House Democrats Repeal the 2001 Forever War Authorization. The House voted Wednesday to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was passed in the days after 9/11, and gave President George W. Bush the authority to go to war with al-Qaeda and any related organization. For the past 18 years, presidents of both parties have used this same 2001 congressional war authorization as justification for wars all over the Middle East.
The vote is particularly significant now, as Trump administration officials briefed Congress Wednesday on what they said are connections between Iran and al-Qaeda. Trump’s administration has been escalating tensions with Iran, leading to mounting concern on Capitol Hill that the administration is itching for war.
Trump Tells Aides to Tone It Down on Iran. “Two senior officials and three other individuals with direct knowledge of the administration’s strategy in the region tell the Daily Beast that the president has asked officials to tone down their heated rhetoric on Iran, despite the attacks on tanker ships in the Gulf of Oman that Washington has blamed on Tehran.”
The president has previously said he is less hawkish on Iran than some of his advisers and this week, in a Time magazine interview, said the attacks on the tankers were ‘very minor.’”
“Tom Cotton is the most outspoken champion for bombing Iran in a Senate filled with Republican hawks. And he’s got President Donald Trump’s ear on it, too,” Politico reports.
“The Arkansas Republican has spoken to several high-ranking U.S. officials and the president himself about the rising tensions with Iran after the U.S. blamed the Islamic Republic for attacking two oil tankers. He declined to describe those conversations beyond saying that he and Trump ‘discussed the threat that Iran poses to the United States and its partners.’”
New York Times: “Administration officials are briefing Congress on what they say are ties between Iran and Al Qaeda, prompting skeptical reactions and concern on Capitol Hill that the White House could invoke the war authorization passed in 2001 as legal cover for military action against Tehran.”
“Statements tying Iran and Al Qaeda by Mr. Pompeo and other officials point to the potential for the administration to justify invoking the 2001 authorization… And when asked in recent weeks by lawmakers and journalists whether the administration would use the 2001 authorization, Mr. Pompeo has deflected the questions.”
The Orlando Sentinel has video of a Trump supporter being arrested after smacking a reporter’s phone outside the arena where President Trump was speaking inside.
No One Cares Who Replaces Sarah Sanders. Joe Pompeo: “The apparent apathy about who gets the job seems to stem from the all-too-obvious notion that this is no normal administration. Gone are the daily press briefings, where correspondents could attempt to elicit answers—or, perhaps, non-answers—on the hot-button topics of the day. Gone are the days of big, gift-wrapped scoops and policy rollouts to favored reporters from the most prestigious publications. Rare is the broadcast interview to an outlet other than Fox News. (The occasional Lester Holt or George Stephanopoulos sit-down are the exceptions that prove the rule.)”
“In previous administrations, press secretaries have been gatekeepers. But Sanders, for all of her visibility and confrontational bluster, arguably didn’t have the same kind of power or stature as her predecessors had, in terms of what the role has traditionally meant and entailed. Under the current, unprecedented circumstances of White House reporting, does it really matter whether it’s Sean Spicer or Sarah Sanders or anyone else who doesn’t go out into the briefing room every day?”
Brian Stelter: “Wednesday will be the 100th day without an on-camera White House press briefing. Up until now, the longest stretch without a briefing lasted 42 days. So this is really the worst kind of record.”
Tucker Carlson Privately Advising Trump on Iran. “A source familiar with the conversations told the Daily Beast that, in recent weeks, the Fox News host has privately advised Trump against taking military action against Iran.”
“And a senior administration official said that during the president’s recent conversations with the Fox primetime host, Carlson has bashed the more ‘hawkish members’ of his administration.”
Fed Hints at Possible Cut as Economy Slows. Federal Reserve officials held their benchmark interest rate steady on Wednesday, but hinted they would cut rates in the months ahead if the economic outlook weakens, the Wall Street Journal reports.
CNBC: “The decision came amid divisions over what is ahead and still leaves open the possibility that policy loosening could happen before the end of the year depending on how conditions unfold.”
“Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said he intends to serve his full four-year term as head of the Federal Reserve, after President Trump asked White House lawyers earlier this year to explore options for removing him,” Bloomberg reports.
Said Powell: “I think the law is clear that I have a four year term, and I fully intend to serve it.”
New Acting Defense Chief Has Close Ties to Trump. “Army Secretary Mark Esper, who’s been tapped to be the new acting secretary of Defense, is a former aerospace executive like the departing Pat Shanahan. But he comes to the job with key supporters close to the president, deeper ties to the military and bipartisan support on Capitol Hill,” Politico reports.
“Esper, who administration officials say was in the running for the top Pentagon post before President Trump said he was choosing Shanahan in early May, has been an ally of the president’s on the controversial use of active-duty soldiers to beef up border security, including traveling with Trump to the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months.”
Daniel Dale notes that in President Trump’s 76-minute speech last night kicking off his re-election campaign, he made more than 15 false statements, many of them ones that he’s repeated frequently in the past.
Pelosi Rules Out Censure of Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) ruled out a congressional censure of President Trump, a move some lawmakers have suggested as an less divisive alternative to launching impeachment proceedings, the Washington Post reports.
Said Pelosi: “No. I think censure is just a way out. If you’re gonna go, you gotta to go. In other words, if the goods are there, you must impeach, and censure is nice, but it is not commensurate with the violations of the Constitution should we decide that’s the way to go.”
She added that a censure of Trump would be “a day at the beach for the president, or at his golf club, or wherever he goes.”
Politico: Pelosi to view less redacted Mueller report this week.
EPA Finalizes Plan to Replace Obama Climate Rules. “The Trump administration finalized a package of new rules to replace the Clean Power Plan, former President Obama’s signature effort to reduce planet-warming emissions from coal plants,” the New York Times reports.
“The new measure, known as the Affordable Clean Energy rule, will very likely prompt a flurry of legal challenges from environmental groups that could have far-reaching implications for global warming. If the Supreme Court ultimately upholds the rule’s approach to the regulation of pollution, it would be difficult or impossible for future presidents to tackle climate change through the Environmental Protection Agency.”
Not coincidentally, from the Associated Press: “Over the last two years the nation had more polluted air days than just a few years earlier, federal data shows. While it remains unclear whether this is the beginning of a trend, health experts say it’s troubling to see air quality progress stagnate.”
“There were 15% more days with unhealthy air in America both last year and the year before than there were on average from 2013 through 2016, the four years when America had its fewest number of those days since at least 1980.”
Hope Hicks Rarely Speaks to Trump Anymore. CNN: “Once the President’s closest West Wing confidante — the recipient of his repeated phone calls, the witness to his angriest moments, and according to other campaign aides, the person who steamed wrinkles out of his pants — sources now say their relationship has changed. Instead of carrying out a near-constant conversation, they rarely speak.”
“The once-close pair’s communication first slowed, then came to a virtual halt, after she left the White House. She told those around her that it wasn’t a representation of her feelings toward the man she worked for, but a desire to distance herself from the orbit she had occupied for so long: his. There were several times when she didn’t return Trump’s call. According to two people familiar with his remark, Trump asked on multiple occasions, ‘What happened to Hope?’”
She sure followed Trump’s orders today at the Judiciary Committee hearing though. Politico: “Three House Judiciary Committee lawmakers exiting the closed-door interview said a White House lawyer repeatedly claimed Hicks had blanket immunity from discussing her time in the White House. They said she wouldn’t answer questions as basic as where she sat in the West Wing or whether she told the truth to Mueller.”
McConnell Opposes Democracy for DC, Puerto Rico. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Laura Ingraham in an interview that he did not support giving statehood to the District of Columbia or Puerto Rico, the Washington Post reports.
Said McConnell: “They plan to make the District of Columbia a state — that would give them two new Democratic senators — Puerto Rico a state, that would give them two more new Democratic senators, and as a former Supreme Court clerk yourself, you’ve surely noticed that they plan to expand the Supreme Court.”
He added: “This is full-bore socialism on the march in the House. And yeah, as long as I’m the majority leader of the Senate, none of that stuff is going anywhere.”
How China is outplaying the US on Trade. The Atlantic: “Trump started the trade war by levying new taxes on $250 billion worth of Chinese exports. China retaliated both by increasing the duties Americans face and by decreasing the tariffs that confront everyone else: It has cut tariffs on thousands of products from the rest of the world’s fisheries, farmers, and firms.”
“Even as Tariff Man, as Trump likes to refer to himself, focuses only on disruption, Beijing is evidently operating on a higher level. China is outplaying the United States on two fronts.”
“First, while Trump is on the verge of slapping tariffs on almost everything the U.S. imports from China, Beijing is picking and choosing wisely… Second, Trump has no real mitigation strategy to help the Americans facing the entirely foreseeable costs of his policies.”
“President Trump at his 2020 campaign kickoff rally on Tuesday took credit for passing a veteran’s health care bill that was signed into law by former President Obama,” The Hill reports.
The Trump Shadow Cabinet. “The creation of the Trump Leadership Council back in 2016 went almost entirely unnoticed at the time. Until now, the members of the council have not been made public. But Rolling Stone obtained a complete list of the members and interviewed half a dozen people who attended and organized the council.”
“Together, they form a lost chapter in the story of how Trump’s pro-industry, anti-regulation America First agenda became a reality.”