July 27th, 2017

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ON THE RECORD.....

“Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. ... Why don’t we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act. If this process ends in failure, which seem likely, then let’s return to regular order. -- From John McCain's Senate floor speech

“I have no real desire to talk to him anymore. I think he made such an obviously reckless and indefensible decision.” — Al Gore on Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change accord

“Things are starting to feel incoherent.” — Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)

If Mueller is fired, then does rule of law matter at all anymore or only personal loyalty, public flattery and private gain? MAGA? -- Preet Bharara ✔@PreetBharara

"I am confident that the Russians meddled in this election, as is the entire intelligence community." -- CIA Director Mike Pompeo saying the threat is real and that the U.S. government, including the Central Intelligence Agency, has to figure out a way to fight back and defeat it.

“But the Anthony Scaramucci I know and admire was not the Anthony Scaramucci who stepped up to the lectern in the White House briefing room on Friday afternoon. Dressed to the nines in a navy blue power suit, he was sycophantic. He professed his ‘love’ for Mr. Trump over and over again — six times, by one count. It was painful and embarrassing to watch.” -- William Cohan: 7/24/17

"You remember that incredible night with the maps were so red it was unbelievable and that the pundits who had expected a Clinton victory didn't know what to say ...  you remember that incredible night with the maps, and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red it was unbelievable. And they didn't know what to say. -- Trump bragging about his election victory over Hillary Clinton and criticized the media while speaking at the 2017 Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia on Monday night.

So, just to be clear: Trump, never a Boy Scout, got thousands of Boy Scouts to boo Obama, who was a Boy Scout. -- mike freeman ✔@mikefreemanNFL

IN THIS ISSUE

FYI

1. Trump’s first six months: The fact-check tally
2. Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions
3. 22 million would lose coverage under Senate ObamaCare replacement
4. GOP Tax Negotiators Run Into a Math Problem
5. The DAILY GRILL
6. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
7. From the Late Shows
8. House GOP leaders face uphill budget battle
9. Another Powerful Right Wing Media Company Emerges
10. Trump’s Embrace of Russia Makes Advisers Wary
11. Trump’s Deutsche Bank Accounts Under Scrutiny
12. Trump officially nominates climate-denying conservative talk radio host as USDA’s top scientist
13. Late Night Jokes for Dems
14. Trump team seeks to control, block Mueller’s Russia investigation
15. Lawyer Who Met Trump Jr. Had Spy Agency as Client
16. Trump’s Russia Comments Could Cause Legal Problems
17. Trump Aides, Seeking Leverage, Investigate Mueller’s Investigators
18. Manafort Being Investigated for Money Laundering
19. During ‘Made in America Week,’ President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club applies to hire 70 foreign workers
20. Can the President Be Indicted? A Long-Hidden Legal Memo Says Yes
21. Trump pulls Obamacare help in Chicago, 17 other cities
22. The Borowitz Report: Jeff Sessions Urges Melania to Work Harder on Campaign to Stop Cyberbullying
23. Gallup: Trump Sets New Low for Second-Quarter Job Approval

OPINION

1. John Cassidy: Trump’s Clueless Abdication of Presidential Responsibility
2. Nicholas Kristof: If Dr. Trump Were Your Surgeon ...
3.  Peter Fenn : We're Sorry, World
4.  Maureen Dowd: The Mooch and the Mogul
5. Jeff Spross: The GOP's Groundhog Day
6. Damon Linker: The party of failure
7. Paul Krugman: Some Pundit Meta On Our Twin Crises
8. NY Times Editorial: President Trump’s Contempt for the Rule of Law
9. Matthew Walther: Alone on Trump Island
10. John Cassidy: Donald Trump’s Addled, Ominous Interview
11. Bradley P. Moss: Trump Wants to Take on Bob Mueller? Good Luck With That
12. Jack Goldsmith: How to Deal With a Kamikaze President
13. Ryan Lizza: How Jared Kushner Helped the Russians Get Inside Access to the Trump Campaign
14. Frank Bruni: Donald Trump’s Dominatrix
15. Ed Kilgore: Senate Is Rejecting Two Years’ Worth of GOP Health-Care Policy

FYI

1. Trump’s first six months: The fact-check tally

At his six-month mark in office, the Washington Post reports President Trump has made 836 false or misleading claims. That’s an average of 4.6 claims a day. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/07/20/president-trumps-first-six-months-the-fact-check-tally/

Donald Trump made 17 false claims in that wild New York Times interview, more than 400 in his first six months. The Star’s running tally of every false thing the president of the United States of America has said, so far is at https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2017/07/20/daniel-dales-donald-trump-fact-check-updates.html

2. Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates,.

The president told the New York Times on Wednesday that any digging into matters beyond Russia would be out of bounds. Trump’s businesses have involved Russians for years, making the boundaries fuzzy so Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears to be taking a wide-angle approach to his two-month-old probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008. July 20, 2017 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-20/mueller-is-said-to-expand-probe-to-trump-business-transactions

3. 22 million would lose coverage under Senate ObamaCare replacement

A new CBO report says that about 22 million people would lose health insurance coverage over the next decade under the most recent revision of the Senate’s Obamacare replacement bill, The Hillreports.

The number is slightly less than what was predicted in the original draft of the legislation released last month, but still far more than the number of uninsured under the Affordable Care Act.

However, the CBO did not score an amendment added to the bill by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), which would let insurers opt out of ObamaCare regulations as long as they also sell ObamaCare-compliant plans. July 20, 2017 http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/342941-cbo-22-million-would-lose-coverage-under-senate-obamacare-replacement

4. GOP Tax Negotiators Run Into a Math Problem

Sources familiar with the Republican tax negotiations say there’s an acknowledgment within the working group that setting the corporate rate at less than 25 percent may be unworkable if the tax reform is going to be revenue neutral.

This is far from the number the administration wants, but a source familiar with the discussions said it’s a simple numerical cash problem. They’ve done away with the border adjustment tax, health care repeal is failing, and there are no politically-palatable alternatives to fill more than $1 trillion in missing revenue.”July 20, 2017 https://www.axios.com/the-math-keeping-gop-from-cutting-corporate-taxes-to-15-2462400097.html

5. The DAILY GRILL

“After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” -- Trump

VERSUS

“America needs a military comprised of patriots willing to sacrifice for this country. Any American who is physically and emotionally qualified should be allowed to serve.” -- Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) pushed back against President Trump’s decision to bar transgender people from serving in the military.

“You ought to treat everybody fairly and you ought to give everybody a chance to serve.” — Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) on President Trump’s new ban of transgender people in the military.

 

Sleazy Adam Schiff, the totally biased Congressman looking into "Russia," spends all of his time on television pushing the Dem loss excuse! -- Donald J. Trump ✔@realDonaldTrump

VERSUS

With respect Mr. President, the problem is how often you watch TV, and that your comments and actions are beneath the dignity of the office.-- Adam Schiff ✔@RepAdamSchiff

 

While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS -- Donald J. Trump‏ @realDonaldTrump

VERSUS

“This is theater of the absurd. The fact that we're even talking about it is a measure of how far we've fallen under Trump.” -- Samuel Gross, law professor, University of Michigan about Trump pardoning himself

 

President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials. -- Washington Post 7/24/17

VERSUS

The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad.....-- Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

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

CNN's pro-Trump shill Jeffrey Lord: Trump would "have a huge political advantage" if he fired Russia investigator. Lord calls former FBI director and Trump/Russia special counsel Robert Mueller "the establishment personified." https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2017/07/20/cnns-pro-trump-shill-jeffrey-lord-trump-would-have-huge-political-advantage-if-he-fired-russia/217322

Fox's Jason Chaffetz: The Trump administration deserves "a lot of credit for openness and transparency." Chaffetz tells Republicans to defend Trumps by pivoting to the Clintons: "Every time the Democrats say they need to call up Jared Kushner or Donald Trump Jr., then call up Chelsea Clinton." https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2017/07/24/foxs-jason-chaffetz-trump-administration-deserves-lot-credit-openness-and-transparency/217352

7. From the Late Shows

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee: Trump’s Voter “Integrity” Commission: https://youtu.be/TjybXsyCjv0

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: The Opening Monologue Of 'Russia Week': https://youtu.be/8UZXPy1grnQ

8. House GOP leaders face uphill budget battle

Speaker Paul Ryan and his top lieutenants have a serious math problem when it comes to their budget. After weeks of delays and false starts, House Republicans are expected to advance their fiscal blueprint through committee on Wednesday night. But they’re far from the 218 votes needed to pass it on the floor.

With only one more week until the House leaves for the August recess, it looks increasingly likely that Republicans will punt once again on the most fundamental task of governing: passing a budget. Missing that deadline will leave the GOP exposed to criticism at home and undermines their chances of moving on to another key agenda item. July 20, 2017 http://www.politico.com/story/2017/07/19/house-gop-faces-uphill-budget-battle-240733

11. Trump’s Deutsche Bank Accounts Under Scrutiny

Banking regulators are reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit… The regulators want to know if the loans might expose the bank to heightened risks.

Separately, Deutsche Bank has been in contact with federal investigators about the Trump accounts… And the bank is expecting to eventually have to provide information to Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

It was not clear what information the bank might ultimately provide. Generally, the bank is seen as central to understanding Mr. Trump’s finances since it is the only major financial institution that continues to conduct sizable business with him. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/business/big-german-bank-key-to-trumps-finances-faces-new-scrutiny.html

12. Trump officially nominates climate-denying conservative talk radio host as USDA’s top scientist

Sam Clovis, a former Trump campaign adviser and one-time conservative talk radio host, has no background in the hard sciences, nor any policy experience with food or agriculture. Still, that did not stop President Donald Trump from officially nominating Clovis to the position of the United States Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary of research, education, and economics, the agency’s top science position.

Clovis, like so many of the Trump administration’s top policy officials, does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change. In 2014, he told Iowa Public Radio that climate science is “junk science” and “not proven.” He also said in an interview with E&E News in October that the Trump administration would not prioritize climate change or climate science at the USDA — a sharp break from the Obama administration, which made a point of trying to better prepare farmers and the food system for imminent climate-fueled changes like droughts or heavier storms. July 19, 2017 https://thinkprogress.org/sam-clovis-officially-nominated-still-not-a-scientist-d47be4ffb1a8

13. Late Night Jokes for Dems

That’s right, ahead of the healthcare vote, Senators were saying they had no clue what they’d be voting on. Then Americans said, "Hey — just like us during the election!" -- Jimmy Fallon

The identities of the people who attended the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and the Russians keep coming out. It’s making some people in Washington very nervous. So they’re actually coming forward with their alibis to just prove that they weren’t there. For example, Chris Christie said, “I was busy shutting down Coney Island so I could ride The Cyclone by myself.” -- Jimmy Fallon

The Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare has officially fallen apart. But Republicans say they're just going to let Obamacare fail while they regroup and figure out a new plan. And Democrats said, "Hey, that's the same thing we're doing with Trump."-- Jimmy Fallon

President Trump said in a new interview that he had regrets about appointing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions said today that he will continue to serve as long as it is appropriate. So only until about 1955. -- Seth Meyers

President Trump said yesterday that he went to speak with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit dinner because he was seated next to the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Abe, who spoke no English. Which means they had at least one thing in common. -- Seth Meyers

16. Trump’s Russia Comments Could Cause Legal Problems

President Trump’s “decision to talk off the cuff about the Russia probe to reporters allowed him to put out his version of events-but increased the legal risks to him, as well as to his children and the growing number of associates who have been pulled into the expanding investigation.

Every public statement by the president or others involved opens a line of questioning for special counsel Robert Mueller or lawmakers exploring the contacts between Trump associates and Russia during the 2016 election. Like the president’s tweets, his interviews can be used to establish facts or intent, offering investigators a gold mine of information but potentially creating conflicts for others that can lead to headaches for their various lawyers-or to criminal charges including perjury or obstruction of justice. July 21, 2017 http://www.politico.com/story/2017/07/20/trumps-public-russia-comments-could-cause-legal-problems-240775

19. During ‘Made in America Week,’ President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club applies to hire 70 foreign workers

President Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida has asked permission to hire 70 foreign workers this fall, attesting — in the middle of the White House's “Made in America Week” — that it cannot find qualified Americans to serve as cooks, waiters and housekeepers.

Those requests were made to the Department of Labor in recent days and posted online Thursday. The for-profit club, where Trump spent numerous weekends this spring, asked permission to hire 15 housekeepers, 20 cooks and 35 waiters. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/07/20/during-made-in-america-week-president-trumps-mar-a-lago-club-applies-to-hire-70-foreign-workers/?utm_term=.701d029a8b03

20. Can the President Be Indicted? A Long-Hidden Legal Memo Says Yes

A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted?

The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.

“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes. “In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/22/us/politics/can-president-be-indicted-kenneth-starr-memo.html?_r=0

21. Trump pulls Obamacare help in Chicago, 17 other cities

(AP)—President Donald Trump's administration has ended Affordable Care Act contracts that brought assistance into libraries, businesses and urban neighborhoods in 18 cities, meaning shoppers on the insurance exchanges will have fewer places to turn for help signing up for coverage.

Some see it as another attempt to undermine the health law's marketplaces by a president who has suggested he should let "Obamacare" fail. The administration, earlier this year, pulled paid advertising for the sign-up website HealthCare.gov, prompting an inquiry by a federal inspector general into that decision and whether it hurt sign-ups. July 20, 2017 http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20170720/NEWS03/170729973/trump-pulls-obamacare-help-in-chicago-17-other-cities

22. The Borowitz Report: Jeff Sessions Urges Melania to Work Harder on Campaign to Stop Cyberbullying

Saying that the problem “is far worse than I imagined,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday urged First Lady Melania Trump to intensify her campaign against cyberbullying.

Speaking to reporters from his office at the Justice Department, Sessions said that, whatever Mrs. Trump had done to eliminate the scourge of cyberbullying, “It clearly has not been enough.”

Sessions said that, while he understands that Mrs. Trump has many other responsibilities as First Lady, “anything you can do to get cyberbullying to stop will be very much personally appreciated by me.”

“Please help,” he said, his voice quavering.

In an official statement released later in the day, the First Lady said that she had “kind of forgotten” about her campaign to stop cyberbullying but that she would “get right on it.” Read more at https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/

23. Trump Proves He’s Open-Minded on Voter Fraud Like Tobacco Companies Were Open-Minded on Cancer

The Pence-Kobach commission is the government-funded equivalent of a team of researchers being paid by a tobacco company to study the link between cancer and smoking. Ostensibly the research is being undertaken in the spirit of open inquiry, but in reality it’s rigged to produce a specific result that will be useful to its patrons. Trump and the others overseeing this effort feel obligated to say the commission has no preconceived notions, because otherwise they won’t be able to say its conclusions have any credibility. But Trump’s comments about states having “something” to hide confirms what was already obvious: The purpose of this commission is to lend credibility to the false idea that elections are being routinely compromised through voter fraud.

“This issue is very important to me,” Trump said. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/07/19/trump
_accidentally_exposes_the_lie_at_the_heart_of_the_pence_kobach_voter.html

23. Gallup: Trump Sets New Low for Second-Quarter Job Approval

Trump has set new record lows for job approval ratings early in presidential terms, including his initial 45% reading, his first-quarter average of 41.3%, and his second-quarter average of 38.8%. Six months into his presidency, he has yet to register a single job approval rating above 50%, averaging 40% job approval to date. http://www.gallup.com/poll/214322/trump-sets-new-low-second-quarter-job-approval.aspx?g_source=Politics&g_medium=lead&g_campaign=tiles

 

OPINION

1. John Cassidy: Trump’s Clueless Abdication of Presidential Responsibility

In blithely threatening to let the Obamacare exchanges collapse, Trump is ignoring his duty as President to protect the welfare of the citizenry.

Has there ever been a more cynical surrender of Presidential authority? The editorial board of the Washington Post posed this question on Tuesday, after Donald Trump reacted to the collapse of the Senate health-care-reform bill by suggesting, in a tweet, that his fellow-Republicans should now “let Obamacare fail” and then look to build a new system out of the wreckage. Ignoring the turmoil that such a course of action would generate for tens of millions of Americans, Trump restated his support for it later in the day, saying, “I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you, the Republicans are not going to own it.”

As President, Trump has continued to live by the one imperative that has propelled him for decades: furthering his personal interests and defending his bountiful amour propre. When virtues like consistency, practicality, and decency come into conflict with this overriding concern, they are invariably relegated to secondary status, or ignored completely. July 19, 2017 http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/trumps-clueless-abdication-of-presidential-responsibility

2. Nicholas Kristof: If Dr. Trump Were Your Surgeon ...

It’s a dark and stormy night, and the hospital corridor is eerily illuminated by lightning flashes as Dr. Trump and Dr. McConnell enter a patient’s room and approach the bed of a young woman, Janet.

“Help!” Janet cries weakly.

Dr. Trump looks down at her and shakes his head as she lies gasping. “So sad but inevitable,” he says. “She was bound to implode. Always going to fail. That’s what happens when you get a Kenyan-born doctor. The patient dies on her own.”

“But, but,” Janet tries to speak, “the problem is that you’re stepping on my oxygen hose. You’re the problem.”

“Take my heart,” Janet moans in her last breath, and a thunderclap drowns out her death rattle. “You need it.”  JULY 20, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/20/opinion/republican-healthcare-trump-surgeon.html

3.  Peter Fenn: We're Sorry, World

America owes the global community an apology for electing President Trump.

Well, I am ready, many of us are ready, and the times call for it. After six long months in office, it is incumbent upon America as a country to apologize to the world for our so-called president, Donald J. Trump. He is a supreme embarrassment, not a supreme commander-in-chief; he cannot manage or operate as the leader of the free world, but, instead, leaves our country at sea, unable to deal with foreign leaders.

He is unlike any president we have had, certainly in modern times, in his lack of knowledge of world affairs or his desire to learn; he does not grasp the gravity of the job or the awesome responsibility to operate around the globe. He antagonizes 24 percent of the world's inhabitants, the 1.8 billion Muslims, with his statements and policies, further exacerbating what he is trying to stop, terrorism.

Forget about the tweets, the outbursts, the fights with his attorney general or others on his team; it is hard to ignore his changes of mind from day to day on health care or infrastructure or Medicaid or the rocky domestic dealings with Congress. Yet this president has so confused and insulted our allies while cozying up to our enemies that he has put our leadership in the world at severe risk.

Who will trust America with Trump as "the decider," the man in charge of the nuclear football? Who will trust a man who does not trust his intelligence chiefs? Who will trust a man who is so preoccupied with his Russian relations that he cannot make important decisions without consulting Russian President Vladimir Putin?

Yes, it is time to apologize to the world for Donald Trump, to provide "a regretful acknowledgement of an offense or failure." We have a president who does not measure up, pure and simple. https://www.usnews.com/opinion/thomas-jefferson-street/articles/2017-07-20/america-should-apologize-to-the-world-for-president-donald-trump

4.   Maureen Dowd: The Mooch and the Mogul

President Trump has finally found a courtier who can give him the buttery, boundless respect he craves.

A wealthy mini-me Manhattan bro with wolfy smile and slick coif who will say anything and flip any position. A self-promoter extraordinaire and master salesman who doesn’t mind pushing a bad product — and probably sees it as more fun.

For ego gratification, Trump has struck gold — or Goldman Sachs — with his appointment of Wall Street hedge fund guy and cable TV diva Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director.

The Mogul and the Mooch is a tender love story with dramatic implications for the imploding White House.

They have so much in common beyond an addiction to hair product. Both enjoy stirring the pot and shifting political loyalties. (Both had high praise for Hillary.) They savor counterpunching, especially in donnybrooks with CNN. Trump was taken with Scaramucci’s win in getting CNN to retract a story linking him to a Russian investment fund supposedly under Senate investigation, a debacle that ended in three reporters losing their jobs.

The Mogul and the Mooch have the same fluid relationship with the truth and the same definition of loyalty.

But a change in communications personnel will not solve the central problem for President Trump. He doesn’t understand that Robert Mueller is not a contractor he’s in a civil litigation dispute with, someone he can intimidate and wear down and threaten and bleed out.

Bringing in another New York deal maker won’t help him understand the existential threat he faces in Washington from Mueller. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/22/opinion/sunday/spicer-anthony-scaramucci-mooch-trump.html

5. Jeff Spross: The GOP's Groundhog Day

TrumpCare is all but dead, and most sensible Republican lawmakers have resigned themselves to moving on to the next legislative battle. They want to pass a new budget blueprint for the next decade, complete with a sweeping tax code reform. House Budget Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) has shepherded the blueprint through her committee, which voted on it Wednesday. From there, the budget must be approved by the entirety of the House, and then the Senate.

There should be a sense of doom-laden familiarity about all of this.

Here was TrumpCare in a nutshell: Big tax reductions for the wealthy, plus big cuts to government aid for the poor, and all of it packaged together by the reconciliation process, which allows bills to sneak through the Senate with 51 votes, bypassing the filibuster as long as they stick to fiscal policy changes and don't increase the deficit after 10 years.

Reconciliation allows the GOP, which holds a narrow 52-seat majority in the Senate, to avoid cooperating with any Democrats. But it also forces the party to corral its moderate and extremist wings. On health care, the GOP couldn't offer the big tax cuts without the big aid cuts, putting the moderates and extremists on a collision course.

We all know how that turned out. http://theweek.com/articles/712955/gops-groundhog-day

6. Damon Linker: The party of failure

Mitch McConnell's last-ditch effort to simply repeal the Affordable Care Act crumbled to dust Tuesday, a little more than 12 hours after he proposed it in the wake of the GOP's repeal-and-replace effort having gone down in flames Monday night. And now, after offering a series of responsibility-shucking explanations for the GOP's utter failure to do anything on health care, President Trump is vowing to let ObamaCare collapse while somehow avoiding any responsibility for the consequences.

This seems like a good time to reflect on just how comprehensively incompetent the Republican Party is.

The GOP controls both houses of Congress. It holds the White House. For seven years its leadership railed against ObamaCare, and its rank-and-file members voted to repeal it, over and over again. Yet here we are, six months into the Trump administration, and what has the party managed to deliver?

Nada. Zilch. Zero.

The GOP is a party in disarray, with antithetical factions pulling in incompatible directions.

Republicans may continue to win elections by uniting around a common hatred of liberalism. The same animus may give them the cohesion to continue blocking Democratic ambitions at every turn. And of course the president's efforts at deconstructing the administrative state from the inside continue apace. But the party accomplishing anything big, new, or ambitious of its own? That is close to impossible. http://theweek.com/articles/712711/party-failure

7. Paul Krugman: Some Pundit Meta On Our Twin Crises

Right now, there are two huge crises in American politics, but one is clearly bigger than the other. Yet looking at my recent columns, and to a large extent my blogging and tweeting, I’ve been focusing mainly on the lesser crisis. A few thoughts about why.

Clearly the most important thing happening in and to America right now is the constitutional crisis. Not potential crisis: it’s already here. The president’s inner circle is under investigation for possible collusion with a hostile foreign power, collusion that may have put him in office; he himself, whether or not he’s currently a direct target of that investigation, is clearly suspect. Yet he has already made clear his determination to block any investigation that gets too close.

This is way worse than Nixon – yet all indications are that the moral rot of the Republican Party now runs so deep that the constitutional answer to a rogue president is null and void. This is an existential threat to the republic, and it can be hard to focus on anything else.

Yet if Trump-Putin-treason weren’t in the news, we’d all be focused on health care, where Republicans are still trying to ram through a disgusting bill, inflicting immense harm, under cover of secrecy and lies. In the process they are bringing conspiracy theorizing to the heart of politics: every attempt at objective analysis, every statement of plain facts, just shows that you’re an enemy. https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/07/22/some-pundit-meta-on-our-twin-crises/?emc=eta1

8. NY Times Editorial: President Trump’s Contempt for the Rule of Law

By In less than an hour on Wednesday afternoon, President Trump found a way to impugn the integrity and threaten the livelihoods of nearly all of the country’s top law enforcement officials, including some he appointed, for one simple reason: They swore an oath to defend the Constitution, not him. 

For a president who sees the rule of law as an annoyance rather than a feature of American democracy, the traitors are everywhere.

In the end, Mr. Trump is concerned with nothing so much as saving his own hide, which means getting rid of the Russia inquiry for good. He previously said this was why he fired Mr. Comey, and it may yet be the undoing of Mr. Sessions, Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Mueller.

The one person who avoided the president’s wrath was the only one who has not yet had the chance to defy him: Christopher Wray, Mr. Trump’s pick to replace Mr. Comey. “I think we’re going to have a great new F.B.I. director,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday.

Perhaps he forgot that Mr. Wray told senators during his confirmation hearing that he would not hesitate to prosecute the Trump Organization for foreign-corruption crimes if the evidence pointed that way. Or perhaps he thinks he can bend Mr. Wray to his will because, as he told The Times, “the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/20/opinion/donald-trump-sessions-interview-law.html

 

9. Matthew Walther: Alone on Trump Island

President Trump must be feeling awfully lonely.

Six months into his presidency, his approval rating is at an all-time low, even according to the most right-leaning of pollsters, which isn't a big deal unless you're the kind of person who's fanatically devoted to tracking your own poll numbers and trumpeting them on Twitter with minimal self-awareness. The Democratic Party, which Trump pledged to work with on issues like trade and infrastructure, has never been more united, arguably even under President Obama, than in opposition to his administration. Vast swathes of the media regard the president as a bigot and a likely traitor whose every utterance should be interpreted according to a kind of hermeneutic of suspicion. (It must be said that Trump has brought much of this upon himself through incompetence, inaction, unkept promises, and cartoonish lies.)

Trump cannot rouse his own party in Congress to pass a bill replacing the Affordable Care Act or funding infrastructure projects or enacting tax reform. He does not have a close working relationship with either House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Members of the party's hard right wing think he is a squish (and not just the ones whose fathers he accused of helping to assassinate JFK), while moderates like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have rarely had a kind word for him (often with good reason).

None of this can be a recipe for success at home or abroad. The president cannot live alone on Trump Island. He needs allies and advisers whom he trusts and who trust him. Even Richard Nixon, the most paranoid, bile-filled reactionary of modern times, had friends in the White House and in Congress, and he would have died before bringing internal squabbles voluntarily to the attention of his enemies in the media.

The Nats are still hot. Maybe somebody should take the president to a ballgame. http://theweek.com/articles/713181/alone-trump-island

10. John Cassidy: Donald Trump’s Addled, Ominous Interview

The Times’ transcript shows a President who considers himself above the law, and who believes himself to be besieged by internal and external enemies.

It is often said, and with ample reason, that much of what Donald Trump says isn’t worth a jot. As Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghostwriter, noted last year, “lying is second nature to him.” When he isn’t telling outright whoppers, he exaggerates things outrageously, and his utterances often bear little resemblance from one day to the next. On Tuesday, he said that Republicans should let Obamacare crash and burn. On Wednesday, he said that he wanted to see it replaced.

But, whereas Trump’s statements often fail to withstand inspection when examined individually, analyzing a group of them together can sometimes provide valuable insights into his mindset, which, at this time, appears to be even more addled than usual. The interview that Trump gave on Wednesday to three reporters from the Times offers us that opportunity.

A partial transcript of the interview, which the Times posted online, shows him eager to impress his interlocutors despite the fact that they work for a publication he has many times described as “failing” and “fake news.” He boasted about the response he received to the speech he recently gave in Poland, and how much the French President, Emmanuel Macron, likes him. (“He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.”)

At one point, Trump even played the role of amateur historian, pointing out how the armies of Napoleon and Hitler came to grief in the Russian winter, and adding that Napoleon “didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death.”

That claim might be dubbed “fake history,” but it wouldn’t do to dwell on it because the interview also covered many more consequential subjects, including the Russia investigation and the now infamous meeting that his son, Donald Trump, Jr., arranged at Trump Tower last June. The overwhelming impression from the transcript is of a President who considers himself above the law, and who believes himself to be, through no fault of his own, besieged by internal and external enemies, particularly in the Justice Department and the F.B.I. As he put it at one point, “I have headaches, that’s what I have, I have headaches.” http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/donald-trumps-addled-and-ominous-interview-with-the-times

11. Bradley P. Moss: Trump Wants to Take on Bob Mueller? Good Luck With That.

The president is used to overpowering and overwhelming his legal opponents, but Mueller – who ran the FBI for 12 years and oversaw the transformation of that agency in the aftermath of the tragedy of 9/11 – is unlikely to be intimidated. Mueller’s team appears to be methodically examining the Russian government’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election, and it borders on axiomatic that his team will uncover whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin in any way (a question that, of course, remains unresolved).

Mueller’s investigation will go where the facts lead it, but the president is doing himself no favors by providing a fresh set of bread crumbs on a regular basis. His Twitter rants and stream-of-consciousness remarks in media interviews are easy fodder for the special counsel’s team, and provide it with an unusual degree of access to the president’s state of mind and motivations. It may be cathartic for Trump to express these thoughts publicly, and it might rouse his political base, but it is doing nothing to put out the three-alarm political fires that are routinely emerging in the wake of new reports about previously undisclosed contacts with Russian operatives or inquiries into his financial dealings.

If the president truly wishes to survive the mess in which he finds himself, he needs to come to grips with the simple truth that everything he learned before Jan. 20, 2017, is irrelevant. There is no one who can just make this situation “go away.” There is no deal to be made, no financial settlement that can resolve the matter. The investigation will find what it finds, and it very well might ensnare several close associates of the president (and potentially even a family member) along the way.

If President Trump tries to bully his way into Mueller’s lane, however, he could find himself joining Richard Nixon in a two-man “members only” club of presidents forced out of office before the end of their terms. If he hopes to avoid this fate, one smart move would be to stop talking, do his job and let Mueller do his. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/07/21/donald-trump-bob-mueller-215403


12. Jack Goldsmith: How to Deal With a Kamikaze President

Donald Trump’s angry morning tweet storm reached another new low with attacks on his Attorney General for not investigating his former presidential opponent, and on his acting FBI Director’s integrity. This and other attacks on key law enforcement figures in his own Executive branch goes far beyond breaking norms of investigatory independence. They bring us clearly into the territory, where we may have been for a while, of a president bent on destroying the authority of the Justice Department that he worries, perhaps for reasons only he knows, may destroy him. At no time in modern history (and perhaps ever) has a President been so openly at odds, and bent on discrediting, his senior law enforcement and intelligence officials.”

 There is a natural tendency to think: What can we do to fight back, to tell the President he is wrong, to stop him from attacking us?  The problem is that there is nothing anyone can to do stop the President short of impeachment.  Attorney General Sessions could and should speak out sharply against the President and in defense of the integrity of his Department.  That would hasten Sessions’ departure and not stop the shameless President.  And resignations in protest of Sessions' departure would only make matters worse, especially since there are so very few political appointees in DOJ at the moment. July 25, 2017 https://lawfareblog.com/how-deal-kamikaze-president

13. Ryan Lizza: How Jared Kushner Helped the Russians Get Inside Access to the Trump Campaign

If you read Jared Kushner’s statement to congressional committees looking for evidence of a crime, there isn’t much there. But if you read it from the perspective of the Russians trying to gain a toehold—or more—inside the Trump campaign, you realize how easy he made it for them. As the evidence mounted last year that the Russian government launched an unprecedented hacking and influence campaign to affect the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor, the Trump team, including Kushner, became increasingly more solicitous to high-level Russians offering information and requesting meetings.

As with his accounts of all the interactions with Russians, Kushner claims he was simply a naïve staffer exchanging benign pleasantries. His professed innocence about the nature of these contacts may be the most troubling part of his testimony. The Russians were running a complex—and seemingly successful—campaign to gain access to Trump’s orbit, and the President-elect’s most trusted adviser claims he was clueless about what was actually going on. Kushner’s testimony does not reveal evidence of any crimes, but it does reveal a campaign and Presidential transition that were remarkably easy targets for Russian intelligence efforts.

“The Russians clearly thought they had reasons to believe this would be a friendly audience,” Michael Hayden, the former head of the National Security Agency said. “If you’ve never seen a major-league curveball, you shouldn’t pretend you’re a major-leaguer.” http://www.newyorker.com/news/ryan-lizza/how-jared-kushner-helped-the-russians-get-inside-access-to-the-trump-campaign

14. Frank Bruni: Donald Trump’s Dominatrix

At this point I think it’s fair to say that Donald Trump has gone beyond taunting and demonizing Hillary Clinton to a realm of outright obsession.

He’s stalking her.

He can’t stop tweeting about her. Can’t stop muttering about her. On Monday he addressed tens of thousands of boy scouts at their Jamboree, and who should pop up in his disjointed thoughts and disheveled words? Clinton. He dinged her, yet again, for having ignored voters in Michigan, which he won.

He’s more or less back to chanting “lock her up,” as if it’s early November all over again. He has frozen the calendar there so that he can perpetually savor the exhilaration of the campaign and permanently evade the drudgery of governing and the ignominy of his failure at it so far.

Nov. 8 is his “Groundhog Day,” on endless repeat, in a way that pleases and pacifies him. That movie has a co-star, Clinton. If he dwells in it, he dwells with her. He can no more retire her than Miss Havisham, in “Great Expectations,” could put away her wedding dress. Clinton brings Trump back to the moment before the rose lost its blush and the heartache set in.

During the second of their three debates, he was accused of shadowing her onstage, but that was nothing next to the way he pursues her now. His administration slips further into chaos; he diverts the discussion to her. She’s the answer to evolving scandals. She’s the antidote to a constipated agenda — or so he wagers. What stature he has inadvertently given her. And what extraordinary staying power. 7/26/17 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/26/opinion/donald-trumps-dominatrix.html?ref=opinion

15. Ed Kilgore: Senate Is Rejecting Two Years’ Worth of GOP Health-Care Policy

Amid the confusion and procedural obscurity surrounding Senate consideration of the FY 2017 budget-reconciliation bill this week, something remarkable is happening that should not be missed: The Republican-controlled chamber is in the process of repudiating two solid years of GOP health-care policy.

Late last night the latest version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act went down to defeat on a procedural vote with no less than nine Republican senators voting to kill it. Lest we forget, the BCRA is really just a variation of the House-passed American Health Care Act. It represents the closest thing Republicans have to a consensus repeal-and-replace plan for Obamacare.

Before the GOP made the fateful decision to develop an Obamacare “replacement,” its big plan was known as “repeal and delay,” based on the legislation Congress passed late in 2015 to simply repeal key elements of the Affordable Care Act with effective dates delayed long enough to allow for future “replacement” legislation. A replica of that 2015 legislation, now known as the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act, is up for a vote in the Senate today. It is universally expected to fail, and in fact is probably only on the floor because Senator Rand Paul and other hard-core conservatives wanted to register a vote for it badly enough to make that a condition for their support of yesterday’s must-pass motion to proceed. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/senate-rejecting-two-years-worth-of-gop-health-care-policy.html

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