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Image: U.S. President Trump celebrates with Republican House members after healthcare bill vote at the White House in Washington

Trump privately criticizes Republican health care plan he celebrated

06/14/17 08:00AM

When House Republicans narrowly approved a far-right health care overhaul in early May, Donald Trump could hardly contain his glee. The president hosted a big celebration at the White House -- a rarity for a bill that had only passed one chamber -- and touted the GOP legislation as a triumph.

"What we have is something very, very incredibly well-crafted," Trump said of his party's proposal, adding, "It's going to be an unbelievable victory, actually, when we get it through the Senate." The president described the House legislation as "a great plan" -- three times.

Evidently, Trump has changed his mind.

In a meeting with Republican senators Tuesday to discuss health care reform, President Donald Trump gave them support to move in a different direction from the House-passed version of the legislation which he described as "mean," according to two Senate aides whose bosses attended the lunch.

"He talked about making sure we have a bill that protects people with pre-existing conditions and helps people. We talked a little bit about the tax credit to make that work for low income elderly people," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who attended the meeting, said. "And he certainly is fine with us taking a different direction with what the House did."

By multiple accounts, the Republican president denounced the House Republicans' proposal in no uncertain terms. A CNN report, for example, quoted a source saying the bill was "cold-hearted." BuzzFeed's article said Trump used the phrase "son of a bitch" to describe the pending legislation.

Before the meeting with Senate Republicans began in earnest, the president told his guests that the Senate version will be "generous, kind, with heart." Left unsaid was Trump's apparent belief that the House version, which he touted vigorously, wasn't generous or kind, and obviously lacked heart.

There's no great mystery as to why Trump would express love for the House bill in May, and disdain for the House bill in June. Indeed, Politico's report fleshed out the key detail:

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 6.13.17

06/13/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Russia: "The U.S. Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a new round of sanctions against Russia, a move that will likely force President Donald Trump to either sign or veto a measure that he has not said he supports."

* North Korea "has released Otto Warmbier, the American student serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged subversion, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday."

* DOJ: "Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told members of a Senate appropriations subcommittee that he is the only person who is able to fire special counsel Robert Mueller and that he has seen no reason to do so.... He told senators during a committee hearing that there would have to be 'good cause' for Mueller to be removed from his role."

* It's curious how little the Trump administration seems to care about this: "Russia's cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump's election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported."

* Columbia's Daniel Richman: "A friend of James Comey says he has turned over copies of the former FBI director's explosive memos -- describing murky encounters with President Donald Trump -- to the FBI, sidestepping a request by congressional committees to deliver the materials to Capitol Hill."

* The vote on this was pretty close: "The Senate on Tuesday narrowly rejected an effort to block part of President Trump's $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia."

* I was glad to see this dealt with quickly: "Television reporters covering the Capitol were told midday Tuesday to stop filming interviews in Senate hallways, a dramatic and unexplained break with tradition that was soon reversed amid wide rebuke from journalists, Democratic lawmakers and advocacy organizations."

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People walk down Wall Street in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty)

Trump's brand of populism goes out of its way to help Wall Street

06/13/17 01:01PM

Just a few weeks after Election Day 2016, Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who advised Donald Trump during the campaign, told a group of Republicans that the party's economic vision had taken an important turn.

"Just as Reagan converted the GOP into a conservative party, Trump has converted the GOP into a populist working-class party," Moore said at the time.

After the election, the Republican president acted as if he believed the rhetoric. In April, Trump spoke at the North America's Building Trades Unions' national conference and said to applause, "Washington and Wall Street have done very, very well for themselves. Now it's your turn."

Those who want to believe Trump may not want to read this Wall Street Journal piece:

The Trump administration proposed a wide-ranging rethink of the rules governing the U.S. financial sector in a report that makes scores of recommendations that have been on the banking industry's wish list for years.

The Treasury Department report, released Monday, gives the most detailed road map yet for President Donald Trump's promise to revisit a wave of regulations put in place after the financial crisis. The proposals would affect activities ranging from mortgage lending to Wall Street trading.

If Mr. Trump's regulatory appointees eventually implement them, the recommendations would pare back restrictions advanced by former President Barack Obama's administration, which argued they were necessary to guard against excessive risk-taking and a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), meanwhile, continues to brag that while the Russia scandal intensifies, he remains focused on his top priorities -- such as removing safeguards that Wall Street lobbyists find inconvenient.

"Trump has converted the GOP into a populist working-class party'? Um, no.

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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.13.17

06/13/17 12:00PM

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

* It's Primary Day in Virginia for several statewide races, including gubernatorial primaries in both parties. The Democratic race, in particular, is expected to be close.

* In Georgia's special election, where the investment from the House Republicans' super PAC is up to $7 million, a new SurveyUSA poll shows Jon Ossoff (D) and Karen Handel (R) tied.

* On a related note, early voting in Georgia's 6th district has been fairly strong, with roughly 94,000 ballots being cast as of Saturday. Election Day is a week from today.

* Vice President Mike Pence will reportedly travel to the Georgia district on Friday to campaign on Handel's behalf.

* PPP's latest national poll shows Democrats leading Republicans on the generic congressional ballot, 50% to 40%. Among those who say they're "very excited" about voting in 2018, the Democratic advantage is even larger, 57% to 39%.

* The Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity is expanding its investment in a tax-reform ad campaign, supporting a Republican plan that does not yet exist. The Hill reports, "The ads will target about 10 senators, including Democrats Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Bill Nelson (Fla.). All three serve on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee and are up for re-election in 2018 in states that President Trump won."

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Image: U.S. President Trump celebrates with Republican House members after healthcare bill vote at the White House in Washington

Republicans lack public support for new health care scheme

06/13/17 11:20AM

There doesn't appear to be any video of the comments, but Barack Obama reportedly spoke at a New York event in April and made a point about health care and public attitudes.

"The Affordable Care Act has never been more popular," the former president reportedly said, "and it's more popular than the current president."

That's quantifiably true -- on both points. Americans' support for the ACA has never been higher, and the health care reform measure is nearly 10 percentage points more popular than Donald Trump, the Republican president desperate to destroy the law that's lowered the uninsured rate to its lowest point on record.

Even the latest Fox News poll found that most Americans now believe "Obamacare" has been good for the country.

But arguably more interesting than comparing the ACA's support to Trump is comparing the ACA's support to Trump's party's alternative. Public Policy Polling reported yesterday:

Health care continues to be a political disaster for Republicans. Only 24% of voters support the American Health Care Act to 55% who oppose it. It doesn't even have majority support among GOP voters: 42% support it to 29% who are opposed. Voters prefer the current Affordable Care Act to the alternative of the AHCA by a 51/34 spread. [...]

The health care bill could have major political implications in 2018. By a 24-point margin voters say they're less likely to vote for a member of Congress who supported the American Health Care Act.

The PPP data is consistent with what we've seen from several other pollsters. The latest national Quinnipiac survey, for example, found that only 17% of Americans approve of the Republican health care plan. The most recent Fox News poll showed an identical result: just 17% of the public likes the GOP proposal.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that only 8% -- that's not a typo, it's literally 8% -- of the country wants the House Republicans' bill, which Trump heralded as a triumph of politics and policy, to become law.

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Image: Attorney General Jeff Sessions Receives Award From The Sergeants Benevolent Association of New York City

Jeff Sessions moves forward with his regressive drug war

06/13/17 10:42AM

As Rachel noted on last night's show, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become a key player in Donald Trump's Russia scandal, and his Senate testimony this afternoon will hopefully bring some answers to important unanswered questions. But it's against this backdrop that the far-right A.G. remains focused on his core priorities.

And in Sessions' case, that means going after people who smoke pot. The Washington Post reports today that the nation's attorney general recently urged congressional leaders to scrap protections for medical marijuana that received bipartisan approval in 2014.

The protections, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to prevent certain states "from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana."

In his letter, first obtained by Tom Angell of Massroots.com and verified independently by The Washington Post, Sessions argued that the amendment would "inhibit [the Justice Department's] authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act."

Sessions' letter, sent in May, insists that the nation is "in the midst of an historic drug epidemic," which is why he wants the Justice Department to "use all laws available to combat" the problem.

Of course, the idea that the addiction epidemic has anything to do with medical marijuana is, if we're being charitable, very difficult to take seriously. Indeed, the Post's report added, "[R]esearch strongly suggests that cracking down on medical marijuana laws, as Sessions requested, could perversely make the opiate epidemic even worse."

So why is Sessions doing this? Because he really, really hates marijuana.

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Image: U.S. President Trump's lawyer Kasowitz delivers a statement in Washington

Did Trump's personal lawyer help fire a key U.S. attorney?

06/13/17 10:09AM

There's no shortage of important unanswered questions surrounding Donald Trump's White House, but as we discussed yesterday, one of the more important lines of inquiry is why the president fired dozens of U.S. attorneys without notice or explanation.

Of particular interest are the circumstances surrounding Preet Bharara, who served as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, which made him one of the most important and highest profile federal prosecutors in the United States, tackling cases ranging from terrorism to Wall Street to government corruption. After the 2016 election, Bharara wanted to stay at his post, and both Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the same commitment: the New York prosecutor could stay right where he was.

In March, Trump reversed course and fired Bharara anyway, and the federal prosecutor still has no idea why. Pro Publica reports this morning on one possible explanation.

Marc Kasowitz, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer in the Russia investigation, has boasted to friends and colleagues that he played a central role in the firing of Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to four people familiar with the conversations.

Kasowitz told Trump, "This guy is going to get you," according to a person familiar with Kasowitz's account.

Kasowitz, it's worth emphasizing, is an ally of the president who's represented Trump in a variety of lawsuits, including the fraud allegations surrounding Trump University. He's now responsible for overseeing the defense of the president, despite his lack of experience in cases like these, and by all appearances, he's off to a rough start.

It's entirely possible that Kasowitz was boasting to his friends and colleagues in a dubious way, exaggerating his influence to make his White House reach sound more impressive. That said, it's at least plausible that Kasowitz would've been in a position to offer Trump occasional advice on legal matters, and he may have seen Bharara as a potential threat to his pal in the Oval Office.

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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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