No loans, big protests, naked models: Adani’s coal mine project in Australia has seen it all

Adani’s plans for the controversial Carmichael coal mine in Australia have received another blow.

On Dec. 18, the Indian multinational announced that its inability to secure government funding for a part of the project had forced it to cancel its A$2 billion ($1.5 billion) contract with Downer EDI, an Australian’s engineering and infrastructure services provider.

Last week, the Queensland government decided to veto the A$900 million ($689.59 million) potential federal funding for a new rail link required for Australia’s largest coal mine, which would’ve come from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).

“Following on from the NAIF veto last week and in line with its vision to achieve the lowest quartile cost of production by ensuring flexibility and efficiencies in the supply chain, Adani has decided to develop and operate the mine on an owner operator basis,” the company said in a statement.

Even though Adani’s Carmichael mine had received support from Australia’s federal and state governments previously, the newly re-elected administration in Queensland shot down the NAIF funding, arguing that the project must be viable without taxpayer funds. The Carmichael mine, including related infrastructure development, is expected to cost more than $15 billion.

Gujarat-based Adani bought the Carmichael mine in northeastern Australia’s Galilee Basin for $500 million in 2010, and should likely have been aware of the project’s infrastructural complexities. The mine requires a 388km railway line to connect it to the Queensland coast, apart from an expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal, which could pose a risk to the Great Barrier Reef.

The project has faced consistent opposition within Australia, with activists describing the campaign against the Carmichael mine as “the biggest environmental movement” in the country’s history. From smaller protests in 2014, when a prominent Australian model shed her clothes in opposition to the mine, the momentum against the project has grown in recent months. In early October, for instance, thousands came out across the country in protest against Adani’s plans.

Environmental concerns aside, Adani has had trouble getting its finances in order to build the largest coal mine in Australia. At least 21 banks, both Australian and international, have reportedly declined funding for the project. This includes lenders like Deutsche Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and other Chinese firms. The company is looking to raise $1.5 billion by March 2018 in order to complete the first stage of its proposed mine.

None of this was entirely unexpected. “The Australian coal projects require large allied infrastructure investment and high leverage, making it challenging to achieve financial closure,” Debasish Mishra, a partner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, told Bloomberg back in 2014. “Some of the Indian players who have invested in Australia may be better off exiting these investment even at a loss.” Moreover, the rise of the renewable energy industry, alongside concerns over large fossil fuel projects, have only added to the momentum against gigantic mines like Carmichael.

Despite these roadblocks, Adani said it remains committed to the Carmichael project and that the jobs of the 800 people it employs in Queensland will not be affected by this move: “This is simply a change in management structure and ensures that the mine will ultimately be run out of our Adani Australia offices in Townsville.”

Article originally posted by qz.

The GOP Tax Plan — First The Middle Class, Now An Ax To Medicare

Though the House now has passed its version of tax reform with only Republicans voting for it, an overwhelming amount of attention continues to be brought to bear on the Middle Class, such as millions facing an increase in taxes; eliminating key deductions that make home ownership affordable for those earners; taking away health care for an estimated 13 million or more by eliminating the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act (“The GOP Tax Plan: First The Dagger, Now The Scalpel, To The Middle Class”); and even having tax cuts for the Middle Class be temporary with corporate cuts becoming permanent. What has escaped much attention in the popular press, however, is that the GOP tax plan may well force a real “shaving” to Medicare, all because of having to balance the federal budget due to the deficit the tax plan will bring about. Seniors on Medicare, if you thought only the Middle Class has become the sacrificial lamb for any tax overhaul the Republicans want to shove down the throats of the American public, you would be mistaken.

According to sources (“Republicans’ tax bill could trigger a $25 billion cut to Medicare”; “CBO:Republican tax plan would trigger big cuts to Medicare”), the Republicans trying to pass a $1.5 trillion tax cut could, according to the CBO (Congressional Budget Office), trigger a sequestration across some mandatory spending programs, particularly like Medicare, although inclusive of federal student loans, agriculture subsidies, even funding for customs and border patrol. This all has to do with a 2010 PAYGO law (”pay-as-you-go”) that says all passed legislation cannot increase the estimated national debt. “If Republicans want to pass a tax bill, they have to pay for it with mandatory spending cuts―-or, inversely, if Congress boosts funding for entitlement programs, it has to increase taxes. If Congress violates this law, the Office of Management and Budget, which keeps the deficit scorecard, ‘would be required to issue a sequestration order within 15 days of the end of the session Congress to reduce spending in fiscal year 2018 by the resultant total of $136 billion,’ the CBO said in a letter to Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD)” (“Republicans’ tax bill could trigger a $25 billion cut to Medicare”). Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps and all safety net programs are exempt from sequestration. But Medicare, even mandatory spending in Obamacare, would remain exposed to Congressional cuts. Cuts to Medicare are capped at 4 percent, about $25 billion annually. To pass the Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax cut would require $111 billion in cuts in total, besides the $25 billion to Medicare.

Even the Wall Street Journal reported two days ago,

The Republican tax bill would force $25 billion in immediate cuts to Medicare, according to the Congressional Budget Office, a move that could only be stopped only with a bipartisan vote.

Those are the consequences under the payas-you-go law that Congress passed in 2010. That law requires tax cuts and certain spending increases to be paired with offsetting provisions. If not, the law forces automatic spending cuts…Congress could prevent the cuts, but hat couldn’t be done under the fast-track procedures they’re using for the tax bill.

So besides a dagger in the heart of the American dream of home ownership, a scalpel to those 13 million that will lose health care under Obamacare [and note that sign-ups for Obamacare this year to date are over 45% ahead of last year], now those 65 and over stand to get an ax in their back with having to cut Medicare spending if Republicans get their way with a tax overhaul plan that benefits principally the wealthiest of Americans and the fat cat donors of the Republican party. Is that what Americans sent their elected officials to Washington to do? Hope not.

Indians are still hopelessly in love with Narendra Modi

Article originally posted by qz.

Britain’s economy could lose $29 billion if EU migration halves post-Brexit

One of the biggest issues for Brexit’s “leave” voters was a fear of immigration. Now the UK government is aiming to reduce EU migration into Britain—drastically.

Brexit talks have yet to include whether the UK will still take part in the Freedom of Movement act, which allows EU citizens free and easy passage between member states. Net migration is already falling, but the lack of clarity over what a post-Brexit UK immigration policy looks like is causing a huge level of uncertainty for people, industries, and the economy.

In its latest UK Economic Outlook, consulting giant PwC used economic modeling to predict the impact of a sharp reduction in EU migration. It found that a 50% reduction in future EU migration to the UK could reduce the level of UK GDP by around 1.1% in 2030, or £22 billion ($29 billion) at 2017 GDP values.

“EU migrants have played an increasingly important role in the UK economy since 2004, with particularly large impacts on London and certain sectors such as food manufacturing, hotels and restaurants, warehousing, and construction,” PwC wrote. (Quartz has also noted the role played by lower-skilled EU migrants in Britain’s services sector, which accounts for around 80% of total GDP.)

In 2016, according to PwC, workers from the European Economic Area accounted for 31% of the UK’s food-manufacturing workforce, while also accounting for a large chunk of other service-industry sectors: accommodation (18%), warehousing (17%), food and beverage services (13%), and construction (10%). Overall, EEA workers account for 7% of total UK employment, though some regions (like London) account for much larger portions, and could be all the more affected by a workforce gulf.

Region % workers EEA born in 2004 % workers EEA born in 2016
London 7% 14%
Scotland 3% 8%
Northern Ireland 1% 7%
Wales 1% 3%
Rest of England (ex. London) 2% 6%
UK average 2% 7%

“If migration from the EU is significantly reduced after Brexit, then government and businesses will need to work together to try and fill the gaps,” says Julia Onslow-Cole, global head of immigration at PwC and a member of the Mayor of London’s Brexit expert advisory panel. “While enhanced training of UK nationals and automation might be a solution in certain sectors if we look 10-20 years ahead, realistically they’re unlikely to make up fully for any large reduction in EU migrant workers over the next 5-10 years.

“Businesses from all sectors have voiced concern over restrictions to EU migration, but healthcare, hospitality, retail, and construction are particularly dependent on EU workers. It’s important that not only do we take steps to retain the EU migrants already living in the UK, but make special provisions for them in the new immigration system post 2021.”

Continuing The Progress Of The Affordable Care Act: Guiding Principles To Ensure Value-Based Payment

Last month, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, announced a “new direction” for the agency’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, the part of the agency charged with developing new models of patient care for testing and diffusion.  Under this “new direction,” CMS is now seeking feedback under certain big-picture guiding principles, including “choice” and “competition” and “empowering beneficiaries to take ownership of their health.”  This purported outreach for suggestions on a “new direction” is a thinly-veiled attempt by Republicans to advance partisan ideas of premium support and to require Medicare beneficiaries to have “more skin in the game” – code for ensuring Medicare beneficiaries pay more for their care.  Notably, no legislation has been put forward that would announce any imminent movement towards premium support and making Medicare beneficiaries pay more for their care.  Rather, Republicans will use this feedback that CMMI will receive through this exercise to use CMMI in a way that was not intended and which will ultimately result in harm to beneficiaries.  Those who work in CMMI do awesome work and have worked feverishly to develop new payment models to improve the health of Medicare beneficiaries.  So, this effort to reverse the progress made by CMMI is particularly odious and we must be vocal in calling out this effort for what it is: a way to circumvent the legislative process (which, of course, is necessary because Republicans have only accrued legislative failures to date) in favor of the regulatory process.

Since its inception, just as envisioned with its creation under the Affordable Care Act, CMMI has done excellent work and has developed forward-looking models such as advanced “accountable care organizations” and models focused on improving care coordination for patients with specific conditions, such as the Oncology Care Model.  This new direction for CMMI was expected: the new Administration made clear it would change the direction of CMMI.   The big-picture guiding principles CMMI has announced are not inherently problematic; everyone supports “choice” and “competition.”  Of course, the devil is in the details.

Regrettably, the long list of guiding principles announced by CMS does not include an overarching, laser focus on rapidly increasing health care costs to ensure we continue bending the cost curve in the right direction.  Given the serious issues with Medicare solvency, reducing health care costs should be an overarching guiding principle.  The Affordable Care Act has done more to extend the solvency of the Medicare program than any other piece of legislation; without including costs as a standalone consideration in the “new direction” announced by CMMI, the progress that Medicare has seen could be stymied.  Through various demonstration programs focused on episodic care and mandatory participation, since its inception, CMMI has appropriately focused on health care costs by decreasing waste and inefficiency in the system.  At a more granular level to address the issue of costs, CMMI should focus on both health industry consolidation and fraud, waste, and abuse.

Health Industry Consolidation

Consolidation is occurring in every sector of health care: hospitals are purchasing physician groups as well as merging with other hospitals to obtain leverage during rate negotiations with health insurance companies.  Insurers have announced mega-mergers in recent years.  Physician groups are consolidating to obtain more favorable rates from insurers.  To the extent the Administration is serious about its guiding principles of competition and provider choice, it must recognize the importance of consolidation.  Simply put, the Medicare beneficiary is the biggest loser when consolidation runs amok, as consolidation increases prices for the patient.  For example, when hospitals purchase physician practices, hospitals are able to bill for care that is provided in those same practices in a manner that increases the coinsurance obligation for Medicare beneficiaries.   CMMI must actively look for these types of unintended consequences that incent providers to consolidate in new models of care that it develops and proactively address this issue in each model’s design.

Fraud, Waste and Abuse

Program integrity is a specific area of interest to CMS under its request for feedback on its “new direction.”  To its credit, CMS recognizes it needs a lot of help here.  With CMMI models of care, financial incentives are different from incentives in Medicare traditional fee-for-service.  Under fee-for-service, providers are incented to bill more; each time a procedure is billed, the provider collects more money.  Under CMMI programs that may bundle payments or provide comprehensive payment for an episode of care that extends for a certain amount of time after a patient is discharged from the hospital, the incentive is reversed; providers are incented to deliver less care since the provider retains any money not otherwise spent on the patient.

In the seven years since CMMI has existed, there is no evidence that CMMI has examined the effectiveness of its existing program integrity measures on a broad-scale, multi-model basis.  In order to understand what concerns exist, CMMI must begin an in depth assessment of the level of fraud and abuse in existing models and the effectiveness of the existing program integrity measures that are in place.  Such measures sometimes appear to add unnecessary burden to providers without the intended corresponding benefit of preventing fraud, waste, and abuse.  To its credit, regulators do appear to be delving into emerging areas of health care fraud, such as quality reporting and fraud involving electronic health record vendors.

We know that fraud exists in CMMI models: some participants in the current demonstration models have entered into settlement agreements with the United States to resolve allegations of violation of the fraud and abuse laws.  These providers have been required to pay the government millions of dollars in fines and penalties.  Furthermore, at least one participant has been associated with fraudulent misuse of savings generated through an accountable care organization program – savings that were supposed to be reinvested to improve care for Medicare beneficiaries that were instead spent to repay personal debts.  Fraud and abuse in new care models is a genuine risk as more money moves away from fee-for-service into alternative payment models: CMS recently announced that an estimated 30 percent of Medicare payments are tied to quality and value through alternative payment models.  This steady march towards alternative payment models will continue – even Congress has concerns about perverse incentives in the fee-for-service system.  Failure to develop a robust monitoring and oversight plan for these new models of care is to replicate the inefficiencies in the fee-for-service system that still plague us in the Medicare program over 50 years since Medicare was signed into law.

Many will give the Trump Administration the benefit of the doubt as it reassesses CMMI’s progress, given the passage of nearly a decade since the establishment of CMMI.  However, the new direction must not roll back the progress that the Affordable Care Act has made in extending Medicare solvency and should not be used to implement partisan ideas that ultimately harm Medicare beneficiaries by making them pay more for the care that they receive.  That is, CMS should focus on waste and inefficiencies in the system rather than seeking to address cost issues by shifting costs to Medicare beneficiaries.  A focus on cost in the right places will ensure we continue down the path the ACA began: towards value-based payment that improves the long-term solvency of the Medicare program to ensure its availability for future generations.

Those interested in ensuring continued progress should consider submitting a comment to CMS, making suggestions related to the “new direction.”  We must be wary of this attempt by the Administration to circumvent the legislative process to implement harmful policies through regulation.  We must amplify our voices so that CMS avoids making a wrong turn towards policies that will harm the Medicare program that is so precious to so many.

Rex Tillerson Once Again Won’t Deny He Called Trump A ‘Moron’

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson keeps steering clear of explicitly denying that he called President Donald Trump a “moron” this summer.

“As I indicated earlier when I was asked about that, I’m not going to deal with that kind of petty stuff,” Tillerson said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday about the alleged comment, which was earlier reported by NBC News. “This is a town that seems to relish gossip, rumor, innuendo, and they feed on it. They feed on one another in a very destructive way. I don’t work that way, I don’t deal that way, and I’m just not going to dignify the question. I call the president ‘Mr. President.’”

Tillerson described his relationship with Trump as “open, frank and candid.”

It’s also involved some public damage control, following NBC’s report depicting Tillerson as furious and “on the verge of resigning.” The secretary of state held an unscheduled news conference to tell reporters that he didn’t plan to resign and that he believed Trump was, in fact, “smart.” But during that appearance, he didn’t explicitly deny that he’d earlier disparaged the president’s intelligence.

Trump, in response, denied the veracity of the story while publicly challenging Tillerson to an IQ test. The White House later said Trump was joking.

 During his appearance on CNN, Tillerson also discussed Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran nuclear agreement. He said that while it’s in the national security interests of the U.S. to remain in the deal, the administration wants to “address the flaws in the agreement,” possibly by means of a secondary accord.

Tillerson shot down another suggestion of disharmony with Trump, dismissing Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-Tenn.) comments that the president had “publicly castrate[d]” Tillerson on foreign policy.

“I checked,” Tillerson said. “I’m fully intact.”

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley tried to downplay any White House tensions, saying on Sunday that the president had full confidence in Tillerson.

“You know, I’m not going to get into the drama of the he-said-he-said situation. What I will tell you is what I have witnessed is the president and Secretary Tillerson work very well together. I’ve been in the room with them many times,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They continue to work strongly together. … And so everything that I have witnessed, all was fine. And if there’s a problem, that’s really a question for Secretary Tillerson. That’s not anything for the rest of us to answer.”

The NFL Protesters Are Getting Their Message Across

The NFL players who have been kneeling during the national anthem as a way to protest police brutality aren’t winning any new fans, a HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. But they are, increasingly, making their point to the public.

Asked to identify from a list the main reason the players are protesting, a 57 percent majority of Americans surveyed said it was in response to “police violence.” That’s up from 48 percent in a HuffPost/YouGov poll taken in late September. (Respondents were allowed to select multiple options.)

The percentage of self-described football fans who say they believe the protests are meant to target police violence has risen to 66 percent, a 13-point increase.

Just 26 percent of the public now considers the protests to be in large part against President Donald Trump, down from 40 percent in the previous survey. As before, relatively few ― 14 percent in the latest poll and 12 percent in September ― agree with the Trump administration’s assertions that the protests are aimed at the American flag.

HuffPost

Notably, even people who don’t support the protests have grown more likely to see them as a response to police violence. And Trump voters, who in late September were more likely to see the protests as anti-Trump than anything else, also now say they’re mostly about police violence.

Americans’ overall opinions of the protests and Trump’s response to them have remained both unsparing and basically stagnant, according to the poll. They say, 49 percent to 36 percent, that the protests are inappropriate, effectively unchanged from the earlier survey.

A 52 percent majority currently disapproves of Trump’s response to the protests, with 38 percent approving. In the previous poll, those numbers stood at 54 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

The public takes a more positive view of the actions of Vice President Mike Pence, who left an NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers last weekend after several 49ers players knelt during the anthem. Forty-five percent of those polled approve of Pence’s decision to leave the game, with 41 percent disapproving.

Pence said in a tweet that he would “not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.” The walkout reportedly may have cost taxpayers more than $88,000.

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The HuffPost/YouGov poll is just one of several surveys to ask Americans to weigh in on the protests in recent weeks, and other surveys have shown a range of opinions.

Most find the protests themselves to be unpopular: In a CNN poll, for instance, respondents said by a 6-point margin that the athletes protesting were “doing the wrong thing.” In an HBO Real Sports/Marist poll, a slim majority favored requiring professional athletes to stand for the anthem.

One survey by USA Today and Suffolk University, however, found relatively strong support, with 51 percent calling the protests appropriate and just 42 percent believing they were inappropriate. That poll, unlike others, gave respondents a cue about the stated purpose of the protests, describing them as “bringing attention to police brutality and racial injustice.”

“A plurality of Americans don’t like the NFL protests — at least if they aren’t told what the players’ goals are,” FiveThirtyEight’s Kathryn Casteel wrote, summing up the latest polls.

That’s not too surprising: Americans tend not to like protests in general. But even though the athletes kneeling in protest aren’t winning over the public’s hearts, they seem to have gotten their attention.

Steve Mnuchin Has Cost Taxpayers $800,000 For Travel On Military Planes

In a matter of months, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin managed to cost American taxpayers more than $800,000 for travel aboard military aircraft, yet apparently, he broke no laws, an official government inquiry found.

The decision came on the heels of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s resignation from office. Price stepped down after Politico reported on the Cabinet member’s frequent use of chartered and military flights, which reportedly cost taxpayers more than $1 million. Five of those chartered flights occurred during the same week and were used for domestic travel between cities ranging from Washington, D.C., to Waterville, Maine.

Louise Linton Instagram
Steve Mnuchin’s travel habits came under official scrutiny in August after his wife, Louise Linton, posted a photograph to Instagram highlighting the luxury designers she was wearing as the couple descended from a government plane they took to Kentucky. 

The reported details of Mnuchin’s military aircraft travel since March were similarly lavish. Mnuchin flew on a military flight to meet with President Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York, a round trip that cost $15,000, The New York Times reported.

According to Politico, Cabinet members’ travel aboard military aircraft is approved by the White House on a case-by-case basis, and is sometimes necessary for Cabinet members dealing with national security.

The Times cited an internal email that said Mnuchin needed a military plane in order to have a classified telephone conversation with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

In another case, Mnuchin cost taxpayers $43,725.50 to fly to Miami for a meeting with the Mexican finance minister, the Times reported. A commercial round-trip flight would have cost less than $1,000.

Still, the Treasury’s Office of the Inspector General found that Mnuchin’s use of military aircraft on seven official trips broke no laws, but asked the secretary to provide more justifications for such travel in the future.

“I recommend that the OIG advise that future requests be ready to justify government air in greater detail, especially regarding cost comparisons and needs for security and other special factors,” OIG counsel Rich Delmar wrote in his report, according to Reuters.

Mnuchin’s travel habits came under official scrutiny in August after his wife, Louise Linton, posted a photograph to Instagram highlighting the luxury designers she was wearing as the couple descended from a government plane they took to Kentucky for an official trip that just happened to coincide with the path of the total solar eclipse.

Mnuchin, a multimillionaire and former Goldman Sachs executive, pushed back against criticism from Democrats and watchdog agencies about the trip.

“People in Kentucky took this stuff very seriously,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Being a New Yorker, I don’t have any interest in watching the eclipse.”

Reports also surfaced over the summer that Mnuchin requested use of a government jet for his European honeymoon to Scotland, France and Italy. Such an aircraft would have reportedly cost taxpayers $25,000 per hour to operate. His office eventually withdrew the request.

White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly’s Phone Compromised: Report

White House chief of staff John Kelly’s personal phone was likely compromised, possibly for months, according to several government officials Politico interviewed.

The outlet first reported Thursday that Kelly brought his phone to White House tech support this summer after it stopped working properly. Staff reportedly discovered a suspected breach on the phone that has since raised concerns hackers may have been able to access the data on Kelly’s phone for months. It’s unclear if anything was accessed on the device.

The White House said Kelly’s phone stopped working last year and that he has since stopped using it, although officials did not specify when use of the device ended.

“Last December, Gen. Kelly’s personal phone stopped working and he discontinued its use,” Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said in an email.

An official in the Trump administration told Politico Kelly didn’t frequently use his personal phone, relying primarily on a government-issued one, and has since switched to a new personal device.

Several senior White House staff have come under fire in recent weeks for using private email servers, including the president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former chief of staff Reince Priebus. Trump frequently attacked Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton during the campaign for her own use of a private email server, saying it presented national security issues.

Trump’s own cell phone use came under scrutiny during the campaign and in the early days of his administration, as he reportedly used a Samsung device running an Android operating system that was unsecured. He began tweeting from an iPhone in late March.

He isn’t the first president to have phone security issues. Former President Barack Obama was notoriously irked with the BlackBerry he was required to use for years, and security concerns prevented him from using an iPhone for some time.

“I get the thing, and they’re all like, ‘Well, Mr. President, for security reasons … it doesn’t take pictures, you can’t text, the phone doesn’t work … you can’t play your music on it,’” Obama told “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon last year when he was allowed to upgrade his then-old BlackBerry. “Basically, it’s like, does your 3-year-old have one of those play phones?”

Shortly before he left office, the Obama White House was credited with dramatically upgrading the executive branch’s technology, including the installation of new computers and faster internet.

In Bizarre Photo Op, Trump Tells Press ‘This Is The Calm Before The Storm’

The White House summoned the media to a last-minute photo op on Thursday evening, during which President Donald Trump made a series of cryptic comments while surrounded by “the world’s great military people.”

The short photo spray lasted about a minute.

“You guys know what this represents?” Trump asked reporters. “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

“What’s the storm?” a reporter asked. “On Iran? On ISIS? On what?”

“We have the world’s great military people,” Trump replied. “Thank you all for coming.”

When pressed once more by NBC News’ Kristen Welker on what the “storm” was, the president responded: “You’ll find out.”

Reporters at the gathering expressed confusion around the event ― which was called after the day’s press “lid” was placed for the evening. A lid is called when the president has no more scheduled public appearances and is effectively done for the day. It was reinstated after photos were taken.

Before the photo spray was called, Trump was hosting a dinner with military officials and their spouses in the Blue Room of the White House. Those in attendance included Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.