Trump & Administration

Decertification Of Iran?

These tweets are two hours apart.

I guess (?????) it’s going to happen. Maybe?

The problem is that Iran is complying. He has no basis to withdraw other than the fact that it is (in his view) “a bad deal”. And that creates a huge problem in the long term. How can any country enter ANY kind of deal with the United States if some president comes along in four years and breaks the deal FOR NO REASON?

France, Germany and the UK respond:

Trump’s decision to decertify the deal by mid-October will start a 60-day clock for lawmakers to decide whether to reimpose U.S. sanctions on Iran. Tillerson said that Trump would decertify it on the grounds that he does not believe the sanctions relief that Iran is getting is proportional to benefits that come from Iran’s efforts to curb its nuclear program.

In other words, Trump makes a mess (again) and then puts it on Congress to fix it.

UPDATE:  Joe Biden on Facebook writes:

Two years ago, the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, and China reached an historic agreement with Iran to block its pathways to a nuclear weapon. That agreement is working. It is making the United States and our allies, including Israel, more secure.

And the truth of the matter is, Iran is holding up its end of the deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said so. Our allies in Europe have said so. Even the Trump administration has twice certified Iran’s compliance.

So President Trump’s decision today to decertify the nuclear deal goes aganst reason and evidence. It constitutes an unfounded and unnecessary threat to America’s national security—one that inflicts lasting damage to American global leadership.

Unilaterally putting the deal at risk does not isolate Iran. It isolates us.

Just last week, Secretary of Defense Mattis testified to Congress that it is in the national security interests of the United States to remain in the deal. In announcing his decision, President Trump did not present a credible case to contradict that assessment—because he can’t. Instead, he is playing politics at the expense of the safety of every single American citizen.

The Iran deal does one thing: remove the immediate threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would present to the region, Israel, and the United States. It was never meant to be a catchall solution. Nor does it prevent us from taking steps to address Iran’s continued provocations and destabilizing actions in the region. Only now, President Trump has worsened our negotiating position. This decision will cost us leverage. It will weaken our unity with our allies. It will damage our credibility.

The detrimental effects of this step today will also ripple outward and cripple our ability to resolve other challenges. After today, what incentive would the leadership in North Korea have to sit down with the United States, China, and other partners to negotiate a diplomatic resolution to the escalating nuclear crisis? After today, why would the rest of the world join us in pushing for a diplomatic solution we might not uphold? After today, what is America’s word worth in the world?

Now, responsibility for America’s leadership and reputation rests with Congress. It is my hope that rational heads will prevail—that members will listen to the testimony of experts and our own national security establishment; that they will recognize the damage reimposing sanctions on Iran, in violation of our own obligations under the deal, will cause. And I hope Congress will do something the president is unwilling to do: ensure our actions contribute to the international consensus on how best to address the challenge posed by Iran instead of putting that consensus in jeopardy.

The United States has earned our position of respect in the world through generations of sacrifice and selfless leadership—we must not abandon that so casually.

Trump Doesn’t Know How The National Debt Works

During his latest interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, President Trump went on a confused rant about the economy, at one point falsely suggesting that stock market gains are helping pay down the national debt.

“I’m so proud of the $5.2 trillion dollars of increase in the stock market,” Trump said, referring to the bull market that began as the economy pulled out of the Great Recession during the months after President Obama took office.

“Now, if you look at the stock market, that’s one element, but then we have many other elements. The country — we took it over, it owed $20 trillion, as you know, the last eight years they borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country, so they borrowed more than $10 trillion — and yet, we picked up $5.2 trillion in the stock market, possibly picked up the whole things in terms of the first nine months in terms of value.”

“So, you could say in one sense we are really increasing values, and maybe in a sense we are reducing debt,” Trump added, before Hannity quickly moved on to another topic.

But it just doesn’t work like that. As CNBC details, to see why this doesn’t make sense, consider the relationship (or lack thereof) between the stock market and debt during the Obama administration. Between 2009 and 2017, the S&P 500 returned 235 percent while the national debt soared.

Is Trump Becoming Unhinged With Anger?

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair has heard reports of Trump venting “I hate everyone in the White House!”:

In recent days, I spoke with a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers, and they all describe a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods. Trump’s ire is being fueled by his stalled legislative agenda and, to a surprising degree, by his decision last month to back the losing candidate Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary. “Alabama was a huge blow to his psyche,” a person close to Trump said. “He saw the cult of personality was broken.”

According to two sources familiar with the conversation, Trump vented to his longtime security chief, Keith Schiller, “I hate everyone in the White House! There are a few exceptions, but I hate them!” (A White House official denies this.) Two senior Republican officials said Chief of Staff John Kelly is miserable in his job and is remaining out of a sense of duty to keep Trump from making some sort of disastrous decision. Today, speculation about Kelly’s future increased after Politico reported that Kelly’s deputy Kirstjen Nielsen is likely to be named Homeland Security Secretary—the theory among some Republicans is that Kelly wanted to give her a soft landing before his departure.

One former official even speculated that Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have discussed what they would do in the event Trump ordered a nuclear first strike. “Would they tackle him?” the person said. Even Trump’s most loyal backers are sowing public doubts. This morning, The Washington Post quoted longtime Trump friend Tom Barrack saying he has been “shocked” and “stunned” by Trump’s behavior.

The White House denies all this of course. But we’ve seen Trump venting much more — on Twitter of course, but also on Trump-friendly interviews (with Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity).

The gripes are strange (well, what isn’t strange where Trump is concerned) because it is HIS White House. He gets to put the people in there. He gets to set the tone and the style and the structure.

It’s not surprising, of course, that a man who can barely run a family business empire (with its several bankruptcies, etc) is having trouble running the largest business of all: the American government. He simply has no skills in that area.

It Happened Last Night

It was dramatic.  Even for 1 a.m. But….

…it appears that any chance of repealing (and replacing?) the Affordable Care Act died last night as Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins were joined by John McCain in opposing the Senate’s “skinny repeal” bill.

Here’s how it went down.

Yesterday afternoon, the Senate voted against a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act. It was a floor vote Mitch McConnell had promised after the failure of a joint repeal-and-replace bill last week, when defections from both the conservative and the moderate wings of the GOP caucus killed it before it reached a vote.

With both repeal-and-replace and the full repeal bills dead in the water, it was time for Plan C (or D or E or X at this point): “Skinny Repeal.”

“Skinny Repeal” was a frankly terrible bill that would get rid of some of the more problematic aspects of Obamacare, but come nowhere close to a full repeal. The idea was that taking away the individual mandate and the employer mandate, but leaving everything else for the time being, would have been enough to make sure the conservatives and the moderates were all on board.

But, it did not happen. The CBO almost immediately announced 16 million more people would go uninsured (because they would not be forced to buy insurance, but semantics and all that) and insurance companies complained skinny repeal would be disastrous for the market.

As a result, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and John McCain voted against the skinny repeal deal. The final vote was 49-51. Mike Pence had been in attendance in order to break the tie, but McCain’s defection from the caucus threw the bill onto the path of defeat that not even Pence could save it from.

After the vote, McConnell’s statement was simple: “It’s time to move on.”

The GOP has now been given the signal to go ahead and skip on to the next big project: tax reform – a subject I am sure will be much easier to tackle for a body that couldn’t even pass something it had campaigned on for the last 7 years.

The failure of every GOP health care reform initiative is significant because it shows a real weakness within the party in power, and it shows Donald Trump’s weakness as a leader of his party. Both of these weaknesses could potentially play against the GOP in 2018, a year that is (as of now) expected to be particularly harsh on House GOP members.

What’s next for health care reform is anyone’s guess at this point. McConnell has seemingly conceded that it won’t happen, but there are a good many conservative lawmakers who still want to keep that promise. We just don’t know where or when the time to keep that promise will come up again.

This may the only time that an article at Redstate speaks well for my thoughts.

The only thing I would add is… this should be a lesson to Republican politicians and voters about being the anti-everything party. There will come a time when you have to a solution, rather than complain. And if you don’t have a better alternative, you look like an ass.

Trump’s Boorish Behavior

Everyone is talking about Trump’s horrible appearance before the Boy Scouts of America at their annual Jamboree yesterday. I agree with the criticism — I just am not very surprised or shocked.

In keeping with the Scouts’ traditions, all eight presidents and surrogates who have represented them have stayed far, far away from partisan politics.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the occasion to talk about good citizenship. Harry S. Truman extolled fellowship: “When you work and live together, and exchange ideas around the campfire, you get to know what the other fellow is like,” he said.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower invoked the “bonds of common purpose and common ideals.” And President George H.W. Bush spoke of “serving others.”

For a brief moment at this year’s jamboree in West Virgina, President Donald Trump indicated that he would follow that tradition — sort of.

This is how it started, with a lot of familiar elements.

It looks like about 45,000 people. You set a record today.
(APPLAUSE)
You set a record. That’s a great honor, believe me.
Tonight we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C. you’ve been hearing about with the fake news and all of that. We’re going to put that…
(APPLAUSE)
We’re going to put that aside. And instead we’re going to talk about success, about how all of you amazing young Scouts can achieve your dreams, what to think of, what I’ve been thinking about. You want to achieve your dreams, I said, who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?

“Hell” in front of Boy Scouts is not presidential (to say the least), but after that, he talked about politics — Obamacare (boooo!), “fake news” (boooo!), crowd size, etc. This may be the first speech ever delivered to a Boy Scout Jamboree that referenced the stock market, job numbers, and covered electoral results at the state level. That the speech was well received by a majority of the attendees–it was interrupted with chants of “We Love Trump” and “USA, USA”–doesn’t make it right or appropriate.

At one point, Trump told a rambling story about a conversation he had at a New York cocktail party with a once-successful home builder who “lost his momentum.” The lesson, apparently: “You have to know whether or not you continue to have the momentum. And if you don’t have it, that’s okay.

The Boy Scouts are defending the invitation, but so far have not disavowed anything Trump said.  This is causing a big backlash everywhere, like on their Facebook page.


Can A Sitting President Be Indicted?

The conventional wisdom has always said that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Under current law, a President is immune from civil lawsuits in federal court, when it comes to his official acts as president.  This is because of Nixon v. Fitzgerald, a 1982 Supreme Court ruling.  There, the Supreme Court wrote: “The ‘singular importance of the President’s duties’ warrants a stay where civil actions, such as this one, ‘frequently could distract a President from his public duties to the detriment of not only the President and his office but also the Nation that the President was designed to serve.’”

From this case it was always thought that an indictment would similarly be barred.

However, nothing in the Constitution or federal law explicitly says presidents are immune from indictment while they remain in office.  So what’s the answer?

A legal memo unearthed by the New York Times and written for special prosecutor Kenneth Starr during the Clinton Administration concludes that the indictment of a President for acts done prior to taking office, is constitutional.  Here is that memo (after the NYT letters):

The Constitutional Crisis Cloud

It’s been an insane few days for me personally (with work) and insane in the world of Trump.  I wanted to write at some length about the bizarre Trump interview in the New York Times — and how he dissed his attorney general for recusing himself from the Russian collusion investigation and his veiled threats to Bob Mueller, the independent counsel investigating collusion… and how all that came after Ty Cobb was brought to head all the legal teams and apparently imposed message disciple the day before… and the Trump gave this interview.  I found the whole thing scary for what it says about Trump’s apparent disregard for, well, not only our political institutions, but the law in general.

But that is two days old now, and other things have intervened. So as for the Trump interview, I can only applaud the NYT editorial about it yesterday:

In less than an hour on Wednesday afternoon, President Trump found a way to impugn the integrity and threaten the livelihoods of nearly all of the country’s top law enforcement officials, including some he appointed, for one simple reason: They swore an oath to defend the Constitution, not him.

For a president who sees the rule of law as an annoyance rather than a feature of American democracy, the traitors are everywhere.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions endured the worst abuse, which came during Mr. Trump’s gobsmacking Oval Office interview with The Times. Mr. Sessions’s offense? Recusing himself in March from all investigations related to the 2016 presidential campaign, a decision that infuriated Mr. Trump. “If he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” the president said. He called the recusal “extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”

Never mind that Mr. Sessions had no real choice but to step aside. Given his proximity to the campaign — Mr. Sessions was one of Mr. Trump’s earliest and most vocal supporters — his ability to be impartial was reasonably in doubt. The “unfairness,” as Mr. Trump saw it, was that Mr. Sessions’s partiality was exactly what he hoped to exploit, mainly to help quash the F.B.I.’s inquiry into his campaign’s possible ties to the Russian government, whose meddling was aimed at tipping the election in Mr. Trump’s favor.

Mr. Sessions said on Thursday that he would continue as attorney general “as long as that is appropriate.” But propriety left the building long ago. It’s hard to imagine he will be there much longer, since the president has, in so many words, invited him to resign for failing to block the Russia investigation. That inquiry lives on for now, but all those associated with it would be justified in fearing that they could well end up like James Comey, the F.B.I. director Mr. Trump fired in May in the hope of shutting it down.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who took charge after Mr. Sessions’s recusal, and Robert Mueller, the special counsel Mr. Rosenstein appointed to run the investigation after Mr. Comey’s firing, were also in the president’s sights. Both men, he complained, were guilty of “conflicts of interest” — which Mr. Trump seems to define as anything that conflicts with his own interests.

For Mr. Mueller, who led the F.B.I. for more than a decade and who is one of the most respected law enforcement officials in the country, Mr. Trump had a clear message: Watch your back. Any investigation into the Trump family’s finances, unrelated to Russia, the president said, would constitute a “violation” of Mr. Mueller’s mandate, and possibly would be grounds for his dismissal. That’s simply wrong. The special counsel is authorized to investigate “any matters” that might arise during the course of the Russia investigation — in fact, he’s already doing so.

In the end, Mr. Trump is concerned with nothing so much as saving his own hide, which means getting rid of the Russia inquiry for good. He previously said this was why he fired Mr. Comey, and it may yet be the undoing of Mr. Sessions, Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Mueller.

The one person who avoided the president’s wrath was the only one who has not yet had the chance to defy him: Christopher Wray, Mr. Trump’s pick to replace Mr. Comey. “I think we’re going to have a great new F.B.I. director,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday.

Perhaps he forgot that Mr. Wray told senators during his confirmation hearing that he would not hesitate to prosecute the Trump Organization for foreign-corruption crimes if the evidence pointed that way. Or perhaps he thinks he can bend Mr. Wray to his will because, as he told The Times, “the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president.”

Wrong again: The F.B.I. director reports to the attorney general, precisely to protect the independence of which Mr. Trump is so openly contemptuous. It’s true that the president may fire the director, but that power is, or used to be, reserved for the most extraordinary circumstances.

Mr. Trump’s cavalier attitude toward this carefully designed system is an affront to the people who have spent their careers respecting and protecting it. It’s also the clearest sign yet that he values the rule of law only to the extent that it benefits him personally.

I am more taken with the story in last night’s Washington Post, and particularly this paragraph:

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

Although the story downplays Trump’s questions as “This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ”, the fact that this is even remotely on his mind is troubling. As is the suggestion that he might fire Mueller.

Theoretical or not, we could get to that point, which would be a constitutional crisis because there is no clear answer to the question “Can a president pardon himself?”

The constitutional language governing pardons reads, “The President … shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” That vagueness is part of the reason the boundaries of the authority would need to be interpreted by the courts in unusual cases, like the one at hand.

Some note that the Constitution does not explicitly prohibit a president from pardoning himself. On the other side, experts say that by definition a pardon is something you can only give to someone else.  That’s what “grant” means.  I tend to agree with that.

There is also a common-law canon that prohibits individuals from serving as a judge in their own case. … ‘This is a fiercely debated but unresolved legal question,’ said Brian C. Kalt, a constitutional law expert at Michigan State University who has written extensively on the question. … No president has sought to pardon himself, so no courts have reviewed it.”

One thing is for sure — Impeachment itself is specifically carved out of the presidential pardon power within the Constitution, so if Trump were impeached, he’d have no counter to that action.

But like many, I worry if Republicans are so in the tank for Trump and so unprincipled, that they wouldn’t impeach him even if he pardoned himself.  They certainly are very quiet on the subject today.

On the Democatic side,  Rep. Adam Schiff of California and Mark Warner of Virginia reacted to the news that Trump’s legal team is exploring the possibility of pardons. Schiff called the reports “disturbing” and said it is something the president “should rule out categorically.” Warner said pardoning individuals “at this early stage in these ongoing investigations” would be “crossing a fundamental line.”

They are also taking stands against the firing of Mueller.

And personally, I believe that the oppo research being done on Mueller is very close to obstruction of justice.  I don’t think Mueller can be intimidated, and this is a very bad legal tactic in this situation.  Heck, Mueller was under consideration for Comey’s replacement as the head of the FBI.

To be continued….

UPDATE:  Well, this is reassuring.

Trumpcare Declared Dead But GOP Not Finished Screwing America

So this happened:

Republican senator from Kansas and his Republican colleague from Utah said “no” to the GOP plan to replace Obamacare. This comes even before the CBO had scored it, but it would have resulted in tens of millions losing healthcare and higher premiums. That doesn’t include all those who would get crappy healthcare that is useless when they actually have a catastrophic illness.

The Senate vote was supposed to be this week and it was right on the edge. Only one more Republican Senator (besides the two nay-sayers already) needed to step up and say “no” and the thing was dead. Senate Majority Leader McConnell put off voting until August while Senator McCain had some pretty nasty eye/brain surgery which apparently accounted for his odd behavior recently at the Comey hearing.

It was thought that key swing-votes were Rob Portman of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Jeff Flake of Arizona, or maybe Cory Gardner of Colorado.

But Lee and Moran stepped up and killed this. They joined Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul in opposition, denying GOP leaders the support to even bring the bill to the floor and upending Republicans’ seven-year goal of repealing Obamacare.

But apparently McConnell had a backup plan: he announced that the chamber would vote to take up a House bill from 2015 that repeals the Affordable Care Act and then provides for a two-year delay while the Senate develops a plan to replace it.

“[I]n the coming days,” McConnell said in a statement Monday night, “the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama: A repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period to a patient-centered health care system that gives Americans access to quality, affordable care.”

This is a terrible idea. Repealing Obamacare without implementing a replacement would have even more devastating consequences than Trumpcare. It would result in 18 million people losing their coverage the first full year after the bill’s enactment. That number would rise to 32 million by 2026, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which scored the repeal and delay plan when it was proposed in 2015.

Repeal and delay would also significantly increase premiums, the CBO said. In the first year following enactment of the law, premiums purchased through the marketplaces or directly from insurers would increase 20 to 25 percent relative to projections under the current law.

In the year following the elimination of the Medicaid expansion and subsidies provided by the ACA, that increase would reach about 50 percent, with premiums doubling by 2026.

The widespread confusion that repeal and delay would create would be detrimental even as the current law stays in place during the proposed two years the Senate would have to develop a replacement.

Insurers use projections to set prices, and knowing the industry is going to dramatically change but not knowing how is expected to cause insurers to pull out of the ACA marketplaces. This means higher premiums and, ultimately, a death spiral that would result in Americans losing their health insurance.

But the two defectors from last night are for repeal (right now), and so is this guy:

Trump clearly doesn’t care what the bill is.  He just wants to declare a “win”.  But this repeal-and-replace-later is a non-starter. I don’t think anybody thinks Congress will come up with a better idea in two years.  Plus, repeal will be hard since part so it require a 60-senator vote.

So the watch word on the left is: “Yay for us, but remain vigilant”.

UPDATE:  Yeah, it might be dead before this morning is out.

The Blackmail of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzenzski

The fallout from Trump’s Twitter attack yesterday on TV hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzenzski (mostly the latter) continues, and it doesn’t go well for Trump.  The couple wrote a devastating op-ed in WaPo, the title of which says it all:

They are quite right — Donald Trump is not well.  I question whether he ever was.  But it is what they said this morning on their show that caught my interest, and the interest of many others:

MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski claim President Trump and his White House used the possibility of a hit piece in the National Enquirer to threaten them.

But President Trump has a very different account of what happened. “FAKE NEWS,” he tweeted during “Morning Joe” Friday morning.
The editor in charge of the Enquirer, Dylan Howard, said “we have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story, and absolutely no involvement in those discussions.”

Meanwhile, Scarborough says he has proof of the White House threats — “I have texts from your top aides and phone records.”
Scarborough and Brzezinski are essentially alleging a form of blackmail.

The accusation came during a wider discussion about the president’s offensive tweets targeting the co-hosts. It piqued the attention of journalists because it implies that the president is using a friendly media outlet to punish his opponents.

What’s definitely true is this: Trump and the publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, are friends and allies. Jeffrey Toobin documented the mutually beneficial relationship in this week’s edition of The New Yorker.

The Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid, frequently promotes the president’s agenda.

Here’s exactly what the co-hosts alleged on Friday’s “Morning Joe.”

“We got a call that, ‘Hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys…’ And they said, ‘If you call the president up, and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike this story,” Scarborough said.

Scarborough didn’t name names, but he said “three people at the very top of the administration” called him about this.

“The calls kept coming and kept coming, and they were like ‘Call. You need to call. Please call. Come on, Joe. Just pick up the phone and call him.'”

In other words, grovel to the president and he’ll make the mean story disappear.

Scarborough did not immediately respond to a request from CNN for more details.

But he and Brzezinski also described the alleged discussion in a Washington Post column on Friday.

“This year,” they wrote, “top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.”

Scarborough and Brzezinski are now engaged. The negative article was about their past marriages and the beginning of their relationship. It was published in early June.

Dylan Howard, the chief content officer for the Enquirer’s parent company American Media, said “we accurately reported” the story, but “at no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story.”

Brzezinski suggested otherwise.

“Let me explain what they were threatening,” she said. “They were calling my children. They were calling close friends.”

She said “these calls persisted for quite some time, and then Joe had the conversations that he had with the White House where they said ‘Oh, this could go away.'”

In response, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that he is “not aware” of White House officials pressing Scarborough to call up Trump and make nice.

Here’s the video:

The president himself weighed in via Twitter a few minutes later.

Scarborough responded quickly to Trump’s tweet with one of his own:

It get worse.

For Trump.

Redstate talked to Scarborough and asked him about it. This is what Scarborough reportedly said:

“NBC execs knew in real time about the calls and who made them to me. That’s why Mark Kornblau wrote about contemporaneous texts. I showed him and executives as they were coming in to keep them advised.”

Scarborough also said the calls about the National Enquirer story started in late April and early May but that he never placed a call to President Trump, contra Trump’s tweet. “I never called the President about this,” he said. “I challenge him to reveal any phone records showing that I called him. He can’t because I didn’t.”

Blackmail is a very serious charge. The administration will likely face questions about in their latest press briefing and how they respond will be telling.

UPDATE: NY Magazine has news on this, with sources. This seems to be the story — it contradiction that Joe called him to discuss the Enquirer story.

According to three sources familiar with the private conversations, what happened was this: After the inauguration, Morning Joe’s coverage of Trump turned sharply negative. “This presidency is fake and failed,” Brzezinski said on March 6, for example. Around this time, Scarborough and Brzezinski found out the Enquirer was preparing a story about their affair. While Scarborough and Brzezinski’s relationship had been gossiped about in media circles for some time, it was not yet public, and the tabloid was going to report that they had left their spouses to be together.

In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment). Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirer published the story in print on June 5, headlined “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”

The Daily Beast (which apparently published just before NYMag) has basically the same story.

UPDATE:  A Vanity Fair story adds come color. This is Mika’s perspective…

Trump’s Executive Order On “Religious Liberty”

I was dreading this. Trump signed it about half an hour ago.

But the final version of the order addresses two issues. First, it instructs the Internal Revenue Service to “exercise maximum enforcement discretion” in cases of pastors and other religious leaders speaking about political candidates from the pulpit, which is currently outlawed by a provision typically referred to as the Johnson Amendment. ““We are giving churches their voices back,” Trump said. Second, it provides “regulatory relief” to religious organizations that object to a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires most employers to cover contraception in employee insurance plans.

This is good news.

Trump could not overturn the Johnson Amendment — that would require an act of Congress.  All he could to was instruct the IRS not to enforce it much, which it wasn’t doing anyway.  As for the regulatory relief, well, the Hobby Lobby case took care of that issue before he came into office.

So this doesn’t change things much (although it appeases his fundie base and Trump gets to do a victory lap).

There was no LGBTQ provision, which was in an earlier draft.

Maybe that’s why many fundamentalist people are not happy. On Twitter, the National Review columnist David French called the order “total weaksauce” and a “sop to the gullible.” Russell Moore, the head of the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said “I am hoping that the draft we are seeing this morning is not the entire project, and that more will be forthcoming.” And on Ryan Anderson, a scholar at the Heritage Foundation who works on religious issues, called the new order “woefully inadequate.”

Praise the Lord — Trump fools people again.

Crucial Vote on Healthcare Today

The ACHA, once thought dead, got revived yesterday.  The big change? 8 billion for states that choose to create high risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions.  Of course, the fact that this 8 billion boondoggle (which goes to insurance companies) exists only highlights the lie that “no changes are being made with respect to pre-existing conditions”.  And 8 billion, by the way, is nowhere near enough.

Here’s a table of key differences:

Terrible.

Chaitspeaks:

The heart of the bill is the same one that was polling at under 20 percent and failed two months ago: a near-trillion dollar tax cut for wealthy investors, financed by cuts to insurance subsidies for the poor and middle class. They have added a series of hazily defined changes: waivers for states to allow insurers to charge higher rates to people with preexisting conditions and to avoid covering essential health benefits, and a pitifully small amount of money to finance high-risk pools for sick patients.

The implications of these changes are vast. The Brookings Institution notes that if a single state eliminated the cap on lifetime benefits for a single employee, then employers in every state could actually follow suit, thus bringing back a horrid feature of the pre-Obamacare system, in which people who get hit with expensive treatment suddenly discover that their insurer will no longer pay for their care. This would affect not only those getting insurance through Medicaid or the state exchanges, but also through their job.

The ambiguity of the details is the strategy. Republican leaders have been “assuring centrists that the Senate would make changes to allay their concerns and insisting that few states would actually use the waivers allowing higher premiums for pre-existing conditions,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Sean Spicer says it would be “literally impossible … to do an analysis of any level of factual basis.” Representative Fred Upton told reporters that if the Congressional Budget Office says the bill is underfunded he will push for more money — after it passes his chamber.

They are rushing through a chamber of Congress a bill reorganizing one-fifth of the economy, without even cursory attempts to gauge its impact. Its budgetary impact is as yet unknown. The same is true of its social impact, though the broad strokes are clear enough: Millions of Americans will lose access to medical care, and tens of thousands of them will die, and Congress is eager to hasten these results without knowing them more precisely. Their haste and secrecy are a way of distancing the House Republicans from the immorality of their actions.

There’s simply no way that this can be considered “better”.  The White House argument is that it is necessary to keep Obamacare from imploding.

It would be nice to have CBO scoring on this, but that is not going to happen.  That is very telling.

Two things not mentioned above:

(1)  Congress and its staff are exempt from these changes.  Some GOP congresscritters have suggested that the issue of their exemption be taken up in a separate piece of legislation, but I’m not holding my breath.  (Why not do it now?)

(2)  People like me who get insurance through their employer are not necessarily protected.  If your employer is a multi-state employer, it can pick the state which has the crappiest (cheapest) benefits and provide that to ALL employers.

The vote is scheduled for 1:00 pm today.  I will update as the day goes on.

23 “No” Republicans will kill the bill in the House.  Right now, it doesn’t seem like we are there.

UPDATE 11:40am –

Going the wrong direction (wonder why CNN dropped off the list)

UPDATE 1:14pm –

Voting should start in a half hour or so…

Not sure why WaPo went down…

UPDATE 2:00pm –

They are voting to exempt themselves from Obamacare or whatever else comes up.  Democrats AND Republicans.

….and it passes with zero Nays.

UPDATE 2:13pm –  Voting started on Health Care passage.  Five minutes.

And The House PASSED H.R. 1628 – American Health Care Act 217 to 213

Singing “Na na na na hey hey hey goodbye” — Is it Democrats or Republicans?

I wouldn’t want to be a House Republican in a district Clinton won.  Here they are: