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On the roster: Trump keeps up campaign against his attorney general -Manafort cooperating in Russia probe - Senate GOP looks for ‘political punt’ on ObamaCare - Trump seeks to discharge thousands of trans troops - Check the shed for a Picasso
TRUMP KEEPS UP CAMPAIGN AGAINST HIS ATTORNEY GENERAL
WaPo: “President Trump renewed his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday, questioning on Twitter why the top U.S. law enforcement official had not replaced the acting FBI director – a move that Trump himself has the authority to do. In two tweets just before 10 a.m., Trump wrote, ‘Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars ($700,000) for his wife’s political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!’ Trump has for days been attacking his attorney general, and he has similarly been critical of McCabe, who took over as the acting director of the FBI after Trump fired James B. Comey. But his latest attack is curious.”
Peace offering? Sessions to unveil results of leak probe - Fox News colleague Jake Gibson has the story. Fox News: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions will soon announce several criminal leak investigations, Fox News has learned. A U.S. official familiar with the discussions said Tuesday that the planned announcement surrounding stepped-up efforts on leak investigations has ‘been in the works for some time and will most likely happen sometime in the next week.’ … The investigations will look at news reports that publicized sensitive intelligence material, according to officials who have been briefed on the matter.”
Trump, Sessions said to not be on speaking terms - Politico: “Donald Trump is playing an elaborate game of chicken with Jeff Sessions. And they are not on speaking terms. Sessions has sent word to the White House that he has no plans to resign and wants to stay as attorney general even amid daily humiliation from the boss, according to two people familiar with his thinking. But he hasn't told Trump that himself.”
Tillerson ‘taking a little time off’ but not resigning - The Hill: “State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert flatly denied rumors on Tuesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is planning his departure from the agency but noted that he serves ‘at the pleasure of the president.’”
Jonah Goldberg: Conservatives face harsh reality in Trump v. Sessions - National Review: “…there was a time when the case for Trump among many conservatives rested to a significant degree on Sessions’s support for him. Now, the case against Sessions rests entirely on Trump’s lack of support for the attorney general. Sessions, for good or ill, has not changed. The only thing that’s changed is Trump’s ‘interests.’ I put interests in quotes because I think, objectively speaking, it is not in his interest to fire Sessions or force him to quit.”
Nate Silver: Sessions firing would set up collision with Congress -FiveThirtyEight: “President Trump’s outburst against Attorney General Jeff Sessions might be the event that forces a confrontation with congressional Republicans over the Russia scandal. If Sessions is fired or resigns under pressure, the Senate will have to confirm his replacement. And if Trump nominates as Sessions’s successor someone such as Rudy Giuliani, who is seen by some as insufficiently independent from Trump or as likely to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the moment may finally be upon Republicans in Congress to signal how far they’re willing to go to check Trump’s powers.”
MANAFORT COOPERATING IN RUSSIA PROBE
LAT: “President Trump’s former campaign chairman will not be testifying [today] before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as originally scheduled, after the committee rescinded its subpoena. The committee withdrew its subpoena for Paul Manafort late Tuesday after Manafort agreed to turn over documents and to continue negotiating about setting up an interview with the panel… The committee also removed Donald Trump Jr. from the list of witnesses scheduled for Wednesday's public hearing. … On Tuesday, Manafort met with Senate Intelligence Committee staff, providing his recollection of [a meeting arranged with Russian operatives by Trump Jr.] and agreeing to turn over contemporaneous notes of the gathering last year, according to people familiar with the closed-door interview.”
Dems delay hearing for Putin foe - Fox News: “Bill Browder, the CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital, was set to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee that the co-founder of the firm Fusion GPS was hired to conduct a ‘smear campaign’ against him. Further, he planned to testify the campaign was orchestrated by Natalia Veselnitskaya-- the Russian attorney who sought the highly scrutinized Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort in June 2016. Browder released written testimony ahead of the hearing but his public remarks were delayed when Democrats invoked the ‘two-hour rule’ to protest Republican efforts to repeal ObamaCare. The seldom-used rule bars committees from meeting more than two hours after the full Senate begins a session. Browder now is expected to testify Thursday…”
Co-founder of firm tied to Trump dossier agrees to speak to Senate panel - The Hill: “The co-founder of the firm tied to the controversial opposition research dossier on President Trump has agreed to speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee behind closed doors, the top lawmakers on the panel said Tuesday. In exchange for the interview, the committee will drop its subpoena of Glenn Simpson, co-founder of the Washington-based strategy firm Fusion GPS. The subpoena was issued last week after Simpson declined the committee's request to appear before lawmakers in a public hearing.”
Russia warns of ‘painful’ response if Trump signs U.S. sanctions - Bloomberg: “Russia threatened to retaliate against new sanctions passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, saying they made it all but impossible to achieve the Trump administration’s goal of improved relations. The measures push U.S.-Russia ties into uncharted territory and ‘don’t leave room for the normalization of relations’ in the foreseeable future, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday, according to the Interfax news service.”
THE RULEBOOK: HI, GUYS!
“There are appearances to authorize a supposition that the adventurous spirit, which distinguishes the commercial character of America, has already excited uneasy sensations in several of the maritime powers of Europe.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 11
TIME OUT: GHOST STORY
Writer Carson Vaughan considers the work of a rediscovered frontier photographer. Paris Review: “My grandparents lived in a massive two-story home with creaking pinewood floors and lace curtains that hung like ghosts from the windows. … But it’s the second floor hallway that still crops up in my dreams. My distant relatives lingered on that floor, hanging from the burgundy walls in black and white. None of them smiled. They never slept. They stared at me. They sat upright in wooden chairs in front of their soddies, surrounded by the trappings of their frontier existence… Their lives seemed tiny and brutally sincere, swallowed by the grass and sand of Custer County, Nebraska, a land so vast and so empty it appears often dimensionless in the photos. … I don’t remember any formal introduction to the pioneer photographer Solomon D. Butcher… In fact, for the longest time, I didn’t consider the guiding hand behind these photos at all. They just were.”
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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.]
SENATE GOP LOOKS FOR ‘POLITICAL PUNT’ ON OBAMACARE
Politico: “Now the Senate GOP is aiming for what Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price called the ‘lowest common denominator’ as its likely end game: repealing Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates as well as its tax on medical devices. Though the contents of that so-called ‘skinny repeal’ could still change, but those three elements may be all the Senate can pass at this point. Sen. Lindsey Graham(R-S.C.) on Tuesday called the possibility of a skeletal plan a ‘political punt,’ but it may be that that can clear the narrowly divided chamber.”
Narrow path for passage after procedural victory - WaPo: “Senators will next cast an up-or-down vote on whether to completely repeal Obamacare. The vote could come as early as today. It will fail. The only question is how many Republicans vote against it. Two years ago, all but one of them voted for the identical measure — when they knew that it was only for show and Barack Obama would veto it. It’s hard to overstate the degree to which White House officials and Senate GOP leaders just want to pass something — really, anything — to show the base that they are keeping their promise to roll back Obamacare.”
Trump targets Murkowski - Roll Call: “President Donald Trump attacked Sen. Lisa Murkowski early Wednesday after her vote Tuesday against a motion to proceed on repealing the 2010 health care law. Trump tweeted that it was ‘too bad’ that Murkowski, ‘really let Republicans, and our country down yesterday.’ Murkowski, along with Maine Sen. Susan Collins, was one of two Republicans who voted against a motion to proceed to allowed debate on repealing the health law signed by former President
Barack Obama. Murkowski and Collins were also among nine Republicans who voted against the Better Care Reconciliation Act Tuesday night. Murkowski has been a frequent critic of Senate GOP leadership’s attempts to repeal Obamacare without a replacement.”
Alaskan unimpressed: ‘How about doing a little governing around here?’ - Courtesy of Sally Persons at the WashTimes: “Sen. Lisa Murkowski criticized her colleagues for positioning their vote on health care in terms of an electoral prospects. ‘I am in a position where I’m not looking for a re-election until 2022. And quite honestly, I don’t think it’s wise to be operating on a daily basis thinking about what a statement, or a response that causes you to be fearful of your electoral prospects,’ Ms. Murkowski, Alaska Republican, told MSNBC.”
TRUMP SEEKS TO DISCHARGE THOUSANDS OF TRANS TROOPS
Fox News: “President Trump tweeted Wednesday that the U.S. government will not allow transgender people ‘to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.’ … The president’s tweets came only a few weeks after Defense Secretary James Mattis said he would give military chiefs another six months to conduct a review to determine if allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the armed services will affect the ‘readiness or lethality’ of the force. The deadline for that review was Dec. 1, 2017. … ‘Frankly, senator, I’ve never cared much about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with,’ Mattis testified [during his confirmation hearing in January]. The Pentagon has refused to release any data on the number of transgender troops currently serving. A RAND study found that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members in the active-duty military, and another 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves.”
How much do transgender troops cost taxpayers? - WaPo: “On Twitter this morning, President Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military, citing ‘medical costs’ as the primary driver of the decision. …Considering the prevalence of transgender service members among the active duty military and the typical health-care costs for gender-transition-related medical treatment, the Rand study estimated that these treatments would cost the military between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually. … By contrast, total military spending on erectile dysfunction medicines amounts to $84 million annually, according to an analysis by the Military Times… The military spends $41.6 million annually on Viagra alone, according to the Military Times analysis – roughly five times the estimated spending on transition-related medical care for transgender troops.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ AIDE NABBED TRYING TO FLEE U.S.
Politico: “Imran Awan, a House staffer at the center of a criminal investigation potentially impacting dozens of Democratic lawmakers, has been arrested on bank fraud and is prevented from leaving the country while the charges are pending. A senior House Democratic aide confirmed Awan was still employed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as of Tuesday morning. But David Damron, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, later said that Awan was fired on Tuesday. Awan pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to one count of bank fraud during his arraignment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. … Awan was arrested at Dulles Airport on Monday evening before boarding a flight to Lahore, Pakistan. … Awan, a longtime IT staffer who worked for more than two dozen House Democrats, has been at the center of a criminal investigation on Capitol Hill for months related to procurement theft.”
Afghan mineral wealth figures into Trump’s strategy - NYT
Wasserman Schultz aide arrested trying to leave the country - Politico
New ethics boss takes a more relaxed view on conflicts of interest - NYT
Newly declassified memos detail extent of improper Obama-era NSA spying - The Hill
McAuliffe, Pelosi weekend travel to promote governor races as ‘future of the party’ - USA Today
Oops: Perry duped by Russian comedian posing as Ukranian leader - Reuters
AUDIBLE: WHEN YOU’RE A JET…
“I’m a front stabber.” – White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci speaking to Fox News about how his approach differs from Washington’s penchant for backstabbing.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“As an American, Navy veteran, and Republican have the utmost respect for Senator John McCain. Charles' commentary is spot on. A true colleague would have saved Senator McCain the arduous journey to Washington and instead had voted in his stead. I cannot think of a more powerful statement of small ‘r’ republicanism then a democratic senator rising to speak on Senator McCain's behalf. Fortunately, Senator McCain arrived without harm to delivery his eloquent petition for decorum and civility to world's greatest deliberative body.” – Dan Burch, Turlock, Calif.
[Ed. note: Hear, hear, Mr. Burch!]
“Your scoreboard has become out-of-date and irrelevant. [Tuesday’s] board shows Trump's ‘net approval’ as ‘down 18.4 points,’ which is a ‘-0.8 point change from a week ago.’ These numbers are only meaningful if you have a starting point from which to compare the new numbers. Down 18.4 from what? Sorry . . . but our 24/7 news cycle makes it impossible to remember the headlines from two days ago, much less approval ratings from six months ago. This seems like the kind of gimmicky, agenda-driven tactic I’ve come to expect from the mainstream media, not from the straight-forward, hard-hitting Chris Stirewalt that we all know and love (well . . . most of us, anyway!). How about just showing what his actual approval rating is and, if you feel context is needed, contrast it with his approval rating on Inauguration Day. Then, trust us to do the math!” – Fred MacDonald, Lake Arthur, N.M.
[Ed. note: You have convinced me, Mr. MacDonald! Our Scoreboard does need more context. But an approval number by itself doesn’t say enough, since it fails to factor in the strength of opposition. A president with a 45 percent job approval rating who only had 30 percent of the country disapproving of his performance would be in a far different position politically than one facing 55 percent disapproval. So I’m going to stick with a single metric that takes both numbers into account. But, as you saw above, that explanatory text will appear in each subsequent addition of this note (until we think of a better option). It shall henceforth be known as the MacDonald Rule. Thanks for reading and taking the time to write.]
“What is the history and purpose of the August Recess? Why when there is so much unfinished business would our law makers leave Washington for an extended period of time? I hope it’s not as simple as they believe they have earned a vacation.” – Jim Hain, Omaha, Neb.
[Ed. note: Congressional recesses are funny things, Mr. Hain. On the one hand, American’s want their lawmakers to be in touch with reality and the voices of their constituents. On the other hand, we want them to be diligent in executing their duties. I tend to generally agree with Gideon Tucker, who famously wrote, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe when the legislature is in session,” but I also understand the frustration among those who feel like there is so much work to be done that no relief should be afforded to lawmakers. In truth, though, there isn’t much to vote on just now. September will be a hellscape in Congress as a pile of must-pass legislation comes before members. Them spending two extra weeks eating peanuts and annoying their staffs won’t do anything to make that easier. In fact, one could argue, that going home and hearing from their constituents will do far more to produce results than sitting here and breathing that swampy Potomac air.]
“Trump should appoint a team of health care knowledgeable Senators and Congressmen (perhaps 5 Republicans and 4 Democrats) and tell them to come up with a Bill that will pass and satisfy the few strong objections of the current bills, mandates, high costs, excessive coverage, uncontrolled Medicaid expenses, etc. A Simpson/Bowles approach might work. BTW, it is time to revisit the proposals of Simpson/Bowles!” – Dixon Johnston,
[Ed. note: Your idea is an interesting one! But that only could work if the Congress first voted to repeal the existing law. I can imagine a scenario in which a blue-ribbon commission could do something quite interesting in advance of a deadline for repeal. The issue now, though, is that there is too little time to fashion a comprehensive solution before insurance rates are set for next year. What Congress is doing right now is, essentially, keeping an empty shell of legislation in motion that can be filled with whatever policy for propping up the individual insurance market that could pass in September. I suspect the hope of the White House and Congressional leaders is that whatever ball of chewing gum and baling wire that would end up passing could, however speciously, be called “repeal and replace” and then just forget the whole thing.]
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CHECK THE SHED FOR A PICASSO
The Guardian: “The rock star Alice Cooper has found an Andy Warhol masterpiece that could be worth millions ‘rolled up in a tube’ in a storage locker, where it lay forgotten for more than 40 years. … According to Shep Gordon, the singer’s longtime manager, Cooper and Warhol became friends at the famous Max’s Kansas City venue in New York City. ‘…At the time Alice is making two albums a year and touring the rest of the time. It was a rock’n’roll time, none of us thought about anything. He ends up going into an insane asylum for his drinking and then leaves New York for LA,’ [Gordon said.] … Then, four years ago, Gordon was having dinner with a Los Angeles art dealer [who] mentioned how much a Warhol had recently fetched at auction [$11.6 million]. ‘Alice’s mother remembered it going into storage,’ he said. ‘So we went and found it rolled up in a tube.’”
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.