Thursday, July 27, 2017


"This is not okay"
Leaders are expected to speak truthfully to their citizens. They respect the essential nonpartisan nature of law enforcement and the military and key civic organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America. They show respect, too, for the political opposition. To list those basic expectations is to understand how low Mr. Trump is bringing his office. Just in the past few days, he urged Navy men and women to call Congress on behalf of his political goals and turned the National Scout Jamboree into an unseemly political rally, calling the nation’s politics a “cesspool” and a “sewer” and disparaging his predecessor and the media. Routinely he trades in untruths, even after they have been exposed and disproved. He has launched an unprecedented rhetorical assault on the independence of the Justice Department, the FBI and the special counsel’s office — and now he is again threatening his defeated 2016 opponent. . . . 

Anthony Scaramucci is gradually moving into a much more powerful position than just Communications Director -- and trampling on Chief of Staff Reince Priebus's turf in the process  

Scaramucci said Washington is full of backstabbers, but “I’m more of a front stabbing person” 

BREAKING NEWS: The Mooch makes his move
At his first briefing as White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci tried to dispel the rumors that he’s engaged in a longtime feud with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus . . . On Wednesday night, Scaramucci roughed up his old pal by tagging him in a tweet calling for an FBI investigation into the leaking of his financial disclosure. . . . [read on] 

Republicans tell Trump, don't you dare fire Jeff Sessions

Another tale in the asymmetrical nature of Trump's view of "loyalty." Sessions endorsed him for president and helped give him legitimacy when most establishment Repubs thought he was a joke. But now Trump says this was just poor desperate Sessions trying to ride on HIS coat tails

Toobin didn't hold back. "It's just a total lie," he said. "Whatever you think of Jeff Sessions, he did take a political risk. He was the first senator to endorse Donald Trump. He didn't do it because there were 40,000 people there," he emphasized. "Jeff Sessions had perhaps the safest seat in the United States. He has been an extremely loyal supporter and someone who has advanced the president's policy agenda more than just about any other cabinet member, limiting civil rights, voting rights. You can argue about whether this is a good thing. It's certainly the Trump agenda. "What it's all about is Russia and how fixated the president is on the unfairness he perceives of this investigation and he blames Sessions for it. Policy doesn't matter. The personal matters."

[NB: Beleaguered president wants to fire his AG, but is afraid to do so. Very weak!]

Not that we're trying to defend Sessions
Sessions Announces New DOJ Rules Cracking Down On Sanctuary Cities

Sessions To Announce Criminal Investigations Into Intel Leaks

[NB: Is this enough to get Trump off his back?]

Let's review: Trump has attacked the current AG, the current Deputy AG, he fired the former director of the FBI and is attacking the current acting director of the FBI, and he is attacking the Special Counsel (who he has also threatened to fire) and his investigative staff, all career pros with impeccable reputations. Hmmm . . . maybe there is some factor in common that explains these unprecedented attacks on an independent Justice Dept. Any guesses?
More: a sitting president accuses the acting director of the FBI of corruption, without proof, that's pretty extraordinary. . . .  

[NB:Trump is in a terrible position. He is acting like someone who realizes that the Russia investigation is going to go very badly for him. His options for trying to directly stop the investigation are very limited, and would certainly trigger impeachment talk over obstruction of justice. So he needs a friendly AG to do this for him -- but Sessions can't intervene because of his recusal. And the longer the investigation goes on the harder it will be to stop it or limit its scope. For all Trump's talk about being "disappointed" in Sessions, etc, this is the actual driver of his anxieties. To my mind the question isn't how he feels about Sessions or the nature of their relationship -- it's that he is frantic to get this investigation behind him.]

Another health care bill bites the dust
After a wave of Republican defections Tuesday night tanked the Senate GOP’s main Obamacare replacement plan, the Senate held a vote Wednesday morning on bill to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act but delay its effect until 2020 to allow time to cobble together a replacement.  That vote similarly failed, 45 to 55. Seven Republicans joined with every single Democrat to defeat the bill: Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), John McCain (R-AZ), Dean Heller (R-NV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rob Portman (R-OH) all voted no. . . . [read on]

Now it looks like it's all up to "Skinny Repeal" -- a terrible idea
Increasingly, what McConnell is eyeing for a final product appears to be a bare minimum of changes to Obamacare—the so-called “skinny repeal” option in which Republicans would simply scrap the law’s insurance mandates for individuals and employers as well as its medical device tax. Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, all but confirmed the new strategy in an appearance on CNBC Wednesday morning. “What we need to do in the Senate is figure out what the lowest common denominator is, what gets us to 50 votes so that we can move forward on health care reform,” he said.  The goal of passing a “skinny repeal” through the Senate would be to set up a conference committee in the House. And some Republicans, including Heller, appear to be warming to the idea. But others like Graham have called it for what it is—“a political punt.” The upside of the plan would be to keep the health-care plan alive and allow senators to say they voted to repeal at least some of Obamacare. But it would not bring Republicans much closer to a workable policy, and because of the complex rules for budget reconciliation, a conference committee with the House would have no guarantee of producing a compromise that could pass both chambers without Democratic votes. . . .
The losers of a skinny repeal bill, should it pass, are the middle-income Americans who purchase coverage on the individual market. . . . Repealing the requirement that all Americans purchase insurance would cause premiums to rise 20 percent, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. The nonpartisan office projected that 15 million fewer Americans would have coverage when it analyzed a bill very similar to skinny repeal in 2015. “Eliminating the mandate would likely result in lower coverage rates in the individual market and a deterioration of the risk pool,” the American Academy of Actuaries projects. “Premiums would increase as a result.” This has the potential to wreak havoc on the individual market. Insurance plans would be reticent to sell on a marketplace where they have to offer coverage to all applicants, but healthy people have no requirement or incentive to purchase.  . . .

The ‘Skinny Bill’ Is a Farce. Here’s the Real Reason Republicans Are Doing It.
This marks the apparent failure of years of Republican promises
There are two paths forward if Republicans pass “skinny repeal” through the Senate.
But the House is an entirely different matter. In interviews with The Daily Beast, conservatives there say the idea is dead on arrival. “It’s nowhere near repeal. I mean, even the repeal bill isn’t repeal because all the regulations stay in place,” Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), an outspoken member of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus, told The Daily Beast. “People need to get out their Webster’s dictionary and look up the word repeal—and then see if your representative is staying true to their word.” He wasn’t finished. “I mean, what’s a skinny bill?” Brat added. “So we’re talking about controlling one-fifth of a $20 trillion economy. And our new creative idea is a skinny bill. So this is the Fatal Conceit up in the bubble that you can dictate one-fifth of the economy with clever phrases… It’s bizarre.” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, echoed Brat, telling reporters that there is “zero” chance the House would pass the scaled-back repeal. . .
“To think it’s a leap of faith, obviously you have to have 51 votes at the end of [a conference committee] as well,” Sen James Lankford (R-OK) told TPM. “The House is not going to pass it.”  But that’s not a given. There’s no reason to think a conference committee will have any better luck finding a bill that 50 GOP senators and 218 GOP congressmen can support. At that point, there’s a real possibility that whatever the Senate passes would be passed into law by desperate House Republicans before the Senate ever gets to touch it again.  If the Obamacare repeal debate has proven anything, it’s that many GOP lawmakers are a lot more interested in what’s politically possible than what’s good policy. It’s easy to see how passing something, anything, might become the mantra if conference negotiations fall apart, President Trump demands a win while congressional leaders make the “but you promised” argument to reluctant lawmakers. It’s what they’ve been doing from the start.  Senate leaders are already hinting at that prospect. . . .
Texas Sen. John Cornyn freely admits it: the whole strategy guiding the Senate this week is passing any damned thing they can so that they can take it to the House in conference, then cook up whatever they feel like—with a minimum of input from anyone outside of that room. . . .
Bipartisan Group Of Governors Warns Senate Against ‘Skinny Repeal’
Governors Just Blasted ‘Skinny Repeal.’ Could That Cost the GOP a Key Senate Vote?

Bad analogies
Scaramucci Compares O’Care Repeal Effort To Lincoln’s Abolition Of Slavery
Scaramucci says Trump wants health care to work more like the best industries: airlines and telecoms

The charmers of the Trump WH decide (again) that punishing senators and the states they represent is a way of securing support on health care

Trump bans transgender members of the military -- announced by tweet

The military was blindsided by the announcement:
The Pentagon, for their part, did not even know of Trump’s transgender ban decision ahead of time, CNN reported. In a statement, the Pentagon directed all questions relating to the ban to the White House.  “We refer all questions about the President’s statements to the White House,” the statement said. 

No justification:
Trump: allowing transgender military service would hurt combat readiness. Actual research: nope.
Estimates of how many transgender people are already serving in the active military and reserves vary from 2,500 up to around 15,000, but this is really more about rights and principles than numbers. . . .
"It's the most aggressive I've seen Trump wade into culture wars since becoming president — and perhaps his most polarizing decision since the original travel ban . . . Steve Bannon has been agitating on this issue . . . he will love this." . . . "This issue had been quietly burning for months, with social conservative leaders pressing the White House on why it hadn't made a decision on this. Social conservatives and a large part of the base — including many veterans and current serving officers — will be thrilled by the decision. . . ." 

Why he did it
House Republicans were planning to pass a spending bill stacked with his campaign promises, including money to build his border wall with Mexico. But an internal House Republican fight over transgender troops was threatening to blow up the bill. And House GOP insiders feared they might not have the votes to pass the legislation because defense hawks wanted a ban on Pentagon-funded sex reassignment operations — something GOP leaders wouldn’t give them. They turned to Trump, who didn’t hesitate. In the flash of a tweet, he announced that transgender troops would be banned altogether. . . .


What Trump said about LGBT people during the campaign
"Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs." - 14 Jun 2016
Trump promised to be a uniquely pro-LGBTQ Republican. It was total bullshit. 

Conservatives slam Trump's decision
The only Republican lawmakers who have vowed to stand with the transgender community so far are Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), a member of the LGBT Caucus, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). . .
Senate Armed Services Chair McCain: Trump Transgender Decision Inappropriate
Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) pushed back against President Trump’s decision to bar transgender people from serving in the military. . . “America needs a military comprised of patriots willing to sacrifice for this country. Any American who is physically and emotionally qualified should be allowed to serve.”
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) on Wednesday said “everybody” should have “a chance to serve” in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. government will not let transgender individuals serve in the military. . . . 

State Department spokeswoman: Rex Tillerson is “just taking a little time off”

Head of Trump voter suppression committee is fined for pattern of lying

Of course
Trump’s new ethics chief fought against conflict of interest restrictions 

Trump says he will raise taxes on the rich . . . does anybody believe that? 

Senate committee withdraws subpoena for Paul Manafort, reopens negotiations about his testimony

When people start losing confidence in Trump's handling of the economy, we have truly turned a corner

Trump's phony claim that Apple is building three plants in America (all because of him, of course)

Trump's weird idea of a "joke" -- after inviting the audience to endorse him for Mount Rushmore (what kind of leader even THINKS about that?) he then denies that he is suggesting anything

Colonel Sanders starts the press briefing with six minutes that were devoid of content, then almost calls the press briefing to an early halt because she doesn't like the questions
The first six minutes of Wednesday's briefing were an infomercial for the president, carried live on every cable news channel. . .
Sanders Threatens To End Briefing Over Barrage Of Transgender Ban Questions

Bonus item: Here's what Trump's first in a series of tweets about transgender people in the military said: "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow......" The follow-up didn't appear for nine minutes
The Pentagon Thought Trump Was Announcing a War via Twitter

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Six months in, and the Trump gang is already purging disloyalists
Scaramucci Axes First Staffer

According to the Post’s account, ‘disloyal’ in this case mainly means people associated with Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer. Another way of looking at this is that that largely means people who had any professional standing in Washington or politics before Trump took over the GOP. . . .

Six months in, and much of Trump’s Cabinet is already ‘Ready to Bail’
“If [Sessions] can get treated that way, what about the rest of us?” one of the President’s Cabinet secretaries asked me with both shock and anger in his voice. I am told reports about Rex Tillerson (not who I talked to) are legitimate. He is quite perturbed with the President’s treatment of his Attorney General and is ready to quit. Secretary Mattis (also not who I talked to) is also bothered by it. They and other Cabinet members are already frustrated by the slow pace of appointments for their staffs, the vetoes over qualified people for not being sufficiently pro-Trump, and the Senate confirmation pace. In fact, the Cabinet secretary I talked to raised the issue of the White House staff vetoes over loyalty, blasting the White House staff for blocking qualified people of like mind because they were not pro-Trump and now the President is ready to fire the most loyal of all the Cabinet members. “It’s more of a clusterf**k than you even know,” the Cabinet secretary tells me about dealing with the White House on policy. It is not just Tillerson ready to bail.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson planned to last at least through the end of the year as the nation’s top diplomat, but that goal has grown increasingly bleak . . . Tillerson, however, is not alone in his annoyance with the White House. Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster “was frustrated by what he sees as disorganization and indiscipline on key policy issues inside the White House,” according to Reuters. McMaster “was dismayed that his recommendations, backed by his senior director for Russia, Fiona Hill, about taking a tough stance with Russian President Vladimir Putin, had been ignored,” Reuters reported. 

Six months in, and Trump is trying to get his Attorney General to quit, humiliating and undermining him every day. But he doesn't want the next headline to be "Trump Fires Attorney General"

Making Sessions' life hell:
The Strange, Slow-Motion Defenestration of Jeff Sessions
Tuesday morning on Fox & Friends, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that President Donald Trump is “frustrated and disappointed” by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the ongoing investigation into whether Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia — and that the president’s “frustration certainly hasn’t gone away, and I don’t think it will.”
Scaramucci: 'You’re Probably Right,' Trump Wants Sessions Out
Trump Won’t Say if He’ll Fire Sessions
“I’m very disappointed with the attorney general, but we will see what happens, time will tell. Time will tell” . . .
I asked two ppl close to Trump why he is tormenting Sessions instead of firing him. The answer from both, paraphrased: Because he can.

Sessions is pissed, and won't go along:
Said one ally: “Sessions is totally pissed off about it. It’s beyond insane. It’s cruel and it’s insane and it’s stupid.”
Sessions Reportedly Signaled He Won’t Resign But Hasn’t Spoken To Trump
Breitbart, conservatives, are ready to go to the mat for Jeff Sessions — and turn on Donald Trump  
Conservative Lawyers In Shock At Trump Attacks On Sessions: ‘Just Plain Nuts’
Looks like the Senate Dems won't allow a recess appointment to replace Sessions, if it comes to that
In a truly bizarre perversion of the legislative process, the Senate votes to begin debate on a health care bill -- but what bill?
After high drama in the Senate beginning with protesters in the galleries shouting "Kill the Bill!" and being ejected, they proceeded to a vote to open debate on repealing Obamacare without knowing what was in the bill or what the actual outcome of the bill might be.  . . . What now? They'll vote on all the outstanding bills -- the BCRA and the House bill, as well as the 2015 repeal bill. Then they'll move to a "skinny repeal" bill, which is essentially those things upon which they agree - repealing the mandates and the device tax.  And then the fun begins, as they decide how to gut the ACA with amendments.
The plan emerging in the hours before the successful vote was for the Senate to vote in the days to come on competing repeal-and-replace plans which lack the votes for passage, before ultimately landing on what is unfortunately being termed “skinny repeal.” The idea is to pass the barest of repeal bills through the Senate in hopes of sending the repeal effort to a conference committee with the House-passed replacement bill, where a final deal can be hashed. . . .

What the hell is "Skinny Repeal"?
Senate Republican have come up with a last-second idea to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which some have dubbed “skinny repeal.” The proposal would get rid of the most unpopular part of Obamacare — the individual mandate — while doing little else. . . .  It would likely destroy the individual market, in a process health care experts call the “death spiral.” . . .

A litany of broken promises

OK, so -- what next? And how can the Dems use the amendment process to make the GOP's lives miserable?
This is what we expect to happen now, per Senate aides. Remember, timing and order are fluid. But this is a rough outline.
  • Two hours of debate on the clean (partial) Obamacare repeal bill.
  • Two hours of debate on the repeal-and-replace plan that Republicans have been working on since May.
  • Vote on the repeal-and-replace bill. Because of some last-minute changes to the legislation, it is expected to require 60 votes. That would demand Democratic support, which will never happen, so it looks likely fail.
  • Vote on clean (partial) repeal bill. It would need 51 votes, but it is expected to fail as well because too many Republicans are opposed to repealing without a replacement.
  • 20 hours of debate on the Senate floor. That is floor time, not real time, so those 20 hours could take a couple of days. Democrats and Republicans will take turns making speeches about health care. Democrats can use certain tactics — like asking for a full bill to be read out loud — to make the process more painful.
  • Vote-a-rama. This is a lengthy series of amendments offered by Republicans and Democrats to amend the bill. Amendments must be considered relevant to health care, and they need 51 votes to be approved. They would technically be amendments to the House bill, if the previous two Senate bills have already failed or not been voted on yet.
  • Final bill. McConnell will eventually offer a final substitute, encompassing the actual plan that Senate Republicans want to pass. This could be the "skinny repeal" plan that surfaced Tuesday morning.
  • Vote on passage. That needs 51 votes to pass. Vice President Mike Pence can break a 50-50 tie.
  • More to come. Stay tuned.
The Dems:
Here’s an early and partial list of amendments currently under consideration, as revealed in conversations with several Democratic aides:
  • A proposal that would eliminate any tax cuts in the bill that would go to the richest 2 percent of Americans;
  • A proposal to ensure that the bill does nothing to reduce the budget of Medicaid;
  • A proposal to prevent any funding cuts in the Republican health bill from hitting rural hospitals;
  • A proposal to prevent any funding cuts from deepening the opioid crisis;
  • A proposal to advance reinsurance, which would give states federal money to give insurers funding for their most expensive, high-cost enrollees;
  • A proposal to say that nobody with cancer or diabetes can be harmed by the Republican bill.
One down
After pushing through—on a narrow, party-line vote—a motion to proceed to debating various plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday afternoon, Republicans brought their first plan up for a vote late Tuesday night, only to watch it fail 43 to 57 in a procedural vote. Nine Republicans joined with Democrats to kill the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA): Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Rand Paul (R-KY), Bob Corker (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Dean Heller (R-NV). Scathingly dubbed “Trumpcare 3.0” by Democrats, the bill was the Senate’s stab at crafting a replacement of the Affordable Care Act. It would have gutted more than $700 billion from Medicaid and sharply cut the tax credits available for low income people to buy health insurance. The bill included a controversial provision drafted by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would allow insurers to offer plans off of Obamacare’s exchanges that don’t cover basic care like doctor’s visits and prescription drugs. 

McCain is now a "hero" to Trump
Donald Trump now calls John McCain a “hero” — because he’s doing what Trump wants
Back in July 2015: “He’s not a war hero,” Trump told an audience during a Republican presidential forum. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Hmmm . . .
Returning to the Senate floor after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) struck a harshly dissonant chord on Tuesday, delivering a charged speech calling for bipartisan cooperation after casting his vote to continue debate on the repeal of Obamacare. The Senate’s Obamacare repeal effort has been shrouded in bitter secrecy and has not received any support from Senate Democrats. McCain spoke from the Senate floor minutes after supporting the “motion to proceed,” a procedural measure to begin debate on repealing Obamacare. . . . . Senate deliberations, McCain said, can be “sincere and principled.” But lately, he said, “they are more partisan, more tribal, more of the time than at any time that I can remember.” “Let’s return to regular order,” he said, though the motion he had just voted to support was described by several congressional reporters as the most unusual, and the most shrouded in secrecy, they had seen in a health care bill in their careers. Strikingly, McCain criticized the legislative approach pursued by Senate Republican leadership and the Trump administration — and that he had voted to support — of seeking votes from just one party.
John McCain Gives Heroic Speech Denouncing Terrible Thing That He Just Voted For

[NB: This is vintage McCain, of course, sounding high-minded while -- in the end -- going along with the thugs. But it does raise the specter that if the final bill is equally divisive and partisan, he might oppose it. Or . . . not.] 

One of the false equivalency "both sides do it" lines we hear from the media is that Trump's assaults on Robert Mueller are just like Bill Clinton's criticisms of Ken Starr. Not true 

Yes, he said it
“With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office.”  
                        — President Trump

An open mike between two senators!
“I think he’s crazy” [read on] 

Trump doesn't know who Hezbollah are
House passes Russia sanctions bill by a huge margin. Trump may not want to sign it, but having his veto overridden would be even worse

Paul Manafort gets subpoenaed to testify
The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Paul Manafort late Monday night, compelling him to appear in a public forum about Russia’s election interference. The former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump wanted to give only one interview before a congressional committee, but that accommodation was not possible because multiple committees have requested him to appear before their panels. . . .

Are they legit?
Manafort Has Notes from Meeting with Russian Lawyer

Now Ivanka lawyers up too

Why is Trump attacking Adam Schiff?
"He's panicking"

Trump’s Insecurity Is a Threat to Our Security 

Scaramucci hates leaks -- but of course there are two kinds of leaks
Trump just revealed a covert CIA program — over Twitter
Scaramucci Rails Against ‘Leaking’ Of Info That He Told A Reporter


Trump's Hitler Youth Corps speech to the Boy Scouts has Scout members, parents furious

Energy Sect'y Rick Perry gets pranked (thanks to RR for the link)

MSNBC tops Fox News for the first time

Bonus item: Trevor Noah takes on The Mooch

[NB: Be sure to watch it all the way to the end!]
***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sharing its URL ( with others via email or social media.

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I don’t get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don’t run ads, etc.). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a “mission,” it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***