The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Why Did Trump Demand His Own Party Pass a ‘Mean, Mean, Mean’ Bill?

Breaking, horrible news:

CBS News has learned the shooting happened in the dugout at a field used for congressional baseball practice. Four people were shot and one congressman was shot in the hip.

A congressional source says the injured include two Capitol Hill police officers, the gunman and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana.

Why Did Trump Demand His Own Party Pass a ‘Mean, Mean, Mean’ Bill?

This is a president who is not trusted, and who should not be trusted. This is a president who will urge, cajole, plead, arm-twist, and threaten members of his own party to vote for a particular bill… and then turn around and trash that bill after they’ve done as he’s asked and voted for that bill.

President Donald Trump told Republican senators Tuesday that the House-passed health care bill he helped revive is “mean” and urged them to craft a version that is “more generous,” congressional sources said.

The president’s criticism, at a White House lunch with 15 GOP senators, also came as Senate Republican leaders’ attempts to write their own health care package have been slowed by disagreements between their party’s conservatives and moderates.

Trump’s characterizations seemed to undercut attempts by Senate leaders to assuage conservatives who want restrictions in their chamber’s bill, such as cutting the Medicaid health care program for the poor and limiting the services insurers must cover. Moderate GOP senators have been pushing to ease those restrictions.

One source said Trump called the House bill “mean, mean, mean” and said, “We need to be more generous, more kind.” The other source said Trump used a vulgarity to describe the House bill and told the senators, “We need to be more generous.”

Two other congressional GOP officials confirmed that the general descriptions of Trump’s words were accurate.

The sources say the president did not specify what aspects of the bill he was characterizing.

For those who insist that any unnamed source must not exist or lying, we can narrow the list of possible sources down to at least four of those 15 senators. And the notion of a quartet of GOP senators getting together and making up a false story about Trump trashing his own bill is implausible.

“Mean”? This was the bill that Trump celebrated at a victory party at the White House after the House passed it!

Above: Trump after the passage of the “mean” health care bill. Yesterday he metaphorically held up a different finger to the House GOP.

This is shooting your troops in the back after they’ve charged the hill for you. This president basically creates Democratic attack ads without even thinking.

“Americans won’t forget that @HouseGOP passed a ‘mean’ bill to rip healthcare from millions then celebrated @ the WH,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

You can’t help a president who won’t help himself. It’s his job to know what’s in the legislation that he’s urging lawmakers to pass. If he thought the bill’s provisions were “mean”, he should have said so before all of those efforts to pass it. It’s too late now; 217 Republican members of the House voted for this. They’re going to get attacked for that vote between now and November whether the legislation passes or not. “Congressman So-and-so voted to take away your health care” ads are coming soon to a television channel near you. Except now the Democrats can run ads saying, “even President Trump said the American Health Care Act was mean.” The only way to survive is to defend the bill, try to pass a Senate version, and enact health-care reform as quickly as possible so that any good effects kick in by November 2018.

Trump emulated Cortés and burned his ships… and then decided he wanted to sail back.

If Republicans lose control of the House in 2018, how much will it be because they followed Trump’s advice?

Check Your Executive Privilege!

Chuck Schumer: “If you had done nothing wrong, the obvious conclusion is you’d be happy to talk about things.”

That’s not how executive privilege works. This is not that hard to understand, but a lot of Democrats are pretending to not understand in order to advance a narrative that the president or attorney general are up to something nefarious.

Executive privilege covers conversations between the president and other officials in the executive branch. In United States vs. Nixon, the Supreme Court held unanimously that the president’s right to privacy in these conversations is not all-powerful; if the information is “evidence that is demonstrably relevant in a criminal trial,” it must be released. But we’re not there yet. No one is on trial for anything in the Russia investigation, Comey’s firing, or any controversy that has arisen out of that. At this point, it’s just that senators want to know, and legally, that’s not a good enough reason to overrule a claim of executive privilege.

Could Robert Mueller, the special counsel, someday convene a grand jury and ask for information about conversations that are now potentially covered by executive privilege? Yes, and depending upon the circumstances, there’s a good chance a judge would rule that the information needed to be released, depending upon how well Mueller or his team could prove the information was “demonstrably relevant” to criminal acts.

In the past, presidents have usually wanted to negotiate a release of some information but not all, giving a little ground in a show of good faith in order to preserve the privilege coverage of other documents or matters. (Right now, that doesn’t seem like the over-arching philosophy of the Trump White House.)

All of the Democratic senators griping about Sessions’s answers or non-answers should explain, if executive privilege does not cover the president and the attorney general discussing personnel matters — in the absence of those conversations being relevant to a criminal trial — then what is it for? Just what does it cover if not something like this? If the executive branch isn’t allowed to discuss who to hire and who to fire in confidentiality, then what’s left?

Our Andy McCarthy:

To be clear, the president’s decision not to assert his privilege in order to prevent the attorney general from appearing at the hearing is not a waiver of the privilege with respect to any individual question to which it may apply. And the attorney general’s refusal to answer any individual question is not an invocation of the privilege; it is a pause to enable the president to determine whether to waive the privilege. If the privilege is waived, then the attorney general will answer. And if senators want to advance the inquiry rather than create a misimpression of obstruction, they can submit the questions in writing ahead of time and ask whether the president will waive the privilege.

Of course, legal propriety has to be balanced against political accountability. It is important that Congress and the public be informed about any questions as to which the president is invoking executive privilege. But it is wrong to suggest that the attorney general is obstructing a congressional investigation by protecting a legitimate legal privilege.

Our Ian Tuttle summarizes yesterday well:

No doubt we will be hearing from Messrs. Manafort, Page, Flynn, et al. in the future, but it’s easy to see that there has been a decisive narrative shift: away from collusion, for which there seems to be little if any evidence, and toward obstruction. The latter is a very serious issue, too. But clearly the goalposts are moving.

Time for Virginia Republicans to Unite and Get to Work.

A grim outlook for Virginia Republicans in this year’s primaries:

In the closely watched Democratic race, Northam, the lieutenant governor, defeated former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello by 55.9 percent to 44.1 percent, ending Perriello’s bid to jump the Democratic establishment’s planned line of succession with a more ambitiously left-wing economic agenda.

Gillespie, the GOP favorite heading into the primary, prevailed in a surprisingly close contest with Corey Stewart, the Trump-style firebrand who is chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, received 43.71 percent of the vote, to 42.53 percent for Stewart and 13.75 percent for state Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach.

Gillespie has to unite a divided party in a state trending from purple to blue; Virginia is one of the few states where Hillary Clinton performed better than Barack Obama. You’re going to hear a lot of out-of-state Republicans griping that northern Virginia is all a bunch of liberals and government employees. This is a bunch of whining and excuses. The right kind of Republican can win here; in 2009 Bob McDonnell won Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William Counties, and in the attorney general’s race, Ken Cuccinelli, an indisputably conservative candidate, won 47 percent in Fairfax County.

Here’s the real problem: About 542,000 people voted in the Democratic primary, and only about 366,000 people voted in the Republican primary. Yes, it’s possible some Republicans crossed over (Virginia doesn’t register voters by party, so on primary day, you can vote in whichever party primary you choose). But it follows a plausible narrative that the Democratic grassroots are indeed fired up and the GOP grassroots have gotten somewhat complacent.

This is a surprisingly consistent pattern. In 1992, Democrat Bill Clinton won the presidency; the following year, George Allen won the governor’s race in Virginia, Christie Todd Whitman won the governor’s race in New Jersey, and Rudy Giuliani won the mayor’s race in New York City. In 1997, Clinton won reelection, and Republican Jim Gilmore won the Virginia governor’s race, and Whitman and Giuliani were reelected. In 2001, after George W. Bush won the presidency, Democrat Mark Warner won the Virginia governor’s race and Democrat Jim McGreevey won in New Jersey. (Mike Bloomberg won the New York City mayor’s race as a Republican, although it’s pretty clear he was a nontraditional Republican.) In 2004, Bush was reelected, and the following year Democrat Tim Kaine won in Virginia and Democrat Jon Corzine won in New Jersey. In 2008, Obama won the presidency, and Republicans Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Chris Christie of New Jersey won.

Last cycle broke the pattern a bit; Obama was reelected and Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the governor’s race, although the race was way narrower than polling suggested.

It worth noting that the wins in 1993, 2005, and 2009 all appeared, in retrospect, to be indicators of a big wave election in the following midterms.

ADDENDA: Because we could all use a little levity: “Mr. Attorney General, did you run into this man or this woman at the Mayflower Hotel? At any point did anyone discuss ‘moose and squirrel’ with you?”


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