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Daily Reads: Obamacare Survives, for Now; Putin Responds to Sanctions

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

Obamacare Survives, for Now

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What a whirlwind –> Last night’s dramatic end, at least for the near-term, of the GOP’s efforts to destroy Obamacare was the culmination of a long, crazy day. It began with headlines like, “Senate Republicans hope their own Obamacare repeal won’t become law” — that was from Politico, not The Onion — and ended with Sen. John McCain appearing to relish his role as the third vote against Trumpcare. Aida Chavez reports on McCain’s rationale for The Hill.

Here’s that moment…

While McCain is being lauded by some as a hero, Elise Viebeck reports for The Washington Post that “Republican female senators whose disapproval of the GOP health-care effort has at times endangered its progress are facing an increasingly pointed backlash from men in their party, including a handful of comments that invoked physical retaliation.”

And Cristiano Lima reports for Politico that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s blaming Democrats for not “seriously engaging” with him in his quest to finance tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy by stripping coverage from millions of Americans.

How can this continue for three more years? –> We try to keep it clean around here, but in case you missed it, there’s a compelling public interest in reading Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci’s profanity-laced tirade to The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza. What started as a demand that Lizza reveal his source for a story in keeping with Scaramucci’s obsession with leaks turned into an epic rant about the dark character of his many enemies and an angry promise that he’s going to fire all the paranoid, unstable people who are clearly out to get him. It’s just a remarkable text.

One of the things that apparently set The Mooch off was what he believed to be a leak of his financial disclosure form. The reporter who wrote a story about how The Mooch was continuing to profit from his company later said that the document was publicly available and she’d gotten it from the Export-Import Bank. In any event, Linette Lopez writes at Business Insider that “Scaramucci has joined the Trump administration with a $180 million conflict of interest hanging over his head. It’s the same conflict that reportedly kept him out of the White House months ago, and it’s only gotten stickier since then. Scaramucci is selling his $5.6 billion financial firm, SkyBridge Capital, to a number of investors. Chief among them is a Chinese financial firm with strong ties to ruling Communist Party, called the HNA Group.” Lopez notes that it appears that “a sometimes hostile foreign power” is “trying to overpay” Scaramucci for his “now struggling business.”

And while his boss is busy waging all-out war on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng report for The Daily Beast that Trump “has not only blessed efforts by his new communications director Anthony Scaramucci to wage a battle against chief of staff Reince Priebus, he’s actively egging on the very public and painful feud.”

Personnel is policy –> At The Nation, Robert Dreyfuss reports that, “in the battles ahead, Trump is relying on his innermost core of loyalists: his two sons, his daughter, his son-in-law, his lawyers and a select group of White House staffers and former campaign advisers who’ve passed muster by pledging ultimate fealty to the commander in chief. Everyone else is either being thrown overboard or getting the runaround, and many who were once considered Trump’s closest allies are now seen as likely to resign.”

On Tuesday, Michael Short, “a senior assistant press secretary for Donald Trump,” resigned after The Mooch said that he wanted to fire him, according to Tara Palmeri at Politico.

And on Wednesday, national security adviser HR McMaster fired “Derek Harvey, the top Middle East adviser on the National Security Council (NSC),” according to Kate Brannen and Jenna McLaughlin at Just Foreign Policy.

Related, we think –> At Foreign Policy, Harvard scholar Stephen Walt looks at how Trump has done in his first six months according to 10 key signs of creeping authoritarianism. “The record is mixed,” he writes, “although some of the warning signs are flashing red, others are glowing yellow (at worst), and one or two don’t seem that worrisome at all.”

98-2 –> That was the margin by which the Senate approved a new package of sanctions against Russia, as well as a provision making it harder for Trump to unilaterally ease sanctions on the Kremlin. Trump can veto the bill, but with similarly lopsided numbers in the House, Congress looks like it could easily override it if he does. Hayes Brown has more details at Buzzfeed.

Meanwhile, “Vladimir Putin has accused US lawmakers of ‘insolence,’ and promised Russia will retaliate if the latest round of US sanctions against Russia are signed into law,” reports Shaun Walker for The Guardian And retaliate they did. Friday morning the CNN reported that the US would be losing diplomats and property. “The order — which affects the US Embassy in Moscow and consulates in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok — would reduce the number of US diplomatic and technical staff to 455, the same number Russia has in the US, by Sept. 1. Russia is also suspending the use of a US storage facility in Moscow and a country house, or dacha, outside of Moscow by Aug. 1.”

And Scaramucci told CNN that Trump “may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are, or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians.” He characterized Trump’s approach as being in line with his “counterintuitive, counterpunching personality.”

Meanwhile –> On Wednesday, Putin “signed a law ratifying a deal with the Syrian government allowing Russia to keep its air base in Syria for almost half a century,” according to Dmitry Solovyov at Reuters. “The base has been at the heart of Moscow’s military foray since it intervened in the conflict in September 2015, helping turn the tide in favor of Assad, one of Russia’s closest Middle East allies.”

This latest move is especially invidious” –> As Trump’s ham-fisted ban on trans servicemen and women continues to reverberate, Katherine Cross writes at The Baffler that it “will further poison a climate that is already choking so many of us, regardless of whether we happen to be in uniform; Trump’s words portray us as a disordered burden, a stereotype that directly impacts every aspect of our lives — employment, healthcare access, equal protection under the law.”

Something to watch for –> Ever since the emergence of the tea party movement, a group of conservative hardliners in the House known as the “Freedom Caucus” has been a thorn in the collective side of Republican congressional leaders. Their steadfast opposition to any bill that they don’t deem sufficiently right-wing — including must-pass budget resolutions and debt ceiling hikes — forced leadership to either cave, or go to Democrats for votes — and ultimately forced former Speaker John Boehner out of Congress. “But lately,” reports Rachel Bade for Politico, “some in the centrist Tuesday Group have started to adopt the power-in-numbers strategy of the Freedom Caucus. And the get-tough approach is yielding results.” Bade adds that “tougher tactics from centrists will exacerbate Ryan’s already difficult job of wrangling his fractious conference.”

So how conservative is Neil Gorsuch? –> The Supreme Court Justice who occupies a seat that many consider to have been stolen just completed his first term on the bench. So how conservative was he, relative to the other justices? Oliver Roeder reports for FiveThirtyEight that according to a standard measure of jurists’ ideological positions, Gorsuch ruled pretty far to the right, falling about where Samuel Alito does on the spectrum.

May violate federal law –> At The Center for Public Integrity, Christina Wilkie reports that “the White House is referring questions for senior presidential adviser Stephen K. Bannon to an outside public relations agent whose firm says she is working for free.” Alexandra Preate is a “veteran Republican media strategist” who “describes herself as Bannon’s ‘personal spokesperson.’ But she also collaborates with other White House officials on public messaging and responses to press inquiries.” Wilkie notes that since Preate doesn’t work for the government, “the unorthodox setup means Bannon… is potentially violating the Antideficiency Act, which provides that federal employees ‘may not accept voluntary services for [the] government or employ personal services exceeding that authorized by law.'”

Florida man –> Associated Press: “Authorities in Florida say they arrested a man who robbed a bank, stripped naked and ran down the street throwing stolen money — a spectacle that he somehow thought would jump-start his career as a comedian.” Naturally, “the FBI says 25-year-old Alexander Sperber is charged with bank robbery.”


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

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