Priebus Wasn’t the Problem

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Trump names a new chief of staff, but will he listen to John Kelly?

By The Editorial Board,  The Wall Street Journal

President Trump announced late Friday on Twitter—how else?—that he is replacing White House chief of staff Reince Priebus with Homeland Security secretary John Kelly. The decision was probably inevitable given how the President publicly humiliated Mr. Priebus in recent days, but this shuffling of the staff furniture won’t matter unless Mr. Trump accepts that the White House problem isn’t Mr. Priebus. It’s him.

Presidents get the White House operations they want, and Mr. Trump has a chaotic mess because he seems to like it. He likes pitting faction against faction, as if his advisers are competing casino operators from his Atlantic City days. But a presidential Administration is a larger undertaking than a family business, and the infighting and competing leaks have created a dysfunctional White House.

Perhaps Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine general, can impose some order on the staff. But then that’s what Anthony Scaramucci was supposed to do for the communications team, only to blow up in adolescent fashion this week by trashing Mr. Priebus and others in public. White House leakers then let it be known that Mr. Trump liked Mr. Scaramucci’s X-rated rant.

The reason Mr. Priebus wasn’t as effective as he could have been is because Mr. Trump wouldn’t listen to him and wouldn’t let him establish a normal decision-making process. Mr. Trump has a soft spot for military men so perhaps he’ll listen more to Mr. Kelly. He’d better, because on present course his Presidency is careening toward a historic reputation where names like Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon reside.

Your Editor Hopes: That Kelly’s experience and expertise will help the White House focus on governing

Sarah Elizabeth Richards talks to undocumented families dealing with the fear of deportation:

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Rosa-Maria, age 65, who has lived in Phoenix after leaving Mexico 18 years ago, hates driving with a license. (She also declined to give her last name.) Whenever she sees a police officer on the road, her heart races. “All I can think is ‘Please pass me!’” she says. Even if she needs to make a turn, she keeps going straight because she doesn’t want the officer to think she’s evading him. But she’s more terrified of the prospect of her 35-year-old son, who lives nearby and is married with three daughters, getting pulled over and arrested on the way to his construction job. … She has trouble sleeping and wakes up early every morning to walk down the block to see if his car is still there. If she can’t see it, she calls several relatives to make sure he is okay. “My son acts like a big man and tells people to be strong,” she says. “But I’ve talked to his wife, and she says he’s starting to get scared. It’s not fair to have to live with this fear every day.”

Keep reading here, as Richards describes how the stress is hurting families’ health.

LATINO LOOP for the week of March 24, 2017

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Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, aka Carlos the Jackal, appeared in a French court last week to face charges related to a 1974 terrorist attack on a shopping center that killed two and injured dozens more.   If convicted, Ramirez faces a third life term in prison, where he is currently serving time for the murders of two French intellegence agents and a Lebanese informant, among other crimes.
  Peru’s President declared a state of emergency following rain and devastating floods and mudslides which have left thousands homeless and killed dozens over the last week.
  CNN en Español celebrated 20 years on the air last week.
  Cheech Marin has published a new memoir, “Cheech Is Not My Real Name… But Don’t Call Me Chong!”
  Telemundo announced that it will produce two new biopic series based on the lives of Nicky Jam (“El Ganador”) and Jose Jose (“El Príncipe de la Canción”).
  Eugenio Derbez stars in “How to Be a Latin Lover”, which opens in theaters on April 28th.  Derbez plays an ageing lothario, who’s made a living out of seducing rich, older women. When he’s dumped by his wealthy 80-year old wife for a younger stud, he’s forced to move in with his estranged sister, played by Salma Hayek, and her son.  The cast includes Derbez and Hayek, alongside Raquel Welch, Rob Lowe and Kristen Bell.
Dr. Lourdes I. Ramos, Ph.D., was named President and CEO of the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA).  Ramos was most recently Director and Chief Curator at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.
  Telemundo performers recently voted to join SAG-AFTRA.  The union will cover actors, stunt performers, singers and dancers working on telenovelas produced in the U.S.
  Horacio Palencia took home BMI Latin Awards for Regional Mexican Song of the Year and Regional Mexican Songwriter of the Year at last night’s BMI Latin Awards in Beverly Hills.  J Balvin won for Contemporary Song of the Year for “Ginza”, while Gocho and Motiff won for Contemporary Latin Songwriter of the Year.  Los Lobos were honored with the BMI Icon Award and Sony/ATV Music Publishing was named Latin Publisher of the Year.
  Juan Gabriel’s Palm Springs compound, a former boutique hotel that the singer purchased and turned into a mansion, has sold for $1.63 million.
  Grammy award-winning flautist Dave Valentin passed away last week in the Bronx at age 64.
Laura Esquivel’s “Like Water for Chocolate” is being developed into an English-language TV series by Endemol Shine North America
According to new Pew Research Center data, immigrants and their U.S.-born children are expected to drive growth in the U.S. working-age population through 2035.  The number of working-age immigrants is projected to increase from 33.9 million in 2015 to 38.5 million by 2035 and the number of U.S. born working-age people with immigrant parents is expected to go up from 11.1 million in 2015 to 24.6 million in 2035.
  “Don’t Breathe” director Fede Alvarez is slated to direct “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”, sequel to “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”.   The film is set for release in October 2018.
  Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced last week that the number of undocumented immigrants crossing into the U.S. from Mexico decreased by 40% from January to February.
Estrella TV’s Los Angeles flagship station, KRCA 62, surpassed both Univision and Telemundo among males 25-54 and tied for #1 with Univision among males 18-49 in Prime Time during February Sweeps in the Los Angeles market.
  Tamara Holder received a $2.5 million settlement from Fox News after the former Fox News contributor accused an ex-Fox News Latino VP of trying to force her into performing oral sex while in his office.
  Cristela Alonzo will star in the ABC pilot, “The Gospel of Kevin”.
  Mexico’s telecom regulator has imposed new regulations on Televisa including increased accounting transparency, requiring the company to hand over detailed information about its advertising prices.
  BMI has partnered with the Apollo Theater to present “How I Wrote That Song: La Historia Detrás de una Cancion”.  The panel, taking place April 4th in New York City, includes 24 Horas, El Dusty, Xtassy, David Escobar and moderator Ana Isabel.
  The Association of Latino Professionals for America has published its list of the 50 Most Powerful Latinas in 2017.  This year’s list includes Geisha Williams, CEO and President of PG&E, Ofelia Melendrez-Kumpf, U.S. VP and General Manager, Southern California Region McDonald’s USA, Cynthia Hudson, SVP, General Manager of CNN en Español and Hispanic Strategy CNN, Jacqueline Hernandez, CMO, Hispanic Enterprises & Content NBCUniversal (Comcast) and Monica Lozano, Former CEO of La Opinión and ImpreMedia, among others.
  The family of Cruz Velazquez Acevedo, a 16-year-old teen that died while in U.S. Customs & Border Protection custody, was awarded $1 million in a wrongful death lawsuit.  Velazquez was apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing from Tijuana to San Ysidro when he claimed that two bottles of liquid he was carrying were apple juice.  The border agents told him to drink it to prove he wasn’t lying and Velazquez died after drinking the liquid methamphetamine
  Univision Digital has launched “3,2,1 Clarissa!” a new web series starring Clarissa Molina, social media host for “El Gordo y La Flaca” and “Nuestra Belleza Latina” season 10 winner.
Beau Ferrari has joined NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises as EVP.  Ferrari was previously EVP of Corporate Strategy and Development for Univision Communications.
  Denny’s has selected Conill as its Hispanic agency of record.
  The new Netflix series “Ingobernable” starring Kate del Castillo, Erik Hayser and Alberto Guerra, celebrated it’s U.S. premiere last week in Miami.   The series launches this Friday, March 24th.
  Roy Rodriguez, the father of “Modern Family” star Rico Rodriguez, died last week at age 52.

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Trump Son-in-Law Kushner to Lead a White House SWAT Team to Fix Government With Business Ideas

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By Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker, The Washington Post

President Trump plans to unveil a new White House office on Monday with sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and fulfill key campaign promises — such as reforming care for veterans and fighting opioid addiction — by harvesting ideas from the business world and, potentially, privatizing some government functions.

The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements.

“All Americans, regardless of their political views, can recognize that government stagnation has hindered our ability to properly function, often creating widespread congestion and leading to cost overruns and delays,” Trump said in a statement to The Washington Post. “I promised the American people I would produce results, and apply my ‘ahead of schedule, under budget’ mentality to the government.”

In a White House riven at times by disorder and competing factions, the innovation office represents an expansion of Kushner’s already far-reaching influence. The 36-year-old former real estate and media executive will continue to wear many hats, driving foreign and domestic policy as well as decisions on presidential personnel. He also is a shadow diplomat, serving as Trump’s lead adviser on relations with China, Mexico, Canada and the Middle East.

The work of White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon has drawn considerable attention, especially after his call for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” But Bannon will have no formal role in the innovation office, which Trump advisers described as an incubator of sleek transformation as opposed to deconstruction.

The announcement of the new office comes at a humbling moment for the president, following Friday’s collapse of his first major legislative push — an overhaul of the health-care system, which Trump had championed as a candidate.

Kushner is positioning the new office as “an offensive team” — an aggressive, nonideological ideas factory capable of attracting top talent from both inside and outside of government, and serving as a conduit with the business, philanthropic and academic communities.

“We should have excellence in government,” Kushner said Sunday in an interview in his West Wing office. “The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”

The innovation office has a particular focus on technology and data, and it is working with such titans as Apple chief executive Tim Cook, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff and Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk. The group has already hosted sessions with more than 100 such leaders and government officials.

“There is a need to figure out what policies are adding friction to the system without accompanying it with significant benefits,” said Stephen A. Schwarzman, chief executive of the investment firm Blackstone Group. “It’s easy for the private sector to at least see where the friction is, and to do that very quickly and succinctly.”

Some of the executives involved have criticized some of Trump’s policies, such as his travel ban, but said they are eager to help the administration address chronic problems.

President Trump, center, talks with IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty, left, and senior adviser Jared Kushner, right, before speaking to business leaders at the White House on Feb. 3. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

“Obviously it has to be done with corresponding values and principles. We don’t agree on everything,” said Benioff, a Silicon Valley billionaire who raised money for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

But, Benioff added, “I’m hopeful that Jared will be collaborative with our industry in moving this forward. When I talk to him, he does remind me of a lot of the young, scrappy entrepreneurs that I invest in in their 30s.”

Kushner’s ambitions for what the new office can achieve are grand. At least to start, the team plans to focus its attention on reimagining Veterans Affairs; modernizing the technology and data infrastructure of every federal department and agency; remodeling workforce-training programs; and developing “transformative projects” under the banner of Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, such as providing broadband Internet service to every American.

In some cases, the office could direct that government functions be privatized, or that existing contracts be awarded to new bidders.
The office will also focus on combating opioid abuse, a regular emphasis for Trump on the campaign trail. The president later this week plans to announce an official drug commission devoted to the problem that will be chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). He has been working informally on the issue for several weeks with Kushner, despite reported tension between the two.

Under President Barack Obama, Trump advisers said scornfully, some business leaders privately dismissed their White House interactions as “NATO” meetings — “No action, talk only” — in which they were “lectured,” without much follow-up.

Andrew Liveris, chairman and chief executive of Dow Chemical, who has had meetings with the two previous administrations, said the environment under Trump is markedly different.

After he left a recent meeting of manufacturing chief executives with Trump, Liveris said, “Rather than entering a vacuum, I’m getting emails from the president’s team, if not every day, then every other day — ‘Here’s what we’re working on.’ ‘We need another meeting.’ ‘Can you get us more input on this?’ ”

Kushner proudly notes that most of the members of his team have little-to-no political experience, hailing instead from the world of business. They include Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council; Chris Liddell, assistant to the president for strategic initiatives; Reed Cordish, assistant to the president for intergovernmental and technology initiatives; Dina Powell, senior counselor to the president for economic initiatives and deputy national security adviser; and Andrew Bremberg, director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter and Kushner’s wife, who now does her advocacy work from a West Wing office, will collaborate with the innovation office on issues such as workforce development but will not have an official role, aides said.

Powell, a former Goldman Sachs executive who spent a decade at the firm managing public-private partnerships, also boasts a government pedigree as a veteran in George W. Bush’s White House and State Department. Bremberg also worked in the Bush administration. But others are political neophytes.

Liddell, who speaks with an accent from his native New Zealand, served as chief financial officer for General Motors, Microsoft and International Paper, as well as in Hollywood for William Morris Endeavor.

“We are part of the White House team, connected with everyone here, but we are not subject to the day-to-day issues, so we can take a more strategic approach to projects,” Liddell said.

Like Kushner, Cordish is the scion of a real estate family — a Baltimore-based conglomerate known for developing casinos and shopping malls. And Cohn, a Democrat who has recently amassed significant clout in the White House, is the hard-charging former president of Goldman Sachs.

Trump’s White House is closely scrutinized for its always-evolving power matrix, and the innovation office represents a victory for Wall Street figures such as Cohn who have sought to moderate Trump’s agenda and project a friendly front to businesses, sometimes in conflict with the more hard-line conservatism championed by Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

The innovation group has been meeting twice a week in Kushner’s office, just a few feet from the Oval Office, largely barren but for a black-and-white photo of his paternal grandparents — both Holocaust survivors — and a marked-up whiteboard more typical of tech start-ups. Kushner takes projects and decisions directly to the president for sign-off, though Trump also directly suggests areas of personal interest.

There could be friction as the group interacts with myriad federal agencies, though the advisers said they did not see themselves as an imperious force dictating changes but rather as a “service organization” offering solutions.

Kushner’s team is being formalized just as the Trump administration is proposing sweeping budget cuts across many departments, and members said they would help find efficiencies.

“The president’s doing what is necessary to have a prudent budget, and that makes an office like this even more vital as we need to get more out of less dollars by doing things smarter, doing things better, and by leaning on the private sector,” Cordish said.

Ginni Rometty, the chairman and chief executive of IBM, said she is encouraged: “Jared is reaching out and listening to leaders from across the business community — not just on day-to-day issues, but on long-term challenges like how to train a modern workforce and how to apply the latest innovations to government operations.”

Trump sees the innovation office as a way to institutionalize what he sometimes did in business, such as helping New York City’s government renovate the floundering Wollman Rink in Central Park, said Hope Hicks, the president’s longtime spokeswoman.

“He recognized where the government has struggled with certain projects and he was someone in the private sector who was able to come in and bring the resources and creativity needed and ultimately execute in an efficient, cost-effective, way,” Hicks said. “In some respects, this is an extension of some of the highlights of the president’s career

Your Editor Wonders: How far will Trump dare to go? 

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