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On the roster: Trump tries his hand at selling insurance - Doomsday on ObamaCare cuts vote next week - Trump Jr., Manafort cleared to testify before Senate - Sessions draws heat over seizures - Rogue goat
TRUMP TRIES HIS HAND AT SELLING INSURANCE
“The Republicans never discuss how good their healthcare bill is,” declared the leader of the Republican Party.
Now, we understand that it is in President Trump’s personal interest to create as much distance between himself and his party as possible vis-à-vis their struggles to pass health insurance legislation. One might even say “That's politics!”
So good for him that today he opted to get in the game.
We explained Monday that it is lawmakers who deserve the preponderance of blame for the GOP quagmire on a bill that would have traded cuts to ObamaCare benefits and a regulatory rollback in exchange for providing funds to prop up the individual insurance market for 2018.
And that’s still true. Trump has no firm opinions about a health insurance law other than it be “the best,” which, as long as it is described in terms relative to other legislation, is helpfully meaningless. Lawmakers should have taken advantage of Trump’s policy vacuum and, you know, made law.
But you already know that the political failure of Republicans to have coalesced in seven years behind some kind of legislation that addresses Medicare, individual health insurance policies and industry regulations -- or even core policy principles about those topics -- is one of the most profound in memory.
Heck, that they couldn't come up with something in the three quarters of a year since the election is pretty potently puny.
But they ditched that idea in March when party leaders in Congress put forward legislation that would delay repeal of ObamaCare benefits and most regulations for two years enact an immediate reduction of the taxes in the current law. It was a punt, but aimed at the 1-yard line.
Now, having tackled their own ball carriers repeatedly for lost yardage, Republicans are trying to get the ball aloft from inside their own end zone. And the Democrats are there, manically grinning with nostrils flared like Bronko Nagurski, ready to strip the ball out of the kicker's quavering hands.
So despite the failures of the rest of the team and the coaches -- blunders that the president has so eagerly pointed out -- we would be remiss to not consider the quarterback of this hapless squad.
The WSJ/NBC News poll provides a very useful batch of data this week by looking more closely at the 439 counties in 16 states that fueled Trump's stunning 2016 victory.
While it is true that the latest Senate version of not-really-repeal-not-really-replace only drew 12 percent support from voters in these counties, the numbers that really matter are these: 47 percent of all voters and 59 percent of those who said they voted for Trump said they didn't know what to think about the bill.
It's certainly fair to call the most recently failed version of insurance legislation unpopular, especially given the degree to with voters repeatedly express deep concerns about the way Trump and Republicans are handling the issue.
But it would be more accurate to say that it died an unknown.
In an article that is certainly a sign of our times, the NYT applied some aggressive data analysis to the president’s Twitter feed and found out something that any child could see: Trump is very good at insulting people and denigrating things. He’s good not because he is creative, but because he is dogged.
“Psychologists have another term for what Mr. Trump does here that is so effective,” the Times observes. “He ‘essentializes’ [crooked Hillary Clinton] and his other opponents, like Lyin’ Ted Cruz.”
Trump has been similarly effective in branding the existing health insurance legislation as a “disaster.” He has attacked ObamaCare with the kind of zeal he usually reserves for human beings.
But when it comes to the effort to replace that law, Trump has been mostly indifferent.
As the proposal he ostensibly supported hung in the balance, Trump was tweeting up a storm about the women’s golf tournament being played at one of his courses, attacking his favorite nemesis, the press, and touting his own wonderfulness.
Yes, he continued to talk about how bad ObamaCare is and how Republicans had darned well better replace it. But he hardly had a good word to say about the replacement itself.
Barack Obama had a bad habit as president of commenting on his own government as if he was giving a TED talk rather than serving as the nation's chief magistrate. Professor Obama was a well-known and little-loved persona.
Trump has taken it to a new level. He’s the quarterback, but he’s heckling his own team instead of calling plays in the huddle. And, like the cranks on sports call-in shows, explaining how he would have done it differently with far-fetched strategies.
When he tells Republicans that they should just let millions of families face devastation rather than taking political blame for trying to fix the problem, he is the perfect Monday morning quarterback.
Today, the president took a step to rectify that, reading remarks praising the seemingly doomed legislation at a luncheon for Republican Senators. If he really wants this bill to pass, he’d better take that message to heart and sell, sell, sell.
THE RULEBOOK: NO TROUBLEMAKERS
“The hope of impunity is a strong incitement to sedition; the dread of punishment, a proportionably strong discouragement to it.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 27
TIME OUT: THE KEY TO DECIPHERING
History: “On this day in 1799, during Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign, a French soldier discovers a black basalt slab inscribed with ancient writing near the town of Rosetta, about 35 miles north of Alexandria. The irregularly shaped stone contained fragments of passages written in three different scripts: Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Egyptian demotic. The ancient Greek on the Rosetta Stone told archaeologists that it was inscribed by priests honoring the king of Egypt, Ptolemy V, in the second century B.C. More startlingly, the Greek passage announced that the three scripts were all of identical meaning. The artifact thus held the key to solving the riddle of hieroglyphics, a written language that had been ‘dead’ for nearly 2,000 years. When Napoleon, an emperor known for his enlightened view of education, art and culture, invaded Egypt in 1798, he took along a group of scholars and told them to seize all important cultural artifacts for France.”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -17.6 points
Change from one week ago: -4.4 points
DOOMSDAY ON OBAMACARE CUTS VOTE NEXT WEEK
The Hill: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans will try to move forward with their plan to repeal ObamaCare next week, even as they appear short of the needed votes to pass the proposal. … The Senate is expected to vote on whether or not to take up the House-passed healthcare bill, which is being used for any action in the upper chamber. If they are successful, McConnell would offer the ObamaCare repeal proposal as an amendment to that legislation.”
Centrist Republicans and Democrats meet to devise bipartisan plan - WashEx: “Moderate Republicans and Democrats met Tuesday to discuss a way forward on healthcare and the two camps are considering developing a working group on the issue. Shawn Moran, the communications director for Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., told the Washington Examiner the centrist GOP's Tuesday Group, which Dent chairs, and the New Democrat Coalition met in the Capitol to discuss healthcare.”
Is Rand Paul’s health-care stance really based on principle? - Jonah Golberg examines the balance of self-interest and merits in politics. National Review: “I found many of [Sen. Rand] Paul’s arguments and complaints entirely persuasive on the merits. But there have been times when I had to wonder if the merits were all that was driving him. Was it just a coincidence that the bill was terribly unpopular in his home state of Kentucky, where more than one in five Kentuckians are on Medicaid?”
House pushes ahead on budget plan - AP: “Republicans are pressing ahead with a budget plan designed to help the party to deliver on a GOP-only effort to overhaul the tax code. The plan before the House Budget Committee on Wednesday also features promises to cut more than $5 trillion from the budget over the coming decade, though Republicans only appear serious about actually enacting a relatively modest $203 billion deficit cut over the same period.”
House GOP to stick with partisan strategy on taxes - Roll Call: “Republicans’ partisan push to overhaul the health care system failed in the Senate, but House GOP lawmakers say they plan to stick to that approach in rewriting the tax code. Since the start of the year, Republicans have said the health care and tax overhauls, the top two items on their legislative agenda, would likely be partisan efforts given wide policy gaps with Democrats on both issues. With that strategy in mind, they decided to move both overhauls through the budget reconciliation process — health care in fiscal 2017 and taxes in fiscal 2018 — to allow for a simple-majority vote in the Senate.”
Tax reform becomes a must-win issue for the White House - Politico: “… the White House has turned its attention to its next big shot at a big win: tax reform. The long-held GOP goal of re-engineering the U.S. tax system has now become a political imperative for the Trump administration, which has yet to deliver any major legislative victories despite Republican control of the White House and both houses of Congress. … Donors and influential Republicans are particularly eager to see tax reform completed before the 2018 midterms….”
TRUMP JR., MANAFORT CLEARED TO TESTIFY BEFORE SENATE
ABC News: “Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort have been cleared by special counsel Robert Mueller to testify in an open session before the Senate Judiciary Committee about their June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian attorney, according to the committee's ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Feinstein, who met with Mueller last month, shared the information with reporters Tuesday, later adding that the special counsel's investigation would "not be a problem" that would prevent their testimony. The news of the pair's clearance to be interviewed was first reported by CNN. The Judiciary Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing on the Foreign Agent Registration Act Wednesday, one at which Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he wanted Manafort to appear. Both he and Feinstein also suggested Trump Jr. should appear before the committee this week.”
Russian lawyer who met Trump Jr. to testify to Congress -
Reuters: “The Russian lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr. after his father won the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential nomination has said she is ready to testify to Congress. … [Natalia] Veselnitskaya has previously said she is a private lawyer, that she never obtained damaging information about Clinton, and that she has no ties with the Kremlin. ‘I'm ready to clarify the situation behind this mass hysteria – but only through lawyers or testifying in the Senate,’ Veselnitskaya said in an interview with Russia's Kremlin-backed RT TV channel released late on Tuesday.”
Ex-UN ambassador to testify before House Intel Committee - WashEx: “Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Barack Obama, plans to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, according to a report Monday. CNN reports that Power's appearance before the committee could happen before the August recess, although a date has not been finalized. The news of Power's planned testimony comes on the same day that reports revealed Susan Rice, Obama's former national security adviser, will no longer provide testimony before the House Intelligence Committee this Tuesday.”
Trump and Putin lingered over dinner at G-20 - NYT: “The July 7 [G20] meeting in Hamburg, Germany, was the single most scrutinized of the Trump presidency. But it turned out there was another encounter: a one-on-one discussion over dinner that lasted as long as an hour and relied solely on a Kremlin-provided interpreter. … A White House official said there was nothing unusual about it. And in two tweets late Tuesday, Mr. Trump derided news reports about it as ‘sick.’ … ‘Press knew!’ he tweeted.”
Was the conversation unusual or not? - Michael Warren’s White House Watch column in the Weekly Standard: “Is this ‘second meeting’ a routine encounter at a summit of world leaders, brief and ‘perfectly normal’? If so, characterizing this moment as ‘previously undisclosed’ unfairly implies the administration ought to have disclosed it and did not. The White House likely didn’t disclose every brief conversation Trump had with any other leaders at the G20, so why should such a meeting with Putin be any different?”
Trump to nominate Huntsman as Russian Ambassador - Politico: “The White House formally announced its plans to nominate former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman as ambassador to Russia, signaling its intent to put the onetime Trump campaign critic in a leading diplomatic role. Huntsman, who sharply criticized President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign for his statements and rhetoric about women, previously served as ambassador to Singapore under President George W. Bush and ambassador to China under President Barack Obama. He was reportedly offered the position in March, a move the Trump administration publicly solidified Tuesday.”
SESSIONS DRAWS HEAT OVER SEIZURES
WashEx: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday rolled out a new civil asset forfeiture policy aimed at expanding law enforcement's ability to seize property from people suspected of criminal activity. The new policy allows the federal government to take all assets seized lawfully by state or local law enforcement whenever the crime causing the seizure violates federal law. The Justice Department said the change advances Sessions' recently created task force to combat violent crime and will crack down on criminals. Critics have argued the civil asset forfeiture seizes property from people who are innocent and are never charged with a crime. But Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters on Wednesday that the aim of the change is to focus on assets related to criminal activity. ‘It's not about taking assets from innocent people,’ Rosenstein said. ‘It's about taking assets that are the proceeds of […] criminal activity, primarily drug dealing.’”
Postal Service broke law by letting employees do Clinton campaign work - Fox News
Trump administration unveils new Iran sanctions - The Hill
Trump's voter fraud commission meeting for the first time - AP
“You can’t bite the hand that feeds you, but he [Don Jr.] can’t wait for these four years to be over.” – A close friend of the president’s eldest son tells People in an interview.
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BBC: “On Monday morning staff at a US polymer manufacturer arrived at work to discover a break-in. The doors had been smashed, glass littering the floor. Police were called. When staff at Argonics Inc's Colorado office realised nothing had been taken they reviewed CCTV footage of the doors. The suspect had not even bothered to cover their face. Plus, unusually, protruding from that face were long horns - a rogue goat was behind the damage. … ‘Our office manager arrived at the office on Monday morning and saw the doors were smashed,’ a company spokesperson told the BBC. ... ‘Once the police arrived, he thought to check the camera footage and saw that it was actually the goat.’ What sparked the goat's violent outburst remains unclear, but it hasn't prevented social media users from speculating about the goat's motives.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“But what federalism really wants – I think it encourages and is, I think, enriched by having states try things. Even the things I don't like: assisted suicide started in Oregon, smoking dope started to be legal in Colorado and Washington state, and apparently, at least as of yet, they appear to be doing OK. So maybe you learn the lessons by having states do it. That's a healthy thing.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.