President Trump has found himself in hot water again after reportedly being disrespectful to a soldier's widow during a condolence call. The Tradefair team brings you the latest news from the US...
“He thought that the President did the best job he could under those circumstances to offer condolences on behalf of the country.”
- Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary.
President Donald Trump has found himself at the centre of a vicious row after a grieving soldier's widow accused him of being disrespectful during a condolence call.
The backlash from the conversation, which Trump has remained insistent has been cynically twisted for political gain, swept the White House yesterday (October 18) and overshadowed any of the policies the President has been trying to gather support for.
After four Americans were killed at the start of October in Niger, Trump called the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson. However, the President reportedly told Myeshia Johnson that her husband "knew what he signed up for," and only referred to him as "your guy".
Both Sergeant Johnson's mother and a Democratic congresswoman both listened to the call, but Trump has opposed this account. Instead, the President says he "had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman." Initially he also said the Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson of Florida had "fabricated" the event.
Controversy in the White House
However, the conversation has only gathered so much interest because Trump deflected a question about why he hadn't spoken publicly about the deaths of the four soldiers.
Rather than directly answering the question, he falsely accused President Obama of not contacting the families of fallen troops. Trump then brought his Chief of Staff John Kelly into the row, saying his predecessor hadn't called Kelly when his son Second Lt. Robert Kelly was killed in 2010.
Kelly, who didn't comment about his own son, was brought as a witness to the call between Trump and Myeshia Johnson as he was present.
"He thought that the President did the best job he could under those circumstances to offer condolences on behalf of the country," said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary.
Trump and the military
Although Trump insisted that he'd have "proof" to "discredit" the widow's version of events, the White House has confirmed that the call was not recorded and no evidence has emerged.
It's not the first time the President has found himself in hot water with the military services. During an interview while he was still a nominee, Trump appeared to suggest that the soldier's mother hadn't spoken about her son's death because of the female subservience expected in some traditional strains of Islam.
He also sparked controversy when earlier this year he moved to ban transgender people from serving in the US military. It comes after a difficult few months for the President, with the Charlottesville riots and NFL protest calling his position into question.
However, more importantly for Trump is that the backlash from the exchange has taken the attention away from the tax and healthcare reforms he's trying to push through.
Tax reform progress?
A poll by CNN found that 52% of Americans oppose the President's tax reform proposals, with just a third supporting the plan. In addition, half of Americans don't agree with the way he is handling taxes and only 36% approve.
His high-profile failure of repealing Obamacare has no-doubtedly played on the minds of many Republicans, giving them more motivation to make headway on tax changes.
"I would like very much to see it be done this year," Trump told reporters. "But don't forget, it took years for the Reagan administration to get taxes done. I've been here for nine months."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell supported this timeline: "The goal is to get it done this calendar year. But it is important to remember that Obama signed Obamacare in March of year two. Obama signed Dodd-Frank in July of year two. We're going to get this job done."
Although Trump has found himself at the centre of a number of controversies during his fairly short time in the White House, it will be his inability to progress with tax reform that will have investors concerned.
Getting Congress support
Later this month, Congress will need to pass Trump's reforms if he wants to hit his deadline, meaning the next few weeks will be crucial for the US President. Democrats are opposed to the bill, saying it will give more money to the rich, but it will be support from his own dominant Republicans that will make the difference.
His decision to cut cost-sharing subsidies that help insurance companies support poorer Americans, which could cause many policies to significantly increase.
Investors and economists
Another cause of concern for economists and investors is his lack of progress on the federal budget. Having already pushed back the deadline to the end of the year, Trump will need to start taking meaningful steps if he wants to get the finance for his high-profile campaign pledges, such as the Mexican border wall.
The markets will also be worried by the current state of the North America Trade Agreement. Relations with Canada and Mexico are somewhat strained at the moment and if the deal was to break, it will be up to the President to show that it won't do long-lasting damage to the US economy.
Although Trump likes to grade himself highly for his work in the Oval Office, his controversy-sparking behaviour is taking valuable attention away from the legislation that he needs to push through to make significant changes.
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