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The Senate is on the verge of confirming Trump’s new FBI director on a bipartisan vote, just in time for the president to fire Bob Mueller for doing his job. The feds fined Exxon Mobil for violating sanctions against Russia while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was CEO but, in his defense, he probably was napping at the time. And the Congressional Budget Office is out with yet another score of a GOP health bill showing millions would lose coverage, in case you were wondering why conservatives were high-fiving each other all over town today. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, July 20th, 2017:
NOW, THAT’S SOME VERY SPECIAL COUNSELING - Good thing for Trump he has no history of shady dealings or of firing officials investigating him! Greg Farrell and Christian Berthelsen: “The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.” [Bloomberg]
Assume cooperation dead. “Senate judiciary committee Chairman Chuck Grassley threatened Thursday to subpoena both Donald Trump Jr. and Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort if they do not appear before his committee for a scheduled appearance next week…. ‘I hope they accept the subpoena voluntarily, but if they don’t then you have to have a marshal give it,’ [Grassley said].” [CNN’s Manu Raju]
JEFF SESSIONS REFUSES TO FIRE HIMSELF - Quick ― who’s the bad guy in this scenario? Alana Horowitz Satlin and Ryan J. Reilly: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions dismissed speculation that he would be resigning from his position following scathing criticism from President Donald Trump. Sessions said it was an ‘honor’ to serve as attorney general and that his team ‘wholeheartedly’ shares the priorities of the Trump administration…. Trump told The New York Times on Wednesday that he wouldn’t have chosen Sessions for the post if he had known Sessions was going to recuse himself from the FBI’s probe into Russian election meddling.” [HuffPost]
Senators eager to give Trump a new FBI director to fire. “The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously approved the nomination of Christopher Wray to be FBI director following the dismissal of the agency’s former chief, James Comey, by President Donald Trump.” [Reuters]
Tillerson really earned that medal from Putin. “The Treasury Department has fined Exxon Mobil $2 million for violating sanctions that the United States imposed on Russia in 2014 while Rex W. Tillerson, now the secretary of state, was chief executive of the oil company. ‘Exxon Mobil demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements,’ the Treasury said in a report announcing the penalty…. This month [Tillerson] was the only person to join President Trump when he met with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Germany last week.” [NYT’s Alan Rappeport]
HEALTH CARE BILL GOOD AT NOT PROVIDING HEALTH CARE - And CBO didn’t even factor in Ted Cruz’s weird amendment. Jeffrey Young: ”Twenty-two million more people would be uninsured over the coming decade under the revised Senate health care bill, the Congressional Budget Office reported Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) abandoned this legislation Monday because too few Republicans supported it for the measure to advance in the Senate. But after GOP senators met with President Donald Trump Wednesday afternoon and then among themselves that evening, the measure is showing renewed signs of life, although its prospects for passage remain dubious.” [HuffPost]
Trump really is clueless about health insurance. ″‘So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan.’ … The average premium for a single person who gets health benefits from an employer last year was $536 a month.” [HuffPost’s Ed Mazza]
JUST FAITHFULLY EXECUTING THE LAW, LIKE USUAL - Sometimes we get the feeling that the department running Obamacare is trying to ruin it on purpose! Sam Stein: ”The Trump administration has spent taxpayer money meant to encourage enrollment in the Affordable Care Act on a public relations campaign aimed at methodically strangling it. The effort, which involves a multi-pronged social media push as well as video testimonials designed at damaging public opinion of President Obama’s health care law, is far more robust and sustained than has been publicly revealed or realized…. Perhaps the most glaring efforts to publicly undermine the ACA, has come on the Department of Health and Human Service’s own website…. Currently, for example, the banner image on the site leads to a page explaining the ways in which the ACA ‘has done damage to this market and created great burdens for many Americans.’ The ‘Health Care Home’ section no longer contains a page on ‘Delivery System Reform’ and ‘Facts & Figures.’ And instead of a readily available link for visitors to access the main sign-up portal for obtaining health care coverage, the site has a post criticizing the now infamous healthcare.gov and encouraging people to use private sector web brokers.” [Daily Beast]
But wait ― there’s more. “President Donald Trump’s administration has ended Affordable Care Act contracts that brought assistance into libraries, businesses and urban neighborhoods in 18 cities, meaning shoppers on the insurance exchanges will have fewer places to turn for help signing up for coverage.” [AP’s Carla K. Johnson]
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LOVELY - Jennifer Bendery: “The Senate voted Thursday to put judge John Bush on a seat on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, despite Bush’s questionable past statements about abortion, slavery, climate change, health care and Nancy Pelosi…. Bush, a 52-year-old Kentucky lawyer, has drawn fire for comments he made on a blog he maintained for years under a pseudonym, G. Morris. Amid his hundreds of posts, Bush compared abortion to slavery, calling them ‘the two greatest tragedies in our country.’ He also called for gagging then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, applauded critics of same-sex marriage, mocked climate change and celebrated ‘the witch is dead’ when he thought the Affordable Care Act might not be enacted.” [HuffPost]
MCCAIN’S ILLNESS COMPLICATES THINGS FOR THE GOP - Igor Bobic: “If his health does end up preventing McCain from returning to Congress, however, Arizona law maintains that the state’s governor would choose his replacement…. If McCain opts to stay in the Senate, but his health forces him to remain absent from the body, the implications could loom large for Trump and pose problems for the Republican legislative agenda in Washington. The Arizona senator’s absence has already had an impact on the legislative calendar. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was forced to delay a critical vote on the Senate health care bill after McCain announced he had undergone a surgery to remove a blood clot from above his left eye last week.” [HuffPost]
IT’S A WORKER’S PARTY NOW - With apologies to Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, whose joke we just stole. Andrew Restuccia: “The White House on Thursday released its first official scorecard on the administration’s progress in taking a wrecking ball to former President Barack Obama’s regulatory legacy, saying it has shelved or postponed hundreds of pending rules with many more on the chopping block…. Among other details released Thursday, the Interior Department said it plans to publish a proposal this month to rescind Obama-era restrictions for fracking on public land…. OMB says much more in the works. For example, it said, the Department of Transportation is preparing to offer passenger railroads ‘greater flexibility’ in meeting crashworthiness standards.” [Politico]
IMMIGRANTS FOR ME, BUT NOT FOR THEE - Jeremy Singer-Vine, Jessica Garrison and Ken Bensinger: “Mar-A-Lago, Donald Trump’s private club that he calls the Winter White House, is asking the government for permission to hire 70 temporary foreign workers as cooks, servers, and housekeepers, according to records posted by the Department of Labor on Thursday. The nearby Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, has requested permission to hire an additional six foreign cooks. Trump has frequently urged US companies to hire American workers — a theme highlighted this week in what the Trump administration has dubbed ‘Made in America’ week. But for his own Mar-A-Lago club, he has also defended hiring foreign workers by saying that it is ‘very, very hard to get help’ during the Florida tourist season.″ [Buzzfeed]
TRUMP WEIRDLY NOT SOUNDING THAT INTERESTED IN HELPING DREAMERS - A senator can dream, though. Elise Foley: “Before Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) officially unveiled a new iteration of the Dream Act on Thursday, White House officials had already indicated Trump wouldn’t sign it, McClatchy reports. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who has urged Congress to act on reform for Dreamers, won’t back it, either ― a spokesman said he ‘supports the president’s position.’ ... ‘I am hoping we can find a pathway forward with President Trump,’ Graham said. ‘Wouldn’t it be ironic if the man who started his campaign talking about illegal immigration in a very tough way would be the man who started the country on the path of solving the problem?’″ [HuffPost]
JOE BIDEN LOCATES CAMERA - Emily Heil: “Former vice president Joe Biden is slated to bare all in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, set to air Nov. 12, ahead of his tour supporting his upcoming book, ‘Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose.’ The book, according to publisher Flatiron Books, will chronicle the former veep’s struggle to balance politics and family as his son, Beau, suffered from brain cancer and he considered whether to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016…. The Oprah sit-down is to be followed by a 19-city tour.″ [WaPo]
- Someone made a video of lightsabers with Owen Wilson saying “wow” as the sound effect.
- One weird trick to avoid talking to Trump.
- Google Maps lets you float through the International Space Station.
- The next season of “Arrested Development” is going to lean into the Trump comparisons.
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