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Thursday's Mini-Report, 6.6.19

06/06/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* North Carolina: "In a rare defeat for anti-abortion activists in the South, North Carolina Republicans failed on Wednesday to overturn a veto of a bill that would have made it a crime to not treat 'any infant born alive after an abortion.'"

* Finally: "President Donald Trump on Thursday signed a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill aimed at helping communities across the country bounce back from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and fires."

* FCC: "Faced with mounting public pressure to take action against robocalls, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to make it easier for telecom companies to block suspected scam calls on their customers' behalf."

* A story worth watching: "A group of Democratic senators wants top officials at the Federal Reserve to examine whether Deutsche Bank complied with anti-money-laundering and other laws after bank employees flagged transactions tied to President Trump as potentially suspicious."

* Right on cue: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) confirmed Wednesday that he is unlikely to bring up the House-passed bill to provide a path to citizenship for immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as 'dreamers.'"

* One cabinet member, many controversies: "During the early days of the Trump administration, lawmakers and government watchdogs complained agencies weren't turning over Cabinet secretaries' schedules as has been practice. Now, one department has presented those groups with the opposite problem, creating new questions about a lack of consistency and transparency. The Interior Department has released five different versions of Secretary David Bernhardt's schedule for the first five months of 2019."

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A panel of women appear before the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing on women's reproductive health, June 4, 2016.

Seven years later, an answer to the question, 'Where are the women?'

06/06/19 04:11PM

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing this week on threats to reproductive rights, and while witness lists tend not to be especially noteworthy, in this case, these participants had something important in common:

Ms. Melissa Murray Esq
Professor of Law, NYU School of Law

Ms. Busy Philipps
Actor and Advocate

Dr. Yashica Robinson M.D.
Medical Director, Alabama Women's Center for Reproductive Alternatives

Ms. Christina Bennett
Communications Director, Family Institute of Connecticut

Ms. Melissa Ohden
Kansas City, Missouri

Ms. Jennifer Dalven
Director, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project

Dr. Owen Phillips M.D.
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Ms. H.K. Gray
Activist, Youth Testify

As the above photo makes clear, the common thread tying the witnesses together was gender: they're all women.

And while that makes sense given the subject matter -- American women's reproductive rights are clearly in jeopardy -- the hearing immediately brought to mind a panel assembled by House Republicans in February 2012, when there was a GOP majority in the chamber.

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Image: Senate Judiciary Committee

Why Trump's new attack on Mueller's 'correction' makes so little sense

06/06/19 01:03PM

On Sunday afternoon, as Donald Trump was presumably preparing for his European visit, the president took the time to publish a tweet attacking, among others, Special Counsel Robert Mueller. According to Trump, Mueller "had to correct his ridiculous statement."

When I saw this over the weekend, I'd been away from my desk for a while, so I started looking around, trying to figure out what the president was referring to. I came up empty.

And yet, there was Trump again yesterday, publishing another tweet that referenced a "corrective letter" from Mueller.

So, what's this all about? The Republican sat down with Fox News' Laura Ingraham this morning in Normandy, and with the graves of war heroes serving as a backdrop, Trump expanded on his new attack against Mueller.

President Trump, in an exclusive interview with Fox News' Laura Ingraham, said former Special Counsel Robert Mueller made "such a fool" out of himself last week when he delivered his first and only public statement about the Russia investigation. [..]

"Let me tell you, he made such a fool out of himself ... because what people don't report is the letter he had to do to straighten out his testimony because his testimony was wrong," Trump told Ingraham.

For now, let's also put aside how offensive it is to see a U.S. president -- in Normandy for the 75 anniversary of D-Day -- go after Americans on foreign soil, with a military cemetery in the background.

Let's instead pause to consider what in the world Trump is talking about.

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Image: SINGAPORE-US-NKOREA-DIPLOMACY-SUMMIT

In response to North Korean missiles, Trump creates his own reality

06/06/19 12:35PM

After North Korea's recent ballistic missile tests, Donald Trump said in his initial response that he was "not happy." That position has apparently been amended to mean "not noticing."

In April, about a week after the missile tests, the president pretended nothing had actually happened, telling reporters, "There's been no tests. There's been no nothing."

Last week in Tokyo, while standing along Japanese Prime Minister Abe, it happened again. The Republican argued, "There have been no ballistic missiles going out," which is only true if one overlooks the ballistic missiles North Korea recently launched, and which the American president initially said he didn't like.

Yesterday in Ireland, it happened once more. Alongside Irish Prime Minister Varadkar, Trump told reporters, in response to a question about North Korea:

"When I became president, and before that, as you know, it was all the time: nuclear testing, ballistic missile testing. And now there's nothing."

Nothing except the ballistic missile testing that we all saw -- and which Trump is already on record mildly criticizing.

The president's strange rhetoric comes against a backdrop in which John Bolton, his own White House national security adviser, concluded that there's "no doubt" the North Korean missile launches violated U.N. Security Council resolutions. Soon after, Pat Shanahan, Trump's handpicked acting Defense secretary, came to the same conclusion.

Their boss, meanwhile, doesn't seem to care. It's worth considering why.

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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.6.19

06/06/19 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* Under the Hyde Amendment, federal funding for abortion has been illegal for many years, though many leading Democratic presidential contenders want to change the law. Former Vice President Joe Biden (D), at least for now, supports leaving the status quo in place, and as a result, he's under fire from his rivals.

* New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), another White House candidate, wrote on Twitter yesterday, "[W]hen it comes to supporting American women on issues like repealing the Hyde Amendment, [Biden] is Dr. Jekyll." I'm guessing the mayor meant Mr. Hyde?

* Speaking of Biden, his campaign was caught this week including others' work without citation in his new climate plan, but Politico reports that other Democratic candidates have run into the same problem.

* To the delight of the NRSC, Michigan businessman John James (R) announced on Fox News this morning that he'll run for the Senate again next year. James, an Iraq war veteran, lost by about six points to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) last fall.

* Quinnipiac published a surprising poll out of Texas yesterday, which showed Donald Trump trailing Biden in a hypothetical match-up by four points. The president led the other top Democratic candidates, but not by much.

* Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) yesterday unveiled a plan "to legalize marijuana and expunge all nonviolent criminal charges associated with it."

* Another White House candidate, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) yesterday proposed incorporating climate activism into U.S. foreign policy in direct ways, including using anti-corruption laws to target climate deniers.

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The U.S.-Mexico border fence stands on Dec. 8, 2015 near McAllen, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty)

Trump sends troops to improve 'aesthetic appearances' at the border

06/06/19 11:21AM

The Washington Post reported last month on Donald Trump micro-managing construction of barriers along the U.S./Mexico border -- including the color of the steel slats.

The article added that the president has shared his views "on the barrier's properties, demanding that the structure be physically imposing but also aesthetically pleasing." An administration official was quoted saying, "He thinks it's ugly."

It's against this backdrop that CBS News reported yesterday that some U.S. military personnel have been deployed to paint a mile-long stretch of barriers.

Lawmakers were notified of the action on Wednesday in an email message from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has asked the Pentagon multiple times in recent months to deploy troops near the southern border to support the agency as it faces an unprecedented surge of Central American families and unaccompanied children heading to or in between ports of entry.

According to the email, the text of which was provided to CBS News by a congressional aide, an unspecified number of service members were set to paint barriers in the California border town of Calexico.

The painting project, in a part of California the president recently visited, will reportedly last 30 days.

According to the email, the "primary purpose" of the project is "to improve the aesthetic appearance of the wall."

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Steve Scalise, R-La., speaks with reporters in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington on Oct. 16, 2014, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

GOP leader demands the wrong kind of Russia investigation

06/06/19 10:40AM

Confronted with uncontested facts about the Russia scandal -- a foreign adversary attacked our political system in order to put a Republican in power -- Donald Trump and his team have increasingly tried to blame Barack Obama. After all, the argument goes, if the attack happened while the Democratic president was in office, then it stands to reason he's responsible.

Last month, the Trump campaign went a little further down this road, claiming that Obama's cyber-security team was "told to 'stand down' from countering Russian meddling," deliberately allowing the Russian attack. That's bonkers, of course, but it's what the Republican president's base was told anyway.

It's against this backdrop that House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the #2 Republican in the chamber, delivered remarks yesterday recommending an investigation -- not into Trump's misdeeds, but into the Obama administration's actions during the 2016 election.

"We know Russia interfered with the elections. Why did the Obama administration allow Russia to interfere in the elections? That's a question we should be probing. Why? Not just to go back in time, but to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"How much time is being spent going and looking and seeing just exactly what Russia did to interfere with out election while Barack Obama was president?"

I'm not sure the far-right Louisianan has fully thought this one through.

It's true that the investigatory focus has been on Team Trump's alleged cooperation with our Russian attackers, the attack itself, and the president's alleged efforts to obstruct the investigation while it was ongoing.

But if Scalise wants a related probe into what Obama tried to do in response to Moscow's efforts, the GOP congressman may not like where the investigation ends up.

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Image: 58th U.S. Presidential Inauguration

Why it matters that Pelosi wants to see Trump 'in prison'

06/06/19 10:00AM

As the intra-party debate over Donald Trump's possible impeachment continues to unfold in Democratic circles, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met privately yesterday with five committee chairs, each of whom are investigating White House controversies. One of the leaders, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) reportedly pressured Pelosi about opening a possible impeachment inquiry.

The Speaker still hasn't budged, though according to a Politico report, she did point to a different outcome she'd prefer.

"I don't want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison," Pelosi said, according to multiple Democratic sources familiar with the meeting. Instead of impeachment, Pelosi still prefers to see Trump defeated at the ballot box and then prosecuted for his alleged crimes, according to the sources.

They said she was expressing solidarity with pro-impeachment Democrats who want to hold the president accountable while disputing the idea that it is now time to take that step. Pelosi has long argued that certain conditions must be met before Democrats begin impeachment -- public support and strong bipartisan backing, neither of which have so far materialized.

It's worth emphasizing that the reported quote was made behind closed doors, and Pelosi hasn't said anything similar in public. It may also have been a throwaway line -- an exaggeration the Speaker used to remind her members they aren't the only ones who have a problem with Trump's alleged misdeeds.

But it's possible there was a little more to this. What if Pelosi was pointing to an alternative approach to presidential accountability?

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American troops land on Normandy beaches during the historic D-Day, June 6, 1944.

RNC chair: On D-Day, 'we should be celebrating our president'

06/06/19 08:40AM

Yesterday morning, as many world leaders prepared to honor the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Donald Trump picked up his phone -- at 1:30 a.m. -- to publish a tweet calling Bette Midler a "washed up psycho."

Some people demonstrate solemnity in different ways.

Soon after, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel had her own take on how best to reflect on the historic occasion. As the HuffPost noted:

Apparently, the "D" in D-Day stands for "Donald Trump," at least according to Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.

The GOP chair appeared on Fox Business on Wednesday to basically moan about the way the media has covered the president's trip to Europe. She then suggested that Trump should be a main focus of the 75th-anniversary commemoration of D-Day.

Specifically, McDaniel said on Fox Business, "We are celebrating the anniversary, 75 years of D-Day. This is the time where we should be celebrating our president, the great achievements of America, and I don't think the American people like the constant negativity."

The RNC chair was apparently so pleased with the on-air comments that her party promoted them via social media.

The idea that the anniversary D-Day is an ideal time to celebrate Donald Trump dovetails nicely with the related idea that the 4th of July is also an ideal time to celebrate Donald Trump. At least, that's how the White House apparently sees it. The Washington Post reported overnight:

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Pro-choice signs are seen during the March for Life 2016, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Jan. 22, 2016. (Photo by Alex Brandon/AP)

Another step backwards: Trump sharply curtails fetal-tissue research

06/06/19 08:00AM

There is no medical or scientific reason to curtail fetal-tissue research, but as the New York Times reported overnight, that's what Donald Trump's administration has done anyway.

The Trump administration announced Wednesday that the federal government would sharply curtail federal spending on medical research that uses tissue from aborted fetuses, mainly by ending fetal-tissue research within the National Institutes of Health. [...]

Besides ending N.I.H. research, the Department of Health and Human Services said it would immediately cancel a $2 million-a-year contract with the University of California, San Francisco, for research involving fetal tissue from abortions; the contract started in 2013. Other university research projects would be subject to case-by-case review.

In recent decades, this hasn't been much of an issue, at least not at the national level. Indeed, for policymakers, it's been a fairly easy call: after an abortion, fetal tissue can either be discarded or used in potentially life-saving medical research. Reproductive rights can be a contentious issue for a variety of reasons, but this facet of the debate seems uncomplicated.

It's precisely why support for fetal-tissue research has been broad and bipartisan for many years. When Congress passed a law authorizing the research in 1993, the vote in the Senate was 93 to 4.

Among the 93 was a young Republican senator from Kentucky. I believe his name was Mitch McConnell.

And yet, here we are, a quarter of a century later, watching Donald Trump -- a man many voters thought would be "moderate" on social issues -- and his team roll back the clock with a policy that will help no one.

What's more, the fact that this is unfolding through HHS is of particular interest.

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