Shocking News on Obamacare. Not. … A Day With Lots To Process … Creating His Own Personal Hell … Next Shoe to Drop … Mueller’s Machine … That Emolument’s Clause in the Constitution. Dang. … CUBA … Some Bipartisanship … Georgia Special … Chocolate Milk … and other news of the week.
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Following a shooting Wednesday during a Republican congressional baseball team practice, Ds and Rs played ball last night. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), doing better, remains in critical condition. Four others were also wounded and the murderer was killed. Good nugget: “A record 24,959 tickets were sold for the charity exhibition — a higher attendance than Thursday’s major league games in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota and Oakland.” Score 11-2, Dems win.
COLD WATER ALERT. Politico “This is a kumbaya moment — and we’d emphasize moment. It is, of course, impossible to predict the future. Remember: a gunman shot then-Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords in the head. Nothing changed. … Speaker Paul Ryan told Jake Tapper on CNN that “we can have different ideas without being vitriolic.” Yes, they can.”
“Senate likely to miss its Obamacare repeal deadline,” Politico “Senate Republicans are getting dangerously close to missing their deadline to hold a Senate health care vote by month’s end, potentially derailing fulfillment of their seven-year-old campaign promise to repeal Obamacare. The Senate left Washington on Thursday with a seemingly insurmountable health care to-do list: When they return on Monday, Republicans will have just two weeks before the Fourth of July recess to overcome the remaining big divides on policy – including what year to roll back Medicaid expansion and how deeply to cut the program that covers health care for low-income people. They also must settle on how to bring down health insurance premiums and when to cut the taxes that paid for Obamacare — not to mention the vexing issue of whether to defund Planned Parenthood.”
SHHHH … IT’S A SECRET
NYTs “As they draft legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republican leaders are aiming to transform large sections of the American health care system without a single hearing on their bill and without a formal, open drafting session. … The secrecy surrounding the Senate measure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is remarkable — at least for a health care measure this consequential. … In theory, the bill-writing process is open to any of the 52 Republican senators, but few seem to have a clear, coherent picture of what will be in the legislation. Asked his level of comfort with the process, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, cut off a reporter before he could finish his sentence. “None,” he said.
IMPOSSIBLE TO PROCESS
Axios “In the moment, it’s impossible to process how consequential, historic and bizarre these dribs and drabs are that we’re being barraged with all day. Less than 24 hours after a mass shooting that critically wounded a member of Congress, the President of the United States issued official statements via Twitter that said:
“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice … You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!”
Axios‘ pointed out that White House allies, over the past 10 days, have taken cues from Trump and begun hitting Mueller on the air, in social media and in conversations with reporters.
History note by Blake Hounshell: “Bob Mueller has a Bronze Star with Valor, two Navy medals, a Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.”
Then at 9:21 last night, following two nights of revelations by the WashPost about the Mueller investigation, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein released a statement saying:
“Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘,’ particularly when they do not identify the country – let alone the branch or agency of government – with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.”
And, if all that weren’t enough for one day, we learn that VP Pence has lawyered up.
MAN ON A WIRE: ‘ TIGHTROPE ACT “[T]he Vice President has retained Richard Cullen of McGuire Woods [in Richmond] to assist him in responding to inquiries by the special counsel. The Vice President is focused entirely on his duties and promoting the ‘ agenda and looks forward to a swift conclusion of this matter.” (TO ADD: McGuire is godfather to former FBI director James Comey’s daughter.) And now, Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has hired his own counsel.
The backdrop: Amid all this, Republicans are trying to pass a health-care plan that, even in states Trump won, is one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation a majority party has pushed in a long time. Sound smart: Please just reread that last sentence.
P.S. NYTs Quote of the Day … Philip Allen LaCovara, a former Watergate prosecutor, on a push by President Trump and his allies to question ‘ impartiality: “It’s early in the game to begin to impugn the prosecutors.”
TRUMP KEEPS CREATING HIS OWN PERSONAL HELL
… CONFIRMS HE IS FACING OBSTRUCTION PROBE … ATTACKS INTEGRITY OF ROSENSTEIN IN MORNING TWEET RANT
“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” Trump tweeted.
Politico “Trump’s tweet appears to be a reference to a memo Rosenstein issued shortly after assuming his position in the DOJ. In the memo, Rosenstein issued a blistering assessment of Comey’s performance as FBI director, … but didn’t explicitly recommend Comey’s firing, and Rosenstein himself later said he wrote the memo after learning Trump already intended to fire Comey.”
Just Saying … @samsteinhp “Seriously though, there has to be more to do as president than going on twitter and venting every morning.”
NEXT SHOE TO DROP . WILL DEPUTY AG RECUSE HIMSELF?
The Hill “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has privately told colleagues that he may have to recuse himself from the special counsel investigation of ‘ meddling in the 2016 presidential election, ABC News reported today. Reminder: Rosenstein was charged with overseeing the probe after he took office in April because AG Jeff Sessions had recused himself from the matter amid revelations that he failed to disclose to the Senate two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. [Rosenstein] eventually appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the Russia investigation after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
The news that Rosenstein spoke with Rachel Brand about the possibility of recusing himself followed a Friday morning tweet by Trump, in which he acknowledged that he was “being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director.”(Rachel Brand, a well-respected Republican lawyer who became a partisan lightning rod in the Senate earlier this year, would be the lead official at the Department of Justice overseeing the Russia probe if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recuses himself. FYI, not a single Dem voted for Brand on May 18, by contrast, Rosenstein won Senate confirmation 94-6. Just saying.)
Key nuggets NYT’s … Mueller, Once Above the Fray, Is Now Pulled In,” that includes an update on the Mueller machinery:
- “Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mr. Mueller, said his office had imposed ‘stringent controls to prohibit unauthorized disclosures that deal severely with any member who engages in this conduct.'”
- “Mueller has now hired 12 lawyers, and several more are in the pipeline.
- “A former federal prosecutor said Mr. Mueller was hiring rank-and-file prosecutors to fill out his office staff, and has been prospecting for detailees from several prominent U.S.attorney offices, including the Southern District of New York,” in Manhattan.
- “[P]rospective hires thinking about joining Mr. Mueller’s team are watching those who have signed up come under intense scrutiny of the sort that ordinary prosecutors and corporate lawyers rarely experience, as Mr. Trump’s supporters seek to discredit the investigation.”
- “Hires so far include three current Justice Department or F.B.I. officials: Andrew Weissmann, who had led the fraud section of the department’s Criminal Division, served as general counsel to the F.B.I. when Mr. Mueller was its director, and previously led the Enron task force; Michael R. Dreeben, a deputy solicitor general who specializes in appellate issues involving criminal law; and Lisa C. Page, an F.B.I. lawyer who was a trial lawyer in the Criminal Division’s organized crime section.
- “[W]hen Mr. Mueller left WilmerHale, the law firm where he worked after stepping down from the F.B.I. in 2013 until he became a special counsel last month, [Mueller] took three partners with him: James L. Quarles III, a veteran litigator who was an assistant special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation early in his career; Jeannie Rhee, another experienced white-collar criminal litigator who was a public-corruption prosecutor and then worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and Aaron Zebley, who was Mr. Mueller’s chief of staff at the F.B.I.”
THAT EMOLUMENTS CLAUSE
The Hill “Democratic members of Congress on Wednesday sued President Trump in federal court, claiming he had violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by accepting foreign funds through the Trump Organization without Congressional approval. “Trump has conflicts of interest in at least 25 countries, and it appears he’s using his presidency to maximize his profits,” Rep. Conyers told Reuters Wednesday. (Remind Me, What is the ’emoluments clause?’ .. The “foreign emoluments clause” in the Constitution requires the president to get the “consent of Congress” before accepting gifts.) THERE’S MORE The 37-page filing comes a day after the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C.. filed a lawsuit against Trump on Monday, claiming his ownership of the Trump International Hotel in D.C. violates two Constitutional clauses barring elected officials from receiving personal gifts and payments.”
TRUMP’S CUBA PLANS
Today, President Trump plans to press the rewind button on US-Cuba relations.(theSkimm)
Wait…back up. For decades since the Cold War, the US and Cuba weren’t on speaking terms. Because communism. In 2014, then-President Obama said ‘time for a change’ and re-established diplomatic relations with the island, making it easier to travel to Cuba and do biz there. The ‘Havana a good time’ camp says opening up relations eases tensions in the region and is the first step toward helping spur development on the island. But the ‘not Havana a good time camp’ – including Trump – says the US shouldn’t help fund a regime that’s long been accused of human rights abuses (think: jailing political opponents and cracking down on free speech). So now what? Trump’s in Miami today to roll back some of Obama’s Cuba policies. This is something he promised to do on the campaign trail. He’s expected to ban most US business deals with companies controlled by the Cuban military (psst: those make up more than half of Cuba’s economy). And his announcement would also make it harder to get a Cuba stamp in your passport.
Trump has spent his first months in office unraveling a lot of Obama’s legacy. And now he’s got his eye on doing it with one of Obama’s signature foreign policy decisions.
The contradiction: Trump is imposing these limits due to human rights concerns but his administration has previously said it won’t discuss other countries’ human rights issues publicly. What he won’t touch: Trump will leave in place U.S.-Cuba commercial flights and will not close embassies or break diplomatic relations.
WashPo “[A]s the owner of a real estate company with a big stake in hotels and resorts, Trump brings an added element to an issue that is unique to his presidency — the ability, through his official actions, to undermine a growth area for his industry rivals who have raced in recent years to establish a foothold in a lucrative new market. Starwood Hotels … last year debuted the first Cuban hotel managed by a U.S. company in nearly 60 years, taking advantage of President Barack Obama’s 2014 move to normalize relations with Cuba and lighten regulations enforcing the U.S. embargo on the island. [Trump’s] directive could undercut efforts by the U.S. hotel industry, which hopes to use the Starwood deal as a template as it continues to push Congress to lift the ongoing U.S. embargo completely. … As part of an ethics pledge, Trump’s company has vowed to pursue no new foreign deals during his presidency, making a potential foray into Cuba off limits for now. Yet, according to one industry expert, a presidential directive restricting efforts there by Starwood or other hotel chains would, in effect, neutralize a chief rival’s ability to gain an early advantage. Hmmm…
DREAMERS CAN STAY
Politico “[The] Trump Administration has issued its most explicit promise to date that so-called Dreamers can keep their permission to work legally in the U.S. ‘No work permits will be terminated prior to their current expiration dates,’ the Department of Homeland Security said in guidance posted on its website Thursday night. DHS Secretary John Kelly has said recently that the administration is not seeking to deport those who received quasi-legal status under a policy President Barack Obama adopted in 2012. However, the new statement from DHS seems to be a forward-looking promise not to take action against those in the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, an initiative for undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children.”
RUSSIA AND IRAN SANCTIONS BILL PASSES THE SENATE
Politico “The Senate on Thursday voted 98-2 for new sanctions on Iran and Russia, including new powers for Congress to block President Donald Trump from rolling back any penalties against Vladimir Putin’s government. The bipartisan support for the year’s most significant GOP-backed limitation on Trump comes as the White House remains silent on the plan to sanction Moscow, even as President Putin pushes back at U.S. intelligence officials’ conclusion that Russian actors conducted cyberattacks to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. The bill includes a provision exempting NASA commercial space launches, using Russian rocket engines, from the sanctions.
NO TO ROBBING STATE TO PAY THE PENTAGON
Politico “Senior members of the House Appropriations Committee [Thursday] largely ruled out steep cuts to non-defense spending such as the State Department to pay for an increase in the Pentagon budget – instead calling for a bipartisan agreement to lift spending caps set under the 2011 Budget Control Act. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), vice chairman of the defense subcommittee, told Defense Sec. Jim Mattis in a hearing that most appropriators agree defense spending should go up ‘maybe more’ than the $52 billion the administration has proposed for fiscal year 2018, but not through other discretionary cuts proposed by the Trump administration.”
GOP SIRENS BLARE IN GEORGIA
Politico “The GOP is bracing for the prospect of a loss in Tuesday’s Georgia’s special election that could have far-reaching implications for President Donald Trump and his party’s fortunes in 2018. As grim confidential polling data circulates among GOP strategists, interviews with nearly two dozen Republican operatives and officials reveal that they are preparing for the possibility of an unnerving defeat that could spur lawmakers to distance themselves from Trump and his already-troubled legislative agenda, and potentially encourage a wave of retirements. While no one is willing to publicly write off Handel’s chances just yet — Republicans stress that she remains competitive and point to robust GOP early voting figures — several private surveys taken over the last few weeks show Republican nominee Karen Handel trending downward, with one private party poll showing 30-year-old Democrat Jon Ossoff opening up a more than five-point lead in the Republican-oriented, suburban Atlanta seat … the election is Tuesday. Stay tuned.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“7%” – The amount of Americans who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.
(and I suppose strawberry milk comes from ….!)