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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump claimed on Tuesday that being president will personally cost him billions of dollars, due in part to the lawyers he has had to hire to defend him in various lawsuits.

“This thing is costing me a fortune, being president,” Trump said during a speech at the Shell Petrochemical plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh.

“Somebody said, ‘Oh, he might have rented a room to a man from Saudi Arabia for $500,’” Trump said, referring to reports that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and members of his delegation booked multiple nights in a Trump hotel.

“What about the $5 billion that I’ll lose?” Trump asked, noting his high cost of lawyers “cause everyday they sue me for something.”

“It’s probably costing me from $3 to $5 billion for the privilege of being — and I couldn’t care less—I don’t care. You know if you’re wealthy, it doesn’t matter. I just want to do a great job,” Trump added.

These figures are virtually impossible to check; the president has not released his tax returns, and has been found in the past to exaggerate his own wealth.

Trump also took aim at former President Barack Obama. “I got sued on a thing called ’emoluments,’” Trump said. “Now nobody looks at Obama getting $60 million for a book. That’s OK, even though nobody in history ever got that much money for a book. … But with me, it’s everything.”

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama signed a joint book deal for $65 million in 2017, after Obama had left office. The emoluments clause applies to federal officeholders, not private citizens.

Speaking to a room full of factory workers in a state that he narrowly carried in 2016, Trump joked about how easy re-election would be if he “got a fair press.”

“Can you imagine if I got a fair press? I mean we’re leading without it,” Trump said. “The election would be over. Have they ever called off an election before? Just said, ‘Look, let’s go, go on, four more years.”

Trump then made light of creating a joke twitter hashtag that he said would disturb reporters, telling the crowd if “you really want to drive them crazy, go to #ThirdTerm, #FourthTerm.”

Although the Shell Plant was an official White House event, not a campaign event, Trump launched his usual trail attack against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who is running for president and has recently surged in primary polls.

“We will have to hit ‘Pocahontas’ again if she does win,” Trump said, using his favored nicknames for both the Massachusetts senator and former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner in the polls whom Trumps refers to as “Sleepy Joe.”

The White House had looked to showcase the massive construction project the president was there to tour as a symbol of the Trump economy in a key swing state. When complete, the facility is projected to employ about 500 workers who will make plastic pellets from ethane, a byproduct of fracking, that can be turned into a range of plastic goods, from food packaging to car parts.

The visit gave Trump an opportunity to get back on the offensive after a week of defending his divisive rhetoric and approach to gun control policy after the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas.

Shell began preparing the site for construction in 2015 and officially started construction in November 2017.

Shannon Pettypiece and Jane C. Timm contributed.



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Joe Biden hits back amid reports Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his son

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“Trump’s doing this because he knows I’ll beat him like a drum,” Biden said. The comments come amid reports that President Trump pressed the head of Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Trump administration also announced it would deploy troops to Saudi Arabia after the attack on its oil fields last week.

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Elizabeth Warren edges out Joe Biden in Des Moines Register Iowa poll

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Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has overtaken former Vice President Joe Biden in Iowa, according to a new Des Moines Register/CNN poll of the crucial state.

The poll out Saturday night found Warren was the top choice for the Democratic nomination with 22 percent support among likely caucus-goers, while Biden had the support of 20 percent of respondents. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders fell to third with 11 percent.

The poll was conducted of 602 likely Democratic caucus-goers from Sept. 14-18. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The last Register/CNN poll, in June, had Biden leading with 24 percent and Warren in the third spot at 15 percent, slightly behind Bernie Sanders, who came in second with 16 percent support.

While there have been several other recent polls of the crucial first-in-the-nation caucus state, the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll, conducted by Des Moines-based pollster Ann Selzer, is widely considered to be the most accurate, so its Saturday night releases have become must-watch events for Iowa politicos.

The poll was released after the entire 2020 Democratic presidential field gathered in Des Moines Saturday for the annual Steak Fry, a fundraising event hosted by the local Democratic Party club.

Warren surged 7 points in the poll since the June survey, while Biden lost a bit of ground, putting them neck-and-neck inside the poll’s margin of error.

Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, both slipped significantly, down 5 and 6 percentage points, respectively, leaving Buttigieg at 9 percent, down from 15.

The rest of the field, meanwhile, is mired in the single digits.

California Sen. Kamala Harris held steady at 6 percent, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker gained a couple of points to land at 3 percent, while coming at 2 percent were Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, billionaire Tom Steyer, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Everyone else was at 1 percent or below.

Still, just one-in-five likely Democratic caucus-goers said they had already made up their minds so the race remains fluid. Almost two-thirds said they were open to being convinced to support someone else.

“The data in this poll seem to suggest the field is narrowing, but my sense is there’s still opportunity aplenty,” Selzer told the Register. “The leaders aren’t all that strong. The universe is not locked in.”

But the data is unquestionably good news for Warren, who is now both the best-liked candidate in the field (75 percent view her favorably) and the candidate being considered by the most likely caucus-goers (71 percent).

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Voters go ‘center-left’ on issues, but not on candidates

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WASHINGTON – When it comes to issues and issue agendas, there is good news and bad news for Democrats in 2020 in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

On the good news side of the ledger, there some key issues where voters seem supportive of left-leaning ideas and approaches. The bad news, a leftward-lean does not mean a leftward rush. If Democratic candidates push too hard in the primaries they may find themselves with problems in the general election.

The issue agreements and differences with registered voters and Democratic primary voters are eye-opening and, in some cases, surprising.

One number that jumps out of the data, 58 percent of registered voters in the survey say they support “providing free tuition at state colleges and universities.” That’s lower than the 81 percent of Democratic primary voters who support the idea and there’s a lot of wiggle room in how respondents may have interpreted the question (would it be means-tested?), but it’s still a majority.

And there are a series of issues like that one, where Democrats seem to have registered voters in their corner on topics ranging from immigration and student debt to health care and the environment.

For instance, 67 percent of registered voters and 89 percent of Democratic primary voters say they favor allowing young adults who were brought illegally to this country to stay here to attend college. On student debt, 64 percent of registered voters and 82 percent of Democratic primary voters favor forgiving student loans after someone has paid 12.5 percent of their income every year for 15 years.

The two groups are also in agreement on offering a health insurance “public option” for people younger than 65 who want to buy into it, 67 percent and 78 percent favor that idea respectively. And both registered voters and Democratic primary voters favor “shifting the country to 100 percent renewable energy and stopping the use of coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power by the year 2030” – 52 percent and 81 percent support that idea.

Those are numbers that should bring smiles to the faces of Democrats. They show a lot of broad support on some major issues that Democrats say they favor and seem to suggest Democrats are in a good spot to win voters in 2020.

For the record, the data also show that both registered voters and Democratic primary voters oppose building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and oppose eliminating the Affordable Care Act.

But there is another set of numbers in the poll that show the challenges Democrats could face on these same issues if their nominee heads down a path that goes a little further to the left.

On immigration, 64 percent of Democratic primary voters want to give undocumented immigrants government health care, only 36 percent of registered voters want that. When it comes to student debt, 60 percent of Democratic primary voters say they favor immediately canceling and forgiving all current student loan debt, but only 41 percent of registered voters support that idea.

A solid 63 percent of Democratic primary voters back a “Medicare for all” single-payer health care system “in which private health insurance would be eliminated” – only 41 percent of registered voters agree. And while 58 percent of Democratic primary voters support an end to the practice of “fracking” for oil and gas production, only 41 percent of registered voters feel the same way.

Those are some wide gaps and the splits show that winning general election support is not just about talking about the right issues (clean energy, fixing student debt), it’s about talking about them in the right way.

The registered voter answers on these questions suggest that the U.S. electorate become a center-left entity in the last few elections, one that is embracing more liberal action on issues such as climate change, health care and college costs.

But these numbers also suggest that the “center-left” is not the “left” and that’s where many Democratic primary voters reside.

The next six to eight months will determine where the Democratic nominee eventually ends up on these issues. And if the party’s nominee moves too far too fast to placate primary voters, he or she may end up standing on uncomfortable ground next November.

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