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Amid USS McCain controversy, Pentagon says military will not be politicized

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Amid USS McCain controversy, Pentagon says military will not be to politicized

SEOUL (Reuters) – The Pentagon has told the White House that the U.S. military will not be politicized, a U.S. official said on Sunday, amid a controversy after officials directed the United States Navy to keep the USS John S. McCain out of sight during a recent speech by President Donald Trump in Japan. 

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen, in Singapore waters August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood/File Photo

The White House military office directed the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet to minimize the visibility of the USS John S. McCain, a warship bearing the name of Trump’s former political rival, during a speech by the president in Japan last week.  

While the directive was not implemented after senior Navy officials found out about the request, the incident has raised questions about the politicization of the military, which has traditionally been seen as being apolitical. 

“Secretary (Patrick) Shanahan directed his chief of staff to speak with the White House military office and reaffirm his mandate that the Department of Defense will not be politicized,” Lieutenant Colonel Joe Buccino, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

“The chief of staff reported that he did reinforce this message,” Buccino said. 

Concern has increased about the politicization of the U.S. military under Trump. He has given a number of overtly political speeches to military audiences and the military has been drawn into a mission along the border with Mexico, which some critics have described as a political stunt rather than a national security necessity. 

The USS John S. McCain controversy led acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to ask his chief of staff to find out what happened. On Sunday he told reporters that after reviewing the facts, he did not plan to call for an inspector general investigation into the incident.

“There is no room for politicizing the military,” Shanahan told reporters traveling with him to Seoul.

Shanahan said he had spoken with late Senator John McCain’s wife in the past few days about the incident but declined to give details of the conversation. 

He said that his chief of staff did not have prior knowledge of the White House directive and reiterated that a search had not found any emails to his staff about it. Trump said on Wednesday he had not been aware of the request.

The USS John S. McCain was initially named after the late Senator McCain’s father and grandfather, who were both Navy admirals. In 2018, the Navy added Senator McCain to the official namesake of the guided missile destroyer.

McCain, the unsuccessful 2008 Republican presidential nominee, was shot down during the Vietnam War and tortured by his North Vietnamese Communist captors during more than five years in captivity as a prisoner of war.

Trump has long criticized McCain on a variety of fronts, and has kept up his attacks on McCain even following his death in August.

(This story has been refiled to fix typo in headline)

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Alex Richardson

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Deep budget cuts put University of Alaska in crisis mode; ‘grappling with survival’

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Civil rights groups sue Tennessee over law imposing new penalties on voter registration

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – The University of Alaska board of regents, facing deep budget cuts exacted by the governor that will eliminate about 40% of the university’s state funding, voted at an emergency meeting on Monday to declare the academic equivalent of bankruptcy reorganization.

The regents’ 10-1 vote puts the university into “financial exigency,” a status allowing administrators to summarily fire tenured faculty and other staff, close whole academic programs and even shut down entire campuses. Up to 2,000 employees could lose their jobs, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen has said.

The drastic move is necessary, regents said, because of line-item spending vetoes by Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy that slashed $440 million from the budget passed by the state legislature, including $130 million from the university system.

Dunleavy, who took office in December and is an outspoken supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, has called for major cuts in higher education, health care and other social programs as he pushes to sharply raise the annual oil revenue dividend that Alaska pays to nearly every state resident.

Lawmakers attempted on July 10 to reverse Dunleavy’s budget vetoes but failed to muster the required three-quarters vote to override the governor. The result, the regents said at their meeting, is tragic for the university.

  “Unfortunately, we are now grappling with survival,” said John Davies, the board of regents’ chairman.

Davies disputed Dunleavy’s assertion that sharp cuts to the university and other programs were necessary because Alaska faces a financial crisis.

“I believe it’s more of a political crisis. It’s some decisions that have been made by the governor and by a minority of the legislature,” he said.

The budget as passed by the legislature contained a surplus. Dunleavy imposed deep cuts, nevertheless, while pushing to nearly double the dividend paid to residents each year from oil revenues collected for the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Dunleavy’s proposal for a record $3,000 dividend this year, at a time of declining oil industry receipts, would cost the state an estimated $2 billion.

The University of Alaska operates its three main campuses in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau, with 13 smaller satellite campuses in remote communities such as Nome, Bethel and Kodiak. The $130 million cut by the governor is more than the cost of running the entire Anchorage campus, Johnsen has said.

The university, especially the Fairbanks campus, is considered a world-class hub for Arctic and climate-change research, and some Dunleavy critics have accused the governor of targeting the university because of that.

“Some prominent conservatives deny the reality of human-caused climate change, and so curtailing UA research is great from their perspective,” Susan Henrichs, a former University of Alaska Fairbanks provost, said in a column published in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Regents had considered declaring financial exigency a week ago but postponed their decision. Since then, Moody’s sharply downgraded the university’s bond rating, giving it a “negative” outlook.

Members of the legislature’s bipartisan majority coalition said they still hope to restore funding to the university and other programs.

Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage; Editing by Steve Gorman and Leslie Adler

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Trump announces ‘real compromise’ on budget deal with congressional leaders

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Trump announces 'real compromise' on budget deal with congressional leaders

The Trump administration and congressional leaders, including Democrats, have reached a critical debt and budget agreement, a deal that amounted to an against-the-odds victory for Washington pragmatists seeking to avoid politically dangerous tumult over fiscal deadlines, President Trump announced Monday.

The deal would increase spending caps by $320 billion relative to the limits prescribed in the 2011 Budget Control Act, whose provisions have repeatedly been waived year after year. It would also suspend the debt ceiling and permit more government borrowing until July 31, 2021 — after the next presidential election.

The arrangement all but eliminates the risk of another government shut down this fall, but already has been drawing the ire of fiscal conservatives saying it will lead to more irresponsible government spending.

Even some Democrats — including Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy — were outraged, saying the bill would not block Trump from spending money on his proposed border wall.

“I am pleased to announce that a deal has been struck with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy – on a two-year Budget and Debt Ceiling, with no poison pills,” Trump wrote.

He added: “This was a real compromise in order to give another big victory to our Great Military and Vets!”

Democrats celebrated that, under the new deal, the domestic, non-military budget receives larger increases than the defense budget, when compared to last year. Democrats also lauded the deal’s allocation of $2.5 billion for the 2020 Census, to ensure that all residents are counted.

The deal, which must still pass Congress, also comes as budget deficits have been rising to $1 trillion levels — requiring the government to borrow a quarter for every dollar the government spends — despite the thriving economy and three rounds of annual Trump budget proposals promising to crack down on the domestic programs that Pelosi, D-Calif., has been defending.

It apparently ignored warnings from fiscal conservatives saying the nation’s spending has been unsustainable and eventually will drag down the economy.

“This agreement is a total abdication of fiscal responsibility by Congress and the president,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a Washington advocacy group. “It may end up being the worst budget agreement in our nation’s history, proposed at a time when our fiscal conditions are already precarious.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Trump says deal reached on spending, debt limit

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Trump says deal reached on spending, debt limit

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he formally kicking off his re-election bid with a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Monday a two-year deal had been reached with congressional leaders to raise the Treasury Department’s borrowing authority and to set budget spending caps.

“I am pleased to announce that a deal has been struck with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy – on a two-year Budget and Debt Ceiling, with no poison pills,” Trump said on Twitter.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by David Alexander

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