Good morning, it’s Thursday, and we’re near the end of what has proved to be a pretty crazy week in Washington. But then again, that’s what everyone loves about politics. Let’s dive into the news. This is the Morning Guide to Politics, Thursday, July 13th.
- This week The New York Times published a piece about a meeting between a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort. The meeting has raised several questions for Mueller’s team investigating the Russian interference into the 2016 election. Specifically, does the meeting establish an intent to collude with a foreign government to sway a federal election? One Congressman even floated the idea of treason. But one thing is for sure in all of this: The Russia story isn’t going away anytime soon. How does President Trump feel? Rumors are circulating that he is more angry at the media than he is annoyed at his son. He also tweeted about it, we’ll get to that later.
- President Donald Trump said that he would be ‘very angry’ if the GOP health care bill fails in the Senate. “I will be very angry about it and a lot of people will be very upset,” Trump said on the bill failing, “but I’m still waiting for that bill to come to my desk. I hope they do it.” This is the same bill that he characterized as ‘mean’, so I wouldn’t be so sure about him hoping it comes to his desk. “They’ve been promising it for years. They’ve been promising it ever since Obamacare which is failed,” Trump told CBN. “It’s a failed experiment. It is totally gone. It’s out of business and we have to get this done.” This will be an uphill battle for the Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who had to pull a vote on the last health care bill because it did not have enough votes. And perhaps the most interesting part of all of this is that most Americans don’t support the Senate efforts on health care. A new poll by USA TODAY/Suffolk University found that only 12% of Americans support the Senate health care bill.
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- Is Pence distancing himself from Trump? He says no
Vice President Mike Pence’s team pushed back Wednesday against the notion that he was trying to distance himself from President Donald Trump, after a statement Pence issued a day earlier on the latest developments in the Russia saga drew raised eyebrows.
Some White House aides said they were blindsided by Pence’s statement on Tuesday after Trump’s eldest son released emails about a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer. Pence’s office said in response to the news that he was “not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket.” Some White House officials said they felt the statement implied guilt on the part of the campaign.
A source close to Pence, however, rejected that interpretation.
“[The] statement was a response to press inquiries and was similar to what the President’s lawyers said” in noting that Trump didn’t know about the meeting, the source said, adding that the reference to the Trump Jr. meeting occurring before Pence joined the campaign was merely a statement of fact.
“The Vice President finds any suggestion that he’s distancing himself from the President to be offensive.”
But a spokesperson for the vice president did not respond to inquiries about whether Pence’s office ran the statement by counterparts in the White House before releasing it on Tuesday. A White House spokesman also did not respond.
Pence has previously positioned himself as unaware of controversies that have bubbled up in the White House. For instance, when former national security adviser Michael Flynn was fired after it was disclosed that he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador during the transition, Pence said he had not known the contents of the conversation.
- Sarah Huckabee Sanders: WH press is ‘as transparent as humanly possible’
On a day in which the president’s schedule included no public events and the daily briefing was once again held off camera, principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared that the White House aims to be “as transparent as humanly possible.”
The comment raised eyebrows in the press room, where reporters have pushed for the return of televised briefings and are regularly stonewalled by administration spokespeople.
“Every single day we do our very best to give you the most accurate information that we have,” Sanders said in response to a question about why so many members of the administration have not divulged meetings they had with Russian individuals. “Our goal is to be as transparent as humanly possible.”
The transparency claim came after Sanders said the media should focus more on interactions between the Clintons and Russian officials.
Just Tuesday, Sanders repeatedly refused to comment on the revelation that Donald Trump Jr. accepted a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer to receive potentially damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government attempt to help Trump’s campaign.
The administration has had other transparency issues, from not releasing President Donald Trump’s tax returns to ending the publication of White House visitor logs.
Sanders took questions for about 20 minutes on Wednesday. She defended the week’s absence of televised briefings by noting that Trump will take questions from the press in France on Thursday.
- Ryan tries to control call to re-open war debate
House Speaker Paul Ryan met with anti-war Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee on Wednesday as he sought to take control of growing bipartisan demands for a new debate on the 16-year-old military fight against terrorism.
Ryan and Lee had a “robust discussion” on the House floor about an amendment she pushed through the House Appropriations Committee last month that would repeal Congress’ 2001 authorization for force against groups like Al Qaeda, Lee spokesman Christopher Huntley said.
That vote was a surprising victory for Lee and was seen as a rebuke of the House Republican leadership, which has stymied past rank-and-file efforts seeking a new vote on the war authorization.
After her meeting with Ryan, Lee said she believes House GOP leaders plan to strip her amendment from this year’s defense appropriations bill and replace it with a measure being crafted by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). The Cole provision would ask the Defense Department to spell out what it would want in a new war authorization.
“They should not remove this from the bill,” Lee said in an interview. “This was put in as part of the democratic process.”
Cole acknowledged he was working on an amendment intended to go into the appropriations bill in lieu of Lee’s amendment. He said his measure was designed to “nudge” Congress toward passing a new war authorization. “We should be working with the administration to craft an AUMF that they think helps them get the job done,” he explained.
Ryan has insisted that the issue must be taken up in stand-alone piece of legislation — including a full debate in the proper committee of jurisdiction — and not as an amendment rammed into a spending bill. The Wisconsin Republican called Lee’s amendment a “mistake” in an interview last month with Real Clear Politics, fueling speculation that he might move to strip it from this year’s defense appropriations bill.
“There is a way to have this debate, but this, which endangers our national security, is not it,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong told POLITICO on Wednesday.
- Who does Putin want as President? Ask Trump.
President Donald Trump claimed Wednesday that his Russian counterpart would rather see Hillary Clinton as president, despite the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 election to boost Trump over the Democratic nominee.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “would like Hillary” because she would lead a weak military and energy prices would increase under her administration, Trump told CBN founder Pat Robertson in an interview set to air in full Thursday morning on “The 700 Club.”
“There are many things that I do that are the exact opposite of what he would want. So what I keep hearing about that he would have rather had Trump, I think ‘probably not,’ because when I want a strong military, you know she wouldn’t have spent the money on military,” Trump said. “When I want tremendous energy, we’re opening up coal, we’re opening up natural gas, we’re opening up fracking, all the things that he would hate, but nobody ever mentions that.”
Trump praised America as the most powerful country in the world and argued that it’s only getting stronger “because I’m a big military person.” Had Clinton won, he said, “our military would be decimated” and “our energy would be much more expensive.”
“That’s what Putin doesn’t like about me,” Trump said.
That’s also why the president said he questions why Putin would want him elected over Clinton, as the U.S. intelligence community has concluded.
“He wants what’s good for Russia, and I want what’s good for the United States,” Trump said. “From Day one I wanted a strong military. He doesn’t want to see that. ”
Robertson interviewed Trump on camera at the White House on Wednesday morning, putting the president in public view for the first time since his return from the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, last weekend. Trump has had very few events on his schedule since returning to Washington, D.C., on Saturday.
The interview also comes after Trump Wednesday morning broke his silence on his son, Donald Trump Jr., who’s been ensnared in the Russia story that has dominated his father’s presidency. The New York Times revealed over the weekend that Trump Jr. met last year with a Russian government lawyer promising dirt on Clinton.
Emails Trump Jr. released Tuesday show that the intermediary who set up the meeting had told him it could yield “very high level and sensitive information” about Clinton in what was described to him as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Nevertheless, the president called it “the greatest Witch Hunt in political history” in a Wednesday morning tweet that said his son was “was open, transparent and innocent.”
The Trump Jr. revelations have dominated Washington since Trump’s return from Germany, where he met for more than two hours with Putin last week.
“Everyone was surprised by the amount of time but that was a good thing and not a bad thing,” Trump said of what he described as an “excellent meeting.” “Yeah, I think we get along very well and I think that’s a good thing. That’s not a bad thing.”
The president criticized skeptics who said he shouldn’t get along with Putin, asking, “Well, who are the people that are saying that?”
“I think we get along very, very well,” he continued. “We are a tremendously powerful nuclear power, and so are they. It doesn’t make sense not to have some kind of a relationship.”
That relationship resulted in an agreement for a ceasefire in parts of Syria “where there was tremendous bedlam and tremendous killing,” Trump said, noting that it’s held for four days, unlike previous ceasefires.
Thanks for reading, We’ll be back tomorrow with the Morning Guide to Politics.
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