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Image: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland

Trump ousts Priebus as White House chief of staff, taps Kelly

07/28/17 05:25PM

In his wholly inappropriate speech to the Boy Scouts, Donald Trump said if the Senate failed to pass a health care bill, he'd fire HHS Secretary Tom Price. As it turns out, Price is still at his post, but the president has instead fired his White House chief of staff.

In a trio of tweets -- not the normal venue for such an announcement -- Trump broke the late-Friday-afternoon news:

"I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff. He is a Great American and a Great Leader. John has also done a spectacular job at Homeland Security. He has been a true star of my Administration. I would like to thank Reince Priebus for his service and dedication to his country. We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!"

The news doesn't come as too big of a surprise. Priebus had clearly fallen out of favor and rumors have been circulating about moving Kelly from DHS to the West Wing. Priebus had shown unflinching loyalty to the president -- we won't soon forget the creepy adulation he showed Trump at the first full cabinet meeting in June -- but as has become clear in recent months, Trump's true loyalty is always to himself.

There will no doubt be plenty of analysis of Priebus' interpersonal conflicts in the evolving White House soap opera, and for good reason, since the drama no doubt contributed to his departure. But the fact is, Priebus was never a good choice for chief of staff in the first place.

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Friday's Mini-Report, 7.28.17

07/28/17 12:00PM

Today's much-earlier-than-usual edition of quick hits:

* The blowback: "Russia on Friday ordered the U.S. to cut the number of its diplomats posted to Russia and said it was seizing two properties used by American officials in retaliation for a new bill of sanctions that overwhelmingly passed both the House and the Senate this week."

* In the Senate, the final vote was 98 to 2: "The Senate approved new sanctions to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote Thursday, gaining tentative support from the White House before its passage."

* A considerable improvement in GDP over the first quarter: "The U.S. economy rebounded strongly between April and June, government data showed Friday morning, as businesses invested more and consumers shelled out for furniture, washing machines and other goods."

* This won't end well: "The House passed a $788 billion spending bill Thursday that combines a $1.6 billion down payment for President Donald Trump's controversial border wall with Mexico with a whopping budget increase for the Pentagon."

* Pakistan: "[P]rime minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the country's top court Friday amid a corruption investigation into his family wealth triggered by a data dump known as the Panama Papers. The third-term leader was ruled unfit for office by the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision by five judges."

* An important angle: "Since Election Day, President Trump’s businesses have sold at least 30 luxury condos and oceanfront lots for about $33 million.... Now, details of some of those deals and other transactions by Trump's family business could be unmasked as special counsel Robert Mueller expands his inquiry into election-meddling by Russia and whether Trump's campaign colluded."

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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally outside the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning on Nov. 7, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)

House Republicans want a special counsel for Clinton, not Trump

07/28/17 11:16AM

Sometimes, the line between House Republicans and their caricature becomes blurred.

House Judiciary Committee Republicans on Thursday called for a new special counsel -- to investigate Hillary Clinton, James Comey and Loretta Lynch.

In a letter addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Republicans said they were writing to "request assistance in restoring public confidence in our nation's justice system and its investigators, specifically the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)."

In other words, if Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have their way, we'd have two parallel investigations: one special-counsel probe examining the Trump-Russia scandal, and another special-counsel probe going after Hillary Clinton.

There's no reason to believe the Justice Department will take such a request seriously, but we live in deeply strange times and it's probably best not to make any assumptions.

Also note, even if there is no second special counsel, the House Judiciary Committee is poised to move forward with a Clinton investigation of its own. The Washington Post reported this week that the GOP-led panel has begun requesting documents for a new round of Clinton-related scrutiny.

All of this, coincidentally, follows Donald Trump's recent insistence that Clinton's imagined "crimes" face an investigation.

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Image: White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci talks to the media

Scaramucci shows the kind of White House culture Trump has created

07/28/17 09:48AM

On his sixth day as the White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci had a rather interesting series of experiences.

He falsely accused the White House chief of staff of a "felony," insisting that Reince Priebus had leaked a public document that, by definition, cannot be leaked. Scaramucci then claimed he'd improperly spoken with the Justice Department

Yesterday afternoon, the White House communications director then got to read the comments he made to the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza -- which were, shall we say, colorful.

On Wednesday night, I received a phone call from Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director. He wasn't happy. Earlier in the night, I'd tweeted, citing a "senior White House official," that Scaramucci was having dinner at the White House with President Trump, the First Lady, Sean Hannity, and the former Fox News executive Bill Shine. It was an interesting group, and raised some questions. Was Trump getting strategic advice from Hannity? Was he considering hiring Shine? But Scaramucci had his own question -- for me.

"Who leaked that to you?" he asked. I said I couldn't give him that information.

It went downhill from there. Scaramucci said, for example, "Reince is a f***ing paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac." He added, "I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own c**k."

Scaramucci went on to say, "What I want to do is I want to f***ing kill all the leakers."

I think it's probably fair to say Americans have never before read an interview like this with a senior White House official. Indeed, in any previous administration, if an official were to make on-the-record comments like these to a reporter, that official would no longer be working in the White House.

In Donald Trump's White House, however, Scaramucci is likely to get a promotion.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell answers questions as members of the Republican leadership speak about the Defense Authorization Bill following caucus luncheons at the U.S. Capitol on June 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

In the wake of failure, McConnell looks for someone to blame

07/28/17 08:46AM

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saw an opportunity to take health care benefits from millions of American families, and it's hardly surprising that he'd feel bitter disappointment now that his efforts have failed. But this Politico piece suggests McConnell's not playing the blame game especially well.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed "regret" and "disappointment" immediately after the GOP failed to pass a minimalist Obamacare repeal bill early Friday, blaming congressional Democrats for not engaging "in a serious way" in the efforts to remedy the health care law. [...]

"Our friends on the other side decided early on they didn't want to engage with us in a serious way, a serious way to help those suffering under Obamacare," McConnell said.

There are a few ways to look at whining like this. The first is to simply recognize it as pathetic. McConnell couldn't convince his own members to follow his lead, and for him to blame the minority party for refusing to help him undermine Americans' interests is impossible to take seriously.

The second is that McConnell is plainly wrong about what Democrats were willing to do. As we discussed weeks ago, Democrats practically begged Republicans to work cooperatively on health care. They put their appeals in writing for months, but GOP leaders ignored every appeal.

McConnell considered a bipartisanship approach, in a rather literal sense, the worst-case scenario. In March, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) characterized bipartisanship as the one course of action he simply did not want to even consider.

But even putting these details aside, let's not overlook the fact that McConnell is perhaps the last person in the country who should be talking about engaging in health care policymaking "in a serious way."

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Image: Still image from video shows U.S. Senator McCain speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate after a vote on healthcare reform in Washington

Strike Three: Republicans' health care crusade collapses in Senate

07/28/17 08:00AM

Health care advocates have reason to be relieved this morning.

Senate Republicans failed to pass a pared-down Obamacare repeal bill early Friday on a vote of 49-51 that saw three of their own dramatically break ranks.

Three Republican senators -- John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski -- and all Democrats voted against the bill, dealing a stinging defeat to President Donald Trump who made repeal of Obamacare a cornerstone of his presidential campaign.

It was McCain who ultimately cast the deciding vote in a moment of high drama on the Senate floor in the early hours of the morning.

And with that, let's have another Q&A.

What now?

Well, Senate Republicans have now run out of bills. "Repeal and replace" was voted down on Tuesday; "repeal and delay" was voted down on Wednesday; and then "skinny repeal" came up one vote short last night. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared last night, "It's time to move on."

Right, but what does that mean in practical terms?

No one, including Senate Republicans, can answer that with any confidence. At least in theory, senators can now begin work on some bipartisan measures intended to strengthen the current system and shore up areas in which the Affordable Care Act is struggling.

How likely is that?

It's very likely there will be at least some efforts in this direction, and a couple of Senate committees have even agreed to hold hearings (something they should have done before holding votes on legislation). There are plenty of straightforward policies that both parties should be able to accept, but whether that will happen or not is anybody's guess.

But haven't we been at this point before? In March, a House Republican plan died, we all exhaled, and then it came back to life. What's to stop that from happening again?

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About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.

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