the so-called Trump magic in terms of real estate, in terms of hotels, in terms of everything, translates into votes.

But he also recognized TV was the key to political success. So much depends on if you happen to be talented in that medium, if you can get your point across, he told CBSs Dan Rather. Being good on television doesnt necessarily make you a good president, but if youre not good on TV, youre not going to be president.

Observer article about Donald Trump from January 2000 Photograph: Observer

In 2000 Trumps exploratory campaign consisted only of media appearances and meet-and-greets with Reform party members in Florida, Connecticut and California.

He didnt have the mechanisms of the 21st century, Felder said. He was well-known, but as a businessman only. So it was an impossible climb. By this election, he had become more of an acceptable name to the public. Celebrity, not the reason for it, speaks for itself.

But crucially, Trump had Twitter. So he didnt need $200m in the bank just to get started. He didnt have to seek supporters. He caught the pulse of middle America, and they came looking to see what he had to say.

However, Felder warns, if Trump didnt have a political bone in his body in 2000, hes going to need 88 political bones in his body now.

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Trumps honeymoon with the stock market will soon be over | Nouriel Roubini

His promises have rallied the Dow Jones but his inconsistent, erratic and destructive policies will take a toll on growth

When Donald Trump was elected president of the US, stock markets rallied impressively. Investors were initially giddy about Trumps promises of fiscal stimulus, deregulation of energy, health care and financial services, and steep cuts in corporate, personal, estate, and capital-gains taxes. But will the reality of Trumponomics sustain a continued rise in equity prices?

It is little wonder that corporations and investors have been happy. This traditional Republican embrace of trickle-down supply-side economics will mostly favour corporations and wealthy individuals, while doing almost nothing to create jobs or raise blue-collar workers incomes. According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, almost half of the benefits from Trumps proposed tax cuts would go to the top 1% of income earners.

Yet the corporate sectors animal spirits may soon give way to primal fear: the market rally is already running out of steam, and Trumps honeymoon with investors might be coming to an end. There are several reasons for this.

For starters, the anticipation of fiscal stimulus may have pushed stock prices up, but it also led to higher long-term interest rates, which hurts capital spending and interest-sensitive sectors such as real estate. Meanwhile, the strengthening dollar will destroy more of the jobs typically held by Trumps blue-collar base. The president may have saved 1,000 jobs in Indiana by bullying and cajoling the air-conditioner manufacturer Carrier; but the US dollars appreciation since the election could destroy almost 400,000 manufacturing jobs over time.

Moreover, Trumps fiscal stimulus package might end up being much larger than the markets current pricing suggests. As Ronald Reagan and George W Bush showed, Republicans can rarely resist the temptation to cut corporate, income and other taxes, even when they have no way to make up for the lost revenue and no desire to cut spending. If this happens again under Trump, fiscal deficits will push up interest rates and the dollar even further, and hurt the economy in the long term.

A second reason for investors to curb their enthusiasm is the spectre of inflation. With the US economy already close to full employment, Trumps fiscal stimulus will fuel inflation more than it does growth. Inflation will then force even Janet Yellens dovish Federal Reserve to hike up interest rates sooner and faster than it otherwise would have done, which will drive up long-term interest rates and the value of the dollar still more.

Third, this undesirable policy mix of excessively loose fiscal policy and tight monetary policy will tighten financial conditions, hurting blue-collar workers incomes and employment prospects. An already protectionist Trump administration will then have to pursue additional protectionist measures to maintain these workers support, thereby further hampering economic growth and diminishing corporate profits.

If Trump takes his protectionism too far, he will undoubtedly spark trade wars. Americas trading partners will have little choice but to respond to US import restrictions by imposing their own tariffs on US exports. The ensuing tit-for-tat will hinder global economic growth and damage economies and markets everywhere. It is worth remembering how Americas 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act triggered global trade wars that exacerbated the Great Depression.

Fourth, Trumps actions suggest that his administrations economic interventionism will go beyond traditional protectionism. Trump has already shown his willingness to target firms foreign operations with the threat of import levies, public accusations of price gouging and immigration restrictions (which make it harder to attract talent).

The Nobel laureate economist Edmund S Phelps has described Trumps direct interference in the corporate sector as reminiscent of corporatist Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. Indeed, if Barack Obama had treated the corporate sector in the way that Trump has, he would have been smeared as a communist; but for some reason when Trump does it, corporate America puts its tail between its legs.

Fifth, Trump is questioning US alliances, cosying up to American rivals such as Russia, and antagonizing important global powers such as China. His erratic foreign policies are spooking world leaders, multinational corporations and global markets generally.

Finally, Trump may pursue damage-control methods that only make matters worse. For example, he and his advisers have already made verbal pronouncements intended to weaken the dollar. But talk is cheap, and open-mouth operations have only a temporary effect on the currency.

This means that Trump might take a more radical and heterodox approach. During the campaign, he bashed the Fed for being too dovish, and creating a false economy. And yet he may now be tempted to appoint new members to the Fed board who are even more dovish, and less independent, than Yellen in order to boost credit to the private sector.

If that fails, Trump could unilaterally intervene to weaken the dollar, or impose capital controls to limit dollar-strengthening capital inflows. Markets are already becoming wary; full-blown panic is likely if protectionism and reckless, politicised monetary policy precipitate trade, currency, and capital-control wars.

To be sure, expectations of stimulus, lower taxes and deregulation could still boost the economy and the markets performance in the short term. But, as the vacillation in financial markets since Trumps inauguration indicates, the presidents inconsistent, erratic, and destructive policies will take their toll on domestic and global economic growth in the long run.

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Affluent Trump backers speak out: ‘I’m hoping for some amazing things’

Much attention has focused on the lower-income voters who helped elect the president but Trumps supporters are more financially secure than many believe

How to explain Donald Trumps ascendancy? If you follow the standard election analysis, his victory was largely spurred by the financial pain and fears of poor and rural Americans. But if you look closer, Trump voters are more financially secure than a lot of us thought.

As a recent immigrant to the US, Ive been fascinated by Trumps incredible rise. But its the motivations of well-off Trump backers which fascinate me the most. Id heard much about the working class or dwindling middle class credited with bringing the real estate mogul victory. But what about those who described themselves as affluent?

I started to look for voters who would fit this bill, and hope to follow them throughout the next four years to chart whether their support will wane or strengthen over time.

Of those I interviewed, many feared backlash if they talked openly. All said admitting backing Trump marked you as racist, sexist and possibly stupid. Some, such as a Los Angeles private jet entrepreneur and a Miami hotelier, agreed to interviews and then reneged, wary of hurting their livelihoods. But those who participated justified their ballot choice passionately and defiantly.

Here are some of their views, in their own words.

I expect him to build that wall

Cathy ODell Town, notary, Orange County, California

Cathy ODell Town at home with her pet cat. Photograph: Jo Jarvis

The level of hatred out there is unprecedented. She [Hillary Clinton] called us terrible names. She attacked Trumps supporters. But we took it as a badge of honor. We became that basket of deplorables. I said: Im deplorable and proud of it. When he won, I tweeted to my followers, thank you for being brave. It took courage to vote for him.

I have the right as an American citizen to support whomever I want I can support Satan if I want. The thing is, I respect you for your opinion but you must respect me for mine. People said to me, Whats the matter with you? Youre a racist, youre a hater, how can you support him? Then they start getting emotional and shouting and going in directions that make no sense. And I just say, I can support whomever I please. Im an American.

Trump has been saying things that Ive been yelling about since 2000, the main one being illegal immigration. I resent illegals. We are negatively impacted by them taking our tax dollars. We are impacted by the two cultures Mexican and Asian and they dont assimilate. Once Trump opened his mouth, it was like a trumpet sounding. A call to arms. It was like a banner. He woke people up.

I thought Obama was sincerely going to make a change I voted for him in 2008. I was extremely disappointed that when he was first elected, he didnt address illegal immigration. With Donald Trump, Im sure that there could be a little more polish, Im sure that he could have pulled back a little bit. But Im not expecting him to be perfect. Im expecting him to roll up his sleeves and go to work for us.

I expect him to build that wall. I expect him to start the process of getting the legislation in place to stop birther rights [the rights of children born in the US to an undocumented immigrant receiving automatic citizenship]. I dont want people to come over here and drop out of their mother and theyre automatically a citizen.

I will measure Trump by this question: did he get those illegals out? Particularly the criminals. Did he get the birther rights revoked? Did he inspire businesses to quit crossing the ocean and going somewhere else? Did he get the trade agreements in places we are respected? Thats what I will be measuring him by.

Trump has a vision

Mike Miele, executive, Princeton and Monmouth Beach, New Jersey

Mike Miele at home with his wife, Bea. Photograph: Jo Jarvis

This is a crapshoot. We dont know what will happen, but Im prepared to take a shot. I want to bring this to a head. Im not sure if hell take us in the right direction, but we cant lose with Trump because at least he will force the issue. If he takes us down the wrong path, at least well have to deal with it.

I dont know whether hes the nicest man in the world or the meanest SOB in the world. I dont think that has a single thing to do with his attributes as president. I mean, who is nicer than President Obama? Hes the greatest guy ever, Id like to meet him one day. Does that make him a great leader? Does that make him able to run the country? I dont think so.

I voted for Trump not against Hillary. I thought she had management competence, but he had a vision. My key hope is that there will once again be a high degree of business startup, that he will create confidence. He already is look how the stock market has responded. I own office buildings, Im a rich guy, but I need newly formed businesses for my buildings in New Jersey.

Ninety percent of the men I know who voted for Trump are too ashamed to admit it. But Im not. My friends usually stay out of politics but when we do get into it the subject is Who did you vote for? I could just tell that they did not want to come out and say that they voted for Trump. They gave some long-winded answer, and I said: Its OK, if you voted for Trump, its not something you should be ashamed of. And theyd say: Were sort of keeping it on the down low. So, thats my Republican friends who voted for Trump.

The ones who voted for Hillary attacked me for my decision. I dont understand where that is coming from. They say: How could you be so stupid, how could you vote for a racist? There were just incredible, heated arguments. Thats not healthy for any of us to take such a hardline view of what other people think. I always thought the Democratic party was more open-minded about other peoples thinking. I find it ironic that theyre so judgmental.

I want to see him taking it back to basics

Ileana Garcia, communications specialist, founder of Latinas for Trump, Miami, Florida

Ileana Garcia in Miami. Photograph: Jo Jarvis

Right now in America we need strength, we need discipline, accountability, a prosperous economy and thats what Trump represents. Thats why he got a whole movement behind him.

I want to see him taking it back to basics: less government in all your decisions, less social programs. I know people who need social programs who cant get them, and others who dont need it, who take advantage of it. I dont think people should be able to walk into this country without ever giving anything to it and having any type of benefits. You need to work your way into it.

Its challenging to come out as a Trump supporter. People were scared. Thats why I founded Latinas for Trump. It was the first time in my life that I had been concerned. We had a Coming Out Trump party here in Miami for people who were scared to say they supported him. I mean, you were fired, you were ostracized, I received death threats, it was crazy and this is a country with the first amendment. We all have rights, even if you are undocumented you have rights, so how does that work? The Democrats did a better job of closeting Trump supporters than the LGBT community ever did of getting people out of the closet.

Im afraid of the tolerant left

Kasey, businesswoman and Karen, attorney. Los Angeles, California. Asked not to use their real names

Kasey, right, with Karen, left, and their two daughters. Photograph: Jo Jarvis

Kasey: Im so full of hope that the reward will be bigger for those who go out there and work hard and create, and that what were going to see is an unleashing of an incredible business explosion and jobs for people and not stagnation.

Im a bit more critical of him on a personal level than I am of him on a policy or business perspective. Trumps a pig, but hes the first Republican that hasnt given me heartburn. Theres no doubt he is kind of a pig. The question is, does it bother you enough to not vote for him? The answer is no because Bill Clinton, whom I voted for, is equally as much of a pig but in a nicer way. It makes no difference to me. I vote for a person based on their policies.

Im attracted to Trump because hes not a politician. Most of them have never done anything but be one. I would like you if you were a Democrat if you had actually started a business and if youve actually created a job. Donald Trump is extremely attractive to me because hes been so successful, and the man has created a lot of jobs.

Im not concerned about anyone knowing I voted for Donald Trump, except for the tolerant left. Im afraid of the tolerant left. They are really the intolerant left. I am concerned that Ive got customers who are part of this intolerant left, and because I have a company and I voted for Trump, Im concerned that if they knew, they would not be my customers any more. I think it is very sad.

Hope against hypocrisy as Trump joins the swamp

Karen: I think hes capable because he weathered the most unbelievable intense storm of malarkey that Ive ever seen anybody go through. To get something done and achieve some of the changes in the polarized society that we live in right now, you need someone who can take hits and not fold. Making the type of changes that need to happen in the US today is not going to be an easy task and what we know for certain is this is a person who can weather a storm.

If you are a leader who is a bit unpredictable and who has said to the world Im willing to be aggressive, how willing are you? then at a very minimum the bad guy [the hostile nation] whos going to steal your stuff will stop and think, perhaps there may be consequences for what Im doing. The US is not currently instilling that thought in anyones mind. And I dont mean, go ahead, march us into another wasteful war. I just want to see some strength.

My views are more about the security and financial stability of the US than about racism or wall building. The left look at folks in West Virginia as uneducated, ignorant people and say thats everybody that voted for Trump. What youre saying about those people is extremely pejorative and you cant have a conversation in this country if youre going to insult others.

We need to reverse course on extreme political correctness

Mark Hoff, family medical doctor, Lodi, California

Mark Hoff in front of his church in Lodi. Photograph: Jo Jarvis

Im a born-again Christian and we suffered through eight years of Obama, who was an elitist academic. He made people more afraid of conservative Christians than of Muslims. Obama paved the way for Trump.

Im hoping for some amazing things from Trump. I hope we have a more vibrant society. Thousands of factories have closed. He will reverse it. Hes not just talking. He says he will revitalize the ghetto areas. Hillary was anti-conservative, anti-Christian. She is the embodiment of evil. The Democrat party is an anti-God organization.

As a born-again Christian, Id like to see Trump reverse course on this extreme political correctness. Its been an oppressive feeling that I have had, being afraid of stepping on somebodys toes and being slammed by the media, by Hollywood. Those people are as oppressive as any sort of oppressive society youd want to be in. Im hoping that the values I hold will not feel as out of place if I talk about them, now that Donald Trump has influence.

Im not expecting Donald Trump to be perfect. Im not saying hes a born-again person. I dont even know whether hell become born again. But I think, with the tremendous responsibility he has, hell begin relying more on God in helping him be president and well see an evolution in his approach to the people of this country, maybe becoming a little more traditional, the rough edges coming off a little bit. But what we want is somebody who is going to be honest with us. He tells you like it is and he is genuinely concerned about our country.

Just being a Christian doesnt mean youre perfect. So, for me to cast aspersions against Donald Trump for what he has done is not right. You should instead look to see if a person is changing, if he is evolving. While he was not necessarily young when he did some of these things, I think hes a person that will evolve.

This election is the first one Ive felt part of. I watched probably every one of his speeches. I wore a Donald Trump pin on my lapel at work. Ive had two patients attack me, but most were fine.

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The great Donald Trump confidence trick: symbolism over substance | Michael Paarlberg

The executive orders signed on Monday will raise mortgage costs and health care premiums for the very people the new president claims to champion

Donald Trump promised to do a lot of things on day one of his presidency. Instead, he spent his first full day in office at the CIA, trying to impress a roomful of intelligence officers by bragging about how many Time magazine covers hes been on. Is Donald Trump an intellectual? Trust me, Im, like, a smart person, he told them, which suggests he thinks the word intelligence in the government context means really smart.

When he finally got down to business, though, he showed he does know a few things, like how he got to where he is and what he needs to do to stay there. He may not have fulfilled the vast majority of those day one, first hour campaign pledges (deport 2 million criminal aliens, introduce congressional term limits, get rid of gun-free school zones), but the ones he did fulfill demonstrated hes smart enough to understand whats really important to his supporters, and to his party, even if theyre not always the same thing.

So two of his first executive orders broke with Republican party orthodoxy and trashed a pair of trade deals, the TPP and Nafta. Free trade deals are popular in principle with economists, unpopular in practice with pretty much everyone else. So its an easy political calculation, yet one thats eluded Republicans and most Democrats since the Clinton era. Bashing free trade may be hard for some of the GOPs ideological purists to swallow, but the promise of a permanent Republican majority in the midwest makes it go down a lot easier, and all the more so by the fact that neither executive order actually does anything.

Like any good con artist or semiotics philosopher, Trump gets the importance of symbolism over substance. His TPP order withdraws from a treaty that was never ratified by Congress in the first place. His Nafta order simply states his intention to renegotiate the treaty at some future date. A third executive order does the same to Obamacare, reasserting Trumps plan to dismantle it but doing effectively nothing. Something incredibly cryptic that nobody understands was how one former Republican Senate aide described the executive order, which sounds a lot like how Republicans talk about Obamacare. In fact, the brilliance of the orders is in their vagueness, allowing Trump to take credit for his opposition to unpopular laws without having to bear any of the costs: the messy task of actually taking away peoples health insurance will, after all, be left to Congress.

Similarly, another of his executive orders freezes hiring for a federal workforce that has already been effectively frozen for decades. The total size of the federal workforce today 2.8 million is the same as it was at the beginning of the Obama administration, and well below what it was under Ronald Reagan (3.15 million). As a percentage of the total workforce, the federal workforce has been shrinking steadily since the mid-20th century and is now down from 7% to under 2%, as Doug Henwood notes, lower than what it was when Obama took office. Several offices have been under hiring freezes for years, including the Social Security Administration and immigration courts.

Hiring freezes play well politically but provide little in value to taxpayers. All they do is accelerate outsourcing to private government contractors whose gleaming offices dot the northern Virginia landscape. They do the same work at twice the cost to taxpayers, often by the very same ex-federal employees wooed away by cushier, private sector salaries. Bashing federal workers is one thing both parties can always agree on; both Jimmy Carter and Reagan implemented hiring freezes as president. It lets politicians play to the anti-government crowd while lining their pockets with contributions from those contractors who rely on their budgetary largesse.

These orders wont do any good for the ordinary Americans Trump champions. Theyll raise their mortgages and healthcare premiums, and funnel more of their taxes to a small gang of politically connected beltway bandits. But they offer a cheap way to sell Trumps unique brand of populist nationalism to a still skeptical Republican party. They allow him to play to his base without actually doing anything. And they give him some very real benefits to dangle in front of Republicans and their funders, who will be happy to stomach a few empty protectionist gestures in exchange for the opportunity to drain the swamp right into their pocketbooks.

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Never mind the optics, Theresa Mays US dash was mortifying | Jonathan Freedland

Sure, it went fine Trump managed not to drop any bombshells. But this hasty visit smacks of desperation

In normal times, youd say everything went swimmingly. Sure, the American president seemed a tad unsure how to say the name of his guest whom he greeted as Ter-raiser slightly reinforcing the White Houses earlier failure, in a briefing note, to spell the British prime ministers name correctly, dropping the h and thereby suggesting Donald Trump was about to receive Teresa May, who made her name as a porn star.

But other than that, the PM would have been delighted. In the press conference that followed their Oval Office meeting, there were no bombshells: Trump managed to get through it without insulting an entire ethnic group, trashing a democratic norm or declaring war, any of which might have diverted attention from Mays big moment. He was on best behaviour, diligently reading the script that had been written for him, attesting to the deep bond that connects Britain and the US. May received all the assurances she craved that her countrys relationship with the US remains special. Why, he even, briefly, took her hand.

However, these are not normal times. May and her team will be pleased with the optics and indeed some of the substance artfully, May got Trump to confirm, on camera, that he is 100% behind Nato but the underlying truth is that this dash to Washington was mortifying.

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John McCain says US has no strategy to deal with Russian cyber warfare

In audio obtained by the Guardian, McCain says it is the one aspect of our confrontation where adversaries are ahead

John McCain warned that the Trump administration is unprepared to deal with Russian attempts to influence elections in France and European countries in the coming months.

In audio obtained by the Guardian of the 2008 presidential nominee speaking at the congressional retreat in Philadelphia, the Arizona senator said we dont have a policy and we dont have a strategy for Russian cyber warfare. He said it is the one aspect of our confrontation where I believe our adversaries are ahead of us, adding it is a hell of a lot of easier to offense in cyber than defense.

France is holding its first round of presidential elections in April and far right nationalist Marine Le Pen is leading in opinion polls. Le Pens party, the National Front, is currently facing scrutiny over its ties to Russian banks and she has insisted that Russias occupation of Crimea was legitimate. The 2014 invasion of Crimea drew international condemnation and led to international sanctions against Russia.

McCain, who stated matter of factly that we do know the Russians were trying to influence the outcome of our election, also warned that he didnt know what Trumps policy was towards Russia. The hawkish McCain described Putin as a KGB criminal and suggested Ronald Reagans approach to Russia of peace through strength was the appropriate template today.

McCain broadly took a pessimistic view of foreign affairs in 2017. I could make a coherent, cogent argument that the world is more dangerous than any time in the last 70 years, said MCain, who chairs the Senate armed services committee. There are pressures on the new world order that was established in 1947 and 1948, the likes of which we have never seen.

He told attendees he believed President Trump will probably be tested by one or more of these forces around the world, whether it be North Koreans, Iranians, the Chinese or the Russians and expressed his hope that all of his colleagues will support a response which is proportionate and will also tell Vladimir Putin, the ayatollahs and the Chinese that there is a new team in town.

McCain though was full of praise for many of Trumps cabinet picks. He told colleagues the national security team that president Trump has assembled is as strong or better than any Ive ever seen. He had particular praise for newly confirmed secretary of defense James Mattis. Im not sure if one person can have a profound effect but if anyone can have a profound effect it is General Mattis, said McCain.

He also seemed to welcome Mike Flynn, Trumps controversial selection for national security adviser. What a nice change from Susan Rice to General Flynn, McCain said of the transition from Obamas adviser to Trumps selection.

McCain is notably not close to Trump. The president mocked the Arizona senator in 2015 for being a prisoner of war, saying hes a war hero because he was captured? I like people who werent captured, and McCain only backed Trump after the real estate developer became the GOP nominee.

However, he has been enthusiastic about many of Trumps cabinet choices in foreign policy and offered the White House crucial support in advancing the nomination of state department nominee Rex Tillerson.

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White House alienates WikiLeaks by refusing to release Trump tax returns

Adviser Kellyanne Conway: He is not going to release his tax returns as WikiLeaks calls for someone to leak documents so they can be published

Donald Trump will not release his tax returns even after repeated promises to do so following a supposed audit, one of his senior advisers said on Sunday confirming that the president will break a 40-year tradition and not show Americans the extent of his financial interests and obligations.

Kellyanne Conway, a senior counselor to the president, told ABCs This Week the Trump administration would do nothing about calls to release the information.

The White House response is that hes not going to release his tax returns, she said. We litigated this all through the election.

The broken promise alienated WikiLeaks, which for months during the campaign released hacked Democratic emails, which Trump often seized on to denigrate his opponent Hillary Clinton.

On Sunday, the group tweeted: Trumps breach of promise over the release of his tax returns is even more gratuitous than Clinton concealing her Goldman Sachs transcripts.

The organization then asked for someone to give them the tax returns, in order to achieve their publication.

Speaking to ABC, Conway contradicted polls that show most Americans want to see the returns when she said: People didnt care.

They voted for him, and let me make this very clear: most Americans are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like.

Last week, a Washington Post-ABC poll showed that 74% of Americans, including 53% of Republicans, want to see Trumps returns. In October, a CNN poll found that 73% of registered voters, including 49% of Republicans, wanted to see the tax returns.

A petition on the White House website that calls for the immediate release of the returns and all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance had 218,465 signatures as of Sunday afternoon.

The returns could show the breadth of Trumps financial interests around the world, including where he does business, who his partners are and to whom he owes money.

Ethics experts fear Trumps business liabilities could affect White House policy and how the president spends taxpayer dollars: for instance, how he may deal with banks that own hundreds of millions of his debt, treat foreign nations that curry favor or become real estate partners, or reshape domestic policy to accommodate his interests.

Earlier this month, Trump repeated his campaign contention that he would not release the returns because theyre under audit. No law prohibits the release of tax returns during an audit; Trumps lawyers have said he is under audit, but they have not provided any proof that he is actually under audit. The IRS has repeatedly declined to comment on the audit status of any single citizen.

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly promised to release his tax returns after the supposed audit. In May, for instance, he said: As soon as the audit ends Ill release my returns. He also tweeted: I would release my tax returns when audit is complete, not after election!

In October, Trumps 1995 tax returns were published by the New York Times, which acquired the records through an anonymous source and verified them with the businessmans former accountant.

The returns showed that Trump lost $916m in a single year and could have avoided paying federal taxes for 18 years, a charge he did not deny.

Conway also insisted that Trump and his family are complying with all the ethical rules, everything they need to do to step away from his businesses and be a full-time president.

There is no record that Trump has stepped away from any of his businesses, which owe hundreds of millions in debts to large banks, span across the US, Europe and Asia, and which may have already put him in violation of the constitutions prohibition against payments from foreign governments.

In a press conference earlier this month, aides refused to let reporters see documents that allegedly catalogued his efforts to separate himself from his businesses.

Trump has refused to divest or set up a blind trust, instead saying without evidence that he has handed control of his companies to his two adult sons. Ethics attorneys have repeatedly said Trump has not taken effective steps to prevent conflicts of interest.

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The new first family: what you need to know about the Trumps

Here are the essential things to know about the Trumps, with notes on the roles each family member may play in the administration

As soon as Donald Trump takes the oath of office, the Obama family is scheduled to board a helicopter for the airport and a California holiday. A new first family will have taken their place. Heres a bit about the Trumps, with notes on the roles each family member may play in the administration.

Melania Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Melania Trump, 46

Wife of Donald. Born Melanija Knavs in Slovenia in eastern Europe, she was sufficiently successful as a model that she sometimes worked under only her first name, and toiled as an undocumented immigrant in the United States before landing a work visa in 1997, according to an Associated Press investigation. She met her future husband at a Fashion Week party in New York City. The couple will celebrate their 12th anniversary on 22 January, two days after he becomes president. She has said that as first lady she would like to be very traditional like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy. She also plans to combat online bullying and harassment. She will remain in New York City through the end of the school year with her son with Trump, Barron, 10, and is expected to play a minimal role in the administration.

Donald Trump Jr, 39

Donald Trump Jr arrives at Trump Tower in New York Wednesday. Photograph: Albin Lohr-Jones/EPA

Donald Trumps eldest son, he is himself a father of five, with his wife, Vanessa Kay Haydon, a former model. A reality TV star (The Apprentice) like his father, he has been tapped to head the Trump Organization the family business empire with his brother, Eric, aided by a longtime company executive. Trump Jr is not expected to have a role in his fathers administration; indeed, his new position as co-head of the Trump Organization would seem to preclude, under ethics rules and traditions, his speaking with his father about the business and his hearing from his father about government. Trump Jr drew ire during the campaign for agreeing to an interview with a prominent white nationalist and for comparing Syrian refugees to Skittles. He is a big-game hunter and self-described boob guy.

Eric Trump, 33

Eric Trump arrives at Trump Tower Wednesday. Photograph: Albin Lohr-Jones/EPA

Trumps second-oldest son, he has also appeared on The Apprentice and is married to Lara Trump, ne Yunaska, a fitness trainer and TV producer. With his brother, Don Jr, Eric is to lead the Trump Organization, and is due to have no role in the Trump administration. He runs a charitable foundation to fight childhood cancer, but claims he has made about his father personally donating large sums to the foundation, like many Trump family claims about charitable giving, could not be verified. Like his brother, he is a big-game hunter.

Ivanka Trump, 35

Ivanka Trump on the last day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Trumps eldest daughter, and like Don Jr and Eric the daughter of her fathers first wife Ivana, a Czech-born former fashion model. Ivanka converted to Orthodox Judaism to marry businessman Jared Kushner, with whom she has three children. She is a fashion executive and like her brothers has appeared on The Apprentice. As an executive with the Trump organization, she managed projects including the recently opened Trump hotel in the Old Post Office building in downtown Washington DC, but she has said she will divest from the family company, owing to her husbands role in the Trump administration. The nature of her divestment is not clear; it has been described by Trump transition officials as converting her equity into fixed payments. Ivanka Trump has rebutted speculation that she would act as a de facto first lady. I think its an inappropriate observation, she told ABC News. There is one first lady, and shell do remarkable things.

Jared Kushner, 36

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