A host of stories are out tonight on the Trump White House’s new war about Special Counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller. But I want to focus on one thing. The Post reports that the President has been canvassing his lawyers about the possibility of pardoning aides, family and even pardoning himself.

From the Post

Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

Remember I explained on Monday how the Trump team’s obsession with getting hacked emails from Clinton’s (allegedly hacked but very likely not hacked) private email server may have spurred the Russian intelligence effort to hack and disclose the DNC and Podesta emails.

Look what this top Trump campaign official was looking at a month before the Don Jr. meeting …

Entirely unsurprisingly, the new New York Times interview with President Trump shows he has learned nothing from the biggest mistakes of the first six months of his presidency. He has turned completely against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one of his staunchest loyalists, who he now blames for essentially launching the Russia probe. He is also lashing out at Rod Rosenstein. Sessions and Rosenstein, were complicit, substantively if not legally, in firing FBI Director James Comey, what I believe is to date the greatest impeachable offense of his Presidency.  He is setting out the terms upon which he will fire Robert Mueller. He inexplicably admitted to using his second conversation with Vladimir Putin to discuss the issues that had come up a year ago in that Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr.

You’ve heard about those. What I was almost more interested was the litany of bizarre and often inexplicable statements and claims that came before he even got to those issues. So I took a moment to annotate each of these passages …
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Remarkable NYT interview today with President Trump in the Oval Office, in which he castigated his own attorney general as being “extremely unfair … to the president” for recusing himself from the Russia probe, accused James Comey of using the Steele dossier as leverage over Trump to keep his job, and warned that Special Counsel Robert Mueller would cross a red line if he investigated Trump family finances beyond any Russia connection. There’s much more.

 

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit at the G20 Summit, Friday, July 7, 2017, in Hamburg. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

I have never been convinced that our current policy of trying to unseat the Assad government in Syria is the only reasonable one for the US to pursue or even the correct one. A couple years ago I wrote that I wasn’t sure it made sense, or was even logical, to think we could battle ISIS in Syria and the Assad regime at the same time.

I know there are strong contrary arguments. The situation on the ground is now quite different with respect to ISIS and Assad than it was two years ago. But that’s not my point here. My point here is simply to grant that it is not inherently questionable or suspicious to end our covert support for anti-Assad rebels in Syria, as President Trump has just done, according to reports this afternoon. But it is highly, highly disquieting in the context of Trump’s extremely suspicious behavior with respect to Russia in general.
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TPM’s Cameron Joseph talked to some disgruntled GOP House members who cast risky votes for Obamacare repeal only to see it die in the Senate: “I just find it interesting to note the number of geniuses serving in the United States Senate,” said one, after Speaker Paul Ryan warned members not to disparage the Senate. Give it a read.

President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

With the apparent (zombies are undead) collapse of Obamacare repeal, I thought it made sense to republish these handy infographics. Back on May 4th, 2017, the House passed the American Health Care Act, which included devastating coverage loss numbers across the country. House Republicans who voted for it went to the White House shortly thereafter to celebrate bigly with laughs and guffaws and cheers and backslapping all around. Here are some of the best pictures of the celebration with President Trump, with annotations noting how many constituents would lose their coverage in each member’s district.

Click the “read more” link to see the full story where the photos are large enough to easily read the annotations.


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I was discussing with a friend this morning that much of the drama and chaos of the first months of the Trump administration is explained by a simple fact: President Trump thinks running the US government is essentially like running his private family business in which people work for him (it’s a very personalized operation) and people have to do what he says. That’s not how the US government works at all. It’s not even how the executive branch runs.
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From left, White House Senior Counselor for Economic Initiatives Dina Powell, President Donald Trump's White House Senior Adviser Steve Bannon and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster attend a news conference with President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the East Room at the White House, Wednesday, April 12, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Check out our look at some of choicest nuggets from Josh Green’s new bio of Steve Bannon, “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency,” the first big book of the Trump era. How about the time Bannon raged at Speaker Paul Ryan as “a limp-dick motherfucker who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation”? Broken clock, a way with words … Josh will be taking your questions in The Hive on Friday at 9:00 AM eastern. Get your questions in now and join Josh at The Hive Friday morning.

As you can see, this evening a rapid-fire succession of events appears to have closed the door on Trumpcare 2.0 in the Senate. That doesn’t mean Obamacare repeal is over by any means. But it’s another major defeat. And after a while defeats tend to grow on themselves. I fully expect Mitch McConnell to go back to the drawing board, tinker with the bill and try again. But this is the first time I sense that McConnell’s next attempt may be harder than the last. Or, to put it a different way, it’s possible that this defeat for the repealers may prove a turning point in the grinding war over Obamacare repeal even though it will not be the final battle. 
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In the wake of Sen. Ron Johnson pulling back on his clear support for Senate Trumpcare 2.0, Sens Lee and Moran have now also pulled their support altogether. That leaves Mitch McConnell well under the 50 votes required for passage. Expect other conservatives and moderates to jump off the ship probably as soon as this evening.

This is a big, big development. But it would be quite wrong to see this as the end of Obamacare repeal. Expect McConnell to take at least another crack at rejiggering the bill for eventual passage.

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen a rush of new data points on the Russia collusion front. But there’s one point which wasn’t new to me precisely but reminded me of something I’d lost focus on as the Russia/collusion story has heated up. That is, the GOP quest for Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 deleted emails.

Let’s go back more than two years ago, to March 2015. That’s when news of Hillary Clinton’s ‘private email server’ first came out. Closely coupled with that news was Clinton’s announcement that her lawyers had separated out the personal from professional emails, turned over the latter to the State Department and destroyed the former. I remember this quite clearly and quite painfully because, as I wrote here at the time, I knew this was classic Clinton and would lead to endless bad news. Not illegal, probably not wrong but exactly the kind of decision that would lead to months and years of horrible press and political self-inflicted wounds.
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Okay, I probably do need to say more. We’re just past midway through our annual drive and have a goal to meet by the close of the month. Are you a longtime reader? If you haven’t taken a moment to sign up for Prime, please take a moment to do so today. It’s important and we appreciate it no end.

Our reading for today comes from Seinfeld, Episode #29 …

George: Was that wrong? Should I have not done that? I tell you I gotta plead ingnorance on this thing because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing was frouned upon, you know, cause I’ve worked in a lot of offices and I tell you people do that all the time.

Some of you will recognize this passage from a classic episode of Seinfeld, which now seems hilariously and painfully familiar. We’ve now heard from the President’s son, the President’s top media toadies and now even the President himself a simple message: Yes, we’d work with a hostile foreign intelligence service to get dirt on and defeat a political enemy. Anyone would. “That’s politics!” as the President put it this morning. In other words, we’ve now gone rapidly from “no collusion, no obstruction” to “collusion is awesome.”
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Joshua Green is a senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek, focusing on political coverage for the magazine and Bloomberg News. Green regularly appears on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, NBC’s Meet the Press, HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, and PBS’s Washington Week. His latest book, The Devil’s Bargain, which focuses on Steve Bannon and his relationship with President Trump, will be released on July 18th.

Joshua will be in The Hive on Friday, July 21st at 9 AM ET for a chat about Bannon and the alt-right. Submit your questions at any time or join us on Friday! If you’d like to participate but don’t have TPM Prime, sign up here.

A few days ago, I predicted that we would soon arrive at the stage where Trump supporters would be arguing that “The Trump’s deserve our pity rather than our contempt. Where was Obama to help them? They are a family of mentally challenged individuals with no experience following the law.”

It seems we’re getting close to that.

Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow now says the Secret Service, in addition to ensuring the physical security of candidates, should protect the candidate, the candidate’s advisors and even the candidate’s family from their own potential criminal wrongdoing – a seriously expanded brief!

With today’s mix of incriminating, lurid and fantastical news, it’s worth taking a moment to remember that we as a nation made a collective decision to make Trump’s world of corruption and nonsense into our world. And here we are.

The Russian-American lobbyist, who is reportedly a former Soviet-era counter-intelligence officer and attended the June meeting at Trump Tower, says Natalia Veselnitskaya brought a package of documents with her to the meeting. And he thinks she left them with Trump. Here’s his account.
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I know I speak for the whole staff – because I’ve spoken to probably half of them about this already this morning – when I say that for all that we are collectively steeped in this story, we are very much having a hard time keeping up with all the different threads that have emerged out of the original Times Don Jr stories over the last week. I’ve mentioned that as we expand the new TPM Investigations Desk and create new parts of the site, some part of Prime, some not, one of our big focuses is on narrating and helping you organize and make sense of the different dimensions of these emerging stories. For me that has always been an essential part of what TPM does, breaking down the fourth wall of the journalistic voice, stepping back to explain connections between different threads of stories and so forth. In any case, these are dimensions of the site we will be expanding in the coming days, weeks and months. Today, a lot of this will inevitably come from the Editors’ Blog.

For now, I will simply say that if it looks to you like the wheels are coming off all this really rapidly, yes, it looks that way to me too.

 

Besides the latest Trump admission we have another major story (congressional sex tape, cyberstalking) that just broke. I’m supposed to be asking you to join Prime this month. If you’re a regular reader, please sign up today so I can focus on posting. Thanks.

Hours after denying he knew anything about the meeting to get anti-Hillary material from the Russian government, Trump says “Maybe it was mentioned.”

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