The Daily 202: Teflon Trump gets blamed less by base for Obamacare fail than Senate GOP – Washington Post

THE BIG IDEA: President Trump has a funny way of talking about Republicans as if he’s not one of them, let alone the leader of the party.

Maybe it’s because he was a registered Democrat until as recently as 2009.

Or maybe he still sees himself as the outsider who hijacked the GOP from the establishment in a nominating contest that no one but him thought he could win.

Or maybe it’s because, until late in life, he was an outspoken advocate of universal health care. Trump heaped praise on Canada’s single-payer system and said the United States should emulate it in a book he wrote called “The America We Deserve” in 2000.

Another plausible explanation for why Trump doesn’t want his own brand too closely associated with Republicanism is that he likes to have scapegoats handy if things go poorly. He will happily take credit for legislative victories and run away from defeats.

As the Senate GOP all but admits defeat in its seven-year quest to overturn the Affordable Care Act, Trump’s reaction gives credence to this theory. “I’m not going to own it,” the president told reporters in the Roosevelt Room yesterday. “I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us.”

– Whatever the reason, Trump has often talked about Republicans in the third person since taking office. Consider these examples specific to the health-care debate:

  • I say to the Republicans, if you really want to do politically something good, don’t do anything,” Trump said in a speech to the National Governors Association meeting in February. “Sit back for a period of two years, because ’17 is going to be a disaster—a disaster!—for Obamacare if we don’t do something.”
  • “Action is not a choice, it is a necessity,” he said the very next day in his address to a joint session of Congress. “So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster. … On this and so many other things, Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country.”
  • The Republicans, frankly, are putting themselves in a very bad position — I tell this to Tom Price all the time—by repealing Obamacare, because people aren’t going to see the truly devastating effects of Obamacare,” Trump said in March after a “listening session” with “Obamacare victims.”
  • In an interview with the Fox Business Network to reflect on his first 100 days in office, Trump explained that he had been unable to accomplish as much as he promised partly because of the Republicans. “You have certain factions,” he told Maria Bartiromo. “You have the conservative Republicans. You have the moderate Republicans. So you have to get them together, and we need close to a hundred percent. That’s a pretty hard thing to get.”
  • After the House passed its health bill in May, Trump predicted it would quickly get through the Senate. “The Republicans are very united like seldom before,” he said. “The Republicans came together all of a sudden two days ago, and it was like magic. They just came together. They are very, very united. Every group from the Freedom Caucus to the Tuesday Group to every single group.”

He’s also tweeted about congressional Republicans as if they are a very distinct entity:

After holding a premature celebration in the Rose Garden when the House passed its bill, Trump privately complained that their measure (which he had publicly endorsed) was “mean.” He then complained to Fox News when Barack Obama called the bill mean, on the grounds that he had actually been the first to use that word. You really can’t make that up:

– Across the mainstream media, this morning’s press clips are brutal for Trump. Ahead of his six-month anniversary in office Thursday, there are hundreds of stories out there about how the president is not living up to his promises and has shown himself unable to make big deals.

But, but, but: That is not the vibe you get at all when you check out the right-wing sites where many of the president’s supporters consume their news. Many conservative outlets are pinning the blame on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and moderate Republican senators, just as they blamed Speaker Paul Ryan when the health-care bill ran into speed bumps in the House.

Here is a taste of what Trump’s base is seeing:

  • Why the GOP Congress will be the most unproductive in 164 years,” by The Week’s David Faris: “It turns out that the GOP-controlled Congress can’t seem to pass any meaningful laws at all. Either they have forgotten how, or the divisions in their own increasingly radicalized caucus are proving too difficult to surmount. Whatever the explanation, thus far these GOP legislators are on track to be the least productive group since at least the Civil War.”
  • The ObamaCare Republicans,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board: “This self-inflicted fiasco is one of the great political failures in recent U.S. history, and the damage will echo for years. … If the ObamaCare Republicans now get primary opponents, they have earned them. … If Republicans can’t be trusted to fulfill a core commitment to voters — whether repeal and replace, or simply to reduce the burden of government — then what is the point of electing Republicans?”
  • The GOP’s Arrogance Was Thinking That 52 Votes Is A Majority,” by Forbes’ Stan Collender: “The GOP’s numerical majority is not an ideological majority, and the collapse of the health care debate shows definitively that Senate (and probably House) Republicans are anything but ideologically aligned on major issues.”

– On his radio show yesterday, Rush Limbaugh launched a gendered attack against the three moderate senators who announced that they would not vote for full repeal of Obamacare: Susan Collins (Maine), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). “Now we find out the Republican caucus in the Senate is infected with essentially leftist members,” Limbaugh said on his program, which attracts millions of listeners each afternoon. “Collins, Murkowski, Capito – these three female leftists in the Republican caucus are running the Senate, not Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell is not running the Senate! These three women are running the Senate. The conservative Republicans in the Senate are not running the Senate. Three liberal women who call themselves Republicans are running the Senate!”

A favorable write-up of Limbaugh’s comments is getting played high on Breitbart.com this morning.

– “Behind the scenes, White House officials were pointing fingers at Republican leadership,” Politico reports.

– Because the meltdown of the repeal effort just happened, there is no current polling on who will get blamed most. But a good indicator is probably how people reacted when the House bill failed the first time. In a poll conducted during the first week of April, the Kaiser Family Foundation asked: “Who do you think is to blame for the fact that the health care bill did not pass?” Among GOP voters, only 10 percent blamed Trump while 27 percent blamed Republicans in Congress. (The rest either blamed Democrats or said they didn’t know.) Among people who approved of Trump’s job performance at the time, slightly more blamed the House GOP and even fewer blamed Trump.

Relatedly, despite all evidence to the contrary, 74 percent of Republicans in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll said Trump was making significant progress on his agenda.

A FLAWED STRATEGY:

– “Senators pushed Trump to the sidelines. He happily stayed there. Republicans are paying the price,” by senior congressional reporter Paul Kane: “Behind closed doors, the thinking went, GOP senators would reach the consensus … without the din of Trump’s tweetstorms getting in the way. This week, however, brought a painful reminder for Republicans of how difficult major legislative undertakings can be with a president who is doing other things, picking fights with TV news hosts and devoting an inordinate amount of time to a mounting scandal about his 2016 presidential campaign. … Overall, the effort to shore up support for the proposal really lacked a central salesman.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Trump’s onetime primary rival who has been backing him up on health care, reflected candidly on McConnell’s theory of the case after things fell apart: “Let us work through the process and allow it to work its way through the system, and then you can come in at the end and close it. That’s the advice (Trump) took. … The flip side is it’s very difficult to do big things without the involvement of the president. So it’s kind of a Catch-22. … The bottom line is there are members here who understood the president’s preference and were willing to vote against it anyway. … This is the Senate. Leadership sets the agenda, but senators vote in the interests of their states. … Republics are certainly interesting systems of government, but certainly (it’s) better than dictatorship.”

– “The failed promise to repeal and replace Obamacare surely will affect the mood and enthusiasm of the Republican base heading toward 2018,” writes Dan Balz, The Post’s chief correspondent. “When the Gallup organization asked Americans about the future of Obamacare recently, 30 percent of Americans said they favored ‘repeal and replace,’ but 70 percent of Republicans picked that option. GOP lawmakers will have left them empty-handed, perhaps disillusioned. … In normal times, a party would look to its president to hasten the healing process and pick up the pieces. But these are not normal times. Trump operates by his own standards. And this is a Republican Party that has yet to come to terms what is has become and what is expected of a majority party.”

– Congressional Republicans, not Trump, are on the ballot next November. If the midterm elections are bad for the GOP, can you imagine him taking responsibility the day after or seeing it as a repudiation of his leadership? Of course not.

– Trump is not behaving like someone who believes he’s in a foxhole with Senate Republicans.

The White House has been not-so-quietly trying to recruit a Trumpist primary challenger to principled conservative Sen. Jeff Flake in Arizona. Trump himself has been encouraging people to take on the incumbent next year. “Kelli Ward, who has already launched her campaign, and Robert Graham, a former state GOP chair and Trump adviser who is considering it, both told CNN on Monday they have had multiple conversations with White House officials about opposing Flake in the Senate primary,” Eric Bradner reports. “Another potential candidate — state treasurer Jeff DeWit — has had multiple conversations with Trump… Trump was furious at Flake last fall when the Arizona senator called on Trump to withdraw from the presidential race after the emergence of the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape. He told a small group of Arizona Republicans last fall — including Graham — that he would spend $10 million on defeating Flake in the 2018 Senate primary…” (Politico’s Alex Isenstadt also had some great reporting on this earlier in the week.)

– “Trump made explicit what Republicans had been hoping since the repeal fight started — that whatever happened, voters would blame the Democrats for their health-care costs,” David Weigel reports. “It’s an audacious strategy that flies against current polling and electoral history. It counts on messaging, distracted voters and a built-in electoral advantage to guide the party past the rocks.

“In interviews Tuesday, Democrats who face re-election in 2018 expressed disbelief at the idea that they, not Trump, would be held accountable for problems with the health-care system. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who may be challenged by longtime ACA opponent Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), said that he was eager to work with Republicans on shoring up the subsidies. Voters back home, he said, clearly saw the Trump administration as the impediment to fixing the law. ‘Let me tell you, people are coming out of the woodwork,’ said Nelson. ‘I go to the Tampa Bay Rays game, I throw out the first pitch, and people are begging: Don’t let them take away my health care. People are onto this.’ Nelson is one of 10 Democrats up for reelection in states won by Trump last year, a factor that Republicans once thought would scare incumbents into making deals. Instead, Democrats have grown more confident about their 2018 chances, with few top-tier candidates jumping into ‘Trump state’ races, and credible Democrats running for seats in Nevada and Texas.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

– “At the heart of the failed Senate effort to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act were irreconcilable differences over the proper role of entitlements and how far the party should go to pursue its small government mantra,” Damian Paletta writes. “Both wings of the GOP revolted — senators who rejected steep cuts to Medicaid, a health program for low-income Americans, and others who felt the cuts were not deep enough. Now, with the split unresolved, the party is struggling to find a way to govern despite controlling the White House and Congress. And that may leave it at risk of failing to pass any landmark legislation. … With the Republican Party divided, these fights are expected to continue, and potentially intensify. Trump has shown an ideological openness to support most any GOP bill that has a chance of passage, hoping to notch a legislative victory after experiencing numerous defeats.”

– With Obamacare intact (for now), the 10 million Americans who buy insurance on the ACA marketplaces still face lingering uncertainty. Amy Goldstein and Paige Winfield Cunningham report: “These consumers could face a rocky few months at the least, as the insurers on which they rely decide how to respond to the political chaos. Some companies could become more skittish about staying in the marketplaces for 2018, while others could try to ratchet up their prices depending on how events in Washington unfold. … Most immediately, the administration has the power to decide whether to halt the billions of dollars in payments to health plans that help their lower-income ACA customers afford deductibles and other coverage expenses. Those cost-sharing subsidies benefit 7 million Americans. … The other decision is whether to ease off enforcement of the ACA’s penalty for Americans who shirk the coverage mandate.”

– Trump has repeatedly toyed with the idea of ending the subsidies, the next round of which are supposed to go out to insurers by tomorrow. Politico’s Paul Demko and Josh Dawsey report: “Trump has repeatedly told aides and advisers that he wants to end the subsidy payments, and he has not changed his position, according to several people who have spoken with him. … ‘My advice to the plans this morning was, “If you get it, cash the check quickly,’ one health care lobbyist who represents insurers said Tuesday. Two White House officials said a final decision on the subsidies had not been made. One person said various aides and advisers had issued conflicting opinions in recent days. Asked whether Trump would actually pull the plug, a different administration official said this time is ‘different’ — and that administration officials had begun looking at how they would end the payments. ‘But no decision has been made,’ the official said.”

– McConnell announced last night that, at Trump’s request, he will hold a vote on the motion to proceed to debate on the bill early next week. Axios’s Caitlin Owens reports: “[Collins, Murkowski and Capito] are being encouraged to vote yes on the first vote, which begins debate on the bill … There would then be debate and an opportunity to amend the bill while it’s on the floor. So while [McConnell] has told members the vote will be on the 2015 repeal bill, the final bill voted on could end up being something else. … But two of the three holdouts would have to agree to vote yes on the motion to proceed if the vote is held before Sen. John McCain returns from surgery. That’s a big if, and some are skeptical: ‘No one believes a deal can be made at this point. The three ladies are waaaay smarter than that,’ a third senior aide told me.”

– With little hope among Republicans for a one-party solution, Chuck Schumer is repeating his offer to work with his GOP colleagues to reach a bipartisan solution. (Ed O’Keefe and Sean Sullivan)

– Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), whose state expanded Medicaid under the ACA, wrote a New York Times op-ed urging the Senate GOP to work on fixing the current law: “In the uncertainty created by the Senate plan’s collapse, Congress should guard against a hasty next step. Just taking up the fatally flawed House plan is not an answer, and this idea should be immediately rejected for the same reasons senators rejected the Senate’s own proposal. Also, simply repealing Obamacare without having a workable replacement is just as bad. Both would simply yank health coverage out from under millions of Americans who have no other alternative. After two failed attempts at reform, the next step is clear: Congress should first focus on fixing the Obamacare exchanges before it takes on Medicaid.

HOW IT’S PLAYING:

– “Tuesday brought more tension,” Robert Costa, Kelsey Snell and Sean Sullivan report in a detailed tick tock. There was finger-pointing and faction-forming as (Vice President) Pence and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus worked to repair relationships with senators … During a Senate lunch, when McConnell broached voting Wednesday on a bill that would simply repeal Obamacare, he was met with resistance … McConnell had speakers lined up to support his plan, but a number of senators, fuming over the Monday drama and other issues, asked for a pause rather than quick legislative action.”

– “Republicans, ignore Trump’s call to ‘let Obamacare fail.’ Do this instead,” by The Post’s Editorial Board: “Mr. Trump is apparently indifferent to the pain that sabotaging the individual health insurance market would cause millions of Americans. Congress must therefore act responsibly. … [Chuck Schumer] on Tuesday morning endorsed bipartisan cooperation to stabilize insurance markets. If Mr. Schumer is serious, he should appoint a panel of Democrats who are willing to cooperate to serve as his side’s negotiators.”

– “Trump Finds That Demolishing Obama’s Legacy Is Not So Simple,” by the New York Times’ Peter Baker: “Determined to dismantle his predecessor’s legacy, Mr. Trump in the space of a couple of hours this week reluctantly agreed to preserve President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and failed in his effort to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care program. The back-to-back events highlighted the challenge for a career developer whose main goal since taking office six months ago has been to raze what he sees as the poorly constructed edifices he inherited.”

– “Why repeal-and-replace was doomed from the start,” by Post columnist Kathleen Parker: “During almost a decade of writing sporadically about health care in its various iterations, I’ve interviewed dozens of people from a mix of related fields — medical, business, legislative and political. Not once have I found a single person who thought the GOP could pull off a repeal-and-replace.”

– “Trump Seems Much Better at Branding Opponents Than Marketing Policies,” by the Times’s Emily Badger and Kevin Quealy: “He has promised ‘great healthcare,’ ‘truly great healthcare,’ ‘a great plan’ and health care that ‘will soon be great.’ But for a politician who has shown remarkable skill distilling his arguments into compact slogans — ‘fake news,’ ‘witch hunt,’ ‘Crooked Hillary’ — those health care pitches have fallen far short of the kind of sharp, memorable refrain that can influence how millions of Americans interpret news in Washington.”

– “Health care collapse a blow to McConnell,” by Politico’s John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett: “It’s a serious defeat for McConnell, and one that leaves deep bitterness among rank-and-file GOP senators, as moderates and conservatives blamed each other over who is at fault for the setback.”

– “Why Obamacare Passed but the GOP Health Bill Failed,” by The Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid: “Democrats entered the 2008 election expecting to win and planning to push health care as a top priority. In contrast, many Republicans didn’t expect to capture the presidency in 2016, and the GOP didn’t have a health proposal ready.”

– “The Health Bill’s Failure: Resistance Works,” by the Times’s David Leonhardt: “[Sen. Jerry Moran] clearly felt political pressure to oppose the bill, and his recent meetings with constituents were a big part of that pressure.”

– “Trump Is Showing The World What A Weak American Presidency Looks Like,” by BuzzFeed’s Tarini Parti, Adrian Carrasquillo and John Hudson: “Trump’s struggles go beyond health care. More than six months into Trump’s presidency, Republicans have no legislative accomplishments other than the confirmation of (Gorsuch), a confusing foreign policy, and a White House that is perpetually in damage control mode. From lawmakers and governors to donors and foreign policy experts, a certain realization is sinking in within the party, based on more than a dozen interviews in recent days: Donald Trump has been a historically weak and ineffective president.”

Medicaid shows its political clout,” by Politico’s Rachana Pradhan: “Medicaid may be the next “third rail” in American politics. Resistance to cutting the health care program for the poor has emerged as a big stumbling block to Obamacare repeal, and Republicans touch it at their political peril.”

– “Trumpcare Collapsed Because the Republican Party Cannot Govern,” by New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait: “The cohesion Republicans possessed in opposition disintegrated once they had power, because their ideology left them unable to pass legislation that was not cruel, horrific, and repugnant to their own constituents.”

– “GOP may not be punished if it can’t pass repeal,” by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Drew Altman: “When you look at the polling, the idea that the base will rise up and punish Republicans if they don’t repeal the ACA appears to be exaggerated, and possibly even a political fiction.”

– “Murkowski, Sullivan hope for a path forward on failed health care bill,” from Alaska Dispatch News’ Erica Martinson: “Alaska’s Republican U.S. senators are not ready to give up on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, though they have differing viewpoints about how to get there amid a failing process in Congress. … Murkowski called for Republicans to start over, run the bill through an open and bipartisan committee process and leave Medicaid reform at a later date. Sullivan urged his Republican colleagues to continue negotiating among themselves on the draft that was on the table. … At the Senate GOP policy meeting Tuesday afternoon, both Murkowski and Sullivan said they spoke up among their colleagues. Murkowski made clear why she wasn’t willing to vote for a repeal without a replacement plan. Sullivan offered a plea for continued negotiations.”

– “Capito, Manchin oppose repealing ACA without replacement plan,” by Charleston Gazette-Mail’s Jake Zuckerman: “In 2015, Capito voted in favor of an Obamacare repeal bill that then-President Barack Obama vetoed. Ashley Berrang, a spokeswoman for Capito, said the senator needs a working replacement before she votes for a repeal, and the most recent versions are not up to snuff. … Manchin said he questions whether a repeal vote will go the distance, and that he’s planning to work with the other senators who used to serve their states as governors to find an approach to reform the ACA with people who are used to working in a bipartisan fashion. … He said he had not spoken to Capito yet on the new tactic but that she is invited in on the brainstorming sessions.”

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

– Trump had an undisclosed hour-long meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Hamburg earlier this month, the White House confirmed last night. The informal session came after the leaders met for more than two hours that same day. Karen DeYoung and Philip Rucker report: “[The second meeting] took place at a dinner for G-20 leaders, a senior administration official said. Halfway through the meal, Trump left his own seat to occupy a chair next to Putin. Trump was alone, and Putin was attended only by his official interpreter. … Trump’s newly disclosed conversation with Putin at the G-20 dinner is likely to stoke further criticism, including perhaps from some fellow Republicans in Congress, that he is too cozy with the leader of a major U.S. adversary. The only version of the conversation provided to White House aides was that given by Trump himself, the official said. Reporters traveling with the White House were not informed, and there was no formal readout of the chat …

“[The session was first reported by] Ian Bremmer, president of the New York-based Eurasia Group, in a newsletter to group clients. Bremmer said in a telephone interview that he was told by two participants who witnessed it at the dinner, which was attended only by leaders attending the summit and some of their spouses. Leaders who reported the meeting to him, Bremmer said, were ‘bemused, nonplussed, befuddled’ by the animated conversation, held in full view — but not listening distance — of others present.”

“Russia specialists said such an encounter — even on an informal basis at a social event — raised red flags because of its length, which suggests a substantive exchange, and the fact that there was no American interpreter, note taker or national security or foreign policy aide present,” the New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis reports. “If I was in the Kremlin, my recommendation to Putin would be, ‘See if you can get this guy alone,’ and that’s what it sounds like he was able to do,” said Stephen Pifer, a Russia specialist and the former ambassador to Ukraine.

– Trump called the reports of the meeting “sick:”

WAITING ON THE KREMLIN:

White House aides said in early March that Trump planned to nominate Jon Huntsman to become the U.S. ambassador to Russia, but they didn’t formally make the announcement until last night. “The White House had delayed formally naming Huntsman and sending the nomination to the Senate for confirmation as the United States waited for the Kremlin to approve his selection,” Abby Phillip and Lisa Rein report. “Huntsman’s nomination was announced one day after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov met at the State Department with Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon. The Kremlin approved Huntsman’s appointment Monday night about the same time that the United States approved Russian politician Anatoly Antonov to serve as Russia’s ambassador in Washington.” Huntsman, the former Utah governor, was U.S. ambassador to China and then ran for president in 2012.

THE EIGHTH MAN:

– A U.S.-based employee of a Russian real estate company attended the meeting last summer between a Russian lawyer and members of the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump Jr. — bringing to eight the number of known participants at the session. Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger report: “Ike Kaveladze’s presence was confirmed by Scott Balber, an attorney for Emin and Aras Agalarov, the Russian developers who hosted the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant in 2013. Balber said Kaveladze works for the Agalarovs’ company and attended as their representative. Balber said Tuesday that he received a phone call from a representative of [special counsel Robert Mueller] over the weekend requesting the identity of the Agalarov representative.The request is the first public indication that Mueller’s team is investigating the meeting. … Balber said Kaveladze works as a vice president focusing on real estate and finance for the Agalarovs’ company, the Crocus Group.”

– The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee is requesting more information about another one of the meeting’s attendees. Politico’s Austin Wright reports: “Chuck Grassley is demanding more information from the Trump administration on Rinat Akhmetshin, the pro-Russian lobbyist who attended a controversial meeting last year with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. … Grassley said the request is part of a committee investigation into agents of the Russian government who lobbied against the Magnitsky Act but have not registered as foreign lobbyists under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”

– Grassley’s vice chair also shared the committee’s plans to request that Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort testify at an open hearing in the coming weeks. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The special counsel in charge of the FBI’s investigation, Robert Mueller, has given the committee the go-ahead to publicly interview Trump Jr. and Manafort, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said, although it remains unclear if either will appear. Feinstein said she expects the testimony to be scheduled for sometime before Congress departs for the August recess — a break that has now been delayed until the middle of the month. … Manafort and Trump, Jr. may not be invited to appear before the committee alone. According to Feinstein, [Grassley] wants to merge their testimony with an examination of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA — something the committee had scheduled for Wednesday, but has now been postponed.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. House Speaker Dennis Hastert was released from federal prison in Minnesota on Tuesday and placed into a halfway house in Chicago. Hastert, who served nearly 13 months in prison, pleaded guilty last year to violating anti-money laundering laws, which stemmed from hush money payouts to conceal his sexual abuse of teenage boys. He now serves two years of supervised release with limited travel, drug screenings and psychological testing to determine whether he is still a threat to repeat his offenses. (Chicago Tribune)
  2. A former House staff member pleaded not guilty to charges connected to the circulation of nude images and video of his former employer, Virgin Islands U.S. House Del. Stacey Plaskett, and her husband. Juan McCullum, who formerly worked as a legislative counsel in Plaskett’s office, was one of two staffers charged in the case. (Spencer S. Hsu)
  3. More than 540 former members of Germany’s most storied Catholic choir for boys were physically or sexually abused, a new report found. The latest revelation about the Domspatzen choir, which was led for many years by the brother of Pope Benedict XVI, comes amid mounting charges the Catholic Church turned a blind eye to the mistreatment of young boys. (Isaac Stanley-Becker)
  4. Investigators said that the Minneapolis police officers who shot and killed Justine Damond were “startled by a loud sound.” The account provides the first information on what happened in the moments before the Australian woman died on Saturday. (Mark Berman)

  5. A Turkish court ordered the formal arrest of an Amnesty International director and five other human-rights workers on terrorism charges. Rights advocates have characterized the arrests as “politically motivated persecution” that has increased in the wake of a failed coup attempt last summer. (Kareem Fahim)    
  6. A Chipotle franchise in Virginia was temporarily closed after it received multiple reports from customers who said they got sick after eating there. The incident drew comparisons to another string of foodborne illnesses that plagued the chain in 2015 — and already sent the chain’s stock plummeting 6 percent. (Caitlin Dewey)
  7. An international group of researchers tasked with reviewing dozens of studies about artificial sweeteners has found that the sugar substitutes are “significantly associated with modest long-term increases” in body weight, BMI and waist circumference. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  8. An Australian lawmaker who earned international attention after breast-feeding her baby in parliament in May has resigned because she has dual citizenship, which is banned for lawmakers in that country. (New York Times)
  9. A Florida state attorney voiced alarm after a 10-year-old boy died with both heroin and fentanyl in his system — a highly dangerous opioid mixture that made him one of the youngest victims of the state’s drug epidemic. Investigators do not believe the boy was exposed at home and said he began vomiting shortly after returning from a community pool. (Lindsey Bever)
  10. Tragedy struck in New Hampshire this week after a father attempted to teach his youngest daughter how to water ski — but ended up running his boat over the 12-year-old girl, killing her. Authorities said the boat was in neutral at the time. (Avi Selk)
  11. The remains of a Swiss couple that disappeared over 70 years ago in the Alps were likely discovered. Two bodies were found as a glacier melted in the area where they disappeared. (CBS News)

  12. An Audi commercial in China compared women to used cars. (Amy B Wang)
  13. Netflix said it will aim to release 40 original films by the end of the year — an ambitious goal from the streaming giant, and one that analysts say could pose a big challenge to the traditional Hollywood model of moviemaking. (Hamza Shaban
  14. Chris Christie was booed by Mets fans after he caught a foul ball at Citi Field. A TV announcer added to the jeers by commenting, “Nice to see him get from the beach here to the ballpark.” (Des Bieler)

  15. A golden retriever is being hailed as a hero after it rescued a baby deer from drowning off the coast of Long Island. Dramatic video shows the dog paddling furiously toward the 3-month-old deer, before grabbing it by the neck and swimming with it back to shore. (Lindsey Bever)

TRUMP’S AGENDA:

– Trump’s controversial voter commission will meet today for the first time — but even ahead of that sit-down, the panel has already gotten off to a rough start. John Wagner and Sari Horwitz report: “[The commission to advise Trump] on ‘election integrity’ includes the publisher of ‘Alien Invasion II,’ a report on undocumented immigrants who mysteriously showed up on the voter rolls in Virginia. Another championed some of the strictest voter identification laws in the country during her days in the Indiana legislature. And yet another warned nearly a decade ago of the ‘possibility for voter fraud on a scale never seen before in this country.’ During his tenure as Ohio secretary of state, the Social Security numbers of 1.2 million state voters were accidentally posted on the agency’s website. Even before this panel of 12 holds its first official meeting … it has sparked more controversy — and more questions about its competency — than any presidential advisory commission in memory.”

On Tuesday, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a federal lawsuit against Trump’s voter commission, alleging that it was “formed with the intent to discriminate against voters of color in violation of the Constitution.” They are at least the seventh party to file a federal lawsuit against the commission in the past month.  (Christopher Ingraham)

“In states where data requests have been rebuffed, the commission is contemplating filing public-records requests to obtain what it wants,” our colleagues write. “In other instances, members said, they are willing to comply with procedures that require payment for the data. … The commission includes no members who live west of Kansas — meaning the nation’s most populous state, California, is not represented, nor is the rapidly growing Southwest. The only Latino named to the panel … has already resigned. [And] the commission’s only African American member is former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell, a Republican who was accused of voter suppression during his tenure by ordering county clerks not accept voter registrations on anything less than 80-pound stock paper, the thickness of a postcard.”

– “House GOP leaders are resorting to Plan B on their spending strategy after falling woefully short of the support needed to pass a massive government funding package without Democratic votes,” Politico’s Jennifer Scholtes, Sarah Ferris and Rachael Bade report. “Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday night that the House will vote next week on a measure that includes just four of the 12 bills needed to fund the federal government. … After launching a whipping operation Monday night to gauge interest in voting on the full spate of spending bills, GOP leaders walked away with a tally of dozens of Republican lawmakers who said they couldn’t commit — as well as several hard ‘no’s’ — to voting for the partisan bundle of 12 bills, according to Republican lawmakers and aides. The survey underscored GOP leadership’s ongoing difficulty in appeasing the party’s most fiscally conservative wing while still holding onto support from moderates.”

– A member of the Freedom Caucus is threatening to torpedo Paul Ryan’s proposal to overhaul the tax code during a budget markup today. Politico’s Rachael Bade reports: “Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) is considering an amendment to the fiscal 2018 budget that would hasten the death of the so-called border adjustment tax. While the exact language is not finalized — indeed Sanford is not even sure he’ll pull the trigger — the proposal would be aimed at preventing the Ways and Means Committee from using the controversial tax increase on imports to finance tax cuts, a Ryan brainchild. … The amendment could cause a ruckus in the budget markup. While multiple budget sources say the committee is expected to easily pass the fiscal blueprint, they acknowledged the amendment could easily create havoc.”

– In a rare moment of bipartisan agreement, Democratic and Republican lawmakers argued that too many women are being incarcerated for low-level offenses. Vanessa Williams reports: “From Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Tex.) to Republican Rep. Mia Love (Utah) and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), there was bipartisan agreement that most of the women in jails and prison would be better served by drug rehabilitation and mental health services, rather than harsher sentences. They noted that most women in the criminal-justice system are victims of domestic abuse or sexual violence. And because most incarcerated women have small children, locking them away can destroy an already fragile family. The discussion came during a day-long conference called ‘Women Unshackled.’” 

– House members are considering a new GI Bill expansion that would remove a 15-year-cap on education benefits for military veterans and their families — offering a “lifetime window” for college-tuition assistance. The expansion would also make eligible reservists who deploy on active duty, and surviving spouses and dependents of veterans who die during their service. (T. Rees Shapiro)

– The administration will have its first formal economic talks with China today in D.C. The Wall Street Journal’s Jacob M. Schlesinger reports: “After Donald Trump’s November election, ‘many kept their fingers crossed, worrying that China-U. S. trade relations would enter a stormy … winter and even run the risk of a trade war,’ Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang told a luncheon of business executives here Tuesday. But Mr. Trump has since dropped his threats to impose drastic penalties against Chinese imports — an across-the-board tariff, or a formal charge of currency manipulation — and has so far focused on small market-opening agreements, instead. … U.S. business groups, which had originally braced for the hostilities Mr. Wang referred to, are now growing worried the Trump administration may not press China hard enough for broad reforms they consider necessary to pry China’s economy open.”

– Mark Zuckerberg visited Montana’s Glacier National Park last weekend to learn about climate change firsthand – but while he was there, he was unable to meet with the area’s resident climate scientist. Lisa Rein reports: “Three days before the tech leader’s July 15 visit to Glacier, research ecologist Daniel Fagre said he was told that his scheduled tour with Zuckerberg of Logan Pass on the Continental Divide was off. ‘I literally was told I would no longer be participating,’ Fagre, who works for the U.S. Geological Survey, said in an interview Tuesday … He said he asked the public-affairs officer who notified him why the briefing was being canceled. ‘I’ve gotten nothing back,’ he said. ‘We’ve definitely been left in the dark.’ Zuckerberg did meet with park rangers … But with the park a ground zero of sorts for the unmistakable signs that warming and melting of glaciers is speeding up, the decision to keep a visitor — and a celebrity at that — from meeting with a scientist-in-residence … struck some observers as a deliberate effort by the Trump administration to minimize climate issues.

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

– Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday that he was “skeptical” about the peace efforts being brokered by Trump’s administration. Haaretz’s Barak Ravid reports. “During the meeting in Paris, Macron told Netanyahu that he supports Trump’s efforts and that the settlement-building plans that Israel has advanced in the past six months have made an already complicated situation that much harder, the sources said.”

– A day after certifying that Iran has been complying with the nuclear deal brokered under the Obama administration, Trump’s White House added 18 more entities and individuals to its sanctions list for Tehran. Karen DeYoung reports: “Senior administration officials had made clear that the certification was grudging and indicated that new sanctions would closely follow for Iran’s ‘malign activities’ in nonnuclear areas, such as ballistic missile development and support for terrorism. … The last certification of Iranian compliance, in April, was also followed by new sanctions on Iranian individuals and companies that the administration said played a role in ballistic missile tests not covered by the nuclear agreement.”

– “A high-stakes power struggle between Iran’s moderate president, [Hassan Rouhani], and his hard-line opponents in the judiciary appeared to escalate with the arrest of the president’s brother and the conviction of an American student for espionage this weekend — rulings that seemed timed to embarrass the Iranian leader at home and abroad,” Erin Cunningham reports: “[The] moves by Iran’s judiciary … also undermine Rouhani’s attempts to build better relations with the West, which more-reactionary Iranian institutions such as the judiciary oppose. And they suggest an effort by ruling clerics to pressure the president to back down from confrontation on the domestic front, particularly ahead of the official inauguration of his second term next month, when Rouhani will pick his new cabinet.”

– Rex Tillerson is considering closing the State Department’s cybersecurity office or merging it with another office, Politico’s Tim Starks reports. The news came less than a day after it was reported that Christopher Painter, the Trump administration’s top cyber diplomat, will leave his State Department job at the end of the month. “’It’s a step back from everything done over the last ten years,’ said [a source familiar with the meeting], who added that Tillerson was also considering ‘limiting the number of people who work on cybersecurity’ at State. ‘They basically gave [Painter] two weeks notice,’ the source [said]. “’It’s clear they’re thinking about reorganizing it. … Clearly they don’t think it’s that important.’”

– Americans’ fear of a major war in the near future is increasing at a rapid clip. NBC News’s Andrew Arenge, Hannah Hartig and Stephanie Perry report: “An overwhelming majority of Americans — 76 percent — are worried that the United States will become engaged in a major war in the next four years, according to a new NBC News/SurveyMonkey National Security Poll out Tuesday. The number has jumped 10 points since February, when 66 percent of Americans said they were worried about military conflict. Although Americans are concerned about a number of national security threats, a strong plurality (41 percent) believe that North Korea currently poses the greatest immediate danger to the United States, emerging as a more urgent concern than ISIS (28 percent) or Russia (18 percent), according to the poll[.]”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Some greeted the president’s suggestion to “let Obamacare fail” with skepticism:

From two House Democrats:

The criticism extended way beyond Washington:

Others literally ran from the discussion:

From one of our congressional reporters:

Or they hid behind trash cans:

From Obama’s former top adviser:

In light of his recent comments about Democrats owning Obamacare, this Trump tweet was circulating again:

From NBC’s Capitol Hill correspondent:

From the Boston Globe’s chief national correspondent:

For those keeping score:

From one of Time magazine’s D.C. editors:

An old Nixon-era column made the rounds again:

A Wall Street Journal reporter reacted:

From a New York Magazine writer:

Once again, the White House’s theme of the week got sidelined:

A Democratic member of the House ribbed Trump’s Made in America week:

Trump stepped up to the plate:

The White House misspelled — again:

And the Internet had more fun with Tropical Storm Don:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

– Politico Magazine, “How the GOP Became the Party of Putin,” by James Kirchick: “I was no fan of Barack Obama’s foreign policy. I criticized his Russian ‘reset,’ his Iran nuclear deal, his opening to Cuba, even his handling of political conflict in Honduras. … What I never expected was that the Republican Party — which once stood for a muscular, moralistic approach to the world, and which helped bring down the Soviet Union — would become a willing accomplice of what the previous Republican presidential nominee rightly called our No. 1 geopolitical foe: Vladimir Putin’s Russia. My message for today’s GOP is to paraphrase Barack Obama when he mocked Romney for saying precisely that: 2012 called — it wants its foreign policy back.”

– New York Times, “Bathroom Bill Tests Clout of Rare Moderate in Increasingly Conservative Texas,” by Manny Fernandez and David Montgomery: “When Texas lawmakers gather here for the start of a 30-day special legislative session on Tuesday morning, they will most likely decide the fate of the Texas version of North Carolina’s bitterly divisive legislation regulating the access of transgender people to public bathrooms. But something else will be on the line, too: whether moderate Republicans have a role to play in a state party increasingly dominated by far-right Christian conservatives, and whether the last powerful moderate Republican in Texas, [State Representative Joe Straus, the speaker of the Texas House,] can keep his job and his influence. … Pro-business, Bush-style, country-club Republicans no longer set the agenda in Texas. What happens in the session … will provide the clearest signal of whether there is any effective brake left on social-conservative Republicans in Texas.”

– Politico Magazine, “Is the President Fit?” by Ben Strauss: “In the modern history of American presidents, no occupant of the Oval Office has evinced less interest in his own health. He does not smoke or drink, but his fast-food, red meat-heavy diet, his aversion to exercise and a tendency to gorge on television for hours at a time put him at odds with his predecessors. … And on the campaign trail, he made a point of mentioning his taste for fast foods like Kentucky Fried Chicken[.] … This may make the president more relatable to the average American, who scarfs down some $1,200 worth of fast food each year, but it’s an unusual habit for someone holding down one of the world’s most demanding jobs. … By any measure, America’s president is overweight, and medical experts say it could be affecting his health and his job.

– New York Magazine, “There Aren’t Very Many Democratic Governors. That Could Change in 2018,” by Ed Kilgore: “The most underappreciated (in Washington, anyway) aspect of the 2018 midterm elections is the fact that 36 governorships will be up for grabs. And the partisan landscape for these contests will be nearly as skewed toward Democrats as the Senate landscape is skewed toward Republicans, with the GOP defending 26 seats and Democrats just 9 (one, in Alaska, is held by an independent). What really makes the gubernatorial races different from others, however, are term limits: Fully 13 Republican governors and 4 Democrats are either term-limited or have already announced their retirements.”

– The Atlantic, “South Korea’s President May Be Just the Man to Solve the North Korea Crisis,” by S. Nathan Park: “Just as only the conservative Richard Nixon could thaw U.S.-China relations, the supposedly dovish Moon Jae In could defuse tensions with the Kim regime.”

 

In a true show of bipartisanship, Sen. Jeff Flake offered reassurance to his Democratic challenger Deedra Abboud:

DAYBOOK:

Trump will have an NSC briefing and a meeting with Terry Branstad, the U.S. ambassador to China, in the morning before his lunch with Republican lawmakers to discuss health-care in the afternoon. He will then lead a “Made in America” roundtable.

Pence will participate in the first meeting of the voter fraud commission and then join the health-care lunch and “Made in America” roundtable. He also has a meeting with the governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb. 

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

– It’s hot today in D.C., but it’ll be even worse over the weekend. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “But with partly to mostly sunny skies, highs reaching the mid-90s aren’t exactly refreshing either. Add in the high humidity, and we’ll see the afternoon heat index near 100, with the possibility of an isolated afternoon storm.”

– The Nationals beat the Angels 4-3. (Chelsea Janes)

– Even before Mitch McConnell’s bill to repeal Obamacare failed due to three senators’ opposition, the governors of Maryland and Virginia voiced their own opposition. Josh Hicks reports: “Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Tuesday joined nine other governors to urge Congress to ‘immediately reject’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and focus instead on stabilizing insurance markets.”

– Maya Rockeymoore, a policy consultant and the wife of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), is weighing a bid for Maryland governor in 2018. The 46-year-old would be the first woman to join what is shaping up to be a crowded Democratic primary field, with five contenders already battling for a chance to challenge incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan in the general election. (Josh Hicks and Ovetta Wiggins)

– Democrat Danica Roem, the transgender ex-journalist who is challenging Del. Robert G. Marshall in Prince William County for the House of Delegates 13th District seat, far outpaced the conservative Republican in fundraising last month, an early indication that her campaign is drawing significant interest from inside and outside Virginia. (Antonio Olivo)

 

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Keegan-Michael Key reprised his role as Barack Obama’s anger translator:

Seth Meyers checked in on the EPA:

A Saudi woman has been arrested for a viral video showing her wearing a miniskirt in a conservative province in the kingdom:

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) lamented the pain that comes with being a Cleveland Indians fan:

Parisians swam in three new swimming areas in a canal, part of the city’s push to clean its waterways for its Olympics bid:

And scientists at the University of Manchester discovered that the T. rex could not run:

Comments

Write a Reply or Comment:

Your email address will not be published.*