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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Wants Obamacare 2.0 Next Week, Not Likely to Get It
      •  Trump Gets a Report Card
      •  Trump's Legal Tab Raises Eyebrows, Questions
      •  Jeff Sessions Goes Coconuts
      •  Democratic Senators Raking in Money for 2018
      •  Sarah Palin Resurfaces

Trump Wants Obamacare 2.0 Next Week, Not Likely to Get It

When he was in Wisconsin earlier this week, Donald Trump asserted that, "No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days." This is a dubious claim, first of all because he hasn't actually accomplished all that much, and second because of a fellow named Roosevelt, who managed to give America a "New Deal" in his first 100 days, and who holds that honor until further notice. Consequently, the Washington Post rated the claim "four Pinocchios." Trump himself doesn't seem to believe it, either, since he is pushing for Congress to give him a signature accomplishment before 100 days are up—something that presumably would not be necessary for someone who already had the most successful first 90 days under his belt. And what the President wants that accomplishment to be is the passage of an Obamacare replacement bill.

This really is quite remarkable. Staggering, even. One can scarcely imagine a worse reason for rushing something this important and this impactful than "I like the optics of getting it done in my first 100 days." Further, it seems that the White House and Paul Ryan have learned absolutely nothing from their previous fiasco. While some House Republicans were fairly certain they had a deal in place on Wednesday, the operative word is "some." In other words, the Tuesday Group (50 moderates) and the Freedom Caucus (32 right wingers) had found a plan that was largely agreeable to them, but had not run it by any of their colleagues in the House. We all know that finding a plan that 100 or even 150 Republicans can agree upon is very doable; the devil is in getting a plan that 216 can agree upon. And just as they did before, the GOP is overlooking that inconvenient fact, addressing the needs and concerns of some members and assuming that the others will just go along. Bad assumption, as CNN's Chris Cillizza points out.

By Thursday afternoon, many members of the House Republican Congress were pooh-poohing the notion that a deal could possibly get done by next week. There is no actual legislative text yet, and there's been no committee discussion, or markups, or any of the things associated with a bill of this size. Plus, even if a bill somehow gets written and approved, there's still the Senate, which is an almost impassable barrier. So, Trump is highly unlikely to get his "100 days" achievement; perhaps he will lose interest in health care at that point. (Z)

Trump Gets a Report Card

Politico/Morning Consult has released a new poll on Donald Trump's job performance and, to keep it interesting, they've organized it in the form of a report card. Among the main results:

  • Trump's best "subjects" were fighting terrorism, jobs, and the economy
  • Trump's worst "subjects" were health care, climate change, and draining the swamp
  • More Trump voters gave him Bs (23%) than As (16%), suggesting that even they see room for improvement
  • Democrats, of course, gave Trump mostly Fs (48%) and Ds (19%)
  • The most common grade, overall, was "F," followed by "B," "C," "A," and "D"

Overall, not great news for The Donald. The only silver lining was that Congress' grades were nearly as bad as his. (Z)

Trump's Legal Tab Raises Eyebrows, Questions

Donald Trump has a passel of lawsuits left over from his campaign, highlighted by the lawsuit that asks if he was responsible for inciting violence at one of his rallies. Overall, his campaign committee has spent $4 million already, and the total is going to continue to rise. By contrast, Barack Obama's campaign had spent well less than $2 million on legal fees at this point.

Meanwhile, a close analysis of the expenditures thus far raises some concerning questions. In some cases, campaign lawyers and Trump organization lawyers have coordinated, once again blurring the lines between the businessman and the president. There are also instances where law firms seem to be working with only token payments, or with no payment at all, suggesting that Trump may be continuing his habit of stiffing vendors. There also seem to be several cases where Trump quietly settled a claim with a lump sum payment. Election law attorney Brett Kappel, who has represented both Democrats and Republicans, looked at the documentation and said:

Basically, the Trump campaign was run just like the Trump Organization—lawsuits are met with bluster and invective and then ultimately settled quietly with everyone involved required to sign nondisclosure agreements so that the public would not know that Trump, in fact, does settle many of the lawsuits against him and his family members.

The overarching theme of Politico's analysis is an almost total lack of transparency, which, for Trump, is par for the course. (Z)

Jeff Sessions Goes Coconuts

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a Donald Trump loyalist—one of the first, and one of the most consistent. He would also like to see Muslims barred from coming into the United States (lots of other groups, too, but the Muslims are a start). On Thursday, Sessions appeared on Mark Levin's radio program and decided to express his irritation over the current status of the travel ban:

I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.

Wow. It's difficult to fit that much wrong into one sentence, but Jefferson Beauregard pulled it off. To start, it would seem that he is unclear on the rights and responsibilities of the federal judiciary. Who knows what he learned at the University of Alabama law school when he was there in the 1970s, but that's not a good look for the nation's top law enforcement official.

The second problem is that Sessions has implied that some judges are inherently less worthy of their office than others. This is essentially the same observation that Donald Trump made about Gonzalo Curiel a year ago. Trump's remark, of course, was roundly condemned from all sides of the political spectrum.

Finally, there is the rather serious smear directed at Hawaii which, unless there's been a change, is one of the 50 states that Sessions is paid to serve. In particular, deriding them as "an island in the Pacific" reflects a positively colonialist mindset, which might be ok if Sessions was Theodore Roosevelt's AG, but really has no place in the 21st century. Hawaii's senators have already fired back on Twitter:

In general, we might expect an apology to be forthcoming. But Sessions has already deployed a DOJ spokesman to reiterate that Hawaii is indeed an island in the Pacific, so "I'm sorry" is probably not coming. (Z)

Democratic Senators Raking in Money for 2018

Thus far, anti-Trump sentiment has been good for business if you happen to be running for re-election to the Senate in 2018. In particular, of the 10 Senate Democrats trying to keep their seats in states that Donald Trump won, six have taken in $2 million or more, and two others have broken the $1.5 million mark. This outpaces the fundraising of equivalent Republicans in 2015, and also that of the two Republicans who are most endangered next year—Jeff Flake (AZ) and Dean Heller (NV)—who each raised $1.4 million.

The bad news for the GOP doesn't stop there. Flake's and Heller's good-but-not-great totals actually lead the way among the party's 2018 candidates; most of the other Republican senators and representatives running in 2018 collected $1 million or less. Further, the Party is having trouble finding good candidates for seats that will be open. And the more money that Democratic candidates bank, the harder it will be to find challengers. Such developments are why House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is cautiously optimistic that the Democrats could take the House back next November. (Z)

Sarah Palin Resurfaces

After a couple of disastrous campaign appearances, Sarah Palin seemed to have disappeared to the same netherworld ether that has since claimed Kellyanne Conway, Corey Lewandowski, and Katrina Pierson. However, she emerged on Thursday, visiting the White House for dinner at the invitation of the President. She even brought guests with her, namely rocker Ted Nugent and rapper Kid Rock. Which means that Trump has officially managed to get some celebrities to come to the White House.

In any case, it wouldn't be a night with Sarah Palin if she didn't manage to engender some controversy. During the visit, she and Nugent and Rock (or Mr. Rock, to the New York Times) posed in front of the official White House portrait of Hillary Clinton, making disgusted faces and various dismissive gestures. This led to an almost immediate Twitterstorm. Former White House press photographer Pete Souza, who has been trolling Trump with Obama photos for months, posted one of the 44th president working diligently under a picture of Ronald Reagan with the note, "Being respectful." Another user weighed in with, "Yes, Sarah Palin, that is Hillary Clinton's portrait, hung in the White House. Where's yours?" while another declared, "Hillary Clinton is living rent free in Palin's head." The New York Times' Maggie Haberman also weighed in, observing, "Doesn't matter what the political party is, it's the White House, not a rally, and it's an official portrait, not a cardboard cutout." With that said, Clinton getting an apology from Palin is about as likely as Hawaii getting an apology from Jeff Sessions. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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