White House to Republicans: Trump reserves the right to throw all of you under the bus

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

The Fix

White House to Republicans: Trump reserves the right to throw all of you under the bus

June 20 at 3:29 PM
Spicer: Trump ‘wants a bill that has heart in it’
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump wants Congress to pass a health-care bill that “has heart in it,” on June 20 at the White House. (Reuters)

Senate Republicans are confronting a potentially career-altering decision: whether to vote for a health-care bill that polls show is vastly unpopular and could backfire stupendously. And on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer had a chance to provide them some reassurance that President Trump wasn’t going to throw them under the bus if things go sideways.

Instead, he basically shrugged his shoulders.

Reports in recent days have quoted Trump, in private settings, as both calling the House GOP’s health-care bill “mean” and saying the Senate bill needed “more heart.” Asked about that second report, from CNBC on Tuesday, Spicer practically confirmed the quote — or at least he didn’t dispute it, as the White House often does.

“The president clearly wants a bill that has heart in it,” Spicer said. “He believes health care is something that is near and dear to so many families and individuals. He made it clear from the beginning that it was one of his priorities.”

If you are a Republican who is thinking about sticking your neck out for this bill, that has to make you think twice.

Last month Trump held a Rose Garden celebration with House Republicans after they passed their version of a health-care bill. Some even thought that festivities were a little over-the-top. But the president clearly wanted to celebrate a first legislative win.

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His actions since then, however, suggest he doesn’t necessarily want his brand attached to this bill and all the sausage-making that goes with it. Recent polls have shown Americans oppose the legislation by a 2-to-1 margin or even a 3-to-1 margin, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates indicate it could reduce the number of insured Americans by 23 million over a decade and raise premiums for older, poorer people. And whatever the perceptions and projections are today, the law of unintended consequences certainly applies when it comes to large-scale legislation. It’s a massively difficult vote to take for any member.

The White House will almost surely come around and say all the right things when the Senate ultimately reveals its bill. And for Trump and Spicer, it’s probably smart to withhold your full endorsement to make sure that bill will reflect the things the White House feels are important. But the fact that Trump is saying these things behind closed doors about a bill he once celebrated has to make Republican senators think twice.

What if the bill they are working on does wind up causing major problems? What if it doesn’t even pass, and most all of them put themselves on the record voting for something that can still be used in a pretty brutal attack ad using those CBO numbers? There is basically nothing to suggest that Trump is going to allow himself to go down with this ship. And unlike your normal politician, he’s not going to feel bound by loyalty, his past statements or that Rose Garden celebration. When Trump feels like disowning something politically, Trump will disown it.

Perhaps the White House could be forgiven for not fighting back strongly enough against reports of Trump’s initial “mean” comment last week. But now it’s happened again; Trump and his White House have basically put the House’s bill at arms-length twice in the span of a week. And on Tuesday it suggested that it reserves the right to bash the bill at a later date if Trump feels like it.

Given the bill will need 50 of 52 Republican senators to vote for it, that’s a pretty terrible message to send right now.

Trumps New Choice For FBI Director Deleted Russian Case From His Bio

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK AND CNN)

President Donald Trump’s FBI director pick, attorney Chris Wray, reportedly represented an American energy executive who was facing a criminal investigation by Russia in 2006. However, as Trump deals with multiple investigations amid speculation about his campaign’s ties to Russia, one wouldn’t know that particular detail of Wray’s career history.

Why? Wray himself deleted the reference this year, well before he was up for one of the country’s top law enforcement jobs, CNN reported Tuesday.

As early as 2009, Wray’s profile for law firm King and Spalding described his clients and included the line: “An energy company president in a criminal investigation by Russian authorities.”

The firm said that Wray made the changes in January but that he wasn’t the only attorney to work on the case over the years for a client the firm would not name. With offices spread across the globe, King and Spalding have previously represented companies that dealt with Russian state-run energy companies Rosneft and Gazprom, CNN reported.

“Chris made this change to his bio, along with other minor tweaks, in an attempt to make the material more current. At the time, he made the adjustments, January 12, 2017, he was not being considered for, and did not anticipate being nominated for, FBI director or any position in government,” a firm spokeswoman told CNN. “Moreover, the representation that was dropped from his online bio related to a matter where Chris, King and Spalding and the client were adverse to the Russian government. Mr. Wray worked on this matter in 2006. Other attorneys at the firm worked on the matter in 2006, 2007 and 2011.

“The executive is an American citizen and lives in the United States,” the spokeswoman continued. “During the course of the dispute, the Russian government sought to exert leverage against this executive and the company by initiating a criminal investigation in Russia against him. Chris and the firm were engaged to handle the U.S. legal issues that arose from the situation.”

A call, with a request for comment, from Newsweek to Wray’s Washington, D.C., office was not immediately returned. Based on internet archive service Wayback Machine, the reference to the client facing Russian scrutiny was found on Wray’s profile as recently as November 18.

To date, Trump has not formally nominated Wray. To do so, the formal nominee must be sent to the U.S. Senate, but the White House has yet to do so, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Thursday during a press briefing.

“There’s a pretty lengthy paperwork process, I know, that goes with selecting that individual,” Sanders said. “And so I believe they’re in the middle of that process. And as soon as it’s completed, it will be sent over.”

Wray, who will face a Senate confirmation hearing to replace James Comey at the FBI, previously served as head of the Justice Department’s criminal division from 2003 to 2005 during President George W. Bush’s administration.

Though a date has not been scheduled for Wray’s nomination hearing, he has faced increased scrutiny of late. Wray represented New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the infamous “Bridgegate” scandal and is reportedly still working for Christie, the Asbury Park Press reported Monday.

Wray’s firm has made $2.1 million after being hired by Christie in 2014, a sum that includes more than $650,000 for work on Bridgegate-related material.

Trump Has Made It Very Clear That He Cares Nothing About People Living With HIV Or AIDS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE)

The first hints of an uncertain future for the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS came last year, when Donald Trump’s presidential campaign refused to meet with advocates for people living with HIV, said Scott Schoettes, a member of the council since 2014.

That unease was magnified on Inauguration Day in January, when an official White House website for the Office of National AIDS Policy vanished, Schoettes said.

“I started to think, was it going to be useful or wise or would it be possible to work with this administration?” Schoettes told The Washington Post. “Still, I made a decision to stick it out and see what we could do.”

Less than six months later, Schoettes said those initial reservations had given way to full-blown frustration over a lack of dialogue with or caring from Trump administration officials about issues relating to HIV or AIDS.

Last Tuesday, he and five others announced they were quitting Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, also known as PACHA. According to Schoettes, the last straw – or “more like a two-by-four than a straw” – had come in May, after the Republican-dominated House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, which he said would have “devastating” effects on those living with HIV.

“The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and – most concerning – pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease,” Schoettes wrote in a blistering guest column for Newsweek announcing the resignations.

The column also pointed out that Trump has still not appointed anyone to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, which former president Barack Obama had done 36 days after his own inauguration.

“Within 18 months, that new director and his staff crafted the first comprehensive U.S. HIV/AIDS strategy. By contrast, President Trump appears to have no plan at all,” Schoettes wrote. “Public health is not a partisan issue … If the President is not going to engage on the subject of HIV/AIDS, he should at least continue policies that support people living with and at higher risk for HIV and have begun to curtail the epidemic.”

The column was co-signed by the five other members of the council who had resigned, including Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses W. Burley III, Grissel Granados and Michelle Ogle. As of Monday morning, their bios remained on PACHA’s government website.

Tensions are building inside the Justice Department

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Tensions are building inside the Justice Department as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein contemplates whether he will become a witness in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections.

Rosenstein, in office for less than two months, is the top Justice official overseeing the probe because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself.
But Rosenstein could end up recusing himself, too, Justice officials say, in part because he played a role in President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. The Comey dismissal could become part of a widening investigation into whether the President tried to interfere with the ongoing Russia probe.
Officials familiar with the matter describe friction on the Justice Department’s fourth and fifth floors, home to the suite of offices belonging to the deputy attorney general and the attorney general, respectively, in part because of Rosenstein’s handling of the Russia matter.
Rosenstein was among those who advised Sessions to recuse himself, according to officials briefed on the matter. But then Rosenstein made the surprise move to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the Russia investigation, a development that people close to Sessions and Trump believe has worsened matters for everyone involved.
Sessions learned of the Mueller appointment at about the same time that the press was told, according to people briefed on the matter. The attorney general was at a White House meeting when the notification came from Rosenstein, prompting the enraged President to scold the attorney general for the turn of events. Trump had viewed Sessions’ recusal as unnecessary, even though Justice Department regulations made it almost impossible to avoid.
The focus on Rosenstein sharpened Friday because the President attacked the deputy attorney general in a tweet, blaming him for what he terms a “witch hunt.”
“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” the President tweeted.
The President’s tweet — seeming to confirm the probe based on news reports — came as a surprise to the President’s own legal team, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Mueller continues to hire a team of lawyers, and with FBI investigators is gathering information that is widely expected to lead to a formal investigation into whether President Trump attempted to interfere in the investigation. Comey’s firing likely will be part of that probe.

Special counsel members donated to Dems

Special counsel members donated to Dems 02:26
Rosenstein told the Associated Press earlier this month that when he hired Mueller he discussed the possibility of having recuse himself “if anything that I did winds up being relevant to his investigation” and if recusal is necessary.
The strain on Rosenstein has increasingly become visible in recent weeks, according to Justice officials.
At a ceremony last month to welcome Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the Justice Department’s third-ranking official, Rosenstein joked awkwardly about being at the center of criticism since taking office, according to people who were in the room.
If Rosenstein recuses himself, Brand, a Trump appointee, would become the top Justice official overseeing Mueller’s work.
On Thursday night, he issued a statement lashing out at news stories sourced to anonymous officials and that he believes are causing the President and Republicans to attack the Justice Department, the FBI and Mueller for alleged leaks.
Rosenstein’s unusual statement, which he issued over the objections of some advisers, said in part: “Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials.'”
A Justice official said Rosenstein was motivated in part because of frustration that recent news stories have unfairly brought on a torrent of “leak” accusations against the FBI and Mueller’s team.

Trump lashes out at Russia probe; Pence hires a lawyer  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Trump lashes out at Russia probe; Pence hires a lawyer

June 15 at 9:39 PM
A heightened sense of unease gripped the White House on Thursday, as President Trump lashed out at reports that he’s under scrutiny over whether he obstructed justice, aides repeatedly deflected questions about the probe and Vice President Pence acknowledged hiring a private lawyer to handle fallout from investigations into Russian election meddling.Pence’s decision to hire Richard Cullen, a Richmond-based lawyer who previously served as a U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, came less than a month after Trump hired his own private lawyer.

The hiring of Cullen, whom an aide said Pence was paying for himself, was made public a day after The Washington Post reported that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is widening his investigation to examine whether the president attempted to obstruct justice.

A defiant Trump at multiple points Thursday expressed his frustration with reports about that development, tweeting that he is the subject of “the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history,” and one that he said is being led by “some very bad and conflicted people.”

Trump, who only a day earlier had called for a more civil tone in Washington after a shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., fired off several more tweets in the afternoon voicing disbelief that he was under scrutiny while his “crooked” Democratic opponent in last year’s election, Hillary Clinton, escaped prosecution in relation to her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

Special counsel investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials to determine whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said. (Patrick Martin,McKenna Ewen/The Washington Post)

Before the day ended, the White House was hit with the latest in a cascade of headlines relating to the Russian probe: a Post story reporting that Mueller is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-law and adviser.

“The legal jeopardy increases by the day,” said one informal Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss conversations with White House aides more freely. “If you’re a White House staffer, you’re trying to do your best to keep your head low and do your job.”

At the White House on Thursday, aides sought to portray a sense of normalcy, staging an elaborate event to promote a Trump job-training initiative, while simultaneously going into lockdown mode regarding Mueller’s probe.

At a previously scheduled off-camera briefing for reporters, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the principal deputy White House press secretary, was peppered with more than a dozen questions about ongoing investigations over about 20 minutes.

In keeping with a new practice, she referred one question after another to Trump’s personal lawyer.

Sanders, for example, was asked whether Trump still felt “vindicated” by the extraordinary congressional testimony last week by James B. Comey, the FBI director whose firing by Trump has contributed to questions about whether the president obstructed justice.

“I believe so,” Sanders said, before referring reporters to Marc E. Kasowitz, Trump’s private attorney.

As Trump’s No. 2 and as head of the transition team, Pence has increasingly found himself drawn into the widening Russia investigation.

Pence — along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Kushner, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House Counsel Donald McGahn — was one of the small group of senior advisers the president consulted as he mulled his decision to fire Comey, which is now a focus of Mueller’s investigation.

He also was entangled in the events leading up to the dismissal of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, who originally misled Pence about his contact with Russian officials — incorrect claims that Pence himself then repeated publicly.

The vice president was kept in the dark for nearly two weeks about Flynn’s misstatements, before learning the truth in a Post report. Trump ultimately fired Flynn for misleading the vice president.

There were also news reports that Flynn’s attorneys had alerted Trump’s transition team, which Pence led, that Flynn was under federal investigation for his secret ties to the Turkish government as a paid lobbyist — a claim the White House disputes. And aides to Pence, who was running the transition team, said the vice president was never informed of Flynn’s overseas work with Turkey, either.

On Capitol Hill on Thursday, Russian election meddling and related issues were a prominent part of the agenda.

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats spent more than three hours in a closed session with the Senate Intelligence Committee, just days after he refused to answer lawmakers’ questions in an open session about his conversations with Trump regarding the Russia investigation.

Several GOP lawmakers said they think Mueller should be able to do his job — including probing possible obstruction by Trump — but added that they were eager to put the probe behind them.

Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), the second-ranking Senate Republican, said he retains confidence in Mueller and that he’s seen nothing so far that would amount to obstruction by Trump. His assessment, Cornyn said, includes the testimony last week by Comey, who said he presumed he was fired because of Trump’s concerns about the FBI’s handling of the Russian probe.

“I think based on what he said then, there doesn’t appear to be any there there,” Cornyn said. “Director Mueller’s got extensive staff and authorities to investigate further. But based on what we know now, I don’t see any basis.”

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said he didn’t find news that Mueller is exploring obstruction of justice particularly surprising given it’s clear he is “going to look at everything.”

“There has been a lot of time spent on the collusion issue — 11 months by the FBI and six months by Congress — and both sides agree they haven’t found anything there,” Thune said. “I hope at some point all this stuff will lead to an ultimate conclusion, and we’ll put this to rest.”

In the meantime, the Republican National Committee appears to be girding for a fight.

“Talking points” sent Wednesday night to Trump allies provided a road map for trying to undercut the significance of the latest revelation related to possible obstruction of justice.

“This apparent pivot by the investigative team shows that they have struck out on trying to prove collusion and are now trying to switch to another baseless charge,” the document said.

The RNC also encouraged Trump allies to decry the “inexcusable, outrageous and illegal” leaks on which it said the story was based and to argue that there is a double standard at work.

The document said there was “an obvious case” of obstruction that was never investigated against former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch related to the FBI investigation of Clinton’s email server.

In his afternoon tweets, Trump picked up on that argument. In one tweet, the president wrote: “Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, ‘bleached’ emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared- & they talk about obstruction?”

“Why is that Hillary Clintons family and Dems dealings with Russia are not looked at, but my non-dealings are?” Trump said in another.

Trump restricted his musing Thursday on Mueller’s investigation to social media, passing on opportunities to talk about it in public.

The president did not respond to shouted questions about whether he believes he is under investigation as he departed an event Thursday morning designed to highlight his administration’s support of apprenticeship programs.

That event was part of a schedule that suggested no outward signs of concern by Trump about his latest troubles.

He was joined at the apprenticeship event by several governors, lawmakers and other dignitaries. Before turning to the subject at hand, Trump provided an update on the condition of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was shot Wednesday during the attack on Republican lawmakers at an early-morning baseball practice.

Attempting to strike a unifying chord, Trump said: “Steve, in his own way, may have brought some unity to our long-divided country.”

Later in the afternoon, Trump and the first lady traveled to the Supreme Court for the investiture ceremony for Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.

Among the questions Sanders deflected Thursday was to whom exactly Trump was referring as “bad and conflicted people” in one of his early morning tweets.

“Again, I would refer you to the president’s outside counsel on all questions relating to the investigation,” Sanders said.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the outside counsel, did not respond to an email and phone call seeking comment on the questions Sanders referred to him.

Earlier this week, one of the president’s sons, Donald Trump Jr., highlighted on Twitter an op-ed in USA Today that argued that Mueller should recuse himself from the Russia investigation because he has a potential conflict of interest, given his longtime friendship with Comey, a crucial witness.

The piece, which Donald Trump Jr. retweeted, was written by William G. Otis, an adjunct law professor at Georgetown University who was a special counsel for President George H.W. Bush.

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Christopher Ruddy, a friend of Trump’s, made headlines this week when he said during a PBS interview that he believed Trump was considering firing Mueller.

The White House didn’t immediately deny that notion but made clear that Ruddy was not speaking for Trump. The following day, Sanders said Trump had no intention of trying to dislodge Mueller.

Sanders was asked again Thursday whether Trump still has confidence in Mueller.

“I believe so,” she said, later adding: “I haven’t had a specific conversation about that, but I think if he didn’t, he would probably have intentions to make a change, and he certainly doesn’t.

Ed O’Keefe, Karoun Demirjian and Abby Phillip contributed to this report.

Trump keeps creating his own personal hell—Because He Is To Ignorant And Stupid To Shut Up

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Trump keeps creating his own personal hell

June 15 
Special counsel investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials to determine whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said. (Patrick Martin,McKenna Ewen/The Washington Post)

Last month President Trump apparently told the Russians he fired FBI director James B. Comey to relieve pressure on him. Except, in firing Comey, Trump has upped the pressure cooker he’s in by a factor of 10.

“I’m not under investigation,” Trump then told the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office, according to the New York Times.

Now, it appears he is.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, related to Comey’s testimony alleging that Trump tried to interfere in some of the FBI’s Russia investigations.

Until recently, the FBI’s investigation had focused on Russia meddling in the presidential campaign and whether Trump’s campaign helped. We knew the investigation was looking into Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, but we had no idea how much higher it would go. Now, that investigation has branched out into obstruction into its first investigation. And the spotlight on the obstruction case is entirely on the president himself.

This is the great irony for Trump, an irony he doesn’t seem to have comprehended: When he feels backed into a corner, he lashes out in politically inadvisable ways that often makes his life much more difficult. But he can’t seem to stop doing it.

As a candidate behind in the polls, Trump lurched at Hillary Clinton in a way that gave her supporters leverage to claim Trump wasn’t supportive of women. As a president who watched health-care legislation stall in the House of Representatives, he blamed conservatives in a way that fractured his delicate relationship with Congress. When he tweeted about an impending court decision on his travel ban, a federal court used that against him.

Some of that still worked out for him, some of it hasn’t.

But when Trump feels encroached by a serious and multipronged legal investigation, lashing out attracts a different set of consequences for the president: Legal ones that directly threaten him.

You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!

 

Jacobovitz doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that, last week, a friend of the president said Trump was considering firing Mueller. (A consideration the White House didn’t deny: They later said Trump has “no intention” of firing Mueller.)

A few days later, sources with knowledge of the closed-door special counsel investigation leaked to The Post that Trump himself is under investigation. That’s a shocking development.

But making the scope public is like a buffer for Mueller’s job security — and it could act as a buffer to try to save the president from himself.

“Now it’s clear that he’s being investigated, it makes it even more difficult to fire Mueller,” Jacobovitz said, “because it looks like he’s trying to terminate an investigation against himself. … It would be political suicide.”

If Trump were to follow through on his natural instinct to lash out and fire Mueller, he would have little support. Pretty much everyone who’s anyone in Washington has made clear they think it’d be a terrible, terrible idea for Trump to sack Mueller.

“I think the best advice is to let Robert Mueller do his job,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters on Tuesday.

For how Trump could, feasibly, fire Mueller, here’s a flow chart by Washington Post’s Philip Bump, who explains the process in detail here:

That doesn’t mean Trump will keep his head down. Especially since things could get even worse for him on the legal front.

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Attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit against the president, alleging he’s violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by not fully separating himself from his business. (He retains an ownership stake in the business his sons run.) So has a government watchdog advocacy group. And nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress will soon file a similar lawsuit.

If any one of those gets traction in the courts (and Jacobovitz thinks one will), Trump could be investigated for his personal finances as well as his actions as president. Oh, and Mueller’s investigation is also reportedly looking into unexplained “broad financial crimes.”

Add it all up and you have a president who could soon be under attack on multiple legal fronts. Trump’s go-to move when he feels under attack is to respond in a way that exacerbates the situation. That’s why there’s an obstruction of justice investigation in the first place.

At this point, the president has boxed himself into a corner where following his instincts could make his life exponentially worse.

Here Are All the Ways President Trump Praised the GOP Health Care Bill He Just Called ‘Mean’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

Here Are All the Ways President Trump Praised the GOP Health Care Bill He Just Called ‘Mean’

6-13-2017
President Donald Trump on Tuesday criticized the House-passed health care bill, calling it “mean” in a meeting with Republican senators and urging them to develop a “more generous” version. But just over a month ago, the president repeatedly praised the GOP-sponsored legislation, describing it as a “great plan” after a vote confirmed the bill’s approval in the House.

Here are all the ways Trump lauded the American Health Care Act in his speech from the White House Rose Garden on May 4th:

Trump said the bill would make insurance prices go down

“And I will say this, that as far as I’m concerned, your premiums, they’re going to start to come down,” Trump said during the beginning of his remarks, before later adding: “And I think, most importantly, yes, premiums will be coming down. Yes, deductibles will be coming down. But very importantly, it’s a great plan. And ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.”

A forecast from the Congressional Budget Office, an independent, nonpartisan agency, said that premiums will actually increase over the next few years should the bill pass in its current form, and long-term effects will ultimately fall to individual states.

He said it was good because it would repeal and replace Obamacare

“Right now, the insurance companies are fleeing. It’s been a catastrophe. And this is a great plan,” Trump said. “I actually think it will get even better. And this is, make no mistake, this is a repeal and replace of Obamacare. Make no mistake about it. Make no mistake.”

He said it was great because it was done quickly

“And this really helps it. A lot of people said, how come you kept pushing healthcare, knowing how tough it is? Don’t forget, Obamacare took 17 months. Hillary Clinton tried so hard — really valiantly, in all fairness, to get healthcare through. Didn’t happen,” Trump remarked. “We’ve really been doing this for eight weeks, if you think about it. And this is a real plan. This is a great plan. And we had no support from the other party.”

He said it had “great features”

“But we want to brag about the plan, because this plan really — uh oh,” Trump began before he was cut off by a laughing audience. “Well, we may. But we’re just going to talk a little bit about the plan, how good it is, some of the great features.”

The CBO in the same aforementioned report said that if the bill goes through in its current condition, 23 million Americans will lose insurance over the next 10 years.

And overall, he said it was good because of the “talent” that helped develop it

“So what we have is something very, very incredibly well-crafted. Tell you what, there is a lot of talent standing behind me. An unbelievable amount of talent, that I can tell you. I mean it,” Trump gushed.

“But we have an amazing group of people standing behind me,” the president added. “They worked so hard and they worked so long. And when I said, let’s do this, let’s go out, just short little shots for each one of us and let’s say how good this plan is — we don’t have to talk about this unbelievable — wasn’t it unbelievable? So we don’t have to say it again. But it’s going to be an unbelievable victory, actually, when we get it through the Senate.”

Dennis Rodman says he’s in North Korea to ‘open a door’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ESPN)

Dennis Rodman says he’s in North Korea to ‘open a door’

PYONGYANG, North Korea — Dennis Rodman, the former NBA bad boy who has palled around with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, flew back to Pyongyang on Tuesday for the first time in Donald Trump’s presidency.

He said he is “just trying to open a door” on a mission that he thinks his former “Celebrity Apprentice” boss would support.

Rodman, one of the few people to know both of the nuclear-armed leaders, sported a black T-shirt advertising a marijuana cybercurrency as he talked to reporters briefly before his flight from Beijing to the North Korean capital.

Asked if he had spoken to Trump about his trip, he said, “Well, I’m pretty sure he’s pretty much happy with the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.”

Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on four past trips since 2013, but has been roundly criticized for visiting during a time of high tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over its weapons programs.

His entourage included Joseph Terwilliger, a professor who has accompanied Rodman on previous trips to North Korea.

Rodman said the issue of several Americans currently detained by North Korea is “not my purpose right now.”

In Tokyo, a visiting senior U.S. official said Rodman’s trip is as a private citizen.

“We are aware of his visit. We wish him well, but we have issued travel warnings to Americans and suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety,” U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon told reporters after discussing the North Korean missile threat and other issues with Japanese counterparts.

In 2014, Rodman arranged a basketball game with other former NBA players and North Koreans and regaled leader Kim Jong Un with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” On the same trip, he suggested that an American missionary was at fault for his own imprisonment in North Korea, remarks for which he later apologized.

A foreign ministry official who spoke to The Associated Press in Pyongyang confirmed Rodman’s visit was expected but did not provide details. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the ministry had not issued a formal statement.

Any visit to North Korea by a high-profile American is a political minefield, and Rodman has been criticized for failing to use his influence on leaders who are otherwise isolated diplomatically from the rest of the world.

Americans are regarded as enemies in North Korea because the two countries never signed a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. Thousands of U.S. troops are based in South Korea, and the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

A statement issued in New York by a Rodman publicist said the former NBA player is in the rare position of being friends with the leaders of both North Korea and the United States. Rodman was a cast member on two seasons of Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Rodman tweeted that his trip was being sponsored by Potcoin, one of a growing number of cybercurrencies used to buy and sell marijuana in state-regulated markets.

North Korea has been hailed by marijuana news outlets and British tabloids as a pothead paradise and maybe even the next Amsterdam of pot tourism. But the claim that marijuana is legal in North Korea is not true: The penal code lists it as a controlled substance in the same category as cocaine and heroin.

Americans have been sentenced to years in North Korean prisons for such seemingly minor offenses as stealing a political banner and likely could not expect leniency if the country’s drug laws were violated.

President Trump is ‘considering’ firing Mueller

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND PBS)

Trump’s friend Christopher Ruddy says President ‘considering’ firing Mueller

Washington (CNN) One of President Donald Trump’s friends said Monday he believes the President is considering dismissing special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed to lead the FBI investigation into Russia’s potential ties to the 2016 election.

“I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel,” Christopher Ruddy — who was at the White House Monday — told PBS’ Judy Woodruff on “PBS News Hour.” “I think he’s weighing that option.”
A source close to the President said Trump is being counseled to steer clear of such a dramatic move like firing the special counsel.
“He is being advised by many people not to do it,” the source said.
However, a White House official said Ruddy did not speak to the President about potentially terminating Mueller.
And deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said simply: “Chris speaks for himself.”
Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax Media, based his Mueller comment on a television interview with one of Trump’s lawyers. When asked about the interview by CNN, Ruddy said: “My quote is accurate.”
He told Woodruff he thinks firing Mueller “would be a very significant mistake, even though I don’t think there’s a justification … for a special counsel.”
“Chris speaks for himself,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy White House press secretary.
Mueller was appointed FBI Director by President George W. Bush in 2001 and served until 2013, when Comey took over as head.
Since being appointed special counsel in May, he has built a team of formidable legal minds who’ve worked on everything from Watergate to Enron. He has long been widely respected by many in Washington from both sides of the aisle, with many lawmakers praising Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein’s pick.
Still not everyone is a fan.
Earlier this week, Newt Gingrich reportedly told radio host John Catsimatidis that Congress should “abolish the independent counsel.”
“I think Congress should now intervene and they should abolish the independent counsel,” the former House speaker said. “Because Comey makes so clear that it’s the poison fruit of a deliberate manipulation by the FBI director leaking to The New York Times, deliberately set up this particular situation. It’s very sick.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, disputed that report.
“I don’t think Newt said that,” Graham told reporters. “I think it’d be a disaster. There’s no reason to fire Mueller. What had he done to be fired?”
After news of Ruddy’s interview surfaced on the web, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, echoed that sentiment on Twitter.
“If President fired Bob Mueller, Congress would immediately re-establish independent counsel and appoint Bob Mueller,” the California lawmaker tweeted. “Don’t waste our time.”
Schiff later told CNN’s Anderson Cooper he wouldn’t be surprised if Trump was considering ousting Mueller.
“You have to hope that common sense would prevail,” Schiff said. “But it wouldn’t surprise me at all, even though it would be absolutely astonishing were he(Trump) to entertain this. The echoes of Watergate are getting louder and louder.”

 It’s a tough time to work in national security and have opinions, or even a conscience

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) It’s a tough time to work in national security and have opinions, or even a conscience. On Monday, a 25-year-old federal contractor named Reality Leigh Winner was arrested for allegedly leaking a top-secret NSA document to The Intercept.

The apparent document, dated a month ago, contains shocking details about an alleged Russian cyberattack on a supplier of US voting software, as well as malicious emails sent to voting officials in an attempt to hack their computers. Unlike previous reports, this one, if accurate, was far more overt in what it revealed, leaving little doubt that the attacks were coordinated by the GRU, the Russian state’s military intelligence unit. Winner was charged under the Espionage Act for the leak, and faces up to 10 years in prison.

Jill Filipovic

Depending whom you ask, Winner is either a criminal or a whistle blower. If she is indeed the person behind the leak, then perhaps she’s both: someone who felt an understandable moral obligation to release information that is in the public interest, but who also broke the law.
Her case is an important one to follow, and the sloppy missteps by The Intercept offer important lessons for journalists who receive leaked documents and outlets that publish them. But it shouldn’t eclipse the bigger picture: that while low-level leakers like Winner become the subjects of large-scale public prosecutions, our own President has a nasty habit of spewing highly classified and sensitive information to boost his own ego and impress his audience.
Beyond this, that same President has time and again complained about and may even have obstructed a thorough investigation into whether a hostile foreign power interfered in our elections.
There are good reasons to have laws against leaks — the intelligence community needs to be able to do its job, which means protecting its sources and keeping some information out of public view. But over the past two decades, our national security apparatus has grown to a monstrous size, while it has also become less transparent and more difficult for public watchdogs to check in on.
Leaks have long been a regular feature of American government, and they are rarely prosecuted, because, as Malcolm Gladwell details in an essential New Yorker article on national security whistle blowing, their very existence is often beneficial to the administration in charge. Even the Obama administration, which was more aggressive in prosecuting leakers than any before it, didn’t bother tracking down the source of, let alone seeking punishment for, the overwhelming majority of leaks.
This administration is a wild card, and the President dis-comfortingly unpredictable. He has vowed to prosecute more leakers, and Winner may just be paraded as a threat to other would-be purveyors of classified intelligence. Which is why the conversations and reporting on this case must maintain crucial context — that leaks are common, but prosecutions are not, which suggests the administration is seeking to make a bigger point here. Its message: Leakers will be particularly targeted if the intelligence they give journalists suggests that Russia helped Trump win the election.
This is especially rich, by the way, given that Trump himself disclosed classified intelligence to the Russians, compromising our relationships with some of our most important allies.
All of which makes this leak more understandable: Winner, if she was the leaker, had in her hand a document clearly tying the Russian military intelligence apparatus to direct meddling in the American presidential election, and reasonably believed the administration in power would like to bury it.
She made the mistake of believing the site she anonymously leaked the document to would be careful to not make her identifiable; instead, The Intercept all but gave her away, and she was arrested almost immediately after the story was published. This kind of amateur-hour screw up may, unfortunately, scare others away from coming forward with vital information that sheds light on the darkest corners of our recent history.
Now, the impulse will be to focus on Winner: Did she break the law? Could she have conscientiously blown the whistle any other way? What are her politics and motivations?
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This will certainly be the emphasis from the Republican Party, whose members are eager to weasel out of the position they’ve put themselves in, claiming to be aggressive defenders of the nation while looking away from the growing mound of evidence that our elections were compromised, that members of the Trump campaign, and possibly even the administration, may have been involved, and that the leader of their party is trying to squelch any probes.
We shouldn’t take the bait and get distracted by what Winner tweeted about or whose Twitter feeds she followed. Instead, we should retrain our gaze on the issues at hand: A loose-lipped President who is obstructing justice; a hostile foreign power interfering with our democratic system; and a craven, mealy mouthed majority party in Congress doing absolutely nothing because, hey, their guy won, and that seems to matter more than the integrity and security of the United States.
One leak is the least of our problems.

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