SEAN SPICER RESIGNS AS WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, telling Trump he “vehemently disagreed” with the appointment of New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. After offering the job to Scaramucci, Trump asked Spicer to stay on. Spicer declined, telling Trump he believed the appointment was a major mistake.
Spicer was largely left in the dark, unaware of Trump’s intention to hire Scaramucci until this morning, as were Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, both of whom fiercely opposed Scaramucci’s hire. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump encouraged the move. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was named White House press secretary.
With talk of PARDONS, threatening Robert Mueller not to cross a line and digging up dirt on the special counsel’s team, Trump looks like he has something to hide. Something big.
Brian Beutler thinks Trump’s actions this week have crossed a line: “The loud hum of chaos and spectacle engulfing the Trump administration is drowning out a creeping reality: We are on the brink of an authoritarian crisis that will make the firing of FBI Director James Comey seem quaint in hindsight.”
“If this crisis unfolds as depicted here, the country’s final hope for avoiding a terminal slide into authoritarianism would be the midterm election, contesting control of a historically gerrymandered House of Representatives. That election is 16 months away. Between now and then, Trump’s DOJ and his sham election-integrity commission will seek to disenfranchise as many Democratic voters as possible, while the president himself beseeches further foreign interference aimed at Democratic candidates. Absent the necessary sweep, everything Trump will have done to degrade our system for his own enrichment and protection will have been ratified, and a point of no return will have been crossed.”
First Read: “If things appear that the country is indeed headed toward a possible constitutional crisis — Trump instructing the Justice Department to fire Mueller, Trump pardoning aides and family members — there is a simple solution: Congressional Republicans can act. They can do so by passing a law to reinstate Mueller, or they can threaten impeachment. The question, of course, is whether they’d follow through.”
“That’s why every member of Congress should be on the record on this question: What will you do if Trump tries to fire Mueller or pardon his aides or family members? And the fact that this question needs to be asked — six months into Trump’s tenure as president — is an extraordinary development.”
Of course she has ties to Russia spy agencies. Is anyone actually surprised? https://t.co/uTBR8t0upN
— Amy Siskind (@Amy_Siskind) July 21, 2017
“The Russian lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr. after his father won the Republican nomination for the 2016 U.S. presidential election counted Russia’s FSB security service among her clients for years,” Russian court documents seen by Reuters show.
IF TRUMP PARDONS, THAT ITSELF MAY BE A CRIME. Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner: “Consistent with the framers’ design, the Supreme Court has interpreted the president’s pardon power broadly. The president can pardon anyone for any crime at any time — even before a suspect has been charged. Congress cannot withdraw presidential pardons, and prosecutors and courts cannot ignore them.”
“But could a pardon be a criminal abuse of power? Some would argue that would contradict the founders’ vision of unlimited pardon authority. If a president sold pardons for cash, though, that would violate the federal bribery statute. And if a president can be prosecuted for exchanging pardons for bribes, then it follows that the broad and unreviewable nature of the pardon power does not shield the president from criminal liability for abusing it.”
“If it could be shown that President Trump pardoned his family members and close aides to cover up possible crimes, then that could be seen as acting “corruptly” and he could be charged with obstruction of justice.”
Stay woke https://t.co/d2NzzRvnfR
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) July 20, 2017
TRUMP LEGAL TEAM IN CHAOS. Politico: “Mark Corallo, the spokesman, [resigned after growing] frustrated with the operation and the warring factions and lawyers, these people said. Corallo also was concerned about whether he was being told the truth about various matters.” “Corallo has been close to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia investigation, and has praised him publicly. He didn’t like the strategy to attack his credibility.”
“President Donald Trump is reshuffling his legal team as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation moves full steam ahead,” CNN reports. “Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s longtime personal attorney who has been the lead lawyer on the Russia investigation, will see his role recede… Instead, attorney John Dowd, along with Jay Sekolow, will now be the President’s primary personal attorneys for the investigation… Dowd will take the lead.”
“By being outside the White House, their dealings with the President will be protected under attorney-client privilege that is afforded any US citizen.”
Next journalist who snags an interview with Trump needs to ask him to explain what he thinks health insurance is https://t.co/YuelYJqf0p
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) July 20, 2017
A BIPARTISAN BILL WOULD BE HARDER. Stuart Rothenberg: “Any bill that gets bipartisan support is almost certain to keep the architecture of Obamacare in place, and that’s a non-starter for many Republicans, who have just spent seven years promising to get rid of it.”
“The House must agree with any Senate bill, and the chances of House Republicans doing that are, well, small. If anything, the House GOP would like to move the Senate bill to the right, not to the left.”
“Even more important, the pressure on the House and Senate GOP leadership not to bring to the floor any bill that essentially leaves the ACA intact would be enormous.”
Meanwhile, Caitlin Owens reports that parts of the Senate Trumpcare bill will violate the Byrd rule: “The Senate parliamentarian ruled Friday that some parts of the Senate health care bill do not comply with budget rules, meaning that if they’re included in the bill, they’ll need 60 votes to pass.”
“The biggest provisions that will have to come out if the Senate follows past precedent: Planned Parenthood defunding, abortion funding restrictions, and funding for insurer cost-sharing payments. However, one of the most controversial amendments of the bill, Sen. Ted Cruz’s Consumer Freedom Act, wasn’t included in her ruling, as it only addressed an earlier version of the bill that didn’t include it.”
Inside Steve Bannon’s apocalyptic ideology: "Like [Karl] Rove on an acid trip" https://t.co/YCTHxBIbv3
— Vox (@voxdotcom) July 21, 2017
“Steve Bannon has largely disappeared from the White House’s most sensitive policy debates — a dramatic about-face for an operative once characterized as the most powerful man in Washington,” Politico reports.
“Bannon, chastened by internal rivalries and by President Donald Trump’s growing suspicion that he is looking out for his own interests, is in a self-imposed exile, having chosen to step back from Trump’s inner circle for the sake of self-preservation.”
KUSHNER STILL TRYING TO LURE CHINESE INVESTORS. “Jared Kushner’s status as a top aide to President Donald Trump was used to lure Chinese investors to his family’s New Jersey development, even after his family’s company apologized for mentioning his name during a sales pitch in May,” CNN has found.
“References to Kushner are part of online promotions by two businesses that are working with Kushner Companies to find Chinese investors willing to invest in the 1 Journal Square development in exchange for a US visa. The promotions are posted in Chinese and refer to Kushner Companies as ‘real estate heavyweights,’ going on to mention ‘the celebrity of the family is 30-something ‘Mr. Perfect’ Jared Kushner, who once served as CEO of Kushner Companies.’”
It’s six months into Trump’s presidency. He’s already asking about pardons for his aides. https://t.co/XC3ZfKqEiF
— Vox (@voxdotcom) July 21, 2017
HILLARY LIVES RENT FREE IN TRUMP’S HEAD. Washington Post: “In fact, in 19 interviews that he’s conducted since becoming president, we found that Clinton tended to be mentioned much earlier than a number of Trump’s other favorite topics: The 2016 election, the votes he received, the electoral college and Barack Obama. Tallying the first appearance of each word in those 19 interviews, we figured out how far into an interview Trump first made mention of them, on average.”
“In 17 of 19 of his interviews, Clinton came up, on average about 36 percent of the way in. That’s more frequently and earlier than his mentions of Obama, who made it into only 16 interviews, about 43 percent of the way in.”
SUBPOENAS READY. The Senate Judiciary Committee will subpoena President Trump’s son Donald Jr. and former campaign manager Paul Manafort if they do not agree to testify next week, the committee’s chairman told RealClearPolitics.
TRUMP AND THE REPUBLICANS’ BIG WIN HAS BEEN ON JUDGES. Ron Klain: “He not only put Neil M. Gorsuch in the Supreme Court vacancy created by Merrick Garland’s blocked confirmation, but he also selected 27 lower-court judges as of mid-July. Twenty-seven! That’s three times Obama’s total and more than double the totals of Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton — combined. For the Courts of Appeals — the final authority for 95 percent of federal cases — no president before Trump named more than three judges whose nominations were processed in his first six months; Trump has named nine. Trump is on pace to more than double the number of federal judges nominated by any president in his first year.”
“Moreover, Trump’s picks are astoundingly young. Obama’s early Court of Appeals nominees averaged age 55; Trump’s nine picks average 48. That means, on average, Trump’s appellate court nominees will sit through nearly two more presidential terms than Obama’s.”
Republicans' failure to overhaul health care is a testament to Obama’s vision and tenacity, writes Andrew Sullivan https://t.co/NY0S1EONQS
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) July 21, 2017
Matt Ford at The Atlantic provides a historical analysis: “Any direct efforts to undermine Mueller’s inquiry could pose serious challenges for the American rule of law. In prior administrations, presidents have typically insulated themselves from the day-to-day investigative work of the Justice Department to avoid perceptions of political interference. The relationship hasn’t always been smooth: Bill Clinton and his White House frequently clashed with Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr during the Whitewater and Lewinsky investigations, although Clinton lacked the power to remove Starr from his post.
But the Trump administration is not a typical presidential administration. In contemporaneous memos, former FBI Director James Comey depicted a president who sought Comey’s pledge of personal loyalty and asked him to drop an investigation into a close adviser. Trump has disputed Comey’s accounts of those incidents, which would represent a serious breach of the post-Watergate firewall between the White House and the FBI. The traditional separation between the president and the bureau developed to avoid politicizing the FBI’s immense powers.”
John Cassidy at The New Yorker: “To Trump, who views everything through a lens of self-interest, there are no matters of legitimate public interest at stake in the Russia story; no public-spirited officials trying to fulfill their duty to the public; no duty on his part to respect the need for distance between the White House and the Justice Department when it comes to matters having to do with the President. It is all just a political racket, and he is the one getting screwed.
In truth, of course, Trump has himself to blame for Mueller’s appointment. By going ahead and firing Comey, Trump prompted Comey to leak incriminating details about their meetings. And that left Rosenstein little choice but to set up an investigation that was independent of the Justice Department. […]
At some point, though, as the Russia investigation gets ever closer to him, he will almost certainly have to answer questions under oath, and there is no knowing how he might react. At the end of the interview, one of the reporters asked Trump if he would fire Mueller if his investigation “went outside of certain parameters.” Trump’s answer was instructive: “ I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.””
Steve Phillips, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and author of “Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority” has a New York Times op-ed, “The Democratic Party’s Billion-Dollar Mistake.” Among his observations: “In the 2016 election, the Democratic Party committees that support Senate and House candidates and allied progressive organizations spent more than $1.8 billion. The effectiveness of that staggering amount of money, however, was undermined by a strategic error: prioritizing the pursuit of wavering whites over investing in and inspiring African-American voters, who made up 24 percent of Barack Obama’s winning coalition in 2012..”