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On the roster: The process is the problem - I’ll Tell You What: Happy birthday to us! - Mooch means more chaos for White House - Top general says Trump trans ban tweets not policy - Ewe-ber
THE PROCESS IS THE PROBLEM
Your cousin Myron has moved to the town just up the road, only an hour’s drive away if there’s no traffic.
You haven’t seen Myron since the unfortunate incident with the cat, the sparklers and the paper tablecloth at the family picnic. It may have been 20 years, but family is family, even if you never liked his mother.
So when he calls with the news of his move, you say, “We should definitely get together.” Tragically, Myron believes you.
And so begins many months of you letting phone calls going to voicemail, ignoring Facebook messages and timing your return communications for moments you know Myron is most likely to be unavailable. You learn the sinking feeling that comes with the sound of a connected call at the other end of the line and a cheerful, “Hey cuz!”
You have done everything you can within the bounds of decency to let Myron know that the last thing you want to do with your Sunday is pack up the family truckster to take your brood up the road to spend it with Myron, his wife, Myra, Myron Jr. and little Mylene. But, as that cat learned so long ago, Myron is not the brightest sparkler in the pack.
You, friends, are the Republicans in Congress and Myron is ObamaCare repeal.
The latest effort for Republicans to try to avoid the campaign promise that served them so well but is now an impossibility goes by the excruciating nickname “skinny repeal,” which sounds like a kelp wrap cellulite treatment sold on late-night television.
Skinny repeal is not repeal. It is not even serious legislation. It is the equivalent of asking a child what he wants for Christmas and him simply handing you the catalogue and saying “all of it.”
The amendment, which is still unseen but described to members and reporters, is not a serious policy proposal. It is a dare. By keeping all of the popular parts of ObamaCare and repealing the means for enforcing and financing those programs, the government would not only dump huge burdens on taxpayers but also wreak havoc on insurance as we know it.
But, in a very Washington way, those selling the measure do so by promising that it will never become law. “Vote for this,” they say, “because it will never happen.”
We most recently saw this argument in full force when the same people urged Republicans to vote for a complete repeal of the law last year. You saw this week how that ended up.
It is not an unreasonable desire for the American people to want their representatives and senators to not vote for legislation they hope doesn’t go into effect. Voters are funny that way…
Tonight we’ll witness the ballyhooed “vote-a-rama,” in which any member can get a vote on any amendment followed by a robust 60-second debate on the subject. This is the legislative equivalent of those baby sea turtles trying to make it into the surf before the birds eat them all. Crunch.
Americans might be forgiven for growing increasingly cynical about the process. This evening will include fake debate on insincerely rendered amendments to a non-existent bill. It is not new in the sense that the legislative process has often been unseemly, but the subject matter tends to make this one a little different.
Democrats failed to keep the public trust in 2009 when they used stunt plays and hidden-ball tricks to advance a piece of legislation as large as ObamaCare. Republicans are compounding that error today.
In truth, the House-passed version of changes to the existing law isn’t a repeal or a replacement in any true sense, nor will be anything that comes out of the Senate, if they actually can find 51 votes tonight.
The goal here for Republican leaders is to first keep primary voters at bay by offering something that could, however tendentiously, be called a repeal and, second, keep alive a vehicle to address the looming disaster in the individual insurance market for 2018.
If lawmakers leveled with voters about what they were really doing, there would rightly be an uproar. Nothing would pass, leaving Republicans to choose between either letting millions face a loss of coverage or unaffordable premiums because of the past failures of the government or, go on bended knee to Democrats looking for help.
Republicans keep arguing that if they don’t pass something, even if it’s bad, that voters will punish them in the next election. What both parties seem to have forgotten is that voters have lately been in the habit of punishing both parties, turn by turn.
Each cycle brings a new low for good governance, and each cycle voters respond by punishing whoever is in charge. It is a race to the bottom in which the republic is the loser every time.
For both parties, the process has become the problem. Even cousin Myron could tell you that.
[Watch Fox: Stay with the Fox News Channel for continuing live coverage of the votes in the Senate, including an 11 pm ET edition of “Special Report with Bret Baier.”]
THE RULEBOOK: GOTTA START SOMEPLACE
“The real scarcity of objects in this country, which may be considered as productive sources of revenue, is a reason peculiar to itself, for not abridging the discretion of the national councils in this respect.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 36
TIME OUT: CLICK BEFORE YOU SQUISH
Atlantic: “The legendary naturalist John Muir once wrote: ‘Whenever I met a new plant, I would sit down beside it for a minute or a day, to make its acquaintance, hear what it had to tell.’ The first step to making an acquaintance is to get a name—and naming nature is not easy. …[Scott] Loarie and his team have developed an app that can help. Known as iNaturalist, it began as a crowdsourced community, where people can upload photos of animals and plants for other users to identify. But a month ago, the team updated the app so that an artificial intelligence now identifies what you’re looking at. In some cases, it’ll nail a particular species—it correctly pegged the dragonfly [Ed Yong] spotted as a slaty skimmer (Libellula incesta). For the butterfly, it was less certain. ‘We’re pretty sure this is in the genus Papilio,’ it offered, before listing ten possible species.”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -18 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.4 points
[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US!
Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of “I’ll Tell You What” and what a year it has been… This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss President Trump's early morning tweets, transgender troops serving in the military and the health care bill in Congress. Plus, Dana shares her new salty snack and Chris makes his recommendations for a visit to “almost heaven,” West Virginia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
MOOCH MEANS MORE CHAOS FOR WHITE HOUSE
Variety: “…Anthony Scaramucci, last night sent out a tweet in which he railed against the ‘felony’ leak of his financial disclosure form. … Scaramucci seemed to be accusing the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, of being the source of the leak. Then Scaramucci deleted the tweet, and in a new tweet said that assumption was ‘wrong!’ … But on Thursday morning, Scaramucci again called out Priebus. He called in to CNN’s ‘New Day’ with Chris Cuomo to again suggest that Priebus may be the leaker. ‘If you want to talk about the chief of staff, we have had odds, we have had differences,’ Scaramucci said. … ‘I don’t know if this is repairable or not, that will be up to the president. But he is the chief of staff. He is responsible for understanding and uncovering and helping me do that inside the White House, which is why I put that tweet out last night.’ ‘If Reince wants to explain he’s not a leaker, let him do that,’ he added.”
Behind the meltdown - Weekly Standard: “Did he have proof that Priebus was the leaker? Philip Rucker, who covers the White House for the Washington Post, tweeted: ‘Tensions between Scaramucci and Priebus are raw as ever, I’m told tonight. There’s a reason Mooch tagged Reince on FBI leak tweet.’ A short time later he added: ‘Some in White House are trying to build a case that Priebus is a leaker—‘a diagram’ charting leaks, per senior official—to show Trump.’ Scaramucci, it seemed, was trying to shoot the king—or at least publicly frame him. And he wasn’t shy about telling others at the White House that he believed Priebus had leaked the documents, though he couldn’t provide evidence to support his claims. Still, Scaramucci vowed to make Priebus pay.”
Major Mooch payday from China still awaiting okay from regulators - Politico: “The investment firm, which Scaramucci founded in 2005, is in the process of being sold to RON Transatlantic and Chinese conglomerate HNA Group. The sale, set in motion in January when Scaramucci was shedding his holdings in anticipation of landing an administration job, has drawn the scrutiny of regulators and is taking longer than expected to close. The interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is examining the deal to ensure that it carries no risk to national security. The panel’s review, which comes amid ramped-up scrutiny of business dealings with China, ultimately can be overruled by President Donald Trump.”
Hullo, luv - The [UK] Telegraph: “[BBC anchor Emily Maitlis] got the first UK interview with Anthony Scaramucci… The new White House employee, who has been in his new job for less than a week, spent the 11-minute interview repeatedly touching Maitlis's hand, gesticulating close to her face and apparently glancing at her chest.”
AIDES TRY TO SAVE TRUMP FROM HIMSELF ON SESSIONS
NYT: “Among those urging Mr. Trump to spare Mr. [Jeff Sessions] have been Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff; Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist; and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, according to officials who asked not to be named describing internal deliberations. For the White House, the attacks on the attorney general have touched off a serious problem on Capitol Hill when it did not need any other headaches. Senate Republicans who almost never link arms in unison against a president from their party formed a cordon around Mr. Sessions, making it clear that they neither concurred with nor would tolerate Mr. Trump’s repeated threats to the attorney general’s tenure. Senate leaders made clear they would block Mr. Trump from replacing Mr. Sessions if he tried to do so during the coming recess.”
Grassley warns Trump: No A.G. replacement this year -
WashEx: “Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, strongly suggested on Wednesday night that he would not allow his panel to consider confirming a replacement this year for Attorney General Jeff Sessions if President Trump were to fire him. ‘Everybody in D.C. [should be] warned that the agenda for the judiciary [committee] is set for rest of 2017,’ Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote on Twitter. ‘Judges first subcabinet 2nd / AG no way,’ he added, with ‘AG’ referring to attorney general.”
Could Trump jam a recess appointment to replace Sessions? Not so fast… - WaPo: “…Trump has been talking privately about how he might replace Sessions and possibly sidestep Senate oversight, four people familiar with the issue said. Two of those people, however, described Trump as musing about the idea rather than outlining a plan of action, and a senior White House official said no action is imminent.”
Ken Starr on Sessions: ‘Mr. President, please cut it out’ - WaPo: “Tweet to your heart’s content, but stop the wildly inappropriate attacks on the attorney general. An honorable man whom I have known since his days as a U.S. attorney in Alabama, Jeff Sessions has recently become your piñata in one of the most outrageous — and profoundly misguided — courses of presidential conduct I have witnessed in five decades in and around the nation’s capital. What you are doing is harmful to your presidency and inimical to our foundational commitment as a free people to the rule of law.”
Kraushaar: Conservative Trump backers get a dose of their own medicine - National Journal: “The political world is going to find out, all over again, that most Republican voters will side with the president—even over Sessions, who provided political credibility to Trump at a critical time during the presidential primaries. Most Trump voters backed him because of his antiestablishment attitude, not his specific policies on immigration and trade. In the heat of the Sessions scandal, Trump continued to draw adoring fans in his Rust Belt base who could care less about his shabby treatment of the attorney general. Reporter Salena Zito, who has been chronicling blue-collar voter sentiment, wrote that Trump received a “hero’s welcome” in Youngstown, Ohio on Tuesday.”
The Judge’s Ruling: The case against Sessions - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano slams the attorney general: “The president is frustrated because he wants to do what he was elected to do. Instead, the DOJ's lethargy and the independent counsel's zeal have him at bay.” More here.
Adios: Sessions to El Salvador - AP: “With his future as the nation’s top prosecutor in doubt after a week of blistering public scorn from the president, Attorney General Jeff Sessions flew to El Salvador Thursday seeking ways to stamp out the brutal street gang MS-13. As the Trump administration tries to build support for its crackdown on illegal immigration, it has increasingly tried to make the gang with Central American ties the face of the problem. Recent killings tied to its members have stoked the national debate on immigration.”
[Watch Fox: Tucker Carlson joins Sessions on his trip to Central America for an exclusive interview with the embattled attorney general. Watch “Tucker Carlson Tonight” at 8 pm ET.]
Stay swagin’ - “One of the worst things you can do to President Trump is to show insecurity. Sessions showed that. Reince has showed that.” – Senior administration official, talking to Fox News colleague Doug McKelway.
PUTIN FOE CALLS OUT U.S. ENABLERS
Business Insider: “A fierce but muted battle erupted last year between banker-turned human rights activist Bill Browder and the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which produced the explosive, unverified dossier that detailed President Donald Trump's alleged ties to and escapades in Russia. The feud escalated dramatically earlier this month, when news broke of a meeting between the president's son and a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya, who at the time was lobbying to repeal the law known as the Magnitsky Act. Veselnitskaya's relationship with Fusion's cofounder, Glenn Simpson, has been scrutinized by reporters trying to understand who she is, who she works for, and who works for her. The reporters have had help from Browder, who is known both for spearheading the Magnitsky Act through Congress in 2012 and his willingness to speak to the press.”
[You can read Browder’s gripping testimony for the Senate courtesy of The Atlantic.]
Congress set to squeeze Trump on Russia sanctions - Roll Call: “A bill to provide for new sanctions against three adversaries of the United States will be making its way to President Donald Trump’s desk before the August recess, after all. House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement late Wednesday to get the sanctions legislation against Iran, Russia and North Korea through the Senate without further amendment, avoiding a potential clash with the House.”
Mooch threatens veto - Roll Call: “President Donald Trump might veto a House-passed measure that would slap new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea so he can ‘negotiate’ tougher penalties against Moscow, says incoming White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.”
TOP GENERAL SAYS TRUMP TRANS BAN TWEETS NOT POLICY
AP: “The nation’s top military officer says U.S. policy on transgender individuals serving in uniform has not — and will not — change until Defense Secretary Jim Mattis receives the president’s policy direction and Mattis determines how to implement it. Gen. Joseph Dunford is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dunford made the statement in a note Thursday to all service chiefs, commanders and enlisted military leaders. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the note. Dunford is responding to Trump's announcement on Twitter Wednesday that the government will not allow or accept transgender people in the military ‘in any capacity.’ Dunford says that for now, ‘we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.’”
Trump’s attempted ban exceeded demands of social conservatives - AP: “Trump's tweets announcing the ban came as the administration and House GOP leaders were trying to work out a problem involving medical costs for service members seeking to transition to another gender while serving in the military, an issue that had created problems for a sweeping spending bill. Social conservatives, led by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., were pressing for an amendment to the spending bill blocking funding for such costs, including reassignment surgery. The House narrowly defeated Hartzler's measure last week, yet she and other conservatives were trying to revive it. … According to a senior Republican aide, House leaders were taken by surprise when Trump announced the broader ban; they had been pressing for a more narrow response.
White House threatens Alaska energy jobs over Murkowski vote - NY Post
Will GOP buy Bannon’s call for mega-tax on multi-millionaires - Bloomberg
Read this: Dana Perino’s advice for Sarah Huckabee Sanders, from one female press secretary to another - Fox News
AUDIBLE: NOT EVEN SOPPRESSATA
“I’ll be on it like a hobo on a ham sandwich.” – Sen. John Kennedy R-La., talking to reporters about proposed legislation from GOP leaders on health insurance.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“First let me say how much I look forward to reading your daily observations....and your wit. Help me see the light. A Democratic passed bill (ACA) is failing miserably and the Democrats are doing NOTHING, unless you count endless criticism, to help fix this catastrophe. Now, my question: why hasn't the GOP pointed out how uncooperative they have been in fixing the mess that THEY passed and how it's costing Americans every day... either out of their own pocket or in tax dollars being wasted to prop up the insurance industry. Every day they should loudly make this point.” – Michael Johnston, Humble, Texas
[Ed. note: With all the humility due in answering such a good question from a resident of Humble, Texas, I would suggest, Mr. Johnson, that they talk about it all the time. The president mentions it in every speech, press conference and interview. It is front and center in all the remarks made by Mitch McConnell and a permanent fixture in all GOP talking points. The problem is that Democrats learned too well the lesson from Republicans in the era of Obama. Voters did not punish the GOP for maximal obstruction of the 44th president’s agenda. Instead, they were rewarded. Democrats no doubt hope to obtain a similar result in 2018 and beyond.]
“President Trump appointed his attorney general. If he wants to remove him, he has the power to do so unilaterally. How could it be in his best interest to publicly badger and humiliate him? It does not seem to benefit his administration in any way. He is a businessman by experience - where is the profit?” – Randy Lariscy, Marietta, Ga.
[Ed. note: In the worst telling for the president, it is simply that he is not in control of himself. That’s sad and unsettling to think of. As you rightly point out, humiliating a senior cabinet official just for the sake of being cruel is an irrational act and would raise serious questions about the president’s temperament. The other possibility is less disturbing but more sinister: That Trump wants to force Sessions to resign so that Trump can try to force through an appointee who would kill the investigation into Trump’s own campaign. Having been burned by firing James Comey, Trump would be instead trying to force Sessions to pull the trigger himself so that it could not be said that the president had fired two people to end the probe that cover his conduct and that of his subordinates.]
“I was just wondering if there was any legal reason why Jeff Sessions could not resign as AG and then run in the Alabama Special Election in December to fill his Senate seat. Or has the filing deadline passed? How about write in? There just has to be a way to keep this good man around. He is getting a raw deal from DJT.” – Rick Gilbert, Viera, Fla.
[Ed. note: Well, you’re not the only one to have that idea, Mr. Gilbert. Rep. Mo Brooks R-Ala., who is running in the primary for the remainder of Sessions’ term, agrees with you. Brooks has proposed that if all nine of the candidates in the Republican race, including Brooks himself and sitting Sen. Luther Strange, appointed as an interim after Sessions departure, agree to drop out it would clear the way for Sessions to win the Republican nomination and, Alabama being Alabama, reclaim his seat in December. This smacks of something of a stunt for Brooks, but maybe an effective one. Sessions is very popular in the Yellowhammer State and Strange has been running as an absolute rubberstamp for Trump, who is also popular in Alabama. By taking Sessions’ side in the fight Brooks puts Strange in something of an awkward position.]
“Hi Chris, Am curious about when each of ‘the seven’ Senators who voted against [a measure to repeal ObamaCare two years from now] are up for reelection?” – Hope Councill, Chapel Hill, N.C.
[Ed. note: We don’t know who would or wouldn’t run for re-election, but here are the ending years for the terms of those seven senators: Rob Portman, R-Ohio, 2022; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, 2022; John McCain, R-Ariz., 2022; Lamar Alexander R-Tenn., 2020; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., 2020; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., 2020; Susan Collins, R-Maine, 2020; and Dean Heller, R-Nev., is running for re-election next year.]
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HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
AP: “It was a woolly ride, but three wild rabbits managed to escape rising floodwaters in New Zealand by clambering aboard sheep and surfing to safety on their backs. Ferg Horne, 64, … was trudging through pelting rain to rescue a neighbor's 40 sheep from the floodwaters on Saturday at their South Island farm near Dunedin when he spotted some dark shapes from a distance. … Then he saw the bedraggled rabbits hitching a ride — two on one sheep and a third on another sheep. … He said the rabbits looked like they'd gotten wet but seemed quite comfortable and relaxed atop their mounts. Rabbits are considered a pest to farmers in New Zealand, and Horne said that typically when he sees one, he shoots it. ‘But they'd showed so much initiative, I thought they deserved to live, those rabbits,’ he said.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“You don’t release a policy like this and make a reversal without having an answer to the simple questions, such as are you going to withdraw people right now in the field who are transgender. It’s like the release of the executive order on immigration where they had no answer on what do you do with the person with the green card... This is not how you run a railroad no matter how you feel about the underlying issue. This is really bizarre.” –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.