The Daily 202: Trump marginalizes experts, debases expertise – Washington Post
Newly named White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci listens Friday to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speak in the briefing room. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump, the first president in American history to take office with no prior governing or military experience, has appointed someone with no professional communications experience to be White House communications director.
Making his debut on the Sunday shows, former hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci said his new boss still does not accept the consensus of professional analysts and case officers across the intelligence community that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election.
“He basically said to me, ‘Hey, you know … Maybe they did it, maybe they didn’t do it,’” Scaramucci said on CNN.
These two things are not unrelated. Trump has repeatedly dismissed the knowledge and wisdom of experts while elevating nonexperts who lack relevant experience into important jobs across the federal government. This gets less attention than other story lines, but it has been a hallmark of the president’s first six months in power.
Party planner Lynne Patton, who helped plan Eric Trump’s wedding but had no professional experience in housing, was appointed last month to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s office for the region that covers New York and New Jersey.
Last week Trump nominated someone who is not a credentialed scientist to be the Agriculture Department’s chief scientist. Sam Clovis has described himself as “extremely skeptical” about the expert consensus on climate change. The post he’s been tapped for has been occupied by a string of individuals with advanced degrees in science or medicine.
News broke Friday that Trump will nominate a prominent coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, to serve as the No. 2 at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow speaks about forest fires in Montana in 2015. Trump appointees in Washington blocked him from talking with Mark Zuckeberg when he visited the park the weekend before last. Mow’s 26-year career with the Park Service has included roles as law enforcement ranger, chief ranger and superintendent at seven Park Service sites before he took the top job at Glacier. He is known as a climate expert who frequently tells visitors that the retreating ice sheets at Glacier are evidence of a climate undergoing rapid change. (Aaric Bryan/The Daily Inter Lake via AP)
— Meanwhile, the Trumpists have actively taken steps to prevent experts from doing their jobs. The EPA removed several agency websites in April that contained detailed climate data and scientific information, including one that had been cited to challenge statements made by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. One of the Web pages that was shuttered had existed for nearly two decades and explained what climate change is and how it worked.
The weekend before last, Trump’s political appointees at the Interior Department abruptly removed two top climate experts from a delegation scheduled to show Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg around Glacier National Park.
— The administration is heavily populated with people who lack qualifications that would have been prerequisites to get the same jobs in past Republican and Democratic administrations. It starts at the top: No one not named Trump seriously believes that the president’s daughter and son-in-law could have gotten their plum West Wing jobs if not for nepotism.
Jared Kushner purportedly proposed to Russia’s ambassador the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin last December, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring by the U.S. government.
The president, for his part, didn’t want any professionals from the government, including the Russia expert on the National Security Council, to sit in on his meeting with Vladimir Putin. The Russians also reportedly recommended that a note taker be present, but Trump refused.
— Previous presidents have worked the referees, but Trump has taken it to a whole new level. He’s declared war on any ref who calls him for fouls.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated last week that the revised Senate Republican health-care bill would increase the number of uninsured people by 22 million people over the next 10 years if it passed. Knowing the numbers would be abysmal, the administration placed an op-ed preemptively dismissing the independent forecast. “Although the media and the political left will certainly seize on it, the CBO’s estimates will be little more than fake news,” wrote Marc Short, Trump’s director of legislative affairs, and Brian Blase, a special assistant to the president for the National Economic Council.
Trump attacked federal judges who found that his travel ban was unconstitutional. Then he criticized professional lawyers in his own Justice Department for pursuing a “watered down” version of the ban that could withstand judicial scrutiny.
The day after he took office, the president personally pressured the head of the National Park Service to back up his overinflated claims about the size of his inauguration crowd. He also vented that the agency had tweeted a picture that showed how relatively few people actually turned out.
The director of the independent Office of Government Ethics, a persistent critic of the Trump administration’s approach to ethics, stepped down last week nearly six months before his term was scheduled to end. Walter M. Shaub Jr. drew the ire of administration officials when he challenged Trump to fully divest from his business empire and chastised Kellyanne Conway for promoting Ivanka Trump products from the White House briefing room.
In an administration characterized by its embrace of what Conway notoriously called “alternative facts,” the systemic effort to sideline experts who challenge Trump has been a feature, not a bug. But none of this is terribly surprising in the context of the campaign: Trump said he knew more about war than the generals. He cast doubt upon the medical community consensus that vaccines do not cause autism. And he said a federal judge of Mexican descent couldn’t objectively adjudicate a fraud lawsuit against Trump University because of his heritage. Speaker Paul Ryan called this “the textbook definition” of a racist statement at the time.
— Trump’s embrace of experts and expertise is situational. Candidate Trump often claimed that the government’s unemployment rate was “totally fiction,” even though the economists who tabulate it are insulated from political pressure. “Don’t believe these phony numbers,” Trump said at a rally last year. “The [real] number is probably 28 [percent], 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent.”
But when there was a good jobs report in March, which showed the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, then-press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump now believes the same numbers. “They may have been phony in the past, but they are very real now,” Spicer said.
— In a new book entitled “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters,” Tom Nichols describes Trump’s victory last November as “undeniably one of the most recent—and one of the loudest—trumpets sounding the impending death of expertise.”
The president defended his lack of specific policy knowledge during a rally on the eve of the Wisconsin primary in 2016. “They say, ‘Oh, Trump doesn’t have experts,’” Trump said. “You know, I’ve always wanted to say this: … The experts are terrible! They say, ‘Donald Trump needs a foreign policy adviser.’ … But supposing I didn’t have one, would it be worse than what we’re doing now?”
Nichols, a professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island, believes the “death of expertise and its associated attacks on knowledge fundamentally undermine the republican system of government.”
“The abysmal literacy, both political and general, of the American public is the foundation for all of these problems. It is the soil in which all of the other dysfunctions have taken root and prospered, with the 2016 election only its most recent expression,” Nichols writes. “Americans have increasingly unrealistic expectations of what their political and economic system can provide. This sense of entitlement is one reason they are continually angry at ‘experts’ and especially at ‘elitists,’ a word that in modern American usage can mean almost anyone with any education who refuses to coddle the public’s mistaken beliefs. When told that ending poverty or preventing terrorism is a lot harder than it looks, Americans roll their eyes. Unable to comprehend all of the complexity around them, they choose instead to comprehend almost none of it and then sullenly blame experts, politicians and bureaucrats for seizing control of their lives.”
Professionals in every industry report that laypeople increasingly challenge their know-how. “No area of American life is immune to the death of expertise,” writes Nichols, who worked for the late Republican Sen. John Heinz (Pa.) early in his career. “Doctors routinely tussle with patients over drugs. Lawyers will describe clients losing money, and sometimes their freedom, because of unheeded advice. Teachers will relate stories of parents insisting that their children’s exam answers are right even when they’re demonstrably wrong. Relators tell of clients who bought homes against their experienced advice and ended up trapped in a money pit.”
The 252-page book is packed with illustrations. “What I find so striking today is not that people dismiss expertise, but that they do so with such frequency, on so many issues, and with such anger,” Nichols laments. “It may be that attacks on expertise are more obvious due to the ubiquity of the Internet, the undisciplined nature of conversation on social media, or the demands of the twenty-four-hour news cycle. But there is a self-righteousness and fury to this new rejection of expertise that suggest, at least to me, that this isn’t just mistrust or questioning or the pursuit of alternatives: it is narcissism, coupled to a disdain for expertise as some sort of exercise in self-actualization.”
Jared Kushner. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— Jared Kushner plans to detail to Congress in closed-door sessions four meetings he had with Russian lawmakers during the 2016 campaign and transition period, according to a breaking report from The Washington Post’s Phil Rucker. The first son-in-law will “deny any improper contacts or collusion … Kushner describes his interactions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and other Russian officials as typical contacts in his role as the Trump campaign’s liaison to foreign governments, according to an 11-page prepared statement he plans to submit for the record, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post … In his testimony, which will be submitted to the congressional committees before he answers questions from lawmakers, Kushner says he has had only ‘limited contacts’ with Russian representatives and denies any wrongdoing.
‘I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,’ Kushner writes. ‘I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.’”
More from Phil’s story: “[Kushner] writes that his first meeting with a Russian official was in April of 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where Trump delivered a major foreign policy speech, the execution of which Kushner says he oversaw. Kushner writes that he attended a reception to thank the event’s host, Dimitri Simes, the publisher of The National Interest, a foreign policy magazine, where Simes introduced Kushner to four ambassadors, including Kislyak. … Kushner denies having had any other contact with Kislyak during the campaign, disputing a report by Reuters that he had had two phone calls with the ambassador. … Kushner also describes attending a June 2016 meeting organized by his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., with a Russian attorney. He says it was listed on his calendar as ‘Meeting: Don Jr. | Jared Kushner.’ He writes that he arrived at the meeting late, and when he got there the Russian lawyer was talking about a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children. ‘I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting,’ Kushner writes. … ‘Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for 10 or so minutes and wrote, ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get our of meeting.’ ”
Kushner is slated to meet behind closed doors with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee today,as lawmakers question him in the intensifying Russian probe. He will also meet privately with members of the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. Devlin Barrett reports: “The Senate Judiciary Committee had planned to question Donald Trump Jr. and [Paul Manafort] this week, but that has been delayed indefinitely while the committee continues to negotiate with the men’s attorneys … Some lawyers not involved in the case expressed surprise that, given the potential legal pitfalls of the criminal investigation, Kushner or any other Trump advisers would take the risk of talking to Congress … ‘It’s a very difficult tightrope to walk,’ said Justin Dillon, a former federal prosecutor … ‘He has to balance the political fallout from taking the Fifth Amendment with the potential criminal fallout of talking.’ Dillon predicted anything Kushner tells the committee will be shared with Mueller.
“The Kushner interview also comes after the president and his legal team have discussed his power to pardon those close to him and even himself. Dillon said the possibility of a future pardon could affect Kushner’s overall legal strategy. ‘No one who has paid any attention to this administration should doubt that if Kushner ever needs a pardon, he will get one,’ he said.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Texas authorities are investigating a suspected human-trafficking operation after at least 39 people were found packed into a sweltering tractor-trailer in San Antonio. Officials said nine of the victims have already died of the severe heat, and many others — some as young as 15 — were rushed to the hospital in extremely critical condition. (Avi Selk and Eva Ruth Moravec)
Employees of the hospital treating Charlie Gard have received death threats. Great Ormond Street Hospital, where the terminally ill child has received treatment, said in a statement, “Thousands of abusive messages have been sent to doctors and nurses whose life’s work is to care for sick children.” (CNN)
- Officials in California are working to thwart an aggressive wildfire near Yosemite National Park. Authorities said the fire has scorched more than 119 square miles, and could take two more weeks to contain. (AP)
Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) former primary rival called on him to resign. Kelli Ward, who is now running to unseat the other Arizona senator Jeff Flake, said in a statement that McCain’s cancer is “both devastating and debilitating” and he “owes it to the people of Arizona to step aside.” She then suggested that the governor may appoint her to fill McCain’s seat if he does resign. (Kristine Phillips)
- Florida police said they will seek possible criminal charges for a group of teenagers who mocked and laughed at a disabled man as he drowned. Authorities said the five teens — who posted a video of the man’s tragic death to social media earlier this month — could be charged under a little-known statute that penalizes anyone who fails to report a death. (Alex Horton)
- A Florida man is recovering after he contracted flesh-eating bacteria through blisters during a hike in New Hampshire earlier this summer. He had checked himself into a hospital shortly after returning home from the trip, his family said — and then spent the next month fighting for his life. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
The price of college is growing at the lowest rate in decades. Tuition costs increased by just 1.9 percent in the past year, largely mirroring overall inflation. (Wall Street Journal)
More than 60 percent of cancer patients are older adults — but according to a new FDA analysis, just 40 percent of patients who participate in cancer clinical trials are over the age of 65. Researchers said the underrepresentation could make it difficult to assess how effective — or harmful — certain treatments could be among that age group. (Judith Graham)
- Almost half of millennials think that chief executives should get involved in advocacy. According to a new survey, 47 percent of millennials believe that chief executives have a responsibility to weigh in on pressing social issues compared to just 28 percent of older Americans. (Jena McGregor)
- Jordan Spieth won the British Open on Sunday, netting the 23-year-old Texan a third major title. He credits his caddie — a former sixth-grade math teacher — for helping him keep a cool head. (Chuck Culpepper)
- Michael Phelps didn’t really race a shark. Much to the disappointment of many viewers, Phelps swam the 100-meter freestyle alongside a computer-generated great white — who did, in fact, win the race. (Scott Allen)
TEAM TRUMP CAN’T GET ITS STORY STRAIGHT:
— “The White House offered conflicting views Sunday of whether [Trump] supports the Russia sanctions legislation in Congress, with his top spokesmen contradicting one another just days after launching plans for a more effective messaging strategy,” David Nakamura and Ashley Parker report. “Speaking on ABC’s ‘This Week,’ [Sarah Huckabee Sanders] said that despite opposing Congress’s initial attempt to impose sanctions on Russia, the White House supports the Russia sanctions bill that congressional leaders announced Saturday. ‘The administration is supportive of being tough on Russia, particularly in putting these sanctions in place,’” Sanders said. ‘“The original piece of legislation was poorly written, but we were able to work with the House and Senate, and the administration is happy with the ability to do that and make those changes that were necessary, and we support where the legislation is now.”
But newly minted communications director Anthony Scaramucci said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that he did not know how the president felt about the bill: “You’ve got to ask [Trump] that,” he said. “It’s my second or third day on the job. My guess is that he’s going to make that decision shortly.” (“My bad,” Scaramucci later told the New York Times in a text when asked about the different comments. “Go with what Sarah is saying as I am new to the information.”)
“The result was a team that still looked uncertain about how to characterize the president’s position on a significant matter that has been central to his first six months in office,” our colleagues write. “Trump brought Scaramucci, who had been a fierce defender of the president on cable news shows, into the West Wing to help shore up a press shop that he believed was doing a poor job of defending him and explaining his message to the public. However, historians said presidents often make the mistake of conflating a messaging problem with their real challenge — a political crisis.”
— And Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow also appeared to contradict Scaramucci on whether Trump has been discussing his power to issue pardons: “We have not, and I continue to not, have conversations with the president of the United States regarding pardons,” Sekulow said on ABC’s “This Week.” But on “Fox News Sunday,” Scaramucci said he and Trump had discussed his pardoning authorities as recently as last week. “I’m in the Oval Office with the president last week, we’re talking about that — he brought that up,” Scaramucci said. “There’s nobody around him that has to be pardoned,” he added. “He was just making the statement about the power of pardons.”
— On “Fox News Sunday,” Scaramucci spoke out against a stream of White House leaks that have outraged the president and his top aides, vowing to “take dramatic action to stop those leaks” in his new role. “Something is going on in the White House that the president does not like, and we’re going to fix it,” he said.
— Meanwhile, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said the media is “too focused” on Russia, telling CNN’s Brian Stelter that the investigation is “not a big story.” CNN Money’s Jill Disis reports: “’You look at his job through the lens of Russia. I look at his job through the lens of America,’ she told Stelter on ‘Reliable Sources.’ She added: ‘You’ve got this disproportionate, out of whack, unequal coverage on Russia with nothing there.’ Conway claimed the media had not devoted enough attention to the country’s opioid epidemic, the policy at the heart of the health care debate in Congress, the stock market, and the job market. Stelter told Conway that ‘it sounds like you should be an assignment editor.’ ‘Why would I want that?’ she shot back. ‘I’m counsel to the president.’
— Scaramucci is also reportedly working to mend Trump’s incendiary relationship with CNN. BuzzFeed News’ Steven Perlberg reports:“In a transcript of comments Scaramucci made Sunday on a hot microphone between appearances on Fox News, CNN, and CBS News … Scaramucci described his mindset when he took the lectern at his first press briefing on Friday … ‘In the back of my mind I have to call on CNN and send a message to [CNN President Jeff] Zucker that we are back in business,’ Scaramucci said, according to the transcript … He referred to Zucker having ‘helped me get the job by hitting those guys,’ a reference to the network’s decision to force the resignation of three employees over a retracted Russia article that mentioned Scaramucci. According to the transcript, Scaramucci — who was filming the interviews remotely — joked that Zucker is ‘not getting a placement fee for getting me the job.’ Scaramucci confirmed to BuzzFeed News that he made the comments and said that some of his colorful remarks were jokes.”
— … And some Washington insiders are wondering how much longer Reince Priebus will stick around as chief of staff. Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports: “President Trump knew that appointing [Scaramucci] as communications director would humiliate Reince, who fought hard against it. … If we’ve learned anything so far about this President, it’s that in real life he actually hates saying ‘you’re fired.’ So what might it take for Reince to quit? Reince has very few true allies inside the building. At this point, they don’t stretch much further than his personal assistant and the RNC holdovers on the press team. … It’s unclear at this point how he survives much longer, and the breeziness with which the President humiliates him has even his enemies wincing in sympathy.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
— Trump’s stance on a Russia sanctions bill took on renewed urgency Friday after a deal was brokered to end a weeks-long stalemate in Congress over the legislation. Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian report: “The House [is] preparing to vote next week on a bill that would prevent President Trump from lifting measures against Moscow. House leaders agreed to vote on an expanded version of the bill after adding sanctions aimed at freezing North Korea’s nuclear program and draining the government of revenue to fund it. … The version of the bill posted on a House website just before midnight Friday addresses House procedural concerns about in which chamber the bill would originate, removes the provision that blacklists energy companies from entering into oil development projects if any Russian firm is involved, and delays defense and intelligence sector sanctions while asking the administration to clarify which Russian entities would fall within those sectors.”
— Europe is already planning some form of retaliation if the U.S. enacts [congressional] sanctions [against Russia], which could leave European companies vulnerable to intervention farther down the road. Politico’s Ryan Heath reports: “The biggest affected interest would be the mooted Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, itself a source of political controversy in the EU, though the Commission note says ‘the impact would in reality be much wider.’ Germany and Austria lashed out at the proposed sanctions in June, accusing the U.S. of politicizing its economic interest in selling shipments of liquefied natural gas to Europe, which would compete with projects like Nord Stream 2 or the Southern Gas Corridor from the Caspian.”
— Both Trump and Putin had sought to avoid further sanctions. The New York Times’ David E. Sanger reports: “How [the new sanctions] happened is a story of two global leaders overplaying their hands. Mr. Putin is beginning to pay a price for what John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, described last week as the Russian president’s fateful decision last summer to try to use stolen computer data to support Mr. Trump’s candidacy. For his part, Mr. Trump ignited the movement in Congress by repeatedly casting doubt on that intelligence finding, then fueled it by confirming revelation after revelation about previously denied contacts between his inner circle and a parade of Russians. … With the new sanctions, [Putin’s election interference] now also appears to have set back his long-term strategy: to get out from under a sanctions regime that, along with low oil prices, has stunted his country’s economy.”
— Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) called Sunday on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, following reports that he discussed campaign matters with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year.Tory Newmyer reports: “’What I do know is what I read, which is that I guess someone in Kislyak’s position can sometimes distort what he says when he is reporting back to build himself up,’” Franken said on CNN’s “State of the Union”. ‘I also saw in those reports that Kislyak isn’t that type. And it seems to me that since [Sessions] hasn’t been terribly truthful regarding these things that it’s more likely that what Kislyak was saying was the case.” Franken said he believes the panel’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, also wants the attorney general to testify on the matter.
— Kislyak concluded his assignment as Russian ambassador to the United States this weekend. The AP reports: “The Russian Embassy in Washington announced on Twitter that Kislyak’s tenure ended on Saturday. Kislyak’s successor has not been announced, although it is widely expected to be Anatoly Antonov, a deputy foreign minister and former deputy defense minister seen as a hardliner regarding the United States.”
— “Local and state government agencies from Oregon to Connecticut say they are using a Russian brand of security software despite the federal government’s instructions to its own agencies not to buy the software over concerns about cyberespionage,”Jack Gillum and Aaron C. Davis report: “The federal agency in charge of purchasing, the [GSA], this month removed Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab from its list of approved vendors. In doing so, the agency’s statement suggested a vulnerability exists in Kaspersky that could give the Russian government backdoor access to the systems it protects, though they offered no explanation or evidence of it. The GSA’s move on July 11 has left state and local governments to speculate about the risks of sticking with the company or abandoning taxpayer-funded contracts, sometimes at great cost. … Kaspersky also has been purchased for use by the federal government in recent years, including the Bureau of Prisons and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
— Meanwhile, “[Jared Kushner] secured a multimillion-dollar Manhattan real estate deal with a Soviet-born oligarch whose company was cited in a major New York money laundering case now being probed by members of Congress,” the Guardian’s Wendy Dent, Ed Pilkington and Shaun Walker report. “[Lev] Leviev, a global tycoon known as the ‘king of diamonds’, was a business partner of the Russian-owned company Prevezon Holdings that was at the center of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit launched in New York. Under the leadership of US attorney Preet Bharara, who was fired by Trump in March, prosecutors pursued Prevezon for allegedly attempting to use Manhattan real estate deals to launder money stolen from the Russian treasury. … [In 2015,] Kushner paid $295m to acquire several floors of the old New York Times building at 43rd street in Manhattan from the US branch of Leviev’s company, Africa Israel Investments (AFI), and its partner Five Mile Capital. The sale has been identified as of possible interest to the Mueller investigation.”
Sen. Susan Collins talks to reporters as she walks through the Senate subway last week. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
THIS IS THE WEEK (OR IS IT?) ON HEALTH CARE:
— Mitch McConnell appears determined to hold a vote on health care this week, even as support for the measure, as well as which specific measure will be voted on, remain unclear. Amy Goldstein reports: “Central questions include whether enough Senate Republicans will converge on any version of their leaders’ health-care plan and whether significant aspects of the legislation being considered can fit within arcane parliamentary rules. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) indicated on Sunday that the majority party may not have enough support to prevail on even a first step — a routine vote to begin the floor debate. … [McConnell will be] bringing to the floor an anti-ACA bill passed by the House this spring and allowing senators a sort of free-for-all for substituting in either of the Senate measures or new iterations. ‘We are still on track . . . to have a vote early this week,’ a McConnell spokesman said on Sunday. ‘The Senate will consider all types of proposals, Republican and Democrat.’”
The bill’s two most consistent Republican opponents, Sens. Susan Collins and Rand Paul, reiterated their criticisms of the legislation yesterday: “Lawmakers ‘don’t know whether we’re going to be voting on the House bill, the first version of the Senate bill, the second version of the Senate bill, a new version of the Senate bill or a 2015 bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act now and then said that somehow we’ll figure out a replacement over the next two years,’ Collins said. ‘I don’t think that’s a good approach to facing legislation that affects millions of people and one-sixth of our economy,’ she added. Her sentiment was echoed by [Paul], who contends that the main GOP proposal the Senate has been considering does not go far enough to undermine the ACA. ‘The real question is, what are we moving to? What are we opening debate to?’ Paul said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’”
— The White House is already preparing for the worst. Politico’s Eliana Johnson and Josh Dawsey report: “White House aides are already considering how to distance President Donald Trump from Congress and how to go after the Republicans who vote no — an idea the president seems fond of, according to people who have spoken to him. Several people said he plans to keep up the fight, no matter how this week’s vote goes. … Meanwhile, those close to [McConnell] say they are frustrated that the president has shown little focus on his political agenda, particularly health care. … White House officials and lawmakers alike worried that a setback on healthcare would snowball, making tax reform and an infrastructure bill more difficult.”
— McConnell’s proposal, much like Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s (R-Wis.)’s legislation, represents “a profound misreading of the Trump base, which directed most of its 2016 election anger at economic elites and Washington’s continued inability to boost middle-class fortunes,” the Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey writes. “After rolling into office with winning slogans targeting ‘Obamacare’ … [Republican leaders in Congress] either missed or ignored lessons of Trump’s jaw-dropping, populist-fueled victory. Trump himself understood the pitfalls, when he promised during the campaign that, while repealing Obamacare if he won office, he would not touch Medicare and Medicaid and would not roll back ACA protections for people with preexisting conditions. It was a bundle of contradictions rolled into a pitch, but it proved persuasive to his voters.”
IN THE REAL WORLD:
— “When Health Law Isn’t Enough, the Desperate Line Up at Tents,” by the New York Times’s Trip Gabriel: “As the sun set in the mountains of southwest Virginia, hundreds of hurting souls were camped out or huddled in vehicles, eager for an early place in line when the gates swung open at 5 a.m. for the nation’s largest pop-up free clinic. The Remote Area Medical Expedition, held at a county fairground in Appalachia over three days ending Sunday, drew more than 2,000 people who endured high heat and long waits for basic health services. It was a dispiriting reminder that as Congress flails around for health plans that could cost millions of people their insurance, many more don’t have much or any insurance or access to medical care to lose.”
— “Fear of Medicaid cuts looms at school that serves students with disabilities,” by Mandy McLaren: “At [St. Coletta Special Education Public Charter School in Southeast Washington], where all students have special needs, tiny pieces of progress can add up to life-changing trajectories. The school relies on funding from Medicaid to employ a cadre of therapists. But with each twist in the health-care debate on Capitol Hill, staff members wonder whether their Medicaid dollars could be at risk. … Cuts to Medicaid would affect schools across the District, but St. Coletta would be especially hard-hit. Each of the school’s 250 students is intellectually disabled, and most require multiple types of therapy. … Overall, Medicaid reimbursements account for only 5 percent of St. Coletta’s annual budget, but the school says those funds — more than $750,000 annually — make it possible to provide services not available at other D.C. public schools.”
Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill. (Zach Gibson/Bloomberg)
— Meanwhile, Democrats seem to be drifting even more leftward on health care, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) saying yesterday on ABC’s “This Week” that single-payer is an option. Politico’s Kevin Robillard reports: “The left wing of the party, including many followers of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has pushed for the party to adopt a more populist economic message, including single-payer health care. Asked if single-payer was on the table, Schumer responded: ‘Sure.’ ‘Many things are on the table. Medicare for people above 55 is on the table. A buy-in to Medicare is on the table. A buy-in to Medicaid is on the table,’ he said.”
— Schumer’s comments came just one day before his party’s planned rollout of a new economic agenda that the Democrats are calling “A Better Deal.” Ed O’Keefe and David Weigel report: “The campaign-style motto [was] panned by some liberal activists as details began to trickle out ahead of the Monday rollout[.] … [The plan] is scheduled to be unveiled Monday at an event in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, where the party hopes to defeat incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R). But some lawmakers, aides and outside advocates consulted on the new agenda said that it is expected to focus on new proposals to fund job-training programs, renegotiate trade deals and address soaring prescription-drug costs … It is also expected to endorse long-held Democratic principles, including “a living wage” of $15 per hour and already unveiled spending plans for infrastructure that would expand broadband Internet access into rural counties.”
— House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote a Post op-ed ahead of the rollout entitled, “Americans deserve better than the GOP agenda, so we’re offering a better deal:” “What motivates us is that the costs of living keep rising, but families feel their incomes and wages aren’t keeping up. Special interests are given special treatment, while hard-working Americans are ignored. Working people from the heartland to the cities are struggling in a rigged economy and a system stacked against them.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talks about working through part of the recess. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
IF YOU READ ONE STORY ABOUT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY –>“Republicans are in full control of government — but losing control of their party,” by Sean Sullivan and Robert Costa: “Six months after seizing complete control of the federal government, the Republican Party stands divided as ever — plunged into a messy war among its factions that has escalated in recent weeks to crisis levels. Frustrated lawmakers are increasingly sounding off at a White House awash in turmoil and struggling to accomplish its legislative goals. [Trump] is scolding Republican senators over health care and even threatening electoral retribution. Congressional leaders are losing the confidence of their rank and file. And some major GOP donors are considering using their wealth to try to force out recalcitrant incumbents. … The intensifying fights threaten to derail efforts to overhaul the nation’s tax laws and other initiatives that GOP leaders hope will put them back on track. ‘It’s a lot of tribes within one party, with many agendas, trying to do what they want to do,’ [said] Rep. Tom MacArthur …”
“Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill have described the dynamic between the White House and GOP lawmakers as a ‘disconnect’ between Republicans who are still finding it difficult to accept that he is the leader of the party that they have long controlled. [And] some donors say they are weighing whether to financially back primary challengers against Republican lawmakers unwilling to support Trump’s aims …”
— Epitomizing the stalled Republican agenda, as well as the divide between Trump and the congressional GOP, is infrastructure. The NYT’s Glenn Thrush reports: “An ambitious public works plan, arguably [Trump’s] best chance of rising above the partisan rancor of his first six months in office, is fast becoming an afterthought — at precisely the moment Mr. Trump needs a big, unifying issue to rewrite the narrative of his chaotic administration. Infrastructure remains stuck near the rear of the legislative line[.] … It awaits the resolution of tough negotiations over the budget, the debt ceiling, a tax overhaul, a new push to toughen immigration laws — and the enervating slog to enact a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. … Unlike the transformative 20th-century efforts the president likes to cite at his rallies, any plan that eventually emerges will not rely exclusively on federal funds.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
— ICYMI –> “How ISIS nearly stumbled on the ingredients for a ‘dirty bomb,’” by Joby Warrick and Loveday Morris: “On the day the Islamic State overran the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014, it laid claim to one of the greatest weapons bonanzas ever to fall to a terrorist group … But the most fearsome weapon in Mosul on that day was never used by the terrorists. Locked away in a storage room on a Mosul college campus were two caches of cobalt-60, a metallic substance with lethally high levels of radiation. In terrorists’ hands, it is the core ingredient of a ‘dirty bomb,’ a weapon that could be used to spread radiation and panic. Why the Islamic State failed to take advantage of its windfall is not clear. [But] more certain is the fact that the danger has not entirely passed. … ‘Nearly every country in the world either has them, or is a transit country’ through which high-level radiological equipment passes, said Andrew Bieniawski, [vice president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative]. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is a global problem.’”
— “Behind the front lines in the fight to ‘annihilate’ ISIS in Afghanistan,” by Max Bearak: “The operation against the Islamic State in Khorasan — or ISIS-K, as the Syria-based group’s Afghan contingent is known — is now into its fourth month of unremitting warfare. The U.S. military has pledged to ‘annihilate’ the group by year’s end, and the redoubled assault has contributed to a spike in U.S. airstrikes to levels not seen in Afghanistan since President Barack Obama’s troop surge in 2012. One in five of those strikes is against ISIS-K, despite it controlling only slivers of mountainous territory. The battle is lopsided, but each day the front line here in Achin district moves back only slightly. Both local intelligence officials and the U.S. military believe that ISIS-K is replenishing its stock of fighters almost as quickly as it loses them. A sense that this may be an indefinite mission has set in.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The president had an active weekend on Twitter.
From Saturday, Trump targeted The Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos of Amazon):
A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions.These illegal leaks, like Comey’s, must stop!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist,Al-Baghdadi.Their sick agenda over National Security
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
Trump’s spelling errors continued with “council:”
So many people are asking why isn’t the A.G. or Special Council looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes. 33,000 e-mails deleted?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
…What about all of the Clinton ties to Russia, including Podesta Company, Uranium deal, Russian Reset, big dollar speeches etc.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
My son Donald openly gave his e-mails to the media & authorities whereas Crooked Hillary Clinton deleted (& acid washed) her 33,000 e-mails!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
In all fairness to Anthony Scaramucci, he wanted to endorse me 1st, before the Republican Primaries started, but didn’t think I was running!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
The Republican Senators must step up to the plate and, after 7 years, vote to Repeal and Replace. Next, Tax Reform and Infrastructure. WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
ObamaCare is dead and the Democrats are obstructionists, no ideas or votes, only obstruction. It is solely up to the 52 Republican Senators!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
He returned to his preferred social media platform yesterday, complaining about the Russia probes, his own party and the media:
As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2017
It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2017
It’s hard to read the Failing New York Times or the Amazon Washington Post because every story/opinion, even if should be positive, is bad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2017
If Republicans don’t Repeal and Replace the disastrous ObamaCare, the repercussions will be far greater than any of them understand!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2017
But he did take a break from Washington this weekend:
Trump Wed. on health bill: “We shouldn’t leave town until this is complete.”
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 23, 2017
From a New York Times reporter:
Wonder if anyone in the West Wing winced when Trump tweeted about pardons on the same day he visited the USS Gerald Ford?
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) July 23, 2017
From an editor at the Weekly Standard:
Prediction: There will never be a USS Donald J. Trump.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) July 22, 2017
Some of Anthony Scaramucci’s old tweets that conflict with the president’s views made the rounds on Twitter over the weekend.
From a House Democrat:
I agree with the new White House communications director. pic.twitter.com/zY6xza8KBq
— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) July 21, 2017
On Merrick Garland, the Supreme Court nominee who never received a hearing:
Let me get this straight: GOP est. thinks voters should choose next SCOTUS justice, but want brokered convention to block voters’ nominee?
— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) March 16, 2016
Not to mention, are they really ready to obstruct 63yo uber-qualified centrist judge with bipartisan respect ahead of uncertain election?
— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) March 16, 2016
Last year a true statesman @mittromney said that Russia was a legitimate threat to our interests. Anyone questioning that now?
— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) August 2, 2013
A former spokesperson for Hillary Clinton responded to the Russia tweet:
Yes. Your new boss is.
Congrats on the job. https://t.co/d3ljpJyKnv
— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) July 21, 2017
Scaramucci eventually took to deleting some of his past tweets, including the one that mentioned climate change:
Full transparency: I’m deleting old tweets. Past views evolved & shouldn’t be a distraction. I serve @POTUS agenda & that’s all that matters
— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) July 22, 2017
Scaramucci also mentioned that he went to Harvard Law at least twice on the Sunday shows.
From a Post columnist:
Note to Scaramucci: the more you mention going to Harvard Law School the less benefit you derive from same. Just sayin’ (HLS ’84).
— Ruth Marcus (@RuthMarcus) July 23, 2017
From a Democratic senator on this week’s heath-care vote:
It is B-A-N-A-N-A-S that we’re less than 48 hours away from a vote on reordering 1/5 of the U.S. economy & we don’t know what’s in the bill.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) July 24, 2017
Sen. John McCain is still at work:
Glad deal finally reached for sanctions on Russia, Iran & North Korea – I’m reviewing details closely to ensure strong, effective sanctions
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) July 23, 2017
And Sen. Angus King sent a message to McCain, his friend from across the aisle:
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) July 22, 2017
Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski at the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— New York Magazine, “Donald Trump Is Not Invited to the Wedding: Joe, Mika, and their star-crossed relationship with the president,” by Olivia Nuzzi: “In the deranged reality-television solar system that contains the press and the new presidency, Scarborough and Brzezinski deliver black comedy with a lot of plot. Astonishingly, for the first time in American history, the president is as likely to take time out of his schedule to lance news personalities as he is to condemn the country’s foreign adversaries. … And so contemplating the existence of the people yammering on TV is no superficial task, for they’re yammering directly into his head. ‘He watches, says he doesn’t watch, and then he freaks out with what he sees,’ Scarborough told me. ‘We think it’s in the best interest of the country for him to stop watching our show.’ … But why, exactly, their previously cozy relationship with the president had changed, and what the nature of that coziness was to begin with, depends a lot on which side you ask …”
— The Atlantic, “The Man McMaster Couldn’t Fire,” by Rosie Gray: “Washington got its first real look at [Ezra] Cohen-Watnick when he was identified as one of two White House sources who provided House Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes with evidence that former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the ‘unmasking’ of the names of Trump associates in intelligence documents. … Despite that early controversy, Cohen-Watnick retains one of the most consequential intelligence jobs in the nation, and his influence is rising. He is in the thick of some of the most important policy fights at the White House[.] … Yet what we don’t know about Cohen-Watnick far outstrips what we do.”
— Wall Street Journal, “Lawyers Hope to Do to Opioid Makers What They Did to Big Tobacco,” by Jeanne Whalen: “The legal front widening against makers of opioid painkillers has something in common with landmark tobacco litigation of the 1990s: attorney Mike Moore. As Mississippi’s attorney general in 1994, Mr. Moore filed the first state lawsuit against tobacco companies, saying they harmed public-health systems by misrepresenting smoking’s dangers. … Now Mr. Moore is a private attorney encouraging states to sue pharmaceutical companies, alleging they helped spark an addiction crisis by misrepresenting the benefits and addiction risks of opioid painkillers.”
— Politico, “Meet the lab-coat liberals,” by David Siders: “Dismayed by President Donald Trump’s perceived hostility to climate science and other areas of research, a surge of scientists is entering the public arena and running for political office for the first time. … The handful of scientists who have formally announced their candidacies so far — and the others who are preparing to join them — have cast themselves as a counterforce to the Trump administration’s dismissal of climate science and de-prioritization of innovation funding. But they are also stretching the boundaries of the scientific field into unfamiliar terrain. Researchers traditionally avoided wading into politics. Now, amid winds of anti-intellectualism, they are testing whether a significant number in their ranks can break through.”
— The New Yorker, “The Mothers Being Deported by Trump,” by Sarah Stillman: “A regular theme of the Trump Administration’s messaging on immigration has been to present undocumented ‘bad hombres’ as an immediate threat to the safety and cohesion of the American family unit. But some of Trump’s immigration policies, in themselves, have endangered families across America. … While [Obama’s] Administration deported more than three million people … the cases documented here reflect changes from the previous Administration’s enforcement priorities—mothers, for instance, who’d been picked up under Obama and qualified for temporary legal relief, only to face swift removal, or its threat, under the new Administration.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“The Easily Scared NRA Blames Black Lives Matter For ‘Racial Hatred’” from HuffPost: “The Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality has inspired so much ‘racial hatred’ that white people in America should fear for their lives, a correspondent for the [NRA’s] streaming network said … In a segment produced for the American gun lobbying organization’s online channel, conservative host Grant Stinchfield said race relations are deeply strained in the country after [Obama’s] presidency. ‘But nowhere is near as bad as it is in South Africa where white families are being tortured and killed almost every day in racist violence.’ … He then turned the segment over to [correspondent] Chuck Holton … Violence in South Africa is ‘kind of a warning for what could happen in the [U.S.] …’ Holton said. ‘This racial hatred that is being forced on the American culture by the Black Lives Matter crowd.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“New York Times requests apology from Fox on ISIS story,” from Politico: “The New York Times on Sunday took the unusual step of requesting an apology from a competitor, asking ‘Fox & Friends’ to retract a report that the Times was to blame for the 2015 escape of an ISIS leader. Fox subsequently updated the story on its website with the NYT letter. ‘I am writing on behalf of The New York Times to request an on-air apology and tweet from Fox & Friends in regards to a malicious and inaccurate segment “NY Times leak allowed ISIS leader to slip away,”’ wrote Danielle Rhoades Ha, vice president of communications for the Times. The ‘Fox & Friends’ report, which aired Saturday, apparently spurred a tweet by President Donald Trump. ‘The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist, al-Baghdadi,’ the president wrote later Saturday. ‘Their sick agenda over National Security.’”
Trump will have a lunch with the vice president and a meet-and-greet with “victims of Obamacare” before delivering an afternoon statement on health care. He will then leave for a speech at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia.
After his lunch with Trump, Pence will participate in the Obamacare meet-and-greet and introduce Trump before his health-care address.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Anthony Scaramucci on Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s promotion to press secretary: “I think Sarah does a great job. She’s an incredibly warm person. She’s incredibly authentic. … Sarah, if you’re watching, I love the hair and makeup person that we had on Friday, so I’d like to continue to use the hair and makeup person.” (Some viewers quickly took issue with the comment, arguing that it implied Sanders’s appearance was connected to her job performance. Scaramucci later clarified that he was talking about himself: “For the record, I was referring to my hair and make up and the fact that I like the make up artist. I need all the help I can get!”)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— The rain from the weekend may continue today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We’ll have variable skies today with some showers possible in the morning and perhaps another round with some thunder in the afternoon – especially in our eastern areas. Assuming intervals of sunshine materialize, many of us hit at least 90 degrees, otherwise upper 80s might do it.”
— The Nationals beat the Diamondbacks 6-2, but fans were worried by pitcher Stephen Strasburg’s early exit from the game. (Chelsea Janes)
— Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates emphasized their differences in the race’s first debate Saturday. Laura Vozzella reports: “Their differences started with Trump. [Ralph] Northam, Virginia’s lieutenant governor and a pediatrician, said he had no regrets about a TV ad in which he called the president a ‘narcissistic maniac.’ ‘I stand by what I said,” he said. “I believe our president is a dangerous man. I think he lacks empathy. . . . And he also has difficulty telling the truth.’ [Ed] Gillespie … is an establishment figure who has largely tried to keep Trump at arm’s length. But in recent days, he has touted his ability to work with the president and on Saturday questioned whether Northam could do the same. ‘What are you going to do — call the White House, “Please put me through to the narcissistic maniac?’ Gillespie said.”
— Washington mourned a legend, Jim Vance, the city’s longest-serving local news anchor. Matt Schudel writes: “Mr. Vance, who won or shared more than a dozen local Emmys, rose to prominence at a time when home rule and self-governance opened doors for a new black elite in the District. He defied the staid standards of broadcasting with his bushy Afro hair style in the 1970s and by refusing to wear makeup on the air.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert offered Russians a taste of American culture:
Jimmy Fallon explained Donald Trump Jr.’s one request before testifying to Congress:
A suicide bombing in Kabul killed at least 24:
Thousands took to the streets in Berlin for Christopher Street Day parade for LGBTQ rights:
And the Post laid out why beer gardens have become so popular in the United States:
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