NASHVILLE - Air Force One has touched down in Nashville, bringing President Donald Trump on Wednesday to Tennessee for his scheduled visit to The Hermitage and a campaign-style rally later in the evening.
Among those to also exit the plane were U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, both Tennessee Republicans, as well as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.
Also on board are chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, spokeswoman Hope Hicks, press secretary Sean Spicer and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner
Mark Halperin and staff for the Showtime show "The Circus" were also on board.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and his wife Crissy greeted the president when his disembarked Air Force One.
The motorcade will now head to The Hermitage, the historic home of President Andrew Jackson.
At The Hermitage, the president will meet with about 100 members, mostly Republicans, of the state legislature and lay a wreath in honor of Jackson's 250th birthday.
Before arriving in Nashville, Trump spoke to automotive executives in Metro Detroit to announce his decision to move toward possibly rolling back some of the fuel-efficiency standards ushered in during the administration of former President Barack Obama.
Hundreds waited in the bitter cold for hours outside Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville to hear Trump's speech. Although the line of hopeful attendees stretched more than a mile, roughly 10,000 are expected to be allowed in to the event.
It's anticipated Trump will discuss health care and school choice policies. But observers should expect the president to address anything from his own campaign victory to his tax returns, and an array of other issues, as the president continues his nationwide swing of rallies reminiscent of the months leading up to Trump winning the White House.
Trump's speech in Wednesday comes at a precarious time for both the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and the president's new ban on travel from six majority Muslim countries.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analysis of the American Health Care Act states 14 million fewer people would have health care under the plan by 2018, with 24 million fewer people having coverage by 2024. Although Trump cabinet members and House Republicans are pushing back against the figures, a report explained by Politico as an analysis of the health care plan by the White House states even more people would lose coverage.
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer pushed back on that, saying in a Tweet that the report was an anticipation of the CBO report and not an "analysis."
U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., is not attending the speech because as chairman of the House Budget Committee she's preparing to mark up, or examine, the American Health Care Act in committee Thursday.
"Tennessee is ground zero for the damage of Obamacare, and it is fitting that President Trump would come here to talk about the urgent need to bring relief from this failed law,” Black said in an emailed statement Wednesday morning.
“I regret that I will not be able to join the President this evening, as I will instead be preparing for tomorrow’s House Budget Committee markup of legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, but I have been fortunate to meet with him twice within the last week and I know that he shares House Republicans’ commitment to patient-centered reforms."
Trump's new travel ban
As national Republican's attempt to wrangle support for the health care proposal, attorneys general in five states have mounted legal challenges to what critics have called the president's new Muslim ban. The ban, set to take effect Thursday, is different from president's first executive order, which halted the U.S. refugee resettlement program, barred travel from seven majority Muslim countries and appeared to grant more protections to Christians coming from some of these countries.
The new ban bars travel visas for people from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya and temporarily halts the U.S. refugee resettlement program, according to USA TODAY. Attorneys general in Washington, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon still believe the ban is unconstitutional.
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has essentially extricated himself from the refugee debate in the state, saying he would not sue the federal government to stop resettlements even though state lawmakers — chiefly Republicans — wanted him to do so. Although Haslam has said he trusts the federal vetting program that is in place, GOP lawmakers working with private legal counsel sued the federal government Monday asking for a temporary halt to any new refugees coming in to Tennessee.
Trump's stance on school choice
School vouchers remain a state-by-state issue, and are largely banned in Tennessee. Although lawmakers approved a limited voucher program for special needs students in 2015 that took effect this year, the Tennessee House of Representatives rejected a broader voucher program in a narrowly decided vote in 2016. Similar proposals, which are supported by Haslam, continue to work their way through the statehouse this year.
Through his own speeches and by appointing billionaire school choice advocate Betsy DeVos to serve as secretary of the Department of Education, Trump has signaled an openness to national voucher policies. But the prospect of using public dollars to pay for some students to attend private school continues to meet fierce opposition from national Democrats and some Republicans.
Charter schools, run by nonprofit organizations, are perhaps even more contentious in Tennessee. The limited expansion of such schools in Nashville and Memphis has rankled many Democrats, but some have supported the efforts.
Charter advocates argue their schools offer a chance for students to learn in a new environment that is better than their own public school. Charter opponents say the schools are not driven by what is best for the student, instead operating to suck public funds into their own operations as they cherry pick some of the more talented students from traditionally struggling schools.
Trump has yet to indicate any specific proposal on vouchers or other school choice policies.
Trump's tax returns
The release of two pages from Trump's 2005 tax return will likely draw the ire of the president Wednesday night. On Tuesday evening, reporter David Cay Johnston discussed the findings from those pages on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show. Moments before the show, the White House issued a statement confirming the president paid $35 million in taxes after earning more than $150 million that year.
Although the White House confirmed the information in the documents discussed on Maddow's show, Trump blasted the information in a tweet early Wednesday morning.
"Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, 'went to his mailbox' and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!" Trump tweeted.
The president continues to release the bulk of his tax returns, saying he can't because he is under audit. Tax experts have said an audit would not preclude Trump from releasing the returns.