At one level this is obvious. But the bizarre behavior and sheer awkwardness of the situation can obscure a simple fact: the entirety of President Trump’s battle with Jeff Sessions is about obstructing the Russia probe. The anger began over his recusal (and grew as the consequences of that recusal became more apparent) and continues with the President’s desire to replace him with another Attorney General who will help him end the investigation or at least remove Robert Mueller from leading it. That is the only thing this is about.
We’ve got a swarm of news today. But I need to remind you that we are trying to sign up 304 new subscribers by the end of July. To do that, we need a couple big days before the end of the month. I’m trying to focus on reporting rather than pushes for more subscribers. Help me do more of the former than the latter. If you’re thinking about joining up, if you’ve been putting it off, please take a moment to do it today.
Aside from the policy decision itself, appearing to expel transgender service members from the US military, how it happened is also quite disturbing. Despite Trump’s claim about consulting with “my Generals and military experts” the Pentagon didn’t seem to have any idea what he was talking about. And as yet, nothing has officially happened since all the Pentagon has seen is a tweet.
But also look at this.
I am pleasantly surprised to see that President Trump’s unexpected and cruel order to ban transgender people from the military is being denounced even by many in his own party. Meanwhile Trump’s war against one of his worst cabinet appointments, Jeff Sessions, is finally galvanizing opposition among conservatives – elected Republicans, activists, conservative media. It’s ironic. Sessions is pushing the worst policies at DOJ. But it’s the attacks on him which may be too much. Allegra Kirkland explains how Trump’s war – itself an effort to stymie the Russia probe – against one of his most loyal supporters is testing the support of his core allies. Finally, Tierney Sneed has this update on the next Trumpcare vote in the Senate, now scheduled for 3:30 Eastern.
Over the past weeks and months we’ve learned numerous new details about Russian operations in the 2016 election and a long list of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals or Russian government or intelligence officials. After the revelations of Donald Trump Jr’s meetings in June 2016, we may not yet have evidence of collusion per se. But we have clear evidence of the desire to work directly with the Russian government to defeat Hillary Clinton. With the intent, we know there was no shortage of opportunity. This is the critical, central issue, what did Trump, his family and campaign do with the Russians during their 2016 subversion campaign? But it’s far from the only question. And to make sense of that central question we have to go back further, to the money channel between Trump and the countries of the former Soviet Union which stretches back at least a decade earlier and quite possibly to the 1990s.
Here’s why this is important.
We are chockfull of breaking news today. But I need to flag for you that we have another month end goal we need to hit by next Monday. Sounds a bit telethony but it’s critical. Thinking about joining Prime? Did your membership lapse? Please take a moment today to sign up. It is super important and helping us do things we’ve never done before.
It turns out that two of the men we’ve been most focused on in the Trump/Russia story – Michael Cohen and Felix Sater – actually grew up together. In other words, they knew each other decades before they both came into Donald Trump’s orbit. Sam Thielman has the story.
The vote is being kept open as the Senate awaits John McCain’s arrival. He flew into DC from Arizona a short time ago. If the vote goes as expected, he’ll be the 50th vote, creating a tie that Vice President Mike Pence will break.
The final gavel has not fallen yet, but the only two GOP no votes right now are Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME). The only other GOP senator who hasn’t voted yet is Ron Johnson (WI). It’s not clear why Johnson hasn’t voted yet. He and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are currently talking on the Senate floor.
The scene of a dramatic return by McCain seems by design, perhaps to cloak the bizarre process in some seriousness.
Update: McCain cast 49th yes vote, and Johnson cast the 50th. No final gavel yet. But should be soon.
Key movement in the last few minutes that suggests the motion to proceed on Obamacare repeal is likely to pass later this afternoon. We don’t have all the undecideds nailed down yet, but a key senator in the saga–Dean Heller (R-NV)–just came out with a statement saying that he will vote for the motion. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who were seen as likely to move in tandem, have also just come out in support of the motion to proceed.
Just to give you a sense of the feel of things, via our reporters on the Hill: This has seemed to be moving in the direction of passing the motion to proceed. That’s the general sense from talking with senators, mainly because aside from Susan Collins, the moderate Republican from Maine, no other senators are taking a firm line against proceeding.
Senators are already spinning “skinny repeal” (what an awful phrase) as a legit option.
The Obamacare repeal effort is the most chaotic, rudderless, un-Senate-like piece of legislating since … the House revived its bill back in May. But snark aside, the level of confusion and the lack of a real plan for getting the bill (which bill??!) through the Senate is probably unprecedented. At least nothing like it in recent memory.
Here’s the very latest: an emerging possibility that the Senate will pass the narrowest of repeal bills and punt the whole process to conference committee.
What that means isn’t entirely certain, but lacking the votes to pass much of anything at this point, McConnell is trying to buy time AND muddy the waters. Once he gets to conference committee, they can remake a bill in negotiations with the House and then give muscling reluctant senators into compliance another shot later.