12 min readMorning Guide to Politics, Wednesday, August 2nd

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Good Wednesday morning, and happy August since we didn’t write a Morning Guide yesterday.


–You should by Senator Jeff Flake’s new book “Conscience of a Conservative”, it delivers an explosive rebuke of President Trump and so-called Trumpism. Many say it will hurt his already struggling re-election bid for Senate in 2018. Jeff Flake is one of the most at-risk Republican Senators up for re-election in the 2018 mid-terms. The contents of this book include statements such as “If this was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it. If ultimately our principles were so malleable as to no longer be principles, then what was the point of political victories in the first place?” He also says of President Trump “the strange specter of an American president’s seeming affection for strong men and authoritarians created such a cognitive dissonance among my generation of conservatives—who had come of age under existential threat from the Soviet Union—that it was almost impossible to believe. Even as our own government was documenting a con­certed attack against our democratic processes by an enemy foreign power, our own White House was rejecting the authority of its own intelligence agencies, disclaiming their findings as a Democratic ruse and a hoax. Conduct that would have had conservatives up in arms had it been exhibited by our political opponents now had us dumbstruck.” Needless to say, you should buy the book. 

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The buzz in Washington yesterday was all about newly minted White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s decision to fire Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. Many said that his tenure as the head of the Comms Departments was the shortest ever, at 11 days. Not true. The shortest someone has served as White House Communications Director was actually John O. Koehler, who served in March 1987 for 6 days in President Ronald Reagan’s White House. Koehler resigned after it was discovered he was in a Nazi youth group at the age of 10. So yeah, Anthony Scaramucci is up there with a member of the Nazi Party.


Who will replace Kelly as Homeland Secretary? There was a rumor on Tuesday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be nominated to head the Department of Homeland Security by President Donald Trump. But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders put this rumor to rest during the daily briefing. When asked by John Gizzi of Newsmax if the administration would be reshuffling the cabinet, including Sessions to Homeland, Sanders answered that there would not be any reshuffling of the cabinet, including Sessions to Homeland. Right now the person leading it is Elaine Duke, but she is not expected to be promoted to Secretary permanently. House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul, Republican of Texas, is on the shortlist to replace Kelly. Other possible choices: ICE acting director Thomas Homan and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. 

On the topic of DHS, Chief of Staff John Kelly is reportedly planning on bringing over some of his former colleagues from Homeland. It’ll be interesting to see how these military types fit in with the more political operatives in the West Wing, although thus far it seems that the answer for Kelly is just fine. If there is one thing we’ve learned in the first seven months of the Trump administration, it’s that he respects three types of people. His family, wealthy people, and generals. He really loves generals. In fact, he wanted to have a military parade for his inauguration but was told that he couldn’t. For some reason, a military parade for a presidential inauguration seems a little bit authoritarian to me, but I could be wrong.

In a speech on Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke about the typical issues: Violence and drugs and how they’re harming America. But there was one unusual part about this speech: He brought up police misconduct. People can agree that this is unusual for a populist conservative to talk about, especially given his record of chastising those who criticize the police. “We all know the cases of the last several years when, in confrontations with police, lives have been cut short,” Sessions said to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives conference. “Just as I’m committed to defending law enforcement who lawfully have to use deadly force to defend themselves while engaged in their work, I will use the power of the office I’m entrusted with to hold any officer responsible who violates the law.”

“You know all it takes is for one bad officer to destroy the reputations of so many who work every day to build good relationships in these communities and who serve with honor and distinction,” Sessions said.

Two takeaways from this: We all know that Sessions had a terrible week with President Trump last week, will this speech help or hurt that relationship at all. Then again, President Trump was angry about Sessions recusal, not about his job at large with implementing Trump’s agenda. On that front, I would say he’s done a fantastic job. Second, what if Sessions applied the principles of “You know all it takes is for one bad officer to destroy the reputations of so many who work every day to build good relationships in these communities” to Muslims who are associated with extremists who make up a very small minority of their religion? That might be a good idea.


Trump tweets

“Only the Fake News Media and Trump enemies want me to stop using Social Media (110 million people). Only way for me to get the truth out!”

“Corporations have NEVER made as much money as they are making now.” Thank you Stuart Varney @foxandfriends Jobs are starting to roar,watch!”

“Stock Market could hit all-time high (again) 22,000 today. Was 18,000 only 6 months ago on Election Day. Mainstream media seldom mentions!”

Responses to Trump tweets

Tweet No.1: Is there really no other way for you to get the “truth” out? Can’t you think of any other possible way? Not a press release from the White House, or an interview with a news outlet, or a speech to the nation. Those are just some ideas.

Tweet No.2: I think we all know at this point that Fox and Friends may be the most powerful news show in the world. They clearly have the loyal viewership of the President, who records it every day, tweets about them, and retweets them. The hosts of that show have a direct line to the president, use it wisely I guess??

Tweet No.3: First, the numbers here are inaccurate. The stock market closed at 18,333 about nine months ago, and 19,891 six months ago on February 1.

Congress: Sasse says no to Heritage Foundation top job

Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, has been approached by The Heritage Foundation to serve as president. This is a big deal, considering that Heritage is a very influential conservative think tank and Sasse is a top anti-Trump critic. This choice by the Heritage Foundation may signal that they are ready to go a different direction, possibly against President Trump and more towards traditional conservatism. Sasse was elected in 2014 and has turned down offers from Heritage’s board of trustees several times. The Senator from Nebraska has risen to a high profile because he publicly stated that he would support neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton for president in 2016. The distancing from President Trump hasn’t stopped at the election, he remains a vocal anti-Trump critic in the Republican party.

The rest from Politico

The entreaties are one sign that Heritage may be looking to change course after the May ouster of its former president, Jim DeMint. In the Senate, DeMint was a leading antagonist of establishment Republicans, and at Heritage, he suffered from the perception that the organization was becoming too political — and too reflexively pro-Trump — as its focus on scholarship fell by the wayside.

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The Ivy League-educated, 45-year-old Sasse was a college president before he was elected to the Senate, and he approached his job in Washington with an academic bearing. His vocal criticism of Trump, which homed in on what he considered the candidate’s insufficient appreciation for constitutional checks and balances, angered many Republicans.

“My current answer for who I would support in a hypothetical matchup between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton is: Neither of them,” Sasse wrote in a Facebook post addressed to Trump supporters in February 2016. “I sincerely hope we select one of the other GOP candidates, but if Donald Trump ends up as the GOP nominee, conservatives will need to find a third option.”


Seth Rich conspiracy theory linked to White House in new lawsuit

WaPo reports

A private detective who investigated the slaying of a Democratic National Committee staffer alleged in a lawsuit Tuesday that Fox News Channel worked with White House officials to push a discredited theory about the case to undermine allegations of Russian collusion with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The investigator, Rod Wheeler, further claims in the suit that President Trump was aware of the bogus story and urged Fox to publish it on its website.

Wheeler’s defamation lawsuit — which names Fox News, a Fox reporter and a wealthy businessman as defendants — is an outgrowth of the slaying last summer of Seth Rich, a young data specialist at the DNC.

Rich was killed in his D.C. neighborhood in July 2016 in what police said was a botched robbery attempt. But the timing set off a conspiracy theory among Trump supporters and those on the far right: that Rich’s death was somehow arranged by Democratic officials as payback for his leak of thousands of DNC emails and electronic files to WikiLeaks, which published them.

The emails were an embarrassment to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but Rich’s family and D.C. police have denied that Rich was the source or that his slaying had anything to do with his work at the DNC. Intelligence sources have said that the emails were stolen from the DNC by Russian hackers.


The Senate doesn’t need Trump or his pressuring for Obamacare

The New York Times

Congressional Republicans moved on Tuesday to defuse President Trump’s threat to cut off critical payments to health insurance companies, maneuvering around the president toward bipartisan legislation to shore up insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act.

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the influential chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, announced that his panel would begin work in early September on legislation to “stabilize and strengthen the individual health insurance market” for 2018. He publicly urged Mr. Trump to continue making payments to health insurance companies to reimburse them for reducing the out-of-pocket medical expenses of low-income people.

In the House, two Republicans, Representatives Tom Reed of New York and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, teamed with Democrats to promote incremental health legislation that would also fund the cost-sharing subsidies.

The moves were a remarkable response to the president’s repeated threats to send health insurance markets into a tailspin. They offered tangible indications of cooperation between the parties after Republican efforts to scrap the Affordable Care Act collapsed in the Senate last week, all but ending the seven-year Republican quest to overturn President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. Lawmakers from both parties concede that the health law needs improvement, as consumers face sharp premium increases and a shrinking number of insurance options in many states.

These problems have been exacerbated by a president who has publicly predicted that the Affordable Care Act will “implode” and appears determined to help fulfill that prophecy. Mr. Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut off the subsidies, known as cost-sharing reduction payments, which reimburse insurers for cutting deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for millions of low-income people. Without them, insurers would almost certainly raise premiums not only for poor consumers but also for many other people buying plans on the individual insurance market.

In California, the state agency that runs the insurance marketplace announced on Tuesday that rates would increase by 12.5 percent on average next year. That is slightly lower than the rate increases Californians saw this year. But Peter V. Lee, the executive director of the agency, Covered California, said the average increase would be twice as high for popular “silver” plans if the Trump administration blocked the cost-sharing payments.

“This policy allowed health plans to stay in the market when they might have left otherwise,” Mr. Lee said of the potential additional increase, which he called a “surcharge.”

That’s all for today, we’ll be back tomorrow. 

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