Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Health-Care Plan F: Do Nothing

Let us quickly recap where we are on repealing Obamacare.

  • Plan A: House AHCA bill (passed)
  • Plan B: First Senate bill (no vote)
  • Plan C: Second Senate bill (no vote)
  • Plan D: Third Senate bill (no vote)
  • Plan E: Straight repeal of the ACA (vetoed by senators Collins, Murkowski, and Capito)

Unless Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can pull a rabbit from his "Make America Great Again" hat, it looks like the ACA is going to be here for a while. Normally under these circumstances, the president says what he wants and orders Congress to do it. But Donald Trump's clout with Congress is close to zero with the Republican men in the Senate and exactly zero with the three Republican women who vetoed the idea of a pure repeal of the ACA. Is there some kind of karmic justice in the situation in which a dozen male Republican senators cooked up a new health-care bill and in the end three female senators shot down the entire project? We report, you decide.

Actually, there is a Plan G: Sabotage the ACA. This is what Trump is now suggesting. The ACA has a number of provisions that are under the control of the Secretary of HHS, Tom Price. One of them is making payments to insurance companies that have too many sick patients. By cutting off or reducing these payments and other ones, the administration could try to make the ACA fail by creating conditions that encourage insurance companies to leave the market. Another way of sabotaging it is to instruct the IRS not to enforce the tax for not being insured. Knowing that there was no penalty for not having insurance, many young healthy people would drop their insurance, destabilizing the insurance pools. After the ACA fails, Congress could take another whack at the pinata, this time with more pressure. Of course there will be political costs to letting the ACA fail, and McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) understand this. Who knew health care was so complicated? (V)

Another Attendee at the Trump Jr. Meeting with Russian Lawyer is Named

Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort had a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower during the campaign. Also present was Rinat Akhmetshin, who may have been a (former?) Russian spy. It has now come out that Irakly Kaveladze, who works for Russian-Azerbaijian oligarch Aras Agalarov, was also present. Agalarov is one of the president's business partners. Why Kaveladze was there is not known. Trump Jr. was expecting to collect dirt on Hillary Clinton at the meeting, but has said he didn't get any.

Kaveladze immigrated from Soviet Georgia to the U.S. in the early 1990s. Once here, he set up 2,000 (!) Delaware corporations for Russians, according to the Government Accountability Office. Some of these were shell companies. Kaveladze used them to move over $1 billion from over 100 accounts at Citibank. Needless to say, all this activity raised questions about why Kaveladze needed so many accounts and whether he was into money laundering big time. Kaveladze's attorney, Scott Balber, confirmed that special counsel Robert Mueller has contacted Kaveladze. No doubt Mueller is curious about why a suspected money launderer had a secret meeting with a possible Russian spy, a lawyer close to Vladimir Putin, and three people close to Donald Trump. One of Mueller's first hires was Andrew Weissman, who is a specialist at prosecuting money launderers. No doubt Weissman will be taking a close look at this matter. (V)

Trump Had Second Meeting with Putin at G20

While at the G20, Donald Trump had a high-profile two-hour meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Everyone knew about that one. On Tuesday, it was reported that there was also a second hour-long meeting, an apparently impromptu one that took place at a dinner that evening.

Trump is furious that this has become a story. And, of course, he turned to Twitter to express his pique:

The White House followed this up with an official statement in which they declared that, "The insinuation that the White House has tried to 'hide' a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd. It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a president's duties, to interact with world leaders."

There is some merit to the White House's position; it is indeed the job of the president to meet and greet world leaders, sometimes on an informal or impromptu basis. However, Trump's assertion that the press knew is plainly incorrect; given the media's near-obsession with the first Trump-Putin meeting that day, it's not believable that they would forget to mention meeting number two. It's also the case that, when there's already plenty of Russia-related smoke, Trump should probably err on the side of being too transparent about his meetings with Putin, so as to avoid the exact impression he ended up communicating, namely that something untoward happened. Finally, if nothing else, Trump ended up having to rely on Putin's interpreter, since the translator the President brought with him to the dinner spoke only English and Japanese. According to State Dept. pros, this was a pretty serious mistake on Trump's part. (Z)

Collapse of GOP Health Care Effort May Be Bad News for Russia

You might think that Russia, a distinctly foreign concern, and health care, a distinctly domestic concern, would not have much to do with each other. And if you thought that, you would be wrong. Here's why: The Senate has already passed a very harsh bill increasing the sanctions on Russia for interfering with the election, and effectively stripping away the president's power to do anything about it. The bill stalled in the House, however. They want to consider adding North Korea to the measure, but they didn't have an opportunity to work that out with the Senate in conference. Now, the Senate's calendar is wide open, which means plenty of time for conferencing. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) are among those who think that they may well find time to address the matter before their break. And so you have the curious result that the failure of the GOP's health care bill could end up making Vladimir Putin sick. (Z)

Trump's Presidency Is in Deep Trouble

CNN"s Chris Cillizza has authored a six-month progress report on Donald Trump's presidency, and he reaches one unavoidable conclusion: Things are not good for the President. As Cillizza sees it, there are three problems that stand out above all others: Trump's dismal approval ratings, the ongoing Russiagate probe, and the almost complete lack of legislative achievements (along with the dim prospect for any on the immediate horizon). One struggles to think of an area of domestic policy where Trump has had so much as partial success; no border wall is forthcoming, the electoral integrity commission is in trouble (see below), the Muslim ban has been hamstrung, health care has been a disaster, changes to the tax code are not looking likely, and so forth. To the extent that Trump can point to "accomplishments," it's that the unemployment rate is low and the stock market is humming along. However, the President inherited those things from his predecessor, and so he can hardly take credit (not that he hasn't tried). Add it all up, and Trump is facing liabilities that would likely be fatal to even the most skilled of politicians. And nothing is likely to change, because he's not likely to change. As Cillizza observes:

And amid all of the chaos, the controversy and the tweeting, the tweeting, the tweeting is this fundamental fact: Donald Trump ain't changing. He is a 71-year-old man. A very successful 71-year-old man. A man who views the 2016 election as the ultimate validation that he is smarter than all of the so-called political elites.

Socrates once explained that he was regarded as the wisest man in Athens because, "I alone know that I know nothing." If that is the case, then what does it say abut the man who thinks he knows everything?

Meanwhile, as Cillizza addresses the domestic angle, Harvard's Stephen M. Walt has the foreign angle covered. Although the two pieces were not designed as companions, being written for different publications as they were, they nonetheless read that way because Walt's assessment of Trump's foreign policy—entitled "The Global Consequences of Trump's Incompetence"—is equally damning. Assessing the "parade of buffoonery and ineptitude that has characterized this administration from Day One," Walt writes:

First, when you don't understand the world very well, and when your team lacks skilled officials to compensate for presidential ignorance, you're going to make big policy mistakes. Trump's biggest doozy thus far was dropping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a decision that undermined the U.S. position in Asia, opened the door toward greater Chinese influence, and won't benefit the U.S. economy in the slightest. Similar ignorance-fueled errors include walking away from the Paris climate accord (which makes Americans look like a bunch of science-denying, head-in-the-sand ignoramuses) and failing to appreciate that China wasn't—repeat, wasn't—going to solve the North Korea problem for us. Not to mention his team's inability to spell and confusion over which countries they are talking about.

The whole piece is worth reading, but Walt's conclusion is this: The world's leaders have largely already decided that Trump is not competent. So they will flatter him and polish his apple when they need something, and otherwise will ignore him and do their own thing. And in general, "their own thing" is not going to be the thing that best serves U.S. interests.

So, six months in, and nearly everyone who might be thought of as Trump's partner—Congress, and the other leaders of the world—has decided to ignore him. Whatever he says publicly, he can't be happy about where he finds himself. However, he has a solution. He could try to learn from his errors and adapt, but that is hard work and is, of course, not his way. The much easier solution: Hold a rally, where he will be showered with the love and respect and genuflection that he craves. So, he'll do exactly that in Ohio next Tuesday. (Z)

More Polls, More Bad News for Trump and the GOP

Let's start with the good news for Donald Trump and his colleagues: There is someone who is even more unpopular than he is. That someone is...Hillary Clinton. Her approval rating has dropped even more precipitously than Trump's has in the last six months, such that in the latest Bloomberg National Poll, he's at 41% approval and she's at 39%. Victory!

That said, even this good news carries with it some bad news. Hillary Clinton hasn't done much of anything since being defeated back in November, which means that her flagging approval ratings must be a product of all the "But Hillary..." smears that the President and other Republicans have used to justify their own behavior. The problem is that such attacks will surely lose their efficacy over time. The GOP could turn their guns on Barack Obama, but for one problem: His approval rating is as high as it's ever been (61%). So, that's likely a loser.

And from there, the polling data just get worse and worse for Trump & Co. As the President considers destroying Obamacare, he might want to take note of the new NBC News/WSJ poll that reveals that only 12% of voters in the counties that Donald Trump won are happy with the direction the GOP has taken on health care. Thus far his base has stayed pretty firm; this poll would suggest that if there's one way to change that, it's counter-productive action on health care. Like, for example, letting the insurance markets collapse.

The latest entry from Public Policy Polling also contains unhappy news for the President. There's the usual low approval rating, of course, but PPP also ran a number of hypothetical 2020 presidential matchups. According to their results, Trump would just barely lose to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), 41% to 40%. That's his best matchup (unless you count Mark Zuckerberg, whom he would tie, 40%-40%). The Donald would take an even bigger beating at the hands of Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), 45% to 40%, and he would be absolutely trounced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA; 49%-42%), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT; 52%-39%), or former vice president Joe Biden (54%-39%). Trump would even lose handily to the much-reviled Clinton, 49% to 42%.

And finally, the most chilling news of all for the GOP isn't a poll, per se, but an aggregation put together by Bloomberg. Here it is:

Bloomberg poll aggregation

If there's any clearer way to illustrate that as Donald Trump sinks, he's dragging the GOP down with him, we certainly don't know what it is. (Z)

Electoral Integrity Commission to Hold its First Meeting Today

Today, President Trump's Electoral Integrity Commission, whose job has little to do with electoral integrity and a lot to do with keeping Democrats from voting, will hold its first public meeting. This will be the first of five planned meetings at which they will collect data, hear testimony, and prepare a report for The Donald.

Although the commissioners, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, have yet to take their seats, they are already buried up to their necks in trouble. To start, they will not be reviewing very much data at their meeting today, since nearly all of the 50 states politely (or, in some cases, not so politely) declined their request to provide copies of their voter rolls. On top of that, the commission is already the subject of no less than seven federal lawsuits. They're all from well-heeled activist groups, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Common Cause, so the suits aren't going away anytime soon. And that doesn't even include the numerous suits that have been filed at the state level, in Indiana, New Hampshire, and Idaho, among others. At this point, the commission's insistence on pushing forward seems like pure stubbornness, but time will tell. (Z)

What's Made in America? Not Trump Products

As he tries to drum up a little positive press, Donald Trump has declared this to be "Made in America" week. And, as part of that, he held an event at the White House in which he showed off products made in each of the 50 states, including Kentucky baseball bats, Texas cowboy hats, and Illinois tractors.

As is his habit, the President neglected to consider how things might look through other people's eyes. And so he did not anticipate that the first thing that many observers noticed is that there were no Trump-branded products on display. The problem is not that the President wanted to avoid self-promotion—he has absolutely no issue with that—it's that his products are made, well, not in America. The Trump Home Collection, for example, is produced in Turkey. Ivanka Trump's clothing and jewelry lines are made in China, Vietnam and Indonesia.

The result of this is that "Made in America" week has become "Why Aren't Trump's Products Made in America?" week. The White House offered a defense of the first family's business practices, but no amount of spin will allow them to avoid the appearance of hypocrisy. And perhaps more significantly, this sends a powerful signal to other entrepreneurs: If the President can't make "Made in America" profitable, then how can they be expected to do so? (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jul18 Four Senators Oppose Motion to Proceed on Health-Care Bill
Jul18 Trump Is the Least Popular President Since World War II
Jul18 More Americans Want Trump Impeached than Wanted Nixon Impeached
Jul18 Investigators Are Probing Trump's Digital Operation for Collusion with Russia
Jul18 Flake Is between a Rock and a Hard Place
Jul18 Democrats Are Looking to the Blue Dogs to Win Back the House
Jul18 Urbanization of the West Is Becoming a GOP Nightmare
Jul18 Twitter Users Sue Trump
Jul17 More Setbacks for Health-Care Bill
Jul17 Trump Jr. Excuses, Part I: Blame the Secret Service
Jul17 Trump Jr. Excuses, Part II: Hillary Is Shady, Too
Jul17 Trump Jr. Excuses, Part III: Hillary Is Shady, Too (Alternate Version)
Jul17 Conway Says She is Criticized Because of Her Gender
Jul17 South Carolina Attacked 150,000 Times by Hackers on Election Day
Jul17 No Shortage of Democratic Candidates for Congress
Jul17 Jenner for Senate?
Jul16 More Setbacks for Heath-Care Bill; Vote Delayed
Jul16 Campaign Paid Donald Jr.'s Attorney $50K Shortly Before Meeting Was Revealed
Jul16 White House Tries to Move the Goalposts
Jul16 Trump's Approval Rating Remains Dismal
Jul16 Trump May Be Reaching His Tipping Point
Jul16 How Much Did Gerrymandering Help the GOP in 2016?
Jul15 Russian American Lobbyist Attended Meeting
Jul15 Kushner Hires a New Lawyer
Jul15 How Did the Trumps Get Here?
Jul15 Trump Lauds Transparency
Jul15 Another Trump Conflict of Interest Comes to Light
Jul15 Social Security Fund May Have 17 Years Left
Jul15 Two Papal Advisers Slam Trump Voters
Jul14 Meet the New Health-Care Bill, a Lot Like the Old Health-Care Bill
Jul14 Five Takeaways from the new Health-Care Bill
Jul14 Another Defeat for Muslim Travel Ban v2.0
Jul14 Kushner Wants White House to Forcefully Defend Meeting with Russian Lawyer
Jul14 Does Anyone in the Trump Orbit Know How to Behave?
Jul14 Will Mueller Run His Enron Playbook?
Jul14 Tim Kaine Has a 2018 Challenger
Jul14 Sessions Criticized for Speaking to Hate Group
Jul14 GOP Operative Committed Suicide
Jul13 White House Goes into Full Damage-Control Mode
Jul13 California Democrat Files Article of Impeachment
Jul13 Is Collusion with a Foreign Adversary a Crime?
Jul13 Trump Talked to Goldstone in Las Vegas in 2013
Jul13 Senate Judiciary Committee to Call Manafort for Testimony
Jul13 Trump's Lawyers Want to Isolate Him from Kushner
Jul13 Have the Republicans Killed the Town Hall Meeting?
Jul13 Democrats Don't Have a Serious Challenger to Jeff Flake
Jul13 McConnell's Approval Ratings Are in the Tank
Jul13 Kid Rock for Senate
Jul12 Donald Trump, Jr., Releases Potentially Devastating Emails
Jul12 The Top Six Problems for Trump, Jr., in the Emails