July 13th, 2017

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ON THE RECORD.....

“Look, I didn’t expect Donald Trump to win, I think most of my colleagues didn’t, so we didn’t expect to be in this situation.” — Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), explaining why Republicans have struggled to come up with a new health care bill.  7/6/17

“We would make a grave mistake to assume the Russian intervention was solely about hurting Clinton or helping Trump, or even its main object. Above all, Putin wanted to tear down American democracy just as he is assaulting other liberal democracies around the world. We are in a new battle of ideas, pitting not communism against capitalism, but authoritarianism against democracy and representative government. America must not shrink from its essential role as democracy’s champion.” -- Rep. Adam Schiff, (D-CA) 1/06/17

POTUS' inexplicable refusal to confirm Russian election interference insults career intel pros & hinders our ability to prevent in future. -- Sally Yates @SallyQYates

“For Secretary Tillerson to say that this issue will remain unresolved is disgraceful. To give equal credence to the findings of the American Intelligence Community and the assertion by Mr. Putin is a grave dereliction of duty and will only encourage Russia to further interfere in our elections in the future. Working to compromise the integrity of our election process cannot and should not be an area where ‘agree to disagree’ is an acceptable conclusion. Congress and Americans of all political persuasions and parties should do all they can to increase sanctions on Russia and prevent the reduction of any sanctions by the executive branch.” -- Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) in a statement on Friday

In their first face-to-face meeting, Putin was playing chess. Trump was simply getting played.” -- Kaili Joy Gray 7/7/17

So, what did we learn this week? We learned Mr Trump has pressed fast forward on the decline of the US as a global leader. He managed to diminish his nation and to confuse and alienate his allies. -- Chris Uhlmann

 

“It’s disgusting. It’s so phony… I can’t think of bigger lies.” — Donald Trump Jr., in a CNN interview on 7/24, 2016, on the Clinton campaign’s claims that the Russians were helping his father.

“Trump has been willing to reverse himself on other policy issues, gets no political benefit from pursuing such a pro-Russian course in the face of bipartisan opposition, and could score easy points by doing a little formulaic Putin-bashing. The fact that he refuses to tells you a lot about why Trump’s presidency remains mired in scandal — and why the worst may still be to come -- Matthew Yglesias

“there is no longer a question of whether this campaign sought to collude with a hostile foreign power to subvert America’s democracy. What is yet unknown is how far the coordination goes.” -- Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) 

"Somebody sent me an email. I can't help what someone sends me, you know? -- Donald Trump Jr. blaming the email itself for him setting up a meeting with Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner that alleged to have damaging information against the Clinton campaign from the Russian government.

This much is evident: The Trump campaign, at the highest levels, was willing to let a hostile foreign power interfere in a U.S. election to help Trump win. That is exactly the betrayal of American independence the Founders feared.” -- USA Today Editorial 7/11/17

“It’s a shocking admission of a criminal conspiracy. The conversation will now turn to whether President Trump was personally involved or not. But the question of the campaign’s involvement appears settled now. The answer is yes.” -- Jens David Ohlin, an associate dean of Cornell Law School.

“It was so surreal. I felt as if I had been catapulted into another dimension where we would have these surreal conversations about the Russians and Trump and Mike Flynn and Carter Page and Donald Trump Jr. saying, ‘We’re really invested in Russia.’ And no one in the press really cared.” -- Top Clinton aide Jennifer Palmieri on how she tried to feed the Russia hacking story to reporters during the 2016 campaign but no one seemed to care.

“If you had a contact with Russia, tell the special counsel about it! Don’t wait until the New York Times figures it out!” -- House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy criticizing the Trump administration over the “drip, drip” in the ongoing Russia controversy, sarcastically suggesting that officials get checked for amnesia about any contacts with Russia.

We see one truly solid takeaway from the story of the day: Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot. -- NY Post Editorial 7/11/17  

“He’s got to pull it off. Mitch has to pull it of. He’s working very hard. He’s got to pull it off." -- Trump, who said that he'll be "very angry" if the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare collapses. 7/12/17


IN THIS ISSUE

FYI

1. Andy Borowitz: Betsy DeVos Heads to North Korea to Reverse Its Progress in Math and Science
3. Republicans Need a Satan to Get Anything Done
4. Maine governor makes up stories to mislead media
5. It Just Got Harder for GOP to Pass a Health Care Bill
6. The DAILY GRILL
7. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
8. High Anxiety at CNN Amid Attacks From Trump and His Trolls
9. Coal CEO admits that ‘clean coal’ is a myth
10. Most Unpopular Bill In Three Decades
11. From the Late Shows
12. Trump’s Enemies List
13. GOP Senator Says She Will Kill Health Care Bill If Necessary
14. Trump Aides Freaking Out Over Don Jr.'s Russia Email: The 'Sum Of All Fears'
15. The Note: Donald Trump Jr.'s Russia nothing burger has a lot of meat
16. Late Nite Jokes for Dems
17. State Department Spent $15K at Trump Tower Vancouver

OPINION

1. Australian Broadcasting’s political editor Chris Uhlmann: G20: Does Donald Trump's awkward performance indicate America's decline as world power?
2. Maureen Dowd: Vlad, the Trump Impaler
3. Sean O'Grady: Why I'm glad Ivanka Trump is now leader of the free world
4. Las Vegas Sun Editorial: Trump creating hardship, danger by widening net on ICE arrests
5. Alan Rappeport: Health Care? Taxes? Budget? G.O.P. Has Big To-Do List, but Little Time
6. Matt Flegenheimer: Senator, (Un)Interrupted: Kamala Harris’s Rise Among Democrats
7. Richard L. Hasen; Trump’s Voter Fraud Endgame
8. Julian Borger: Investigators explore if Russia colluded with pro-Trump sites during US election
9. Charles Krauthammer: North Korea: The Rubicon is crossed
10. Daniel Kurtz-Phelan: How Trump Made the Nearly Impossible North Korea Problem Even Worse
11. Maya Kosoff: Republicans’ New Line: Health-care Bill Will Give Americans “freedom” To Go Uninsured
12. Cokie Roberts: ANALYSIS: A world without US leadership
13. Paul Waldman: Why Trump thinks he's knocking his presidency out of the park
14. Max Boot: It's more obvious than ever: Trump doesn't care a whit about the national interest
15. Frank Rich: Watching the Downfall of a Presidency in Real Time
16. Ezra Klein: We are past the point of innocent explanations on Trump and Russia
17. Will Bunch: Don Jr. and the email chain that devoured American democracy

FYI

1. Andy Borowitz: Betsy DeVos Heads to North Korea to Reverse Its Progress in Math and Science

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is being dispatched to Pyongyang in what the White House is calling a high-stakes mission to reverse North Korea’s years of progress in math and science.

DeVos, who is expected to arrive in Pyongyang later this week, plans to throw a monkey wrench in North Korea’s swiftly advancing nuclear program by replacing its current system of training scientists with a dizzying array of vouchers, sources said.

According to the White House, it is hoped that, after a few weeks in North Korea, DeVos will succeed in returning that nation’s nuclear program to pre-1970 levels.

At a press briefing announcing the mission, the White House deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, called DeVos “our nation’s best bet to stop North Korea.”

“If anyone can get North Korea’s missiles to start blowing up on the launchpad again, it’s Betsy,” Sanders said. http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/

2. G20 leaders' statement on climate change highlights rift with US

World leaders have made clear the U.S.’s isolated stance on climate change, with 19 of the G20 countries affirming their commitment to the “irreversible” Paris climate agreement.

After lengthy negotiations that stretched well into Saturday, the final G20 joint statement notes Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris deal while stating that the world’s other major economies all still support the international effort to slow dangerous global warming. 7/8/17 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/08/g20-climate-change-leaders-statement-paris-agreement

3. Republicans Need a Satan to Get Anything Done

For the past eight years the devil for Republicans was Barack Obama and sometimes Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). During the campaign it was Hillary Clinton.”

Until recently, the GOP’s demonization strategy worked brilliantly. Whenever there was a clear demon to be defeated, all of the multiple factions in the Republican Party were able to put their many policy preferences, ideological contradictions and parochial needs aside to slay the dragon of the moment and have good triumph over evil.”

But without a scary monster to be battled, the GOP’s intraparty mega differences have returned with a vengeance to wreak havoc on their attempts to govern and adopt any significant legislation. 7/9/17 https://www.forbes.com/sites/stancollender/2017/07/09/republicans-will-need-a-satan-to-get-anything-done-this-year/#45e2c48514f4

4. Maine governor makes up stories to mislead media

Gov. Paul LePage lashed out at the media for reporting he planned to leave the state during a budget impasse, and he suggested he sometimes concocts stories to mislead reporters.

The Republican governor also characterized the state media as “vile,” ″inaccurate” and “useless.”

“I just love to sit in my office and make up ways so they’ll write these stupid stories because they are just so stupid, it’s awful,” he told WGAN-AM on Thursday.

In the radio interview, LePage reiterated his disdain for the media, in particular newspapers, saying “the sooner the print press goes away, the better society will be.” https://apnews.com/2ac40e6934974d1283258f1c1e0ffc72

5. It Just Got Harder for GOP to Pass a Health Care Bill

Last week, just as the Senate appeared to be racing toward the stealth repeal of Obamacare, it came to a screeching halt. Mitch McConnell has tried to use the July Fourth recess to regroup and find a way to assemble the 50 votes he needs to roll back the Affordable Care Act. But today appears to be another turning point: His plan suddenly looks like it’s on the verge of death. It is not one single development that indicates the sharply worsening outlook for Trumpcare, but several.

The most damaging development is a new statement by Mike Lee, one of the arch-conservative holdouts. Lee has been angling to make McConnell include provisions in the bill to weaken Obamacare’s protections for people with preexisting conditions. Lee’s ideas are a complete nonstarter for many, perhaps most, members of the Republican Senate. Today his spokesman toldAxios reporter Caitlin Owens, “The entire bill is unacceptable without the Consumer Freedom Option.”

Lee’s position makes it almost impossible for McConnell to find his 50 votes. Blue-state senators Susan Collins and Dean Heller already appear irretrievably opposed to anything resembling McConnell’s plan. If Lee demands that the bill let insurers charge higher prices for coverage of treatments needed by sicker people, then he drives away at least one more vote on the party’s opposite wing: Lisa Murkowski or Shelley Moore Capito, among others, have expressed reservations about yanking coverage away from people who have obtained it through Obamacare. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/trumpcare-is-having-a-very-bad-day.html

6. The DAILY GRILL

Everyone here is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful! -- Donald J. Trump‏ @realDonaldTrump 

VERSUS

On a x-country road trip with my wife. ... Pulled in for a pit stop in E. Fairmont W. Va. to see that our whack job POTUS @realDonaldTrump is tweeting about me at the G20. ... Get a grip man, the Russians committed a crime when they stole my emails to help get you elected President. ...Maybe you might try to find a way to mention that to President Putin. ... BTW, I had nothing to do with the DNC. ... God only knows what you’ll be raving about on Twitter by the time we get to Utah. ... Dude, get your head in the game. You’re representing the U.S. at the G20. -- JohnPodesta‏ @johnpodesta

 

“We’ve got to fix what’s broken.” Where's your plan, @HillaryClinton? pic.twitter.com/CmRB4mCsZd -- GOP ✔@GOP

VERSUS

Right here. Includes radical provisions like how not to kick 23 mil ppl off their coverage. Feel free to run w/it. https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/health-care/ …-- Hillary Clinton ✔@HillaryClinton

 

Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us - but we had to give it a try!-- Donald J. Trump ✔@realDonaldTrump

VERSUS

If you threaten, have a plan. Because otherwise you end up with a worse situation and you look stupid and powerless. Which is precisely where we are now. -- Josh Marshall in TPM

 

“Well I think it was Russia, and I think it could have been other people and other countriesIt could have been a lot of people interfered.” -- Trump at a news conference in Poland on Thursday.

VERSUS

"As far as others doing this, boy, that's news to me. We saw no evidence whatsoever that it was anyone involved in this other than the Russians." -- Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Speaking with CNN’s Jim Sciutto http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/06/politics/james-clapper-donald-trump-russia/index.html

 

#Lavrov: US-Russia discussed cybersecurity and Trump brought up election hacking and will create a bilateral group to discuss entire issue -- Neil MacFarquhar @NeilMacFarquhar

VERSUS

Next: FBI and Mafia set up anti-crime working group. https://twitter.com/lucian_kim/
status/883376519942463489  David Corn ✔@DavidCornDC

 

Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.. Donald J. Trump ✔@realDonaldTrump

VERSUS

Partnering with Putin on a "Cyber Security Unit" is akin to partnering with Assad on a "Chemical Weapons Unit". 2/3. -- Marco Rubio ✔@marcorubio

7. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)

Yahoo News aggregates a right-wing fake news website - raising the question of how the company ended up treating a fake news purveyor as a legitimate news source. https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2017/07/06/Yahoo-News-aggregates-a-right-wing-fake-news-website/217155

Trump's lawyer and frequent Fox guest Jay Sekulow demands to know why there isn't a special counsel for Obama. https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2017/07/07/trumps-lawyer-and-frequent-fox-guest-jay-sekulow-demands-know-why-there-isnt-special-counsel-obama/217166

Since Trump’s inauguration, conservative outlets have baselessly claimed that Obama is running some kind of “shadow government,” a conspiracy theory which has since been invoked by a Republican congressmanand by one of Trump’s attorneys. The right-wing hysteria took on a new level of feverishness after Obama met with a handful of former and current world leaders, some of whom he worked closely with as president. https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2017/07/07/Pro-Trump-media-claim-shadow-President-Obama-is-violating-the-Logan-Act/217176

Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett has been making legally dubious claims and shilling for President Donald Trump during his commentary on the ongoing probe into possible collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government, an investigation he repeatedly dismisses when he argues, "You can collude all you want with a foreign government in an election."https://www.mediamatters.org/research/2017/07/12/fox-news-go-collusion-expert-trumps-shill-all-matters-russia/217232

Debunking right-wing media's bogus Ukrainian collusion narrative. Wash. Post report shows why Hannity's defense for Trump Jr. is nonsense. https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2017/07/12/Debunking-right-wing-medias-bogus-Ukrainian-collusion-narrative/217230

8. High Anxiety at CNN Amid Attacks From Trump and His Trolls

“People really, really worry about the safety of all the prominent people who represent us on the air, and the people who are breaking news they don’t like, or people in senior management…I fear for all of them.”

At a breakfast for media reporters last month, CNN World President Jeff Zucker confirmed that the physical safety of CNN staffers “is an incredibly serious issue.”

“The rhetoric and threats that our folks are subjected to on a daily basis is much more serious than I think anybody would realize and I and we are are incredibly concerned,” Zucker said, noting that there has been “a tremendous rise” in such incidents in recent months.

He added: “This is what happens when you try to delegitimize an institution that is doing its job. And I think it is shameful on the part of the administration and other politicians to cause a frenzy against something that is guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States. It does a disservice to this country and its position in the world…It’s unconscionable and dangerous—and they should know better.” 7.06.17 http://www.thedailybeast.com/high-anxiety-at-cnn-amid-attacks-from-trump-and-his-trolls

9. Coal CEO admits that ‘clean coal’ is a myth

“Carbon capture and sequestration does not work. It’s a pseudonym for ‘no coal,’” the CEO of Murray Energy, the country’s largest privately held coal-mining company, told E&E News.

“It is neither practical nor economic, carbon capture and sequestration,” he said last week. “It is just cover for the politicians, both Republicans and Democrats that say, ‘Look what I did for coal,’ knowing all the time that it doesn’t help coal at all.”

And this is from a guy who is a member of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity — which has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to persuade the public that clean coal is the solution to global warming.

The coal industry has pushed CCS and “clean coal” for years. But coal baron Murray just let the cat out of the bag: Clean coal is a fiction. https://thinkprogress.org/clean-coal-isnt-real-eda3e2841060

10. Most Unpopular Bill In Three Decades

The Republican health care effort is the most unpopular legislation in three decades — less popular than the Affordable Care Act when it was passed, the widely hated Troubled Asset Relief Program bank bailout bill in 2008, and even President Bill Clinton’s failed health reform effort in the 1990s. That’s the verdict from MIT’s Chris Warshaw, who compiled polling data from the Roper Center on major legislation Congress has passed since 1990.

It’s rare for Congress to move ahead with legislation when the signs are this clear that the public doesn’t want it. Clinton’s health care plan never got a floor vote in the House or Senate, and neither did President George W. Bush’s plan to partially privatize Social Security. https://www.axios.com/unpopular-health-care-bill-2454397857.html

11. From the Late Shows

Samantha Bee: The Health Care Bill Is Worse Than ‘Suicide Squad': https://youtu.be/0EzEMsZFrXY

Stephen:Colbert: 'This Is What's Wrong With The American President': https://youtu.be/L7YrTk-Y0a0

Stephen Colbert: Donald Trump Jr. Is His Own 'Deepthroat' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3EY8aLutbg

12. Trump’s Enemies List

Donald Trump is less than six months into his presidency, yet one of the organizing principles of his political operation is already becoming clear: Payback.

In private, Trump has spoken of spending $10 million out of his own pocket to defeat an incumbent senator of his own party, Jeff Flake of Arizona, according to two sources familiar with the conversation last fall. More recently, the president celebrated the attacks orchestrated by a White House-sanctioned outside group against another Republican senator, Dean Heller of Nevada, who has also been openly critical of him. http://www.politico.com/story/2017/07/10/president-trump-enemies-list-240344

13. GOP Senator Says She Will Kill Health Care Bill If Necessary

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), is the most popular politician in a deep-red state that loves President Donald Trump and distrusts big government. And yet the West Virginia Republican is threatening to torpedo the GOP’s best shot at dismantling Obamacare, one of Trump’s top domestic priorities.

If Capito is feeling the heat in a state that Trump won by more than 42 percentage points, she isn’t showing it. Back here in West Virginia, where more than 30 percent of families rely on Medicaid, she doesn’t hesitate at the prospect of casting the vote that kills the GOP’s repeal effort.

“I only see it through the lens of a vulnerable population who needs help, who I care about very deeply,” the 63-year-old lawmaker said in an interview. “So that gives me strength. If I have to be that one person, I will be it.” 7/9/17 http://www.politico.com/story/2017/07/09/capito-gop-senator-opposes-health-bill-240311

14. Trump Aides Freaking Out Over Don Jr.'s Russia Email: The 'Sum Of All Fears'

Since the campaign, a popular, behind-his-back nickname for Trump Jr. within among these advisers has been ‘Fredo,’ referring to Fredo Corleone, the insecure and weak failure of a son in The Godfather series who ends up causing major damage to the family.

Over the past week, one senior White House official and a former top Trump campaign aide both independently and bluntly described the president’s son as an ‘idiot’ — one who played a role in the campaign and Trump’s political rise simply because he ‘shares the same DNA,’ the official noted.” 7/11/17 http://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-aides-freaking-out-over-don-jrs-russia-email-the-sum-of-all-fears

15. The Note: Donald Trump Jr.'s Russia nothing burger has a lot of meat

As details of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-tied lawyer emerge, a link that was missing comes into view; a link that explains the shifting White House and Donald Trump Jr. stories, and just maybe explains what has the special counsel digging in for months of additional work. The official line has long been that there were no meetings between campaign officials and Russian interests. That's clearly wrong now. The story was forced to adjust: "There is no evidence of collusion," Kellyanne Conway said Monday on "Good Morning America." Well, the meeting in question – Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and the lawyer at least one of them knew was backed by Russia and was promising damaging campaign information – starts to get you in the neighborhood. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/note-donald-trump-jrs-russia-burger-lot-meat/story?id=48562050

16. Late Nite Jokes for Dems

Pretty damning, but Don Jr. has a good explanation: “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.” Yes, I think they were talking about the adoption of little Timmy Kislyak. -- Stephen Colbert

President Donald Trump flew to Germany to meet with other world leaders for the G-20 summit. They had trouble booking a hotel room because they waited so long to do it, which is funny for a guy who owns a dozen hotels. -- Jimmy Kimmel

But the bigly event this weekend: Donald Trump finally met his BFF, Russian President Vladimir Putin. They’d never met before, and they could not take their beautiful blue eyes off each other. -- Jimmy Kimmel

They were only scheduled to meet for 30 minutes but they talked for two hours. During the chat, Trump and Putin talked about teaming up to form a cybersecurity unit to stop future hacking of elections. It’s great idea; think of the time it’ll save! They already know our passwords, so why not? It’s like hiring the guy who stole your car stereo to put it back in. -- Jimmy Kimmel

On Saturday, President Trump had back-to-back meetings with the leaders of China and then Japan. There was an awkward moment when Trump asked the leader of Japan, “Hey, didn’t I just meet with you?” -- Conan O’Brien

In Iraq, ISIS is on the verge of total defeat. You can tell ISIS is pretty much on the way out, because they’ve already been booked to appear on next season’s “Dancing With the Stars.” -- Conan O’Brien

Some tech experts in Silicon Valley now believe that a robot would make a better president than a human. I don’t know about you, but at this point, I would vote for President Roomba. -- Conan O’Brien

17. State Department Spent $15K at Trump Tower Vancouver

The State Department spent more than $15,000 to book 19 rooms at the new Trump hotel in Vancouver when members of President Trump’s family headlined the grand opening of the tower in late February.

Such business trips by Trump’s children have put U.S. government agencies in a necessary — albeit potentially awkward — arrangement of engaging in taxpayer-funded transactions with the president’s private company while at the same time protecting the president’s immediate family. 7/12/17 http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/state-department-spent-15000-trump-tower-vancouver

OPINION

1. Australian Broadcasting’s political editor Chris Uhlmann: G20: Does Donald Trump's awkward performance indicate America's decline as world power?

The G20 became the G19 as it ended. On the Paris climate accords the United States was left isolated and friendless.

It is, apparently, where this US President wants to be as he seeks to turn his nation inward.

Donald Trump has a particular, and limited, skill-set. He has correctly identified an illness at the heart of the Western democracy. But he has no cure for it and seems to just want to exploit it.

He is a character drawn from America's wild west, a traveling medicine showman selling moonshine remedies that will kill the patient.

And this week he underlined he has neither the desire nor the capacity to lead the world.

Some will cheer the decline of America, but I think we'll miss it when it is gone.

And that is the biggest threat to the values of the West which he claims to hold so dear. 7/08/17 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-09/did-trumps-g20-performance-indicate-us-decline-as-world-power/8691538

2. Maureen Dowd: Vlad, the Trump Impaler

In his attenuated first meeting with his side bae, Trump staged a Kabuki show of confronting the former K.G.B. agent.

Their conversation boiled down to this:

Trump: “Did you do it?”

Putin: “Nyet.”

Trump: “Whew! Glad that’s out of the way. So let’s do a joint cybersecurity program and share our passwords.”

Putin: “Da.”

He should have had a showdown to rival the one Adlai Stevenson had at the U.N. with the Soviet ambassador on the Cuban missile crisis. “I am prepared to wait for an answer until hell freezes over,” Stevenson snapped.

Trump should have slapped down the evidence and doled out the punishment. Instead, he and Putin commiserated about bumptious journalists.

“Polonium works well,” Putin was probably saying.

“Spasibo,” Trump probably replied.

In the end, Trump and fellow bumbling neophyte Rex Tillerson opened the portal wider for Putin to sneak through in coming elections.

I don’t know how much information the tyro pol in the Oval has absorbed — or even wants to absorb — in his dumbed-down briefings. But, brainwashed by his father’s exhortation that the world belongs to “killers,” Trump clearly doesn’t recognize the danger before him.

This is a simple fact he might want to let sink in: The Russians do not have our best interests at heart. They are conjuring Trump’s worst “1984” fear: playing him for a sucker. 7/8/17 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/08/opinion/sunday/putin-trump-bannon-taxes.html?ref=opinion

3. Sean O'Grady: Why I'm glad Ivanka Trump is now leader of the free world

Maybe someone told Donald Trump it was “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day”, but seeing images of Ivanka Trump wedged between the Prime Minister and the President of China at the G20 Summit is certainly arresting.

People used to say that the Trump presidency was beyond parody – which was true – but it's now gone beyond the known parameters of parody. We're barely six months in to Trump's reign: whatever next?

Still, given everything, maybe we should be grateful, pragmatically, that the First Daughter was up there at the most bigly of diplomatic top tables. She is, by all accounts, more level headed and far less insecure than Daddy, and we all know of her principled interventions on Syria.

She is smart where her dad is challenged; charming where he is a boor; humane where he is heartless. It is a bit like having a Democratic advisor by proxy when Ivanka gets to have a say, or at least there's a White House where someone isn't another “yes man” massaging the gigantic Trump ego and nursing his insecurities.

So Ivanka is "a good thing". Maybe she'll get him to ease up on the Mexican wall, protectionism and climate change. Maybe. 7/9/17 http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/ivanka-trump-g20-summit-donald-trump-stood-in-democrat-white-house-control-a7830836.html

4. Las Vegas Sun Editorial: Trump creating hardship, danger by widening net on ICE arrests

Immigration arrests are up 39 percent thus far in Donald Trump’s presidency compared to the same period in 2016 — Jan. 22 to June 24.

No doubt, Trump would love for Americans to believe that’s proof of follow-through on his campaign promise to kick “really bad dudes” out of the country.

But is someone driving without a license a really bad dude? Is someone whose record contains only a years-old DUI conviction a really bad dude?

No, which is why the increase in arrests is a cause for alarm.

Obviously, people who commit serious crimes should be targeted, but that should be happening regardless of the perpetrator’s citizenship status. Plus, arrests of undocumented immigrants who’d committed serious crimes was already happening during the Obama administration.

So by suppressing crime reporting in the immigrant community, the crackdown actually encourages violent crime.

Widening the net to include nonviolent, low-level offenders is cruel. It discourages well-meaning immigrants from pursuing citizenship, provides cover for criminals by destroying cooperation with law enforcement, separates families and robs communities of our neighbors.

No wonder voters buried Trump in Clark County, where Hillary Clinton got 52 percent of the vote to Trump’s 41 percent.

His ugly campaign against well-intentioned people is another indication that he deserved even less. 7/9/17 https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/jul/09/trump-creating-hardship-danger-by-widening-net-on/

5. Alan Rappeport: Health Care? Taxes? Budget? G.O.P. Has Big To-Do List, but Little Time

An iffy health care vote. An unresolved budget resolution. A heavy debt ceiling lift. And, of course, there is that tax overhaul plan.

When members of Congress return next week from their Fourth of July break, they will be greeted by a mammoth legislative logjam. Republicans are increasingly skeptical that they can get everything done. There are even calls from some to forgo their sacred August recess — a respite from the capital in its swampiest month.

The wild card continues to be Mr. Trump. Of late he has failed to live up to his declared reputation as a deal maker. Instead, he has been more of a distraction.

“His tweets in general have discomfited many of his Republican allies,” said Steve Bell, a former Republican staff director of the Senate Budget Committee who now works at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Here is the majority leader trying to get votes. Boom comes all of these tweets, and people say, ‘I’m done with dealing with this guy for a while.’”

A veteran of the vicious fights over taxes and budgets in the 1980s, Mr. Bell said, “This is particularly messy.”7/5/17 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/05/us/politics/republicans-congress-trump.html

6. Matt Flegenheimer: Senator, (Un)Interrupted: Kamala Harris’s Rise Among Democrats

California’s very junior senator has emerged as the latest iteration of a bipartisan archetype: the Great Freshman Hope, a telegenic object of daydreaming projection — justified or not — for a party adrift and removed from executive power.

Few Democrats have voted against more Trump administration nominees, enshrining Ms. Harris in a group known derisively by Republicans and some Democrats in the Capitol as “the 2020 caucus.” Ms. Harris’s team remains particularly pleased with two “no” votes that most Democrats declined to join, given the officials’ performances so far: Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and John F. Kelly, the Homeland Security secretary.

But rampaging populist rhetoric seems to come a bit less naturally to Ms. Harris, at least compared to Senate colleagues like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Ms. Harris, who served as state attorney general and San Francisco district attorney, tends instead toward a courtroom bluntness.

“She speaks, she’s heard,” Gov. Jerry Brown of California said in an interview. “She gets to the point.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/06/us/politics/senator-kamala-harris-democrats.html

7. Richard L. Hasen; Trump’s Voter Fraud Endgame

Kobach has requested that every state send detailed voter information to the commission. Never mind the privacy concerns or the fact that this intrudes on what the right always refers to as states’ rights to run elections as they see fit. If a left-wing Obama appointee requested this information, it would prompt a federal investigation and be at the top of every Fox News segment for months.

Kobach’s likely going to use this information to try to “match” voters and show there is bloat on the voter rolls, such as dead voters and people who have moved but have not been removed from the rolls. He’ll also likely find a small number of noncitizens who are registered to vote. Doing this kind of matching well is tough business: It is easy to claim that two people with the same name are the same person, or that someone is a felon because he has the same name as a felon. But Kobach will not be relying on election administration professionals to do that work; he’s going to use the president’s staff.

The report will likely conclude that even if there is no evidence of actual voter fraud, the potential for voter fraud and noncitizen voting is there because of inaccurate rolls. Accordingly, they will argue it is necessary to roll back the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (or “motor voter” law)—a law which folks like Kobach hate because among other things it requires states to offer voter registration at public service agencies. They’ll want federal law to do what federal courts have so far forbidden Kobach to do: Require people to produce documentary proof of citizenship before registering to vote. In other words, show us your papers or you can’t register. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/
2017/06/donald_trump_s_voter_fraud_commission_is_itself_an_enormous_fraud.html

8. Julian Borger: Investigators explore if Russia colluded with pro-Trump sites during US election

The spread of Russian-made fake news stories aimed at discrediting Hillary Clinton on social media is emerging as an important line of inquiry in multiple investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Investigators are looking into whether Trump supporters and far-right websites coordinated with Moscow over the release of fake news, including stories implicating Clinton in murder or pedophilia, or paid to boost those stories on Facebook.

The head of the Trump digital camp, Brad Parscale, has reportedly been summoned to appear before the House intelligence committee looking into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 US election. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee carrying out a parallel inquiry, has said that at least 1,000 “paid internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia” were pumping anti-Clinton fake news into social media sites during the campaign.

Warner said there was evidence that this campaign appeared to be focused on key voters in swing states, raising the question over whether there was coordination with US political operatives in directing the flow of bogus stories.

Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed by the justice department to oversee the investigation into the Russian role in the election, is thought to be looking into all these issues, as well as possible links between Russian fake news factories and far-right sites in the US.

It is a wide-ranging investigation that is examining the unusually large number of contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials during the campaign, as well as the possibility that the Kremlin has personal or financial leverage over members in the Trump camp, including the president himself according to his own remarks on Twitter.

The role of Russian generated fake news is a separate strand which has gained less attention up to now, but the part it played in depressing the Clinton vote in key states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania in the critical last days of the 2016 campaign could have helped change the course of recent American history. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/05/donald-trump-russia-investigation-fake-news-hillary-clinton

 

9. Charles Krauthammer: North Korea: The Rubicon is crossed

Across 25 years and five administrations, we have kicked the North Korean can down the road. We are now out of road.

What are our choices? Trump has threatened that if China doesn’t help we’ll have to go it alone. If so, the choice is binary: acquiescence or war.

War is almost unthinkable, given the proximity of the Demilitarized Zone to the 10 million people of Seoul. A mere conventional war would be devastating. And could rapidly go nuclear.

Acquiescence is not unthinkable. After all, we did it when China went nuclear under Mao Zedong, whose regime promptly went insane under the Cultural Revolution.

The hope for a third alternative, getting China to do the dirty work, is mostly wishful thinking. There’s talk of imposing sanctions on other Chinese banks. Will that really change China’s strategic thinking? Bourgeois democracies believe that economics supersedes geostrategy. Maybe for us. But for dictatorships? Rarely.

We do have powerful alternatives. But each is dangerous and highly unpredictable. Which is why the most likely ultimate outcome, by far, is acquiescence.. 7/7/17 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/north-korea-the-rubicon-is-crossed/2017/07/06/6645766e-6279-11e7-a4f7-af34fc1d9d39_story.html

10. Daniel Kurtz-Phelan: How Trump Made the Nearly Impossible North Korea Problem Even Worse

After years of mocking Barack Obama for passivity in the face of North Korea’s growing nuclear-weapons stockpile, Trump confronts the same grim set of choices. As seemingly every article on the July 4th missile test has stressed, those choices are “few and risky” and have been for years. Yet, after six months of Trump’s presidency, they are grimmer than ever before. His degradation of language, his destruction of American diplomacy, his disdain for alliances: Trump’s foreign policy has wrecked the very tools needed to navigate a crisis that would be frightening even under the stewardship of the most judicious commander-in-chief. The options were always bad, but Trump has made them considerably worse.

“The era of strategic patience,” Trump recently declared, “is over.” Strategic patience was the Obama administration’s attempt to put the best possible spin on a tacit admission of paralysis. North Korea tested nuclear weapons (first under Bush, then repeatedly under Obama), developed missiles, issued flamboyant threats, and repressed its citizens by outlandishly brutal means. In turn, Washington toughened sanctions and, according to subsequent reports, waged a cyberwar on the North Korean missile program. But major changes to U.S. policy were seen to carry disqualifying drawbacks or intolerable risks — drawbacks and risks that persist today.

Secretary of State Tillerson was right when he declared this week that “global action is required to stop a global threat.” But here, too, Trump has made bad options worse. The rest of the globe is less inclined than at any other time since the lowest point of the Bush administration to follow where Washington leads. According to the most recent Pew survey, international confidence in American leadership plummeted from 64 percent at the end of Obama’s presidency to 22 percent today. Dyed-in-the-wool America First–ers may not think they particularly care what the citizens of foreign countries think — until suddenly we are calling for “global action” in a crisis and find that few of them are willing to come forward and join us. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/how-trump-made-the-north-korea-problem-even-worse.html

11. Maya Kosoff: Republicans’ New Line: Health-care Bill Will Give Americans “freedom” To Go Uninsured

One talking point repeated over and over again by Republican lawmakers hoping to repeal and replace Obamacare is that the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which stands to leave 22 million more Americans uninsured while delivering a hearty tax break to the wealthy, actually gives Americans the freedom to choose their insurance, rather than being compelled to participate in Obamacare. One such elected official sticking to this rhetoric is Senate Republican majority whip John Cornyn.

On Thursday, Cornyn tweeted a Wall Street Journal op-ed, entitled “How Many Jobs Does Obamacare Kill?” What happened next is instructive. Mic editor Emily Singer highlighted the senator’s tweet and added, “Apparently to Cornyn, he views 22 million people losing health care as a fair trade for maybe 250K jobs.” Cornyn’s response: “Not lose, choose. Apparently you believe freedom is optional.”

Cornyn’s position is an emerging talking point among defenders of the Better Care Reconciliation Act. But the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment of the Senate Republicans’ bill reveals the claim is essentially a lie. From the report: “few low-income people would purchase any plan.” Not simply because they don’t want to, but because they can’t afford to, especially given the expectation that premiums on reasonably high-quality insurance (so-called “silver plans”) are likely to increase for all Americans under the Republican plan.

One national poll conducted in 2015 found that 26 percent of uninsured responders said that Obamacare’s individual mandate made them more likely to buy health coverage themselves, and nearly 8 in 10 uninsured responders said they couldn’t afford a plan. As Senate Republicans inch toward repealing Obamacare, some, like Cornyn, are doubling down in an effort to assure the American people that, yes, 22 million more people will soon be uninsured—but they’ll have the ability to exercise their freedom to choose their insurance plan, instead of having to fall under the mandate. Nothing more American than having the freedom to pay for your own insurance coverage—or, in the case of many Americans, not be able to afford coverage at all. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/07/republicans-new-line-health-care-bill-will-give-americans-freedom-to-go-uninsured

12. Cokie Roberts: ANALYSIS: A world without US leadership

Here’s the bottom line on President Trump’s time in Hamburg, Germany: The United States is no longer the star on the world stage. A man who strives always to be the center of attention managed to relinquish the leading role that this nation has played since winning World War II.

President Trump's highly-anticipated tete-a-tete with Russian leader Vladimir Putin simply served as a sideshow to the main event, which was the meeting of the G-20. It was an important and instructive sideshow but probably not the one that will mean the most for America going forward.

While it’s no surprise that Putin adamantly denied Russia's interference in the U.S. election, his ability to get away with that fiction does come as something of a shock. No matter who said what to whom in that cozy confab, it’s clear that Putin will pay no price for his nation’s meddling in the fundamental exercise of democracy in the United States of America.

That’s a big win for him.

The mere fact of the meeting was itself a victory for Putin. Only Russia's nuclear arsenal makes that country anything more than a bit player internationally. But all of the hoopla over the encounter between the two leaders had the laughable effect of putting a nation whose gross domestic product ranks lower than Italy’s on a par with the U.S.

Meanwhile nations with far larger economies were quietly going about the business of dealing with trade and climate, issues that could have much more impact on the lives of average Americans than anything that happened in the session with Putin. 7/09/17
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/analysis-world-us-leadership/story?id=48523205

13. Paul Waldman: Why Trump thinks he's knocking his presidency out of the park

No defeat, no setback, no screwup could lead Trump to think about what he had done wrong or what kinds of adjustments might be made. The answer is always simple: Keep telling everyone how great you're doing, and everything will turn around in your favor.

Which might happen. But in the meantime, things are not going well. Trump's approval ratings are in the 30s. His White House is riven by backstabbing and infighting, with unprecedented levels of leaking as the various factions try to position themselves as not responsible for the mess being made. As for the top item on the GOP legislative agenda, though Trump promised that the Republican health-care plan would deliver "something terrific," in fact it is nothing less than the most unpopular piece of legislation in the history of polling. Trump's withdrawal from international agreements on climate and trade has led other countries to decide to go ahead and craft a new international order without us. America's image in the world has plummeted; a recent Pew Research Center poll of 37 countries found that in 35, people expressed less confidence in Trump's decisions than they had in President Obama's (Israel and Russia were the exceptions). Many of the worst results were among our closest allies, where confidence in the American president dropped by 60, 70, or even 80 points.
Or as Trump might describe it, "so much winning you'll get tired of winning." http://theweek.com/articles/710666/why-trump-thinks-hes-knocking-presidency-park

14. Max Boot: It's more obvious than ever: Trump doesn't care a whit about the national interest

Trump is hardly ignorant of Russian machinations. Even before receiving the full intelligence briefings on what the Russians did —and it appears that the intelligence community has proof that Putin personally ordered the election meddling — he showed his awareness of the Russian role in July 2016 when he called on the Kremlin to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. This is what the lawyers call “guilty knowledge.”

But Trump isn’t mad about this assault on American democracy because he was its beneficiary. He is only mad that the “fake news” media, his political opponents and special counsel Robert Mueller continue to probe the Russian role. The most benign explanation is that Trump is worried that such investigations undermine his political legitimacy. The more sinister explanation is that he is worried that collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin will be exposed — something that appears more likely after the new revelation that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer to seek dirt on Hillary Clinton. Either way, the president is not treating this with the seriousness that an attack on our democracy deserves.

Trump is effectively giving the Russians a pass, refusing to impose any sanctions beyond the inadequate steps taken by President Obama — namely kicking out a few Russian diplomats and confiscating a couple of Russian diplomatic compounds. His administration is even lobbying to water down in the House a sanctions bill passed 97-2 by the Senate.

The result of Trump’s passivity is likely to encourage more such Russian assaults. James Clapper warns that the Russians are already “prepping the battlefield” for the 2018 election — and beyond. That may be just what Trump is counting on. Given current opinion polls, Republicans are facing a tough election next year and Trump will have trouble getting reelected in 2020. Maybe he’s counting on winning, to mash up two Beatles titles, “with a little help from my friends … back in the USSR.” http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-boot-trump-putin-voter-fraud-20170711-story.html

15. Frank Rich: Watching the Downfall of a Presidency in Real Time

The good news for those who want to see justice done is that this scandal not only resembles Watergate but also The Godfather — albeit a Godfather where every Corleone is a Fredo and not a single lawyer is as crafty as Tom Hagen, despite the fact that Little Donald’s private attorney has a history of defending clients from mob families. The level of stupidity of the conspirators is staggering: Not the least of the week’s news is that Kushner thought he could get away with omitting this Trump Tower meeting on the government questionnaire he filed to get his security clearance. (The $2.5 million that Charles Kushner donated to Harvard to gain his son admissionwas not money well spent.) My other favorite detail of the week (so far) is that Rob Goldstone, the former British tabloid writer and Miss Universe entrepreneur who served as the Trump campaign’s Russian middleman, posted on Facebook that he was “preparing for meeting” at Trump Toweron the day it took place.

Now it’s every man (and his lawyer) for himself as the president, having hidden from the press and the public ever since he returned home from his Yalta-themed tête-à-tête with Vladimir Putin, escapes to France, of all places. His press secretary is also in hiding, as is his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, who as recently as Sunday dismissed the Donald Jr. story as a “nothingburger” — Trumpspeak for the Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler’s designation of Watergate as a “third-rate burglary.” About the only administration stalwart not remaining silent is the vice-president, whose statement following the release of the Donald Jr. emails let it be known that he was “not aware” of the Trump Tower meeting and that it had taken place before he joined the campaign. Mike Pence has clearly been boning up on Gerald Ford, and may already be brooding about the risks entailed if he should eventually be in the position to pardon the 45th president. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/watching-the-downfall-of-a-presidency-in-real-time.html

16. Ezra Klein: We are past the point of innocent explanations on Trump and Russia

The best defense of Trump’s associates, at this point, is they were too dumb to know what they’re doing — a defense that doesn’t work when it includes experienced international operators like campaign manager Paul Manafort and ex-Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn. Donald Trump Jr.’s own defense of himself is that he attempted to collude with Russian agents but they didn’t have any useful information and so he didn’t. This is, as my colleague Zack Beauchamp notes, no defense at all — even if it is true, Trump Jr. may well have committed a crime.

What’s more, we know for a fact that the Russian hacking of Democratic files happened, that it was successful, and that Trump has stubbornly resisted efforts to admit or investigate Russia’s intervention into the campaign while repeatedly praising Putin. We also know Trump has, since taking office, undermined the NATO alliance while cozying up to Vladimir Putin — the two of them joked about their shared dislike for the American media at the G20 last week and pledged to work together on cybersecurity.

This isn’t just smoke. We can see the damage done by the fire. We are watching our president pal around with the suspected arsonists. And so we are past the point where innocent explanations on Trump and Russia remain credible. 7/11/17 https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/7/11/15950664/trump-jr-russia-meeting-clinton

17. Will Bunch: Don Jr. and the email chain that devoured American democracy

It was about 30 years ago — right, it turned out, as the Cold War was winding down — that ABC aired a seven-night television event called Amerika, a fantastical mini-series about life in these United States after a bloodless takeover by the Soviet Union. The show was something of a flop — the concept was poorly executed and already seemed dated by 1987, thanks to the dramatic reforms under Mikhail Gorbachev that would soon lead to the end of the USSR. But the biggest problem was that critics found the basic premise so gosh-darned hard to imagine, with the New York Times arguing that the idea that “the United States would simply crumble from within because of a national moral flabbiness is monumentally implausible.”

Today, it doesn’t sound that way.

That seismic political rumbling that you felt at exactly 10 a.m. Tuesday was the son of the president of the United States, Donald Trump Jr., releasing his email chain with an intermediary showing that the highest-ranking officials in Trump’s 2016 campaign were informed that Russia was helping Trumpand that “a Russian government attorney” wanted to provide them with damning info about rival Hillary Clinton, prompting the younger Trump to enthuse, “I love it..”

When I looked at Donald Trump Jr.’s email chain, I saw what may have been the smoking gun that could — could — eventually bring down Trump’s presidency, but I also saw a lot more. I saw the symptoms of a deeper sickness in American politics — the ridiculously blurred lines among entertainment, political discourse, wealth, and what once passed for reality, with concert promoters and sleazy developers accustomed to making deals over the Miss Universe pageant and cutting pop-music videos instead plotting to put an unqualified man’s finger on the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. And a win-at-all-costs, destroy-your-opponent, “I love it” culture that doesn’t even have the phrase “but this is wrong” in its vocabulary. In other words, I saw the “moral flabbiness” — a casual willingness to destroy everything that America was supposed to stand for — that the New York Times didn’t think was in our national character less than two generations ago. And it was building up for a long time before that fateful nanosecond when Donald Trump Jr. finally hit the “send” button. http://www.philly.com/philly/columnists/will_bunch/don-jr-and-the-email-chain-that-devoured-american-democracy-20170712.html

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