White House tries to woo senators on Obamacare repeal

Reporting by John Roberts

In the State Dining Room today President Trump gathered together all of the Republican senators who would come for a spirited sales pitch on getting rid of Obamacare.

“Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America you’re fine with Obamacare,” said Trump. “But being fine with Obamacare, it isn’t an option for another reason: it’s gone. It’s failed.”

While the vote next week is to simply repeal Obamacare and replace it later, President Trump today repeated his call to repeal and replace Obamacare at the same time and that Congress should stay in Washington until it is done.

“My message today is really simple: we have to stay here. We shouldn’t leave town. We should hammer this out and get it done.”

The president also chastised senators who repeatedly voted to repeal Obamacare during the Obama Administration when they knew their vote was nothing more than a political show.

“For seven years, you had an easy route. We’ll replace, we’ll replace and he’s never going to sign it. But I’m signing it. So it’s a little bit different. I’m ready to act. For seven years you promised the American people you would repeal Obamacare. People are hurting. Inaction is not an option.”

The three senators who voted to repeal Obamacare in 2015, but say they’re against it now will come in for some special White House attention—as did Senator Dean Heller of Nevada—an opponent of repeal and replace who found himself seated right next to the president at lunch.

“You didn’t go out there. This was the one we were worried about, you weren’t there. You’re going to be,” Trump joked. “Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?”

Heller is considered to be one of the most vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2018 and will likely vote to save the seat—not the president’s plan. Two of the opponents of repeal, Lisa Murkowski and Rob Portman, were just re-elected. Shelly Moore Capito isn’t up for re-election until 2020 so it’s unclear how much leverage the president will have over them.

As he seeks to woo senators on Obamacare repeal, President Trump is lashing out at reports he had a ‘secret’ second meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at last week’s G-20.

The president tweeting: “Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is “sick.” All G 20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!”

The President talked with Putin for more than two hours in a bilateral meeting in Hamburg on July 7th. That night, at the official G20 dinner, the president spent more time with Putin one-on-one with only a Russian interpreter. The White House denied a report the two spoke for nearly an hour and would not disclose the content of the conversation.

The White House has accused the press of a double standard, pointing out that President Obama had private conversations at previous G20’s that the press never made an issue of.

On Obamacare, the White House will continue its sales pitch tonight by hosting a special meeting with senators who are having a difficult time getting to a yes.

Health care: What happens next?

The failure of the push to repeal and replace Obamacare blindsided President Trump last night. Frustrations are high and clearly showed during a lunch with veterans on the war in Afghanistan.

“For seven years, I’ve been hearing repeal and replace from Congress,” said President Trump. “I’ve been hearing it loud and strong, then we finally get a chance to repeal and replace, and they don’t take advantage of it.”

The frustration was also clear as the Vice-President weighed in. He is the main conduit between the White House and Congress. Today, the lines of communication were on fire.

“Inaction is not an option. Congress needs to step up, Congress needs to do their job, and Congress needs to do their job now.”

The news that Senators Lee and Moran had conspired to kill the measure came just after the president held a White House dinner with seven senators supporting repeal and replace. The President thought he was close to closing a deal.

“Well, they were not disloyal. They had their own reasons. I was very surprised when the two folks came out last night because we thought they were in fairly good shape.”

After conferring with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, President Trump tweeted: “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now &work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!”

The White House strategy is to remind Senate Republicans that 49 of them voted just two years ago to repeal Obamacare. It was a show vote. The measure had no chance of becoming law, and died under President Obama’s veto pen, but the White House is calling out senators like Lisa Murkowski and Shelley Moore Capito who voted for repeal when they knew it would fail, but won’t vote when it might succeed.

White House Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

“So what do you say to these two senators, Murkowski and Capitol, who voted for repeal in 2015, but now say they won’t vote for it in 2017? I think we say, you know, what the vice president said today, do your job, it’s time for Congress to do their job and do it now.”

At the same time he works to twist arms to pass a repeal bill, the president pivoted to another option, with President Trump stating today, “We’re just going to let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you Republicans are not going to own it.”

As the president figures out the next step in healthcare reform FOX News has identified the mystery “8th person” in the Donald Trump Jr. meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya. Ike Kaveladze is a vice president at Crocus Group, owned by Aras Agalarov, a business associate of President Trump.

Donald Trump Jr’s attorney tells FOX News Kaveladze has been a US citizen for years and has no ties to either the Russian government or Russian intelligence.

US student held in Iran

Reporting by Peter Doocy

Princeton University says Iranian officials arrested one of their graduate students, 37-year old Xiyue Wang, last summer,

The school says Wang was in Iran conducting research for his PHD. Iran says he assumed the role of student to infiltrate its national archives and share sensitive information with the west.

It is this provocative behavior the US says continues two years after the previous administration signed a nuclear deal with Iran and several other countries.

Congress requires the administration to certify every 90 days whether Iran is complying with that agreement—that latest deadline is today.

The State Department says the US will continue complying with the nuclear agreement while it reviews the entire US policy towards Iran.

President Trump opposes the Iran Deal, though Iran has already received tens of billions in unfrozen assets as part of the agreement and restoring international sanctions against Iran could be difficult.

The White House says the State Department will release the administration decision today, but State refuses to say when it will do so.

It is also unclear when the Trump Administration will conclude its review and announce its new Iran policy.

The fight to save Charlie Gard

Reporting by Benjamin Hall

The battle to save little Charlie Gard rages on.

Now his parents have been given hope as prominent American neurologist and world class doctor on baby Charlie’s disease Dr. Michio Hirano of Colombia University has flown to London.

Dr. Horano specializes in rare genetic conditions and has pioneered an experimental treatment he believes could help Charlie’s muscular strength.

Dr. Horano believes the chance of success is somewhere between 11-56%.

The High Court ruled in April that Charlie should be allowed to “die with dignity” and other specialists have said treatment would only cause additional pain.

Not everyone agrees, including British politician Nigel Farage.

“The whole medical establishment has been trying to stop Charlie Gard’s parents, taking that little lad to America, to have treatment that is new, not available in the U.K.. None of us are trying to play God here, but what this is all about is two parents desperately doing their best to give that little boy one last chance.”

The case has ignited a major fight over who has the right to choose a child’s care, with objectors saying Britain’s National Health Service—the NHS—shouldn’t intervene.

Another boy with the same condition as Charlie Gard, Arturo Estopinan, has already been treated by Dr. Hirano. That was six years ago and he is still alive and has seen improvements, although he is still on a ventilator.

Charlie Gard’s case is said to be more severe than Arturo’s, but those who support his treatment, including President Trump, believe that if there is even a one in a million chance it should be allowed.

Trump guest of honor at Bastille Day celebration in Paris

Reporting by John Roberts

The news around President Trump was again moving on parallel tracks today—one track following a cloud of controversy, the other tracking the renewal of old relationships.

A rare and prestigious moment for the President—the guest of honor at France’s Bastille Day parade, the first American President to do so since former President H.W. Bush in 1989.

But the celebration was tempered by yet another twist in his son Don Jr’s meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist, told the Associated Press he was also in the meeting. Akhmetshin is described in court papers as a former Soviet military counterintelligence officer. While Akmetshin says he served in the Soviet military from 1986-88, he denies any involvement then, or now, in intelligence activities.

Akmetshin’s role in the meeting is unclear, though he has been involved in activities opposing the Magnitsky Act targeting Russian Human Rights Abusers.

There may have been yet another Russian-American in the meeting. Donald Trump Jr’s attorney Alan Futerfas tells Fox News he spoke to another man who says he was there. That man is an American citizen and also denies any contact with Russian authorities.

The revelations prompted new demands from Democrats and Leader Pelosi.

“Now we know a counterintelligence person was in the meeting as well…it is important that we see all electronic communication, whether it’s direct messaging, Twitter, e-,ail, text, whatever it happens to be, among the members of the Trump family within the Trump administration.”

Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, took aim at Jared Kushner, who attended the meeting for a few minutes. In a statement saying, “reports that Jared Kushner had to twice amend his security clearance firms, only recently acknowledging this pivotal meeting, should cause his clearance to be reviewed—and if he was not perfectly candidate—immediately revoked.”

The Democratic criticism was expected, but even Republicans say it’s time to get it all out on the table.

“Russia tried to destroy democracy all over the world,” said Republican Congressman Lindsay Graham. “They did interfere with our elections; I want to get to the bottom of it. Donald Trump Jr. says he wants to tell his side of the story—that would be a good idea and he’d be welcome to do it at a Judiciary Committee.”

In France, President Trump did his best to fly above the scandal. The Bastille Day celebrations were in part to honor the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I.

It was also a show of unity against terrorism. On Bastille Day last year a terrorist using a truck as a weapon mowed down more than 500 people on the promenade in Nice killing 86.

In Paris, a precision military marching band paid tribute to those who lost their lives while France’s President Emmanuel Macron spoke of enduring bonds with the US in the fight against all enemies.

“Mr. Trump’s presence at my side is a sign of an enduring friendship and I want to thank him. Nothing can ever separate us.”

The story regarding Donald Trump Jr’s meeting has changed several times. His attorney told Fox News the reason for that is the meeting was so unremarkable, and the information so insignificant, that the principles forgot many of the details of the meeting not long after it was over.

Grim discovery on Pennsylvania farm

Reporting by Rick Leventhal 

After days of digging, described as painstaking and reverential, authorities in Bucks County Pennsylvania made a grim discovery.

In a grave 12.5 feet below ground they found multiple murder victims, including 19-year old Dean Finocchiaro, one of the four young men missing since late last week. 19 year old Jimi Taro Patrick, 22 year old Mark Sturgis, and 21 year old Tom Meo are still unaccounted for.

Bucks County DA Mathew Weintraub gave a press conference this afternoon.

“There are additional human remains in that grave. This process will go on. This is a homicide. We just don’t know how many homicides.”

Authorities were not surprised by the find on the farm—in fact, they’ve been predicting it. In part because law enforcement sources tell Fox cadaver dogs reacted so positively at the site.

Weintraub says, “I don’t understand the science behind it, but those dogs could smell these poor boys 12 and a half feet below the ground.”

The area is well hidden from the road on 90 acres of land owned by the family of 20 year old Cosmo DiNardo.

 DiNardo, the sole person of interest in the case, was arrested Wednesday for stealing Tom Meo’s car and trying to sell it two days after Meo vanished.

DiNardo is being held on $5,000,000 cash bail, the highest ever set by the Bucks County judge.

An attorney representing DiNardo’s parents says the family is doing what it can to help investigators under trying circumstances.

“It’s obviously a very tragic situation, Mr. and Mrs. DiNardo are parents and they certainly can sympathize with the parents of these young boys that are missing. I can tell you they are doing everything in their power to cooperate with law enforcement’s investigation at this point.”

White House moving to fill judicial seats, a chance to enhance Trump’s legacy


By Bill Mears
 
With the successful confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, a confident White House is now quietly turning its attention to filling the lower federal courts. 
There are currently 137 vacancies, giving President Trump a chance to move the judiciary sharply to the right.
 
It is something past presidents have done, creating a political and ideological legacy that far outlasts their tenure in office. And it gives the White House a ready team of possible candidates for the biggest political and professional prize – a seat on the Supreme Court, in the event of another vacancy. 
 
"The trend is to look to young judges on the lower courts to fill Supreme Court seats when they open up," said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the progressive Constitutional Accountability Center. "That gives you several decades of influence on the high court."
 
Included in the current 15 percent federal court vacancy rate are 21 seats on the regional federal appeals circuits – influential courts where eight of the nine current members of the Supreme Court sat before being elevated.
 
Several Trump nominees to those openings were state court justices on the original "List of 21" names then-candidate Trump offered as possible Supreme Court candidates. The GOP nominee at the time vowed only to choose from that list and did just that weeks after taking office, tapping Gorsuch to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
 
Many court watchers say with a Republican-led Senate, the president has a unique opportunity to take the offensive when it comes to the third branch of government.
 
"What he now needs to do is replicate the success of Justice Gorsuch on a massive scale throughout the courts of appeals and district courts," said Thomas Dupree, a former top Justice Department official in the Bush White House.
 
Government sources say the pending nominations also give key judges -- like state supreme court justices Allison Eid, of Colorado; Joan Larsen, of Michigan; and David Stras, of Minnesota -- valuable experience in the federal nomination process, should they one day be tapped for the Supreme Court. 
 
One name in particular is gaining traction-- Judge Amul Thapar, who already has been confirmed to sit on the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. 
 
He already had been personally interviewed by Trump as a finalist for the Scalia seat while still a district court judge, a sign the White House may be grooming him for bigger things. 
 
"If you are looking for someone to keep an eye on for future potential nominations, I think Judge Thapar would be an excellent candidate," Dupree said. "For the many judges who didn't make the cut for the seat that went to Gorsuch, this gives the president a great starting point, a great field team from which to choose for future nominations for courts of appeals and maybe someday to the Supreme Court."
 
There had been a good deal of misplaced anticipation in late June that Justice Anthony Kennedy would step aside after nearly 30 years on the high court. But the court recessed for a three-month break with no signs the senior associate justice and key "swing" vote on that court was ready to leave.
 
Kennedy's eventual retirement would create a massive political fight, since his replacement could move the court strongly to the right -- or left -- depending on the person occupying the Oval Office. Kennedy turns 81 this month.
 
Strongly working in Trump's favor is a change in Senate rules first used for the Grouch nomination, ending a longstanding "filibuster" rule that required a 60-vote threshold to approve nominees to the high court.
 
Now only a simple majority is needed, the same standard that has applied to other federal judicial picks.
 
Many liberal activists say that change could transform not only the makeup of the courts but public expectations of the role of judges as well.
 
"Now that you've gotten rid of that filibuster rule, it enables really extreme nominees being put on the bench," Wydra said. "That's not something a majority of Americans actually support. Justice Gorsuch on the bench of the Supreme Court has been very much a Trump justice. He has been bold and brash from the start."
 
Conservative legal activists who have been quietly advising the White House on judicial nominees are hopeful the president could have several more high court opportunities if he serves two terms. 
 

Trump trip overshadowed by yet another controversy

Reporting by John Roberts

President Trump leaves for his third foreign trip tomorrow this week. What was designed as a show of solidarity between the U.S. and France in the fight against terrorism has yet another cloud of controversy threatening to overshadow the agenda.

In his first public comments since his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin President Trump did not talk about his new firestorm surrounding his son, Donald Trump Jr. today, but he did say on CBN that he thinks he and Putin can get along.

“I think we get along very, very well. We are a tremendously powerful nuclear power, and so are they. It doesn’t make sense not to have some kind of a relationship.”

In an appearance with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity last night, Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged that he took the meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya because she may have had useful information about Hillary Clinton and ties to Russia.

“I had been reading about scandals that people were probably underreporting for a long time so maybe it was something that had to do with one of those things,” Don Jr. said. “I mean this was perhaps involvement with the Russian government.”

Trump Jr. played down the significance of encounter, saying Veselnitskaya revealed nothing about Hillary Clinton and instead wanted to talk about Russian adoptions.

The President praised the appearance, tweeting this morning: “My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!”

The meeting came up on Capitol Hill today. Senator Lindsey Graham pushed FBI nominee Christopher Wray into directly contradicting the president.

Graham: Do you consider this endeavor a witch hunt?

Wray: I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt.

Asked about the contradiction White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders backed up her boss.

Senator Graham also pressed Wray whether he thought Trump Jr. should have brought the matter to the attention of the FBI. 

Wray replied by saying “ to the members of this committee any threat or effort to interfere is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know.”

Russian officials today denied any involvement in the meeting between Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya, mocking the whole episode as worthy of a soap opera.

For his part, the president tried to force the spotlight onto the Democrats, tweeting: @WashTimes states Democrats have willfully used Moscow disinformation to influence the presidential election against Donald Trump. Why aren’t the same standards placed on the Democrats. Look what Hillary Clinton may have gotten away with. Disgraceful!”

After smothering any progress that came out of President Trump’s  meeting with Vladimir Putin last week, the controversy now threatens to overshadow his upcoming trip to France. But amid reports the White House is in a state of paralysis and President Trump obsessed with the bad news on cable TV, he took a “nothing to see here” attitude today tweeting: “ The WH is functioning perfectly, focused on HealthCare, Tax Cuts/Reform & many other things. I have very little time for watching T.V.”

August recess: DELAYED

Reporting by Mike Emanuel

With no deal in site on healthcare reform Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he’s delaying recess until the third week of August.

The Majority Leader blasted Senate Democrats.

“We are getting zero cooperation on the personnel part of the Senate’s portfolio which is confirming nominations. Therefore we will be in session the first two weeks of August that we had originally anticipated we would not be here.”

White House officials are furious with Senate Democrats accusing them of the slowest confirmation process in American history.

Of 197 presidential nominations to agencies, the senate has confirmed only 49. And only two of the president’s 23 judicial nominees have been confirmed.

White House officials are singling out Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer for leading what they call an unprecedented campaign of obstruction.

This afternoon, Schumer fired back.

“I have sympathy for the Republicans, I wouldn’t want to go home and face the voters either because they are not getting a very good reaction when it comes to this bill.”

Earlier today, 10 Republican senators called for an August recess adjustment—unless meaningful progress has been made on fixing healthcare, funding the government, dealing with the debt ceiling, passing a budget resolution, and improving the tax code.

“We have very important issues we have got to get done and resolved until we peel back home,” said Republican David Perdue.

Many also said they don’t want to be rushed on an issue as important as healthcare—Senator Jon Hoeven: “We are going to want some time to talk to people, experts in the industry who know what works and what doesn’t. It’s going to take some time to work through that and understand it.”

Most Republicans say they had to do something. The White House and their constituents expect results and they couldn’t justify going home again with nothing to show.

Search continues for missing Pennsylvania men

Reporting by Rick Leventhal

An intensive search involving dozens of local and state police and federal agents is underway scouring roughly 90 acres of farmland in upscale, rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania looking for four young men who went missing last week.

“We have not recovered any human remains til this point,” said Bucks County District Attorney Michael Weintraub. “We continue to work very hard establishing investigative leads.”

19 year old Jim Patrick was last seen Wednesday. The others, 19 year old Dean Finocchiaro, 22 year old Mark Sturgis and 21 year old Tom Meo disappeared Friday night.

Authorities say 20 year old Cosmo DiNardo is a person of interest in the case.

He was arrested Sunday on weapons charges, for possession of a 20 gauge shotgun and ammo—illegal because of his history with mental illness.

Authorities say DiNardo was once involuntarily committed to an institution and his parents own the farm now being searched.

DiNardo’s connection to the missing men is unclear, but he’s being held on $1,000,000 bail, unusually high for a weapons charge.

Family members of the missing are maintaining a vigil at the search site. Authorities reassure them the mystery will be solved.

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