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Daily Reads: Trump Thrives on All of This Chaos; American Muslims Face Discrimination, Still Believe in the American Dream

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Trump Thrives on All of This Chaos

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So where are we? –> On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence provided the tie-breaking vote on a motion to debate an Obamacare repeal bill. Then last night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s repeal-and-replace bill went down by a 43-57 margin. Today, we’ll likely see votes on Sen. Rand Paul’s amendment, which insurers have said would be catastrophic for the market, and perhaps another one to send the whole process to the relevant committees. Vox’s Dylan Scott and Jeff Stein write that in the end, McConnell may have to go with a “skinny repeal” bill that kills Obamacare’s individual and employers’ mandates. If that passes, they would then go to conference with the House, and who knows what might emerge from that process?

Meanwhile, Rebecca Shabad reports for CBS News that the Senate Parliamentarian “determined Tuesday that two more provisions of Senate Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace Obamacare violated the ‘Byrd Rule,’ which means that it would require 60 votes instead of a simple majority to pass them.” The wonky details are at the link.

There was a lot of drama on the Senate floor yesterday as Sen. John McCain, with surgical sutures visible above his eye, gave a very West Wing-esque speech about the need for bipartisanship and the importance of respecting Senate norms, and then vowed that he would not vote for the Senate bill that he later did support. At HuffPost, Peter Dreier writes that “rather than do the right thing, [McCain] did the right-wing thing. Whatever else he’s accomplished in his political career, this will be his legacy.”

The Nation says that senators need to hear from their constituents now more than ever, and offers some tips for taking action.

Strange, slow-motion defenestration” –> That’s how The Atlantic’s David Graham described Trump’s all-out assault on his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, which is now entering its second week. Graham notes that it’s especially odd given that Sessions “is about as simpatico politically with Trump as anyone, and in fact provided much of the policy blueprint for the Trump administration.”

The Washington Post editorial board blasted the administration this morning after Trump attacked Sessions for not pursuing some sort of politically motivated prosecution of Hillary Clinton, accusing him of undermining the rule of law and turning the US into a “banana republic.”

And amid media reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is considering quitting over the turmoil, a spokesman says he’s currently “taking a little time off.” Esquire’s Charles Pierce asks the obvious question: “The hell?”

It’s possible that Trump bit off more than he can chew this time. Conservative pundit Erick Erickson writes at The Insurgent that Trump’s risking a “Cabinet-level revolt” over his war with Sessions. “If the president does fire Sessions, he is going to undermine the morale and confidence of his Cabinet secretaries who have the power to undermine his agenda,” writes Erickson.

And Oliver Darcy reports for CNN that “Trump’s recent attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions has touched off a firestorm of outrage inside the pro-Trump media universe where the Alabama Republican is revered as a conservative icon.”

David Rothkopf tallies the rumors from the last couple of hectic days.

Possibly related –> We mentioned yesterday that Sessions’ former GOP colleagues in the Senate were also displeased with Trump’s attacks. Ted Barrett reports for CNN that “Senators are planning to continue procedural moves to prevent the Senate from formally adjourning for recess next month in order to prevent President Donald Trump from making recess appointments.” A major concern is that while the Senate is in recess Trump might try to fire Sessions and install a loyalist who would then fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

The latest ban –> At 9 a.m. today, Trump tweeted that he was banning transgender people from the military, saying “our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming… victory.” The move overturns a June 2016 decision by then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to lift a ban on transgender soldiers, who, at the time, said that the military must “have access to 100 percent of America’s population for our all-volunteer force to be able to recruit from among them the most highly qualified.”

Of course, Trump’s dismissal of transgender soldiers comes steeped in irony, as Paige Lavender notes for HuffPost. “Trump — who argued during the 2016 campaign he was better for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans than his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — dodged the draft a total of five times, once arguing he couldn’t serve in the US military because of bone spurs in his heels.”

Hard times –> Pew’s latest survey of American Muslims finds that they “perceive a lot of discrimination against their religious group, are leery of Trump and think their fellow Americans do not see Islam as part of mainstream US society,” but also “say they are proud to be Americans, believe that hard work generally brings success in this country and are satisfied with the way things are going in their own lives – even if they are not satisfied with the direction of the country as a whole.”

He’s crazy” –> “At the end of a Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday morning, someone sitting near Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) didn’t switch off a microphone,” reports Philip Bump at The Washington Post. What followed was a rare behind the scenes look at Collins chatting with Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee. In one exchange, Reed says he worries that Trump is “crazy,” and adds: “I don’t say that lightly.” Collins doesn’t disagree, but appears more concerned that nobody in the White House seems to know the first thing about governing.

Relatedly, Michael Kruse writes at Politico, “Chaos bordering on crisis. This is how Trump ran his business, and it’s how he ran his campaign. For six months now, it’s how he’s run his White House. But within the whirl of these past two nonstop, dizzying days, it has reached blinking-red-light levels. To people who have been around him…, this can be unnerving” but throughout his life, Trump’s M.O. is to create “chaos, and then he responds to that chaos, withstanding it, even embracing it, feeding on it — and then he outlasts the outrage, emerging not only alive but emboldened.”

Bumbling imperialism –> Mark Landler and James Risen report for The New York Times that “Trump, searching for a reason to keep the United States in Afghanistan after 16 years of war, has latched on to a prospect that tantalized previous administrations: Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth, which his advisers and Afghan officials have told him could be profitably extracted by Western companies.”

The power of misinformation –> According to a new Morning Consult/Politico poll, 47 percent of Republicans say “Donald Trump received more of the popular vote in 2016 than his Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” In the real world, of course, Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of 2.9 million ballots.

Kremlingate –> At The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza traces Jared Kushner’s various contacts with the Russians and paints a picture of someone intent on giving the Kremlin access to the Trump campaign.

A few things for environmentalists to like” –> Rebecca Leber reports for Mother Jones that a sprawling and “surprisingly bipartisan” energy bill is making its way through Congress, and despite having some goodies for environmentalists, many green groups are “raising hell — organizing protests, directing calls and sending letters to Democratic leaders urging them to oppose what they see as another free-for-all for oil and gas development. Their real problem though boils down to one thing: Natural gas.”

Thug Life –> “As senior government officials from Ankara prepare to meet with their European Union counterparts, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is making clear that he will not bow to pressure over human rights concerns,” writes Emily Tamkin at Foreign Policy. “‘The West wants Turkey to bring about their demands no questions asked,'” Erdogan said on Tuesday. “‘I am sorry to say that Turkey no longer exists.’”

It turns out that glasses don’t make you smarter –> Energy Secretary Rick Perry was pranked by “two Russian comedians, known internationally as ‘The Jerky Boys of Russia,'” according to Vladimir Kozlov at The Hollywood Reporter. “The 22-minute conversation, in which one of the comedians played the prime minister and the other one translated, began with a discussion of sanctions against Russia and US attempts to help Ukraine to develop its oil and gas industry, but then took a bizarre turn… Perry didn’t realize he was being pranked even when the caller suggested that he try ‘a new kind of fuel,’ made out of pig manure and moonshine, which the comedian claimed Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko developed himself and drinks on a regular basis. Perry responded to the odd proposition by saying that he would like to be ‘further briefed’ on that.”

And we’ll leave you with this 360-degree video of a rocket being launched from Esrange Space Center in Kiruna, Sweden…


Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.

We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email.