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Trump steps up security aide search, also focuses on rewriting health care

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POSTED February 19, 2017 6:35 p.m.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump brought more contenders for national security adviser to his Palm Beach club for in-person interviews Sunday, hoping to fill the job in the coming days as he seeks to refocus his young administration.

Trump also drilled down on policy during his working weekend at Mar-a-Lago, attending a strategy session on how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, with top aides including Health Secretary Tom Price and Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House budget office.

While in Florida, the president found time for a few holes of golf on Saturday and Sunday. And with his wife, Melania, he stopped by a fundraiser Saturday night at his private Palm Beach club, put on by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Trump also took to Twitter to explain a comment he made about violence in Sweden at a Saturday rally. He suggested that some kind of major incident had taken place in the country Friday night, but on Sunday he said he was referring to something he saw on Fox News. That might have been a report Friday night about the influx of immigrants to Sweden.

Trump also spoke to the leaders of Panama, Trinidad and Tobago.

After weeks of tumult in Washington, Trump returned to Florida and his private club for a third straight weekend. High on Trump’s to-do list is finding a replacement for ousted Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

Scheduled to discuss the job with the president at Mar-a-Lago were his acting adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg; John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump may interview more candidates and hopes to make the decision soon.

Trump pushed out Flynn last Monday after revelations that Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence about discussing sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition. Trump said in a news conference Thursday that he was disappointed by how Flynn had treated Pence, but did not believe Flynn had done anything wrong by having the conversations.

Trump’s first choice to replace Flynn, retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, turned down the offer.

Trump’s chief of staff used appearances on the Sunday news shows to echo his boss’ complaints about media coverage of the White House and cited what he said were multiple accomplishments in the first few weeks of the Trump presidency.

“The truth is that we don’t have problems in the West Wing,” Reince Priebus told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Priebus also denied a report that Trump advisers were in touch with Russian intelligence advisers during the 2016 campaign, and said he had assurances from “the top levels of the intelligence community” that it was false.

On health care, top House Republicans last week presented a rough sketch of a health overhaul to rank-and-file lawmakers that would void of President Barack Obama’s 2010 law and replace it with conservative policies. It features a revamped Medicaid program for the poor, tax breaks to help people pay doctors’ bills and federally subsidized state pools to assist those with costly medical conditions in buying insurance.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has said Republicans would introduce legislation repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act after Congress returns in late February, but he offered no specifics.

The day of presidential business follows a return on Saturday to campaign mode when Trump held a rally before thousands of supporters at an airplane hangar in Melbourne. He revived campaign promises to build a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, reduce regulations and create jobs — and continued his attacks on the media.

The rally was put on by Trump’s campaign, not the White House. Trump told reporters he was holding a campaign rally because “life is a campaign.”

Trump, who held a rally in the same spot in Florida in September, clearly relished being back in front of his supporters, welcoming the cheers and letting one supporter up on stage to offer praise for the president. He also enjoyed reliving his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump has lurched from crisis to crisis since the inauguration, including the botched rollout of his immigration order, struggles confirming his Cabinet picks and a near-constant stream of reports about strife within his administration.

Priebus would have none of it.

“The fact of the matter is the level of accomplishment that he’s put forward so far in the first 30 days has been remarkable,” he told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”


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