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Washington Report – June 8, 2018
11 Jun 2018

Washington Report – June 8, 2018

Plastic Straws & More … The Latest Obamacare Fight … Wrecking Ball Theory Of Foreign Policy … Thwart ZTEdeal … From The High Court … 2018 Elections … D.C. Caps Put Years Of Heartbreak Behind Them … and other news of the week.
Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners
P.S. Breaking as I send this report … as President Trump leaves for the G7 meeting he is calling for Russia to be reinstated into the group of the world’s largest economies (the G7 used to be the G8). Russia was removed in 2014 after its forced annexation of Crimea away from Ukraine. Trust me, you’re going to be reading a lot more about this.


Plastic Straws & More

Bgov “Veterans funds, climate change, military base closures and drinking straws are among the issues House lawmakers will debate as they consider dozens of amendments to a three-bill spending package (a minibus) they hope to pass Friday. The measure (H.R. 5895), which includes the House’s Military Construction-VA, Energy and Water and Legislative Branch bills, will need significant support from Republicans because Democratic leaders have called on their members to oppose it and hold out for a better deal.”

CONGRESS VS. TRUMP ON TARIFFS WSJ “Republicans have complained for years that the executive has encroached on the powers of the legislature, but the GOP hasn’t done much to stop the invasion. This week a bipartisan coalition in the Senate is finally rebelling against the Trump Administration’s unilateral trade war. BUT, BUT, BUT … GOP WAVES WHITE FLAG ON TRUMP TRADE CLASH Poltico “Senate Republican leaders are maneuvering to defuse an effort by one of their own seeking to handcuff President Donald Trump on trade (U.S. Chamber of Commerce-backed effort). GOP leaders are moving swiftly to tamp down support for Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-Tenn.) proposal to give Congress power to stop Trump tariffs, eager to avoid a standoff with the president five months ahead of the midterms. Corker’s pitch has support from a sizable number of fellow Republicans who are frustrated by Trump slapping trade penalties on U.S. allies — but allowing it a vote on the Senate floor in the coming days is a step too far for leadership. BGov Senate GOP leaders are weighing plans that would push any vote on the matter past the November election.

CHEMICAL INDUSTRY SCORES A BIG WIN NYTs “The Trump administration … is scaling back the way the federal government determines health and safety risks associated with the most dangerous chemicals on the market, documents from the [EPA] show. Under a law passed by Congress during the final year of the Obama administration, the E.P.A. was required for the first time to evaluate hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals and determine if they should face new restrictions, or even be removed from the market. The chemicals include many in everyday use, such as dry-cleaning solvents, paint strippers and substances used in health and beauty products like shampoos and cosmetics. But as it moves forward reviewing the first batch of 10 chemicals, the E.P.A. has in most cases decided to exclude from its calculations any potential exposure caused by the substances’ presence in the air, the ground or water.”

THE LATEST OBAMACARE FIGHT Politico “The Trump Justice Department is calling on courts to throw out protections for people with pre-existing conditions … [by dismantling] two of the most popular provisions of Obama, but plan to delay taking such drastic action until after the midterm elections this fall. Responding to a lawsuit from conservative states seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, the Justice Department told a judge in Texas on Thursday that Congress’ decision to repeal the penalty for failing to buy health insurance renders unconstitutional other Obama language banning insurers from charging people more or denying them coverage based on a pre-existing condition. …

“The administration’s evening filing says it agrees with states bringing the suit that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, as are two of the law’s major insurance provisions meant to protect people with expensive medical conditions. With the filing, the Trump administration is asking the courts to wipe out protections that many congressional Republicans were wary of eliminating in their failed efforts to repeal Obama.” The administration’s decision means that a group of 15 Democratic states led by California will be largely responsible for defending the Obama against its latest legal threat.”


Trump Feuds With Allies

theSkimm Today, the US prez is showing up in Canada for an awkward family reunion. Every year, reps from seven wealthy countries meet up to talk about world problems – and set joint policy goals. The US, Japan, Germany, Italy, Canada, France, and the UK all got the invite. But the US isn’t feeling the love right now. Why’s that Its new tariffs aren’t exactly winning friends and influencing people. Then there’s the Paris climate agreement the US pulled out of. And the Iran nuclear deal. Canada and France apparently had tough phone calls with the US – and France is threatening to freeze the US out this weekend. Italy’s new prime minister apparently just doesn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Yikes. Yep. But one person is living for the drama: Russian President Putin. He said he warned Europe about the US. And sees these tariffs as proof of why Uncle Sam can’t be trusted.”

Trump’s Wrecking Ball Theory Of Foreign Policy Vanity Fair “For close to a year and a half, Trudeau and his counterparts have employed various strategies to try to head off conflict with the volatile American President, from flattery to stonewalling to hours of schmoozing on the golf course. But in recent weeks Trump has confounded their efforts, unleashing a tit-for-tat trade war with allies, blowing up the Iran nuclear deal over European objections, and walking away from a deal with Canada and Mexico to overhaul nafta, all while lavishing praise on the North Korean dictator with whom he hopes to reach an accord next week.

“Adding insult to injury, Trump even cited an obscure national-security provision to justify the tariffs, as if America’s closest friends had suddenly become its biggest enemies. As a result, the G-7 meeting that Trudeau will host on Friday and Saturday was shaping up to be the most contentious, and possibly the most consequential, since the summits began, in 1975.

ALSO AWKWARD NYTs “A White House economic analysis of President Trump’s trade agenda has concluded that Mr. Trump’s tariffs will hurt economic growth in the United States, according to several people familiar with the research.The findings from the White House Council of Economic Advisers have been circulated only internally and not publicly released, as is often the case with the council’s work, making the exact economic projections unknown. But the determination comes as top White House officials continue to insist publicly that Mr. Trump’s trade approach will be “massively good for the U.S. economy.”


Thwart ZTEdeal

Less than two months ago, the Commerce Department banned shipments to ZTE for seven years after it emerged that the company had violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with, among others North Korea and Iran, and then lied about it. SAVE CHINESE JOBS So it was slightly surprising when DonaldTrump announced on Mother’s Day that he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to get the firm back into business.” (Vanity Fair)
Axios “A bipartisan horde of senators introduced legislation to reverse a deal the White House struck with Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE.

The backdrop: The U.S. has twice caught ZTE selling banned technology to North Korea and Iran. In April, the Department of Commerce punished the firm by barring them from using U.S. technology, including microprocessors. That effectively would have killed ZTE, but the White House announced Thursday the penalty would be reduced to a $1.3 billion fine with additional oversight measures put in place. The details:

The amendment to amend the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act is helmed by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and co-sponsored by Sens. Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

Van Hollen had already successfully introduced an amendment that would thwart future deals with China to reduce penalties, crafted under the assumption the NDAA would beat the Trump administration’s China deal to the fininsh line. It didn’t. Many lawmakers suspect ZTE of sabotaging equipment sold to U.S. companies to help China spy on the U.S.”


Quote of the Day
“I don’t think I have to prepare very much. It’s about attitude.”
-President Trump on summit with North Korea
North Koreans have been preparing for this meeting for 45 years. What could possibly go wrong?


King Me

… by Brooklyn-based artist Tim O’Brien. This portrait of Trump gazing into a mirror and seeing a king gets to the heart of how he and his legal team have approached this past week and the past 500 days, actually,”
Time Magazine cover story … The online version of it is headlined “Donald Trump’s Campaign to Discredit the Russia Investigation May Be Working. It’s Also Damaging American Democracy” and includes this key passage:

“In a 20-page memo sent to [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller in January … Trump’s lawyers articulated an almost boundless view of Executive authority, arguing that he cannot be compelled to testify and cannot have obstructed justice because he has control over all federal investigations. Trump himself claimed in a June 4 tweet he had an “absolute right” to pardon himself, an idea in conflict with the centuries-old principle of British and American law that no one can be a judge in his own case.

Trump’s critics hear in these ever-expanding claims of presidential authority not just an echo of Richard Nixon, but the kind of unchecked power Americans have bridled against from the moment they broke with the British monarchy in the 18th century. Spurred by his desire to discredit the Mueller investigation, Trump is putting America’s founding principles on trial, from its independent justice system to the separation of powers to the rule of law.

… [the memo] made a variety of jaw-dropping claims and admissions. For starters, the lawyers admit that Trump dictated on Air Force One an explanation for a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and assorted Russian figures. This directly contradicts prior assertions from Trump lawyer Sekulow (and others) that Trump had nothing to do with the statement, which set out a false explanation for the meeting.

ALL PAUSE … right here to consider the confession … that the president put out a statement falsely portraying a meeting that was related to an ongoing investigation into Russian meddling with the 2016 presidential election. Even defenders of broad presidential power to hire and fire executive branch employees lack an argument that drafting a fake explanation to throw off an ongoing investigation is somehow within Trump’s Article II powers.”

BTW, A pack of constitutional experts savaged the argument that Trump could never be prosecuted for obstruction.
Where does this leave us? Trump and his attorneys are prepared to argue that his power is near absolute to shut down investigations into his own conduct and that in any event he could pardon himself. That is not the system we have, but we are [potentially] heading toward that constitutional face-off.”
MANU RAJU (@mkraju): “Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley just told me this: ‘I I were president of the United States and I had a lawyer that said I could pardon myself, I think I would hire a new lawyer.'”


Guiliani Speaks for Trump, Except When He Doesn’t

NYTs “President Trump hired Rudolph W. Giuliani to speak for him. But no less than Mr. Trump’s wife and his chief diplomat spent Thursday explaining that Mr. Giuliani does not always know what he is talking about.

“Melania Trump, the first lady, let it be known that Mr. Giuliani has no idea how she feels about Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film actress who goes by the name Stormy Daniels and says she had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, while Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, made clear that Mr. Giuliani has nothing to do with North Korea policy.


From The High Court

Politico: “Supreme Court rules on narrow grounds for Colorado baker in same-sex wedding case”: “The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Christian baker in Colorado who refused to make a custom cake for a same-sex couple, but the court punted on spelling out how the government must weigh the need to both prevent sexual-orientation discrimination and protect religious freedom. Writing for the court’s majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips’ rights by showing ‘hostility’ to his religious beliefs as he was found to have violated the law and ordered to anti-discrimination training. The high court’s 7-2 ruling in the closely watched case left open the question of how a state enforcing anti-discrimination laws in a different fashion would have to accommodate individuals’ rights to religious freedom and free expression.”
Supreme Court Look-Ahead. Axios … reports that the Supreme Court has 29 cases to decide by the end of this month, including all of the term’s biggest blockbusters. The big questions the court still has to resolve:

Is President Trump’s travel ban constitutional?

Can the police track the location of your cell phone without a warrant?

Can public-sector unions collect fees from non-members?

Can states collect sales taxes from online retailers?

Can purely partisan gerrymandering — not racial gerrymandering — be unconstitutional?

Why it matters: All of these cases have enormous political implications. Some, like the gerrymandering challenges, could directly and immediately affect the actual practice of politics.
The public-sector unions case belongs in that category, too — the court is expected to limit their collective bargaining power, which in turn will likely weaken their political influence. Cases like the travel ban meanwhile, threaten to reignite explosive cultural issues with the midterms just around the corner.

The X-factor: As if this month wasn’t sufficiently full of drama, throw in the persistent speculation about whether Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire — giving Trump an opportunity to pull the court further to the right, especially on issues like LGBT rights.

Burn this into your brain: Any time you hear someone talking publicly about Kennedy’s intentions — especially members of Congress — remember that they absolutely do not know what Kennedy’s intentions are.

So, all we know for sure is that we’re in for a dramatic and high-stakes June at the Supreme Court.”


Take A Knee

Axios “A new Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday found that the majority of U.S. voters — 58% — don’t find kneeling by NFL players during the national anthem unpatriotic. Why it matters: President Trump’s culture war against the NFL hinges on the argument that players are ignoring the wishes of their fans and disrespecting the flag and U.S. military by kneeling in protest during the national anthem.”

In the Election Year 2018
NBC’s Mark Murray: “By a whopping 25-point margin, voters say they’re more likely to back a congressional candidate who promises to serve as a check on President Donald Trump, according to a new national poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal. …

“[T]he poll shows that Democrats enjoy a 10-point advantage on congressional preference, with 50 percent of registered voters wanting a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 40 percent who want a GOP-controlled one. Democrats held a 7-point edge on this question back in April, 47 percent to 40 percent.”


What Happened Last Tuesday

NYT “Democrats enhanced their prospects for winning control of the House with Tuesday’s coast-to-coast primary results, skirting potential calamity in California and lining up likely gains in New Jersey and possible victories in Iowa and New Mexico.

“The Democratic Party had feared disaster in California, where a quirky ‘jungle primary’ gives the November ballot to the top two finishers, regardless of party. But Democratic contenders there leveraged financial and strategic help from the national party to weather the winnowing primary, and ensure that they will field candidates in multiple districts that they will most likely need if they are to win control in November. Republicans avoided their own worst-case scenario as well, securing a spot in the California governor’s race, which should help bring G.O.P. voters to the polls this fall to vote for their party’s House candidates. Republicans missed a slot on the ballot to challenge Senator Dianne Feinstein’s re-election bid, but a shutout in both California’s Senate race and its contest for governor could have severely depressed conservative turnout.”


Pucking Awesome

The Washington Capitals ended things with the Vegas Golden Knights. Last night was Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Caps went into the final up 3-1 and needed one more W to claim Stanley. Now Alex Ovechkin and the team get to call themselves champs…for the first time in 43 seasons. AP The championship is the first by a Washington professional sports team in the NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball since the Redskins won the Super Bowl on Jan. 26, 1992, and came 40 years to the day the Bullets won basketball’s title.” (AP)

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