Good morning, this is the Morning Guide to Politics. A few announcements before we get going: We have recently begun prep to start our podcast, which will be airing either weekly or daily. We also would like to apologize for not sending out the mailing list for the last two days, even though the Morning Guide has been published. We just purchased the domain Braeden Talks Politics too so we will be making that transition soon to that domain. Click here to get this every weekday morning in your inbox.
It’s Wednesday, July 26th
What Politicos are talking about
- The rise of new White House comms director Anthony Scaramucci (The Mooch) and his recent efforts to fire aides and staffers that he feels are not loyal enough to the president and are the probable source of leaks. On Sunday shows he made a big point about leaks, especially on CNN’s State of the Union when he said something along the lines of “I will end you” with regard to people leaking.
- Foggy Bottom Watch: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is rumored to be considering leaving the State Department. Sidenote: He bought a $5.6 million home when he got the job, but I guess for someone of his stature that money won’t really matter. He planned to stay for a year at least just so he could say that he has been Secretary for a full year and have time to actually push an agenda. But he is reportedly frustrated with the Trump administration because they have been undermining his efforts to be a diplomat and he has clashed with them on so many crucial issues over the past six months. The most recent would be the Qatar diplomatic crisis, in which President Trump sided with the Saudis and Tillerson sided with the Qataris. I don’t know if President Trump realizes that one of the most important U.S. military bases in the region is in Qatar and it is crucial more specifically in the fight against ISIS.
- Speaking of quitting, the bigger story aside from Tillerson’s is undoubtedly that of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ and his recent position of the target of Trump’s fuming over the Russia investigation. President Trump tweeted about Sessions and called him “beleaguered” in the White House Rose Garden. On Twitter, he said: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” This recent focus on Sessions as a target by Trump is interesting because Sessions was one of Trump’s earliest and surely most vocal supporters in the Senate, especially among senior GOP Senators. This once warm relationship has quickly turned bitter as President Trump takes out his anger and frustration over the appointing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to head the Russia investigation. Trump is surely specifically angry over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation and allow the possibility of a special counsel to come about in the first place. But Sessions is rumored to be there to stay–as long as he has anything to say about it. Rumor has it that he plans to stay until Trump fires him, and paradoxically Trump wants Sessions to voluntarily resign to avoid the fiasco of firing someone, let alone his own appointee. Third and finally, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is also rumored to be on the way out. This could be the end of what I have come to call the Axis of Adults, an important coalition of reasonable people in the Trump administration who are not yes men. Possible replacements include Senator Ted Cruz and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Although it seems that Cruz isn’t interested in the job, we’ll see with Giuliani.
- The Senate narrowly passed a procedural vote on Tuesday to open up the full repeal and replace of Obamacare to the Senate floor. This is a truly amazing feat by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who just last week seemed like he thought the effort was dead. It has been a crazy process for Republicans trying to repeal and replace Obamacare, even now that they are the most powerful that they’ve been in a decade. It has proven to be an unwaveringly tough issue. What I would like to remind readers is that you cannot take away from Americans a social program that they are used to having. Republicans also tried to take away the New Deal and Medicaid/Medicare to no success. Once a social benefit is established in our economy and society and people depend on it, you can’t really take it away. This is the hard lessons Republicans in Congress have had to face since even loyalists from their own party have been ambivalent about a full repeal and replace. The vote was tight, with Vice President Mike Pence having to break the tie. The most interesting aspect is definitely the 10-minute conversation on the Senate floor between Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Ron Johnson. Johnson came into the chamber with concerns and was ultimately the deciding Senator to determine whether or not the GOP Senators would succeed in passing this vote. The conversation was heated, with McConnell’s face turning visibly red and him throwing his hands in the air for effect several times.
- President Donald Trump spoke to a crowd of supporters in Ohio Tuesday evening. During the day, he spoke to the Boy scouts of America and prefaced by saying he wouldn’t talk politics but then following to talks about politics. The rally was in Youngstown, Ohio. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect for Trump, who has made economic issues and jobs for blue collar Americans a central focus of his campaign and presidency. He continued to make promises, promising a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that would put Americans to work (the priority is low right now because it is waiting for other important legislation) and that more manufacturing jobs would come back to Youngstown in the near future. Ohio has been hit hard by the loss of jobs, it also went for Trump in this past election. Ohio’s unemployment rate is now at 5%, up from 4.9% in June. He also spoke about Obamacare, immigration, the wall, and what he calls “radical Islamic terrorism”. The wall, or the notion of it, is especially interesting. During the campaign, he said that it would be paid for by Mexico. Not only is that not true under its current plan, it hasn’t been funded by anyone yet. The current plan is for it to come out of the President’s “American First” budget proposal. Although that proposal has been labeled DOA.
Morning Guide reads
Here’s what we’re reading this morning
Imran Awan, a House staffer at the center of a criminal investigation potentially impacting dozens of Democratic lawmakers, has been arrested on bank fraud and is prevented from leaving the country while the charges are pending.
A senior House Democratic aide confirmed Awan was still employed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as of Tuesday morning. But David Damron, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, later said that Awan was fired on Tuesday.
Awan pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to one count of bank fraud during his arraignment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Awan is accused of attempting to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union by obtaining a $165,000 home equity loan for a rental property, which is against the credit union’s policies since it is not the owner’s primary residence. Those funds were then included as part of a wire transfer to two individuals in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
Awan was arrested at Dulles Airport on Monday evening before boarding a flight to Lahore, Pakistan. His wife, Hina Alvi, has already left the country for Pakistan along with their children. Federal agents do not believe Alvi has any intention of returning to the U.S., according to a court document.
Awan was released Tuesday on a “high-intensity supervision program,” according to a DOJ spokesman. He must wear a GPS monitor, abide by a curfew of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and cannot leave a 50-mile radius of his Lorton, Va., home. He was also forced to surrender his passports and is scheduled to reappear in court for a preliminary hearing Aug. 21.
“This is clearly a right-wing media-driven prosecution by a United States Attorney’s Office that wants to prosecute people for working while Muslim,” Chris Gowen, Awan’s attorney, said in an email declaring his client’s innocence.
“A quick glance at what the government filed in court today confirms the lack of evidence or proof they have against my client.”
Awan, a longtime IT staffer who worked for more than two dozen House Democrats, has been at the center of a criminal investigation on Capitol Hill for months related to procurement theft. Several of his family members, also IT staffers at the time, were implicated in the ongoing investigation.
Most Democratic lawmakers cut ties with Awan and his family after the criminal investigation came to light in early February. But Awan has continued to be employed by Wasserman Schultz, although it’s unclear what his job duties are given he has been barred from accessing the House IT system for months.
Alvi, another House staff member involved in the Capitol Hill investigation, left the country with their three daughters, headed for Pakistan in March, according to an affidavit filed in the Awan case. Alvi had “numerous pieces of luggage” and more than $12,000 in cash, FBI agent Brandon Merriman wrote in the affidavit.
The Senate Health Care Travesty (by the Editorial Board)
Ignoring overwhelming public opposition to legislation that would destroy the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republicans voted on Tuesdayto begin repealing that law without having any workable plan to replace it.
The majority leader, Mitch McConnell, browbeat and cajoled 50 members of his caucus to vote to begin a debate on health care without even telling the country which of several competing bills he wanted to pass. Vice President Mike Pence provided the tiebreaking vote. The proposals vary in severity, but all of them would leave millions more people without health insurance and make medical care unaffordable for many low-income and middle-class families. It is clear that Mr. McConnell does not much care which of these proposals the Senate passes; for whatever reason — pride, White House pressure, sheer cussedness — he just wants to get a bill out of the Senate. It could then go into conference with the House, which passed its own terrible bill in May.
That committee would hash out a compromise behind closed doors, sending whatever it comes up with to both chambers, which would then vote with limited public debate and no opportunity for amendments. This is far less transparent than the process that produced the A.C.A. and that the Republicans have been complaining about for seven years. Former President Barack Obama and a Democratic-led Congress spent a year working on the law with many public hearings and amendments from both parties.
In a moment Tuesday that was almost surreal, Senator John McCain, back from surgery and a brain cancer diagnosis, said that Republicans were making a big mistake with their partisan approach to health care, among other subjects. “We have been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle,” he said. The substance of what he said accurately described the fecklessness of his party. What made it surreal was that only moments earlier he had voted along with almost every other member of his party to endorse Mr. McConnell’s obsession; Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were the exceptions.
Read the rest here
Until our podcast is up and running, here are some of my personal favorites
- The Daily with the New York Times (Typically 20-22 mins) every morning
- Playbook Audio Briefing with Politico (Typically 3 mins) NOTE: Subscribe to the Politico Playbook if you don’t already, it’s probably the best morning political newsletter in existence
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