Your Daily Dose of Mostly FAKE NEWS – The Mullet Wrapper – Thwarted in Washington, the Koch network racks up conservative victories in the states
Your Daily Dose of Mostly FAKE NEWS – The Mullet Wrapper – Thwarted in Washington, the Koch network racks up conservative victories in the states
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|Thwarted in Washington, the Koch network racks up conservative victories in the states|
THE BIG IDEA:
COLORADO SPRINGS—The wealthy donors who finance the Koch network are frustrated that national Republicans are not doing more to capitalize on having unified control of the federal government. But at their summer seminar here in the Rocky Mountains, which wrapped up last night, many were ecstatic—even giddy—about significant conservative gains that have been made this year in state capitals across the country.
Republicans now control the governorship and legislature in 25 states, compared to only six states for Democrats. Last November, the GOP seized all the levers of lawmaking in four new states – Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri and New Hampshire – making it much easier to pass far-reaching legislation.
The network, led by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on low-profile races and building out grassroots operations in 36 states over the past decade.
In 2017 alone, several of these states have reduced union power, scaled back regulations, cut taxes, blocked Medicaid expansion, promoted alternatives to public education, loosened criminal sentencing laws and eased requirements to get occupational licenses.
Because President Trump is such an all-consuming story, most of these moves received scant national attention. But the 400 donors who descended on the Broadmoor resort over the past few days have been paying close attention and are keenly interested in the outcome of these state-level fights.
“Even in the past six months we’ve seen a lot of success: We have two new right-to-work states, school choice wins in five states, and a dozen states have reduced spending or taxes,” Roger Pattison, director of member relations for the Koch network, said at a dinner on Saturday night. “I could go on and on.”
“We’re coming off the most successful legislative session that this network has ever had, and it’s a result of your investments,” added Luke Hilgemann, chief executive of Americans for Prosperity, which is part of the constellation of Koch-funded groups.
The two introduced a panel with three Republican governors: Eric Greitens of Missouri, Matt Bevin of Kentucky and Greg Abbott of Texas. Each outlined sweeping changes that have been possible in their states because of unified GOP control and urged donors to keep the spigots open.
“You have to invest in governors because we’re getting things done,” said Greitens, who took office in January after eight years of a Democratic governor.
Bevin pointed out that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was sitting in the audience. “It’s probably frustrating to him to bang his head against the wall, as it is for others, but the inability to get certain things done … at the national level ultimately requires that we have things happening from the bottom up,” the governor told the crowd. “Your investment at this level … can make a powerful, powerful difference. … This network’s ability to put boots on the ground is transformative for states like Kentucky.”
Making the case that recent GOP grains are fragile, Abbott noted that Texas is one of just four states in which Hillary Clinton in 2016 outperformed Barack Obama in 2012.He expressed concern that Clinton carried Harris County, which includes Houston and some of its surrounding suburbs, even though he had won it in 2014. If Democrats win the Lone Star State, he said, they will have a long-term lock on the White House. “A lot of people really take Texas for granted,” said Abbott, who is up for reelection next year.
Koch network officials reiterated plans to spend between $300 million to $400 million on policy and politics in the 2018 cycle and said it will probably be in the higher end of that range. A lot of that will go toward state efforts.
Since most state legislatures are part-time and have now adjourned for the year, the network is already sketching out ambitious plans to hit the ground running in early 2018.
Tim Phillips, the president of AFP, noted that more progress has been made to limit the power of organized labor, which he describes as “worker freedom,” “in the last five years than in the previous five decades.” Bevin and Greitens have both signed right-to-work laws this year, which ban labor unions from collecting mandatory dues from employees they represent in collective bargaining. Six states have now enacted such legislation since 2012, including longtime union strongholds like Wisconsin and Michigan. “Did you think that would have been possible five years ago?” Phillips said.
Phillips revealed at a strategy session that the network’s next targets include Ohio, Minnesota and New Hampshire. “I know Washington tends to suck most of the oxygen out of the room … but the untold story is the dramatic policy advancements … at the state level,” he said. “At the state level, we’re seeing a once-in-a-generation renaissance.”
Doug Ducey, the former chief executive of Cold Stone Creamery, was a member of the Koch network before he got elected governor of Arizona in 2014. He still attends the seminars. Yesterday he said that a panel during the January conclave in California helped inspire his education agenda for the most recent session. He brought one of the speakers he had heard to Phoenix to meet with state legislators and business leaders. He just signed a bill that makes every school-aged child in his state eligible for an Educational Savings Account, which gives parents flexibility to spend public money on expenses like private school tuition or tutors. Ducey said “healthy competition” from charter schools and other alternatives is making public education better. “I needed the power of the network,” he told donors.
Stacy Hock, a philanthropist in Austin and a major donor to the Koch network, helped launch a group last year called Texans for Education Opportunity that is pursuing similar objectives. Abbott, the Texas governor, has called a special session to focus on education, and her group is gearing up. Hock urged other Koch donors to reach out to her if they want to create similar advocacy operations in their home states.
“The value of this network cannot be overstated,” she said during a panel on Monday. “Individuals trying to affect policy change at the state level is daunting, but the ability to stand on the shoulders of the giant that is this network to make yourself more impactful and strategic changes the game. It might have taken decades to build such a sophisticated operation, but we had a tremendous impact in just our first session of operation. … Education policy is a dogfight. The entrenched interests are deeply embedded and very protective of their castle.”
Finally, the network is pressing states to overhaul their criminal justice systems.Koch groups worked with the Obama administration and a broad coalition last year on a major federal bill to reduce mandatory minimum sentences, among other changes. Jeff Sessions, as a senator from Alabama, was one of the strongest opponents of that effort. Now the attorney general, he recently issued strict new charging guidelines, including for drug crimes. With the pathway to change blocked off for now in Washington, the network is redoubling its efforts in state capitols.
During this legislative session, Koch World was closely involved with law-and-order discussions in Louisiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Arizona, Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Next year officials hope to work in several other states, including Missouri and Florida.
“The states are leading the way … That’s where 90 percent of the action is,” said Mark Holden, the general counsel of Koch Industries and chairman of Freedom Partners, a funding arm of the network, in an interview. “Whether the states know it or not, whether the federal government knows it or not, we’re going back to what federalism is all about. The best way to solve an issue is to be proximate to it.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— The Congressional Budget Office score of the Senate health-care bill that was published last night and estimated the legislation would leave an additional 22 million Americans without insurance by the end of the coming decade, has threatened the bill’s likelihood of passage. Amy Goldstein and Kelsey Snell report: “By late Monday, several senators and aides appeared nervous and unsure about the path forward. They hedged on the timing of that procedural vote and suggested the workweek could stretch beyond Friday. … Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) signaled that they would vote against starting debate Tuesday on the bill in its current form. A fourth senator, Dean Heller (R-Nev.), had expressed his opposition last week.”
— Mitch McConnell continues to offer amendments to the bill in an attempt to appease reluctant Republicans and get the legislation over the finish line. Juliet Eilperin and Sean Sullivan report on the horse-trading: “Senate leaders worked Monday to modify their plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, adding a provision that would penalize consumers for not keeping their plans, by imposing a six-month waiting provision before they could re-enroll. The change, intended to satisfy insurers and minimize the number of Americans who may drop their plans if the bill becomes law, received measured praise from some industry officials but sharp criticism from patient advocates…
“Other measures, which were part of the original bill but are now facing intense scrutiny, have also raised questions … One provision that spells out how the Medicaid program could be converted to a block grant, for example, would allow states to spend any leftover money on an item ‘that is not related to health care,’ as long as they meet ‘quality standards’ set by the Department of Health and Human Services. … Separately, the leaders included language that aims to mollify Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has questioned the bill’s impact on people in her state who gained insurance under the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. … The bill calls for a transfer of Medicaid funds from states that provide more-generous benefits, such as New York and California, to those that do not. But it says the requirement to transfer funds ‘shall not apply to any state that has a population density of less than 15 individuals per square mile.’ That would affect just five states: Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.” (To track the bill’s prospects, The Fix has an up-to-date whip count of Republicans who have stated opposition or hesitation.)
— The White House said it has found potential evidence that Syria’s government is preparing for another chemical attack, publicly warning Bashar al-Assad that his regime will pay a “heavy” price if it employs such methods against its citizens again. Abby Phillip and Dan Lamothe report: In a statement last night, Sean Spicer said the United States has identified potential preparations for another attack that would result in the “murder of civilians, including innocent children.” Spicer said the regime’s activities are “similar” to preparations made before chemical attack in April, which prompted the United States to launch airstrikes against Syrian forces.
“The U.S. military maintains a variety of weapons in the region that could be used in the event of another strike, including manned and unmanned aircraft in several Middle Eastern countries,” our colleagues write. “But the most likely scenario is probably a strike using naval assets, which can be launched with fewer diplomatic issues than using bases in allied countries such as Turkey or the [UAE].”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the Assad regime and its allies will be “squarely blamed” if such an attack occurred: “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people,” she wrote in a tweet.
Was the Pentagon out of the loop? Five U.S. defense officials reached by BuzzFeed News last night said they were unaware the White House was planning to release its statement: “Usually such statements are coordinated across the national security agencies and departments before they are released. [James Mattis] departed earlier Monday evening for a three-day trip to Germany and Belgium, and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Joseph Dunford was in Afghanistan.”
— A Defense Department memo shows that the Pentagon is considering a plan to cancel enlistment contracts for 1,000 foreign-born recruits without legal immigration status, knowingly exposing them to deportation. Alex Horton reports: “The undated action memo, prepared for [Mattis] describes potential security threats of immigrants recruited in a program designed to award fast-tracked citizenship in exchange for urgently needed medical and language skills. Officials have assigned threat level tiers to the nearly 10,000 Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program recruits, [which was launched by the Defense Department] in 2009. Since the program’s start, more than 10,400 troops, most of them with service in the Army, have filled medical billets and language specialties … [identified] by the Pentagon as vital to the success of military operations, but in short supply among U.S.-born troops. Last year, officials heightened security screenings specifically for MAVNI recruits … [but] the overtasked vetting process and heightened security risk led officials to recommend canceling enlistment contracts for all 1,800 awaiting orders for basic training, and halting the program altogether.”
— The E.U. announced a record $2.7 billion fine against Google for its search result practices. Michael Birnbaum reports: “The European Union’s antitrust chief … [said] that the powerful company illegally steered users toward its comparison shopping website … The fine is the largest the European Union has ever levied against a company for abusing its dominant position, and marked the latest confrontation over business practices between E.U. regulators and American tech giants … And as President Trump advocates a fierce America-first policy of trade protectionism, the ruling also raised questions of how his administration would respond to the broadside hit against one of the richest companies in the United States.”
— Separately, Google announced that it will stop reading your emails. The company’s practice of scanning Gmail messages for better targeted advertisements has caused controversy for years. (Brian Fung)
GET SMART FAST:
THE SUPREME COURT PREPARES FOR A CONTENTIOUS FALL TERM:
— The Supreme Court agreed to review a series of lower-court rulings blocking Trump’s contentious travel ban — allowing a scaled-back version of his executive order to move forward until justices can review merits of the case in the fall. Robert Barnes and Matt Zapotosky report: “The court’s unsigned order delivered a compromise neither side had asked for: It said the ban may not be enforced against those with a ‘bona fide’ connection to this country, such as family members here or an awaiting job or place in an American university. But the justices indicated that lower courts had gone too far in completely freezing Trump’s order[:] ‘The government’s interest in enforcing (the executive order) and the executive’s authority to do so, are undoubtedly at their peak when there is no tie between the foreign national and the United States,’ the court wrote…
“In the opinion, the court said it will consider the merits of the case [when] it reconvenes in October. In the meantime, the court nudged the Trump administration to get on with what it said would be a temporary pause to review vetting procedures. ‘We fully expect that the relief we grant today will permit the executive to conclude its internal work and provide adequate notice to foreign governments’ within 90 days, the court said. That means by the time the court takes the case up in the fall, circumstances could be quite different. Depending on the results of the review, Trump could push to extend the measure, or even make it permanent. And the court told lawyers to address whether the court’s consideration of the case might be moot by fall.”
Trump called the court’s decision a “clear victory for our national security.” “As President, I cannot allow people into our country who want to do us harm. I want people who can love the United States and all of its citizens, and who will be hardworking and productive,” he said. He added that he was “particularly gratified that the Supreme Court’s decision was 9-0.”
OTHER IMPORTANT SCOTUS NEWS:
— Justice Anthony Kennedy did NOT announce his retirement.
— The high court ended its term with a major First Amendment decision, ruling that efforts at separating church and state go too far when they deny religious institutions access to government grants meant for a secular purpose. Barnes reports: “In siding with a Missouri church that had been denied money to resurface its playground, the court ruled 7-2 that excluding churches from state programs for which other charitable groups are eligible is a violation of the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion. ‘The consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees,’ wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. ‘But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same.’ Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Mo., brought the case because it was excluded from a state program that reimburses the cost of rubberizing the surface of playgrounds. The court’s ruling in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer was a narrow one, but experts said it is sure to bring more challenges from religious groups in other areas.”
— The Supreme Court agreed to consider whether a Denver baker unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to sell them a wedding cake. Barnes reports: “Lower courts had ruled that [store owner Jack Phillips] had violated Colorado’s public accommodations law, which prohibits refusing service to customers based on factors such as race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation. The court granted the case after weeks of considering it. In 2014, the justices declined to revisit a New Mexico Supreme Court decision that found that a photographer violated a state civil rights law when she declined to photograph a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony. Since then, the high court has found that marriage is a fundamental right that states may not prohibit to gay couples. The justices also reversed the Arkansas Supreme Court and said the state must list same-sex parents on birth certificates in the state. To refuse, the court said, is to deny married same-sex couples the full ‘constellation of benefits’ that government has linked to marriage. Justices Clarence Thomas and [Samuel Alito] joined [Neil Gorsuch’s] dissent, which said the law regarding such issues is not yet settled and stable.”
The court will decide this case as support for same-sex marriage has reached an all-time high in the U.S. The Pew Research Center reports: “By a margin of nearly two-to-one (62% to 32%), more Americans now say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry than say they are opposed … The latest national survey by Pew Research Center … finds striking increases in support for same-sex marriage among some demographic and partisan groups that, until recently, had broadly opposed it, including … Republicans. For the first time, a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents do not oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.”
— The court declined to hear a cross-border shooting case involving the death of an unarmed Mexican teenager who was fatally shot by a U.S. Border Patrol agent, vacating and remanding the case back to a federal appeals court for reconsideration. Ann E. Marimow and Barnes report: “The narrow ruling came in an unsigned order, accompanied by dissents from three justices, suggesting a conflicted court when it comes to questions of how the country polices the daily churn along the border. In putting off a decision, the high court acknowledged a ‘disturbing incident resulting in a heartbreaking loss of life’ but said it would be ‘imprudent’ to decide whether the 15-year-old’s family has a right to sue in the United States before a federal appeals court reviews a separate Supreme Court opinion issued last week.”
— The court also announced that it would schedule two immigration-related cases for re-argument, signaling that the justices were deadlocked. Both cases were argued before Gorsuch was confirmed in April.
— Bigger picture: The flurry of activity showcased just how conservative Gorsuch will be on the court. Reuters’ Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung report: “Gorsuch showed his inclination to rule from a spot occupied by fellow conservative Clarence Thomas. At a minimum, he is so far living up to Trump’s claim that he would be a conservative in the mold of the man he replaced, Justice Antonin Scalia. … Liberal groups and Democratic senators had vociferously opposed Gorsuch’s appointment, with the evidence so far suggesting their depiction of him as a dogged conservative was largely correct. ‘Justice Gorsuch has shown himself to be the conservative ideologue many predicted he would be and not the moderating check on the executive branch as others suggested he would be,’ said Michele Jawando, a lawyer with the liberal Center for American Progress. … Conservatives are delighted. Their hope that Gorsuch, 49, would be a solid vote on the right, would appear to be well founded.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
— The FBI has questioned former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page “at length” about his contacts with Russia and interactions with Trump’s presidential campaign. Devlin Barrett reports: “Over a series of five meetings in March, totaling about 10 hours of questioning, Page repeatedly denied wrongdoing when asked about allegations that he may have acted as a kind of go-between for Russia and the Trump campaign … The interviews with the FBI are the most extensive known questioning of a potential suspect in the probe of possible Russian connections to associates of President Trump.”
Page confirmed the interviews Monday, calling them “extensive discussions,” but declined to say if he has spoken to investigators since then. He said the FBI agents “acknowledged that I’m a loyal American veteran but indicated that their management was concerned that I did not believe the conclusions” of a U.S. intelligence report describing Moscow’s interference in the U.S. election. As he has for months, Page maintained the accusations against him are “lies” spread by Clinton and Obama supporters and aimed at weakening Trump.
— Jared Kushner has retained the services of defense attorney Abbe Lowell, bringing onboard the storied white-collar defense lawyer to advise him in the ongoing Russia investigation, which includes scrutiny of his business dealings. Abby Phillip and Philip Rucker report: “Lowell, a lawyer at Chadbourne & Parke, has defended a number of high-profile clients and was chief counsel to House Democrats during impeachment proceedings against [Bill Clinton]. He has also represented Sen. Robert Menendez against corruption charges. ‘When Bob Mueller left WilmerHale to become special counsel and three of our colleagues joined him, we asked Mr. Kushner to get independent legal advice on whether to continue with us as his counsel,’ said Kushner’s attorney Jamie Gorelick. ‘He engaged Abbe Lowell to advise him and then decided to add Mr. Lowell to the team representing him.’ [On Sunday, The Post reported] that one of the deals that might be scrutinized … is a $285 million loan Kushner’s real estate company finalized one month before Election Day.”
— Officials at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are blocking a Freedom of Information request for a redacted version of a critical report that former President Obama received in January on Russian election interference. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports: “Then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made public an unclassified version of that report, but the Electronic Privacy Information Center brought a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding a copy of the classified report given to Obama at the same time. EPIC said the unclassified version omitted ‘critical technical evidence’ that could help the public assess U.S. intelligence agencies’ claims that Russia did make efforts to affect the outcome of the 2016 race. However, a top official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Daniel Coats, said in a court declaration filed Monday that releasing the original report with classified information blacked out would be a field day for foreign intelligence operatives, including the very Russians the report accuses of undertaking the interference.”
— One of Michael Flynn’s consulting clients, Ekim Alptekin, has come under scrutiny for his ties to the embattled former national security adviser, but Alptekin’s business partner has gone largely unnoticed. Politico’s Isaac Arnsdorf reports: “The man, Dmitri “David” Zaikin, is not registered as a foreign lobbyist and has no apparent connection to Turkey. What he does have … is a long track record of partnering with powerful Russian businesspeople and government officials, mostly involving energy and mining deals. More recently, Zaikin has done political work in Eastern Europe, advising parties in Albania and Macedonia that have drifted toward the Kremlin. Zaikin also has business connections to Trump. Working at a real estate agency in Toronto in the 2000s, Zaikin brokered sales in one of the city’s new high-rises: the Trump International Hotel and Tower … Zaikin has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Alptekin and Zaikin have denied knowing each other, and say Zaikin had nothing to do with Flynn’s lobbying deal.”
— One of Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, has been accused of steering millions of dollars away from his Christian non-profit and towards his family, The Guardian’s Jon Swaine reports: “Documents obtained by the Guardian show Sekulow [in June 2009] approved plans to push poor and jobless people to donate money to his Christian nonprofit, which since 2000 has steered more than $60m to Sekulow, his family and their businesses. Telemarketers for the nonprofit, Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (Case), were instructed in contracts signed by Sekulow to urge people who pleaded poverty or said they were out of work to dig deep for a ‘sacrificial gift’. ‘I can certainly understand how that would make it difficult for you to share a gift like that right now,’ they told retirees who said they were on fixed incomes and had ‘no extra money’ – before asking if they could spare ‘even $20 within the next three weeks’.”
MORE ON HEALTH CARE:
— Key takeaways from the CBO report:
— If the CBO’s estimates prove accurate and the legislation passes, what would it mean for the average American?
— After the CBO released its estimates, Senate Democrats came out in force to denounce the bill, even taking their fight to the Capitol steps. David Weigel reports: “Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) gathered colleagues on the steps outside the Senate, where they talked for hours into a Facebook feed as activists filed in and out to watch the debate. The tone alternated between grim stories of people who would lose access to Medicaid, and in-jokes between the senators.”
— Sen. Bernie Sanders has recently taken his argument against a health-care overhaul on the road, packing an Ohio concert hall with over 2,000 people on Sunday. Weigel was there: “The Columbus rally, the largest of three that Sanders staged over the weekend in Rust Belt states that Trump won in 2016, was part of an aggressive, last-ditch push to stop the Senate bill … Teeing up the week’s votes this way makes a point — they are unlikely to be able to tack their rhetoric into the legislation itself. But it also reveals the limitations of what Democrats, who have taken to Twitter to oppose the bill and plan to offer amendments to alter it, can do to stop a bill in the Republican-controlled chamber.”
HOW IT’S PLAYING:
— The Post’s Editorial Board calls the CBO’s conclusion “damning”: “The current system is not perfect, but it is also not collapsing,” the board writes. “Though the CBO acknowledged that ‘premiums have been rising under current law,’ it projected ‘sufficient demand for insurance by enough people, including people with low health care expenditures, for the market to be stable in most areas.’ The Senate bill’s system, meanwhile, would struggle to serve people in sparsely populated and other difficult-to-cover areas, just as the Affordable Care Act has. Obamacare requires fixes, not a destabilizing ‘rescue.’ The Senate bill contains provisions to shore up the existing system before transitioning to the shoddier one. It should just pass the fixes and move on.”
— Liberal columnist Eugene Robinson writes that Republicans could pay a high political price for advancing the bill: “The fact is that the party that tries to make substantial changes in health-care policy owns the issue and gets blamed for everything that goes wrong … Republicans worry about having spent seven years promising to ‘repeal and replace’ the ACA and then failing to follow through. But if they do take the leap, Democrats competing in the 2018 midterms will be able to turn that slogan around with a clarion call to ‘repeal and replace’ the American Health Care Act.”
— Post columnist Catherine Rampell writes that the bill defies Republicans’ bedrock principles on fixing the system: “Republicans have long bellyached that rising insured rates are misleading. Their argument: Having insurance coverage is meaningless if your deductible is so enormous that you can’t afford to see the doctor! It’s a fair point. But the Senate bill does nothing to improve access to care. In fact, it places care further out of reach. It does this not only by causing people to lose insurance coverage and raising after-tax premium prices, but also by making ‘insurance coverage’ an even less useful gauge of whether a person can afford to see a doctor … When all’s said and done, there’s just one major Republican health-care principle this bill remains loyal to: tax cuts for the rich.”
— Jennifer Rubin writes on the conservative Right Turn blog: “This is not a bill about providing cheaper, better health care to the masses. It’s not about helping older or rural Americans. It’s about taking hundreds of billions of dollars out of Medicaid and giving the money to rich people in the form of tax cuts. The CBO report makes clear what a total disgrace the bill really is.”
— Partisan attacks on the CBO have been largely overblown, Max Ehrenfreund argues on Wonkblog: “Republicans are correct that the CBO’s forecasts for Obamacare did prove inaccurate in some important respects, as well as that, on several occasions, the agency revised its initial projections. But outside the spin room, health-care experts on both sides of the aisle say that the CBO is reliably nonpartisan … The CBO’s [Obamacare] forecasts overstated both the costs and the benefits of the Democratic changes, as the measure appears likely to have a lower price tag than CBO anticipated but has also insured fewer people than proponents hoped.”
OFF TO THE RACES:
— The top GOP House super PAC intends to double-down on its “tried-and-true tactics” for the 2018 midterms — namely tying all Democratic candidates to Nancy Pelosi. Mike DeBonis reports: “The Congressional Leadership Fund, which has ties to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), plans to spend $100 million before next year’s midterm elections, and Executive Director Corry Bliss said in a memo released Tuesday that he sees no reason to abandon a strategy that has paid dividends for six years — most recently in Georgia’s 6th congressional district, where CLF advertising featuring Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her San Francisco district helped define and defeat Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff in this month’s special election there … In 11 districts Democrats have identified as 2018 targets, Pelosi’s favorability is at least 10 points underwater … It is not unusual for a congressional leader to be widely unpopular. What is unusual is the relentlessness and effectiveness of the GOP’s targeting of Pelosi.”
— In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Ossoff offers lessons for fellow Democrats heading into 2018. He writes: “Grass-roots politics, linking small-dollar fundraising to massive local volunteer organization, showed that it can rival the power of a right-wing machine comprising super PACs backed by entrenched interests and mega-donors. These outside groups were forced to spend nearly $20 million defending a seat gerrymandered never to be competitive … We ran an economy-first campaign centered on local prosperity and opportunity … We paired this economic platform with an unwavering support for a woman’s right to choose, Americans with preexisting conditions, criminal-justice reform, Medicare and Medicaid, voting rights, immigration reform, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, anti-corruption efforts and U.S. leadership to fight climate change … I remained committed to civility and optimism throughout the campaign, and I remain committed to civility and optimism now.”
— Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, included on the DCCC’s list of vulnerable Republicans, received two more Democratic challengers. Jenna Portnoy reports: “Democrats think they have a chance to flip the Northern Virginia seat, which has been in Republican hands since 1980, after the area backed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Comstock supporters say the congresswoman’s ability to outperform GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump by 16 points to win a second term cemented her dominance in the district.”
— An early 2018 indicator? When asked about the Senate health-care bill, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, the Republican running in the most closely watched race of 2017, dodges the question. Inside NoVa’s Alex Koma reports: “[Gillespie] repeatedly stressed that he’s waiting to form an opinion on the bill until his policy team can examine it, and he remains adamant that Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law was a ‘disaster for Virginia’ and needs to be repealed. Gillespie also argued that he’s more focused on ‘enacting policies in Richmond’ than he is on the goings-on of Congress, which he believes provides a stark contrast with his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam … Yet, should Republicans succeed in passing some repeal of the ACA, the state’s next governor will need to consider the impact of the law’s coverage cuts and premium hikes on both older and poorer Virginians.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
— While meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Trump declared them to both be “believers” in public accountability — then refused to take reporters’ questions. David Nakamura reports: “The White House declined to offer details about whose decision it was — the Americans’ or the Indians’ — to bar questions … There was no mention of fault lines between the White House and New Delhi on the Paris climate accord, which Trump announced this month the United States would withdraw from but which India and China have supported. Nor did Modi mention immigration issues amid speculation that the Trump administration could cut H-1B visas for high-tech workers, visas that have benefited India … Critics [of Trump and Modi], including civil liberties groups, have highlighted other similarities among two leaders who have sought, at times, to restrict media coverage and the flow of information.”
— Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker threatened yesterday to withhold consent from a U.S. arms sale to Persian Gulf countries until they resolve their dispute with Qatar. Karen DeYoung reports: “While congratulating President Trump on signing a joint statement of unity last month with the Gulf Cooperation Council, [Corker] said in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that recent conflicts among GCC members ‘only serve to hurt efforts to fight ISIS and counter Iran’ … ‘For these reasons, before we provide any further clearances … on sales of lethal military equipment … we need a better understanding of the path to resolve the current dispute and reunify the GCC.’ It was unclear what power Corker has to stop what the administration has said were $110 billion worth of arms deals signed with the Saudis during President Trump’s trip there last month. Laws governing such sales require congressional notification but not formal consent.”
— The embargo on Qatar is also disrupting a usually little-noticed market: helium. Ana Swanson reports: “The ultralight gas is widely used in medical imaging, technology manufacturing and nuclear reactors. And the blockade of Qatar, the source of nearly one-third of the world’s helium supply, could soon cause destabilizing shortages and skyrocketing prices in this essential global market. In 2015, Qatar supplied 27.2 percent of the global supply.”
— The fight against ISIS will likely get only more complicated once it moves beyond Raqqa, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said yesterday. Thomas Gibbons-Neff reports: “Speaking to reporters on his way to Germany Monday to meet with European allies, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis spoke broadly about the U.S. military’s future operations against the Islamic State in the Euphrates River Valley, adding that it will take “more precision” to stave off any incidents between the disparate forces operating there. ‘You have to play this thing very carefully,’ Mattis said. ‘The closer we get, the more complex it gets.’ Mattis also acknowledged that the U.S. would continue to supply Kurdish forces in the north with weapons despite objections by U.S. ally Turkey. ‘When they don’t need them anymore we’ll replace them with what they do need,’ he said.”
— The U.S. intends to add China to its list of the worst offenders in human trafficking and forced labor. Reuters’ Matt Spetalnick reports: “The reprimand of China, Washington’s main rival in the Asia-Pacific region, would come despite Trump’s budding relationship with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and the U.S. president’s efforts to coax Beijing into helping to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has decided to drop China to ‘Tier 3,’ the lowest grade, putting it alongside Iran, North Korea and Syria among others.”
— A new poll suggests that the Trump presidency is already damaging America’s reputation abroad. Isaac Stanley-Becker and Scott Clement report: “The international survey by the Pew Research Center found that favorable ratings of the United States have decreased from 64 percent of people across all countries surveyed at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency to 49 percent this spring. The new figures are similar to those toward the end of the George W. Bush administration … It is perhaps unsurprising that a man who campaigned on a pledge to put American interests first would generate backlash in other parts of the world … What is surprising, said Frank G. Wisner, a former diplomat who served under Democrats and Republicans, is the degree to which Trump has scorned principles the United States has not only long espoused but also helped to define in the previous century.”
One notable exception: “Russia is a bright spot for Trump. As beleaguered as the president is at home, a majority of Russians say they have confidence in him.”
THE FOURTH ESTATE:
— Three CNN journalists resigned after the retraction of a story that connected former Trump transition official Anthony Scaramucci with a Russian investment fund, following an internal investigation that found some “standard editorial processes” weren’t properly followed before the story’s publication. The story in question cited just one anonymous source — departing from typical editorial procedure for such material, which CNN’s Brian Stelter says often includes multiple levels of review from fact checkers and lawyers, among others. “We pulled it down not because we disproved it,” a CNN source told The Post’s Erik Wemple, adding that there was “enough concern” on some factual points that “given the breach in process, we decided to pull it down.”
— Donald Trump Jr. accelerated the controversy by demanding in a statement that CNN chief executive Jeff Zucker hold “an on-camera press briefing about CNN’s fake news scandal before the White House does any more of them.”
— “The event is a cataclysm accentuated by the peculiar bind in which the 24-7 network has found itself,” Wemple writes. “CNN tops [Trump’s] list of objectionable news outlets, one that he famously claimed in a January transition press conference was ‘fake news,’ even though the reporting he was referring to — about high-level intelligence briefings — was 100 percent correct. Trump fans everywhere have taken up the fight, hammering the network every time it equivocates or otherwise over-reports the Russia-Trump line of inquiry. That context explains the speed and severity of CNN’s personnel moves … An organization of nearly 4,000 news professionals; an organization that has spent huge sums recruiting ever-greater reportorial muscle; an organization that promises both sides a fair shake … it just cannot abide getting shamed by Sputnik and Breitbart.”
— The president himself weighed in on the CNN retraction early this morning:
— Sean Spicer again received harsh criticism from journalists for refusing to allow TV cameras into yesterday’s briefing. Reuters’ Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland report: “‘Why are the cameras off, Sean? Why did you turn them off?’ shouted CNN correspondent Jim Acosta. Other reporters chimed in. ‘You are a taxpayer-funded spokesman for the United States government – can you at least give us an explanation for why the cameras are off?’ Acosta asked. Spicer answered questions for audio only about President Donald Trump’s healthcare overhaul bill, a Supreme Court ruling on Trump’s travel ban, and Trump’s tweets about investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
— Despite the substantial rollback of press access, members of the media haven’t staged much of a protest yet. Paul Farhi writes: “Despite the administration’s unusual and increasing opacity, the reaction from reporters has been relatively muted. A few have noted it on Twitter, but none has taken up two suggestions offered by President Trump’s critics: Defy the camera ban and broadcast the briefings anyway, or boycott them. There are signs, however, that reporters may be gradually finding their backbones.”
— “After bananas and nooses on campus, here’s how a student body president copes,” by Sarah Larimer: “[Taylor] Dumpson is the student government president at American University, which was jolted by a racial incident on May 1 when bananas were found hanging from strings fashioned in the shape of nooses on three locations on the Northwest Washington campus. The university termed the incident a hate crime. In the aftermath, Dumpson was thrust into a very public spotlight, dealing with news conferences, town halls and meetings. She became the latest student leader to confront tensions over racially charged incidents on campuses across the country … For the 21-year-old Dumpson, from Salisbury, Md., the entire matter has been deeply personal. The bananas were marked with the letters of a sorority with predominantly African American membership. Dumpson is a member of that sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA). What’s more, the fruit was found on her first full day in office.”
— “A ‘very credible’ new study on Seattle’s $15 minimum wage has bad news for liberals,” by Max Ehrenfreund: “When Seattle officials voted three years ago to incrementally boost the city’s minimum wage up to $15 an hour, they’d hoped to improve the lives of low-income workers. Yet according to a major new study that could force economists to reassess past research on the issue, the hike has had the opposite effect. The city is gradually increasing the hourly minimum to $15 over several years. Already, though, some employers have not been able to afford the increased minimums. They’ve cut their payrolls, putting off new hiring, reducing hours or letting their workers go, the study found. The costs to low-wage workers in Seattle outweighed the benefits by a ratio of three to one … [and] on the whole, the study estimates, the average low-wage worker in the city lost $125 a month because of the hike in the minimum. The paper’s conclusions contradict years of research … [which in contrast] have found that the benefits of increases for low-wage workers exceed the costs … often by a factor of four or five to one.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Liberal Plum Line blogger Greg Sargent argues that the two tweets above about Russian hacking leave Trump badly exposed. He writes: “In a few tweets last week, Trump blasted the Obama administration for failing to act on what it had learned about Russia’s meddling efforts. But now Trump is explicitly offering a rationale for this, i.e., that Obama didn’t think Trump was going to win, and so didn’t bother doing anything about it, because it might have ‘rocked the boat,’ whatever that is supposed to mean. This line of argument leaves Trump deeply exposed, however. It represents an acknowledgment that the intelligence community had, in fact, concluded that Russia interfered with the purpose of helping Trump win. And it also exposes Trump to questions about what his administration (and Republicans) are prepared to do about expected Russian efforts to meddle in the next election.”
Trump weighed in on McConnell’s fight for 50 votes on health care:
He also tweeted out a story from Fox News:
But the timing of the Fox News tweets was odd:
Democratic senators continued to slam the Senate health-care bill after the CBO released its score, as Republican senators stayed mostly quiet:
From Hillary Clinton’s former spokesperson:
From the president of the AFL-CIO:
The former governor of Maryland responded to Kellyanne Conway’s suggestion that those who lose their Medicaid coverage could find jobs:
A pro-Trump super PAC began going after wavering senators’ staffers. From a Republican strategist:
One Republican senator struggled to explain the bill his caucus was proposing:
Trump kept the media at arm’s length during his Modi meeting:
A top Democratic electio lawyer commented on Kushner hiring Abbe Lowell:
A pro-Trump group launched an offensive against the special counsel’s Russia investigation:
The editor of Commentary magazine responded to the outrage over CNN’s retracted Russia story:
Sen. Jeff Flake lost his father yesterday:
Rep. Steve Scalise congratulated the newest Republican members of Congress:
West Virginia experienced some aerial confusion over health-care ads:
Joe Biden took on an honorary summer job:
And the Harry Potter series celebrated its 20th birthday:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— The New York Times, “‘Give Me a Chance,’ Trump Associate-Turned-Housing-
“While some see her appointment as a symbol of nepotism, Ms. Patton sees it as giving residents of New York and New Jersey an advocate with unprecedented access to those in charge. While critics see her background as lacking, she sees herself as a representation of the president’s promise to shake things up … And while many have cast her as an unqualified wedding planner, she sees the label as a result of a rumor …”
— The New Yorker, “The National Enquirer’s Fervor for Trump,” by Jeffrey Toobin:“‘[David Pecker] thought Donald walked on water,’ [one former] employee said. ‘Donald treated David like a little puppy. Donald liked being flattered, and David thought Donald was the king. One employee said that Trump was also a frequent source for Enquirer stories. ‘[If] Donald didn’t want a story to run, it wouldn’t run, [that employee said]. ‘You can put that in stone.’ Indeed, early in the 2016 campaign Pecker simply turned over the pages of the Enquirer to Trump, allowing the candidate to write columns under his own byline … Pecker is now considering expanding his business: he may bid to take over the financially strapped magazines of Time, Inc., [and] based on his stewardship of his own publications, Pecker would almost certainly direct those magazines, and the journalists who work for them, to advance the interests of the President and to damage those of his opponents—which makes the story of the Enquirer and its chief executive a little more important and a little less funny …”
— Wall Street Journal, “China’s All-Seeing Surveillance State Is Reading Its Citizens’ Faces,” by Josh Chin and Liza Lin: “Facial-recognition technology, once a specter of dystopian science fiction, is becoming a feature of daily life in China, where authorities are using it on streets, in subway stations, at airports and at border crossings in a vast experiment in social engineering. Their goal: to influence behavior and identify lawbreakers. [Gan Liping], 31 years old, had been caught on camera crossing illegally here once before, allowing the system to match her two images. Text displayed on the crosswalk screens identified her as a repeat offender … ‘I won’t ever run a red light again,’ she said.”
— New York Magazine, “Just Wait: Watergate didn’t become Watergate overnight, either,” by Frank Rich: “Unlike Nixon, who had to contend with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, Trump has the shield of a Republican Congress … [a distinction that is] alone is enough to make anti-Trumpers abandon all hope. I’m here to say don’t do so just yet. There’s a handy antidote to despair: a thorough wallow in Watergate, the actual story as it unfolded, not the expedited highlight reel that most Americans know from a textbook précis or cultural artifacts like the film version of All the President’s Men. If you look through a sharp Nixonian lens at Trump’s trajectory in office to date, short as it has been, you will discover more of an overlap than you might expect …”
— Politico Magazine, “‘It’s the End of Small Talk in Washington,’” by Daniel Lipman and John F. Harris: “Team Trump is showing few signs so far of hungering for the sort of social intercourse with permanent Washington that usually accompanies a new administration. And many longtime capital denizens in interviews describe themselves as put off by what they see as Trump’s personal vulgarity, and disturbed on some more fundamental level by the tornado of ethical controversies swirling around him. ‘I think you are going to need a very strong blender to mix the Washington community with the Trump crowd, and I don’t think it’s going to end up being a smoothie,’ says Sally Quinn, widow of the legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. ‘A friend of mine said, ‘It’s the end of small talk in Washington.’”
President Trump will have two calls today with international leaders: French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. He will also meet with his national security adviser in the morning.
Vice President Pence is giving the keynote speech at U.S.-India Business Council’s leadership summit before heading over to Capitol Hill to meet with Republican senators.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— D.C. residents will enjoy a fairly mild day given that it’s the start of summer in the District. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Temperatures are fantastic for late June as afternoon levels peak in the upper 70s to low 80s. Very low humidity and light breezes blow from the west at 5 to 10 mph. A slight chance of a brief afternoon shower or even thundershower exists, but most areas should stay dry today.”
— “The number of homicides, robberies and assaults have dropped significantly in the District over the past six months,” Peter Hermann reports: “Violent crime is down 26 percent from the same period in 2016, led by a 33 percent decline in robberies. Homicides are down 15 percent, from 61 at this time in 2016 to 52 so far this year. Violent crime went down 10 percent in 2016 compared with 2015.”
— A federal judge declined to lift a hold on construction of Maryland’s Purple Line amid ongoing litigation, Katherine Shaver reports.
— Democratic state Sen. C. Anthony Muse announced that he would run to succeed outgoing Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker. Arelis R. Hernández reports: “‘I want our students to do well, but I want to know our students are actually doing well,’ Muse, 59, said outside Crossland High School, a reference to recent allegations that county school officials tampered with student grades to artificially boost graduation rates.”
— A pet Russian tortoise that was lost near the Japanese ambassador’s property has been safely found. Dana Hedgpeth reports that Maui the tortoise is now resting comfortably with his family.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert returned from a trip to Russia, where his “hard-core fans” (intelligence officers) followed him everywhere:
Seth Meyers went over highlights from Steve Mnuchin’s wedding:
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) discussed her recent diagnosis of kidney cancer, as well as her gratefulness for health insurance, on the Senate floor:
Cory Booker staged a sit-in over health-care on the Capitol steps:
Glenn Kessler fact-checks some Republicans’ claims about increases in premiums under Obamacare:
The Post dissects the history of Trump’s travel ban tweets:
More global leaders criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal:
Finally, a humpback whale got a little too close to a boat off the coast of New Jersey last week: