The Third 100 Days (Trump Briefs: July 22-29/Day 184-190) Week 27

By Michael Hernandez

 

Saturday, July 22 (Day 184):

More than 150 protest “fake news” at CNN headquarters

More than 150 protesters showed their disgust of “fake news” at CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. With signs reading “FNN #FakeNewsNetwork” and others targeting the networks’ advertisers such as AT&T and Microsoft, protesters chanted “CNN fake news!” directly in front of the CNN Centers’ signature logo.

“We are standing up and fighting back against the real damage that CNN is doing to this country today,” said Brian Maloney with Media Equalizer.   “There are real victims of their smear campaigns … they have an entire team of smear merchants employed for the express purpose of denying this current President any appointees or nominees whatsoever.

“[Americans’] lives are being destroyed when they are unfairly smeared and targeted, falsely accused of plagiarism, and everything else that has been going on,” Maloney said

“They’re destroying our culture,” Brian Crabtree, an Atlanta talk radio show host said. “They’re taking people who consume five to ten minutes of news a day, the average American citizen, they’re filling them full of fake news, fake innuendos, bad information, leading them to a conclusion that this President is something that he’s not.

“They don’t report that illegal border crossings are down 70 to 80 percent. They don’t report that there’s $65 to $80 billion regulations that have evaporated…”

The protest against CNN came after the media corporation was slammed for a multitude of scandals. Most recently, three CNN employees were forced to resign after releasing a Trump-Russia collusion story that ended up being unfounded.

CNN hosts and reporters were also caught claiming that during the recent G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a “secret dinner.” That narrative was repeated by CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, among others, despite not being true.

Tech Industry Analysis:   Tech companies too big; must be broken up

Jonathan Taplin, the author of Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, claims that tech companies have become too big and must be broken up if they cannot be stopped.

Bloomberg reports that Taplin’s latest analysis of the tech industry has lead him to the conclusion that tech companies have become too large. Taplin believes that Google’s monopoly of the internet is close to that of the Bell telephone system in 1956.

Taplin boasts a wealth of experience in the tech and finance industry, having run the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California, founded one of the first video-on-demand streaming services ten years before YouTube, and working as a Merrill Lynch investment banker in the 1980s.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google receives approximately 77 percent of all U.S. search advertising revenue, while Google and Facebook combined control approximately 56 percent of the mobile advertising market. Similarly, Amazon controls 70 percent of all online e-book sales and a massive 30 percent of all e-commerce in the U.S. When including Facebook owned apps such as Instagram, Whatsapp, and Messenger, Taplin estimates Facebook’s share of mobile social media traffic at about 75 percent.

Smaller tech companies often suffer at the hands of larger ones, as Taplin notes with Facebook’s relationship with Snapchat. After rejecting Facebook’s $3 billion offer in 2013, Facebook began to emulate Snapchat features, implementing them into their own app such as Messenger. Snapchat’s shares now trade at $15 below the original $17 initial offering price in March. “Facebook basically killed Snapchat,” Taplin says.

 

Sunday, July 23 (Day 185):

California Congresswoman in New Hampshire:‘We want Trump impeached’

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-D-43rd) took her “Resist 45” rhetoric to New Hampshire’s Strafford County Democratic Committee’s annual picnic and said: “Mr. President, we are organizing. And we are organizing to bring you down. And bring your agenda down.  This man is deplorable, dishonest, a liar, a bully and I want him impeached.”

Patrick Hynes, the GOP Senior Adviser, responded to Waters: “Rep. Maxine Waters’ rhetoric is irresponsible and dangerous. Democrats know they don’t represent America. After repeatedly losing to President Donald Trump, they have become completely unhinged and appear to have given up on Democracy.”

Congresswoman Waters is being challenged in 2018 by Republican Omar Navarro who in 2016 lost to her by over 50 percentage points (76% to 24%).  Navarro earned his B.A. in criminal justice from ITT-Technical Institute and founded a small business serving the tech industry. Navarro is affiliated with the Unified Small Business Alliance, serving as the coordinator for their outreach program and founded the South Bay Young Republicans. He has worked for Sony, Samsung and Amazon.

The 43rd California Congressional district is centered in South Los Angeles County and includes portions of the Cities of Los Angeles, Carson, Gardena and Torrance. It includes the entirety of the cities of Hawthorne, Lawndale, Inglewood and Lomita.   The district population is 703,000.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Monday, July 24 (Day 186):

Jared Kushner denies Russian collusion; explains Trump victory

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner denied colluding with Russia Monday afternoon, while speaking outside the White House after testifying for two hours in a closed Senate Intelligence briefing Monday.

“Let me be clear, I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone in the campaign who did so,” Kushner said. “I had no improper contacts, I have not relied on Russian funds for my businesses, and I have been fully transparent in providing all requested information.”

In the short statement, Kushner said that serving President Trump and the American people “has been the privilege of a lifetime.”

In response to his father-in-law’s (Kushner is married to Ivanka Trump) election victory:  “Donald Trump had a better message and ran a smarter campaign, and that is why he won. Suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him,” he said.

Kushner will appear Tuesday to testify at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on the same topic.

British couple withdraw legal bid to save son from death panel verdict

The parents of baby Charlie Gard have withdrawn their legal bid to bring their son to the United States for treatment, slamming doctors and the courts for “time wasted”.  Speaking in court, the baby’s mother claimed her son was “not brain dead” and could have lived a normal life if he had been released for treatment abroad, which was prevented by doctors, lawyers and bureaucrats. The court was due to make a decision on Tuesday, but proceedings will no longer continue.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates – were withdrawing their appeal after seeing Charlie’s latest scans, saying that treatment should now end.   “Time had run out” for the 11-month-old baby, and the couple cried at London’s High Court as the announcement was made.

Chris Gard said: “Put simply, this is about a sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy, born with a rare disease, who had a real, genuine chance of life and a family who love him so very dearly – and that’s why we fought so hard for him.  We are truly devastated, to say the least, that following the most recent MRI scan of Charlie’s muscles, we have decided that it is no longer in Charlie’s best interests to pursue treatment and we will let our son go and be with the angels.

“The American and Italian teams were still willing to treat Charlie,” he said, “but there is one simple reason why treatment cannot now go ahead – and that is time. A whole lot of time has been wasted.  We are now in July,” noted Mr Gard. “Our poor boy has been left to lie in hospital for months, without any treatment, while lengthy court battles have been fought.

“Tragically, having had Charlie’s medical notes reviewed by independent experts, we now know had Charlie been given the treatment sooner he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy. Charlie has been left with his illness to deteriorate devastatingly to the point of no return.

“All we wanted to do was take Charlie from one world-renowned hospital to another world-renowned hospital, in an attempt to save his life, and to be treated by the world leader in mitochondrial disease.  We will have to live with ‘What ifs’ for the rest of our lives. Despite the way our son has been spoken about from time to time – as if he is not worthy of a chance at life – our son is an absolute warrior and we could not be more proud of him and we will miss him terribly.

“His body, heart, and soul may soon be gone, but his spirit will live on for eternity and he will make a difference to people’s lives for years to come. We will make sure of that.”

Doctors from the Vatican children’s hospital and American neuroscientist Dr. Michio Hirano had disagreed with Great Ormond Street and the British courts, arguing that experimental therapy could save the child’s life and offering to treat him.  The European Court of Human Rights was described as a “death panel” after denying the parents the opportunity to appeal to privately fund their final attempts to save their son.

Charlie received high-profile support from U.S. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Pope FrancisAccording to the Evening Standard, people outside the court – mainly women and children – filled the road chanting: “Trump, the Pope, they all have hope!” and, “We love you Charlie, We do, Oh Charlie we love you!”

Last, week, the U.S. Congress granted Charlie permanent residency in the U.S. so he could go quickly to America for treatment.  The bill was introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) who was told by doctors that her unborn child could not survive. She fought to save her, and the baby girl became the first in the world to survive after being born without both kidneys.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates

Despite delay in release of Clinton emails:  ‘preferential treatment’ shown

Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, released 448 pages of documents from Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin that show “preferential treatment to major donors to the Clinton Foundation and political campaigns.”  The new emails (part of a group of 7,000 new emails) were discovered on a laptop owned by Abedin’s former husband, Anthony Weinter.

Former Obama officials in both the State and Justice Department claim that release of the 100,000 Hillary Clinton emails–as ordered under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit—would take until 2020 because of “diminished public interest.”

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said:  “President Trump needs to direct his agencies to follow the law but right now they are making a mockery of it by saying they won’t finish releasing it until 2020.”

At least 439 emails were not part of the 55,000 pages of emails that Clinton turned over to the State Department.

 

Tuesday, July 25 (Day 187):

Senate begins debate on healthcare legislation; Vice President breaks tie

The Senate on Tuesday began debate on healthcare legislation, taking a big step forward in its effort to repeal ObamaCare, after Vice President Pence broke a 50-50 tie to cast the deciding vote.

Two Republicans, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), voted with Senate Democrats against the procedural measure, highlighting the narrow margin of error the White House and GOP leaders face in getting a repeal bill to President Trump.

Republicans would not have even gotten to 50 votes and Pence’s tie-breaker without Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) dramatic return to the Senate for the first time since he was diagnosed with brain cancer.  McCain received bipartisan applause as he entered the chamber — and then cast a vote to keep the GOP hope of repealing ObamaCare alive.

He said in a floor speech that he would vote against the Senate GOP’s current repeal-and-replace bill unless it is improved.  Just starting the debate was a victory for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has had to postpone votes on multiple occasions because of opposition from conservative and centrist members of his conference, as well as McCain’s absence from Washington last week.

It was also a win for Trump, who has repeatedly pressured Republicans to begin their debate. Trump’s meeting at the White House with the Senate GOP conference was a turning point in the current effort, as it came at a time when GOP leaders seemed close to throwing in the towel.

McConnell praised the president’s contributions in a speech before the vote, even though Trump has at times chafed the GOP leader with some of his strategic moves and tweets.

That the GOP even had the 50 votes necessary to clear the first procedural hurdle only became clear when Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced minutes before the vote began that they would support their party.

All three faced enormous pressure to do so given calls from Trump, McConnell and other Republicans to let the debate move forward.

“Today, I will vote to begin debate to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Capito said in a statement. “As this process advances on the Senate floor, I will continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of West Virginians.”

While starting the debate is a victory as the GOP seeks to fulfill its years-long goal of repealing ObamaCare, what happens next is a bit of a mystery. In a highly unusual situation, senators voted to begin debate without being sure of what plan they would end up voting on.

McConnell is expected to offer a measure repealing ObamaCare with a two-year delay, as well as a Senate bill that would repeal and replace the previous president’s signature legislation. Neither appears to have the votes to pass.

Some senators were predicting on Tuesday that a scaled-back “skinny” repeal bill might have the best chances of winning 50 votes, but even that is not clear. That scaled-down measure would repeal Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates, as well as the medical device tax, aides say.

If it passed, it would then allow Republicans to keep their process alive and go to a conference committee with the House to try to work out a new bill.

“I think the endgame is to be able to move something at the end of this process across the Senate floor that can get 50 votes and then get into conference with the House,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he thought the final vote would be on the “lowest common denominator.”

McConnell had urged his party to back the procedural motion, arguing it was improper to prevent the Senate from holding a debate on such an important matter.

Just a week ago, it did not appear that his argument would win out. Capito last week on Twitter said that she would only vote to advance to repeal legislation “if I am confident there is a replacement plan that addresses my concerns.”

Heller, who is facing a tough reelection race next year, voted to begin debate after having sharply criticized an earlier version of the Obamacare replacement bill.  He argued, though, that he would not necessarily back the final bill.  “If the final product isn’t improved for the state of Nevada, then I will not vote for it; if it is improved, I will support it,” he said in a statement.

Whatever actions senators take will have dramatic results for the healthcare system.  But that bill could be changed in a conference committee with the House.

Eight GOP Senators votes down GOP healthcare plan

Maine Senator Susan Collins, Alaska Senator Dean Heller, Utah Senator Mike Lee, Kansas Senator Jerry Moran, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, Tennessee Senator Bog Corker and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul vote down the GOP Senate healthcare plan known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).  The Senate GOP healthcare plan goes down in a 43-57 defeat.

House passes Russia sanctions

The GOP-controlled House passed bipartisan legislation on Tuesday to limit the Trump administration’s ability to lift sanctions on Russia. Three Republicans — Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), John Duncan Jr. (Tenn.) and Thomas Massie (Ky.) — voted against the bill, which passed 419-3.

“This strong oversight is necessary. It is appropriate. After all, it is Congress that the Constitution empowers to regulate commerce with foreign nations,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said.

Trump expressed a desire to mend relations with Russia during the 2016 campaign and is reportedly considering restoring Russian access to two diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland that the Obama administration seized last year as punishment for the country’s meddling in the presidential election.

The GOP-controlled Congress has not been able to send bills fulfilling major campaign pledges, such as repealing ObamaCare and reforming the tax code, to Trump’s desk thus far.

The Trump administration urged lawmakers to ensure the president would have flexibility to adjust sanctions policy. But he lacks the votes to block the legislation, given that the House passed the bill with a veto-proof majority.

“While the President supports tough sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, the White House is reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the President’s desk,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on Tuesday after the House vote.

The bill establishes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea, in addition to Russia. Under the House-passed bill, existing sanctions on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine and interference in the 2016 election would be codified into law. New sanctions would go into effect against Iran for its ballistic missile development, while North Korea’s shipping industry and people who use slave labor would be targeted amid the isolated nation’s nuclear and missile programs.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday on a new Defense Department estimate that North Korea will be able to field a reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as early as next year. The sanctions legislation has been stalled in the House since the Senate passed the legislation by a 98-2 vote last month.

The first snag came from House lawmakers, who noted that the Senate bill violated the constitutional requirement that all revenue-raising measures originate in the lower chamber. After the Senate approved changes to address the constitutional issue, House Democrats then objected to a provision requested by GOP leaders that prevented them from forcing votes to block Trump from lifting sanctions.

A compromise reached over the weekend by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) ensures that any House member can force a vote on a resolution of disapproval to block sanctions relief that has already passed in the Senate. It also allows either the House majority or minority leaders to introduce a resolution of disapproval. 

As the procedural problems stalled the bill, oil and gas companies raised concerns about provisions limiting the extent to which American and Russian energy companies could interact. Those companies warned that provisions banning American investments supporting the maintenance or construction of Russian pipelines could inadvertently prevent U.S. development near Russian sites.

In an effort to address those concerns, the latest version of the bill clarifies that only Russian energy export pipelines can be sanctioned. It also establishes that the ban on U.S. investments in deep water, shale or Arctic offshore projects applies only if there are Russian entities with an ownership interest of at least 33 percent.

“In the process of making Russia pay an economic cost for their bad behavior, we must ensure we are not harming U.S. interests at home and abroad,” warned House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas).  Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is supportive of the sanctions package but expressed concern that it might not have a smooth path to passage in the Senate.

“It seems we may be on the floor before we ironed out all our differences with the other body,” Engel said, citing the late addition of North Korea sanctions. “I hope we don’t face further delays when this bill gets back to the other house.”

The Senate is scheduled to be in session through the first two weeks of August, but it’s unclear when it might take up the sanctions bill to send to Trump’s desk. David Popp, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said the chamber is currently considering healthcare reform and noted that pausing that process would require a unanimous consent agreement.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged his GOP counterparts to schedule a vote on the sanctions package expeditiously.

“Senate Republican leaders should move this bill as soon as possible, so that it can be on the President’s desk without delay. Passing the bill on a bipartisan basis will send a strong signal to the White House that the Kremlin needs to be held accountable for meddling in last year’s election,” Schumer said in a statement.

Photo: Dana Rene – Capital

Wednesday, July 26 (Day 188):

Seven GOP Senators vote down repeal of Obamacare

Maine Senator Susan Collins, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, Arizona Senator John McCain, Nevada Senator Dean Heller,  Ohio Senator Rob Portman, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito voted to keep Obamacare as the measure failed a 45-55 Senate vote in a bill known as the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act of 2017.

The measure would still have given two years for Congress to pass a new healthcare plan.  All the Senators except Senator Collins had voted for a similar repeal in 2015 which was vetoed by President Barack Obama.  This time President Donald Trump said he had “pen in hand, waiting to sign the bill.”

Nevada Senator Heller, Ohio Senator Portman and Tennessee Senator Alexander are up for re-election next year.

Thursday, July 27 (Day 189):

House Intelligence identify three Obama officials engaged in ‘unmasking’

House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes has found that senior Obama administration officials unmasked Americans’ identities during surveillance with “remarkably few” specific reasons for doing so.

The committee has identified former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and is asking for them to testify on the matter.

In a letter to the Director of National Intelligence, Nunes said, “For example, this Committee has learned that one official (Samantha Power), whose position had no apparent intelligence-related function, made hundreds of unmasking requests during the final year of the Obama Administration.

“Of those requests, only one offered a justification that was not boilerplate and articulated why that specific official required the U.S. person information for the performance of his or her official duties,” he added.

Nunes also said in his letter that Obama-era officials sought the identities of Trump transition officials within intelligence reports, and that “there was no meaningful explanation offered by these officials as to why they needed or how they would use the U.S. person information.”

While unmasking the identities of Americans incidentally swept up in surveillance is not illegal, leaking their names is, and Nunes said some unmasking requests were followed by leaks to the media.  “More pointedly, some of the requests for unminimized U.S. person information were followed by anonymous leaks of those names to the media,” Nunes’ letter said.

In March, several journalists reported that Rice had unmasked Trump campaign and transition officials. Rice denied doing anything illegal, but did not deny unmasking.

The Trump administration has faced seven times more leaks than during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, according to a recent Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report: 2017-07-06 State Secrets report (2)

Nunes said he is introducing a bill that would require “individual, fact-based justification” for each request. He said he would work with the Director of National Intelligence to draft the legislation during the August recess.

FBI General Counsel being investigated as source of classified leaks

A Thursday report in Circa cites three officials claiming that FBI General Counsel James A. Baker is the “top suspect” in an investigation into leaks of classified Department of Justice information to the media.

The report claims the investigation is “criminal” in nature. It is unclear exactly what information Baker is suspected of leaking and to which new outlets he did so. Baker is reportedly a “close ally” of ousted FBI Director James Comey, who, in 2014, appointed him to his current post as the top attorney representing the bureau.

According to a June report in Vox, Baker was one of the three officials to whom Comey turned for advice soon after his infamous private audience with President Donald Trump in which he later claimed, through a memo leaked to Columbia Law professor Daniel Richman, that the President asked him “let it go” with regard to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

Mr. Baker is not related to Reagan era Secretary of State James A. Baker III or his son, attorney James A. Baker IV. Other than a brief stint in private practice, Baker has spent the lion’s share of his legal career at the Department of Justice, having been hired through the prestigious Department of Justice Honors program in 1990. He has extensive links to the intelligence community, having worked for 11 years at the now-defunct Office of Intelligence Policy and Review. He also served as an associate deputy attorney general from 2009-2011 under President Barack Obama, dealing with national security and intelligence matters.

New White House Communications Director cracking down on leaks

White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci explained comments he made on Twitter on Wednesday night, after citing Priebus in a tweet about leakers. After Politico reported on Scaramucci’s public disclosure form, he suggested that it was leaked to the media by someone in the White House.

Scaramucci said that he included Priebus in the note he posted on Twitter because he was in charge of White House staff. Scaramucci’s accusations surrounded a public document, but he he made it clear that he suspected that someone in the White House notified Politico immediately.

“What the president and I would like to tell everybody, we have a very, very good idea of who the leakers are, who the senior leakers are in the White House,” Scaramucci said.

He also assured CNN that journalists who covered the White House were used to getting leaks from Priebus, which is why they suspected that he was referring to him in the tweet.  Scaramucci refrained from naming Reince Priebus specifically, but did not defend the chief of staff.

“If Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker, let him do that,” he said. “But let me tell you something about myself, I am a straight shooter. I’ll go right to the heart of the matter.”

Scaramucci also expressed frustration that his dinner with Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Fox News executive Bill Shine, leaked to the media minutes after it began. “It’s absolutely completely and totally reprehensible,” he said. “As you know from the Italian expression, the fish stinks from the head down, I can tell you two fish that don’t stink, that’s me and the president.”

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci

Defense Department to Trump on transgender ban: ‘Not so fast’

The Department of Defense declared Thursday there will be “no modifications to the current policy” on transgender service members for now, a day after President Trump issued a surprise three-tweet directive banning those troops from the military.

In a memo to service chiefs and commanders, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr. declared no changes to the policy until “the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance” — which has not yet happened. 

Dunford’s statement suggests Defense Secretary James Mattis wasn’t given any significant heads up on the policy change. Mattis was on vacation when Trump tweeted. Mattis has also been publicly silent amid questions about Trump’s announced ban, though the White House said Wednesday that Mattis was “immediately informed” of Trump’s decision.

Dunford himself was not aware that Trump was going to announce the ban, a U.S. official said. Trump’s Wednesday morning tweets reversed an Obama-era policy of allowing transgender troops to serve. Trump wrote:  “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow…Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”

Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the prior ban. Some lawmakers including Reps. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., backed the president’s move.

But experts told Fox News that from a legal standpoint, Trump’s tweets for now have all the merit of a public service announcement.

In the short term, nothing changes until a policy is drafted or some type of formal modification is made to military regulations. Lawsuits cannot be filed, and transgender troops cannot be yanked out of service or denied health care benefits.

Separately, the Navy announced it would continue to provide transgender individuals medical treatment.

The Pentagon has not released data on the number of transgender people currently serving. A Rand Corp. study has estimated the number at between 1,320 and 6,630 out of 1.3 million active-duty troops.

Former President Bill Clinton in 1993 began the push to allow gays to serve, only under the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. In December 2015, former President Barack Obama’s Pentagon chief, Carter, announced that all military positions would be open to women.

Senators vote down single-payer healthcare system, 57-0

Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines offered a “single payer” health care amendment in order to get some Democrats on the record in support of the government-run health care system that Senator Bernie Sanders supports.  “It’s time for every senator to go on the record on whether or not they support a single-payer healthcare system,” said Daines.

The amendment failed 57-0.  No Democrats voted for it with 43 of them voting ‘present.’  

Senator McConnell introduces Obamacare ‘skinny repeal’ bill

Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) introduced a paired-down version of legislation to repeal Obamacare that would scrap key provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, including the individual and employer mandates to purchase health insurance or risk fines.  It also suspends a tax on medical devices, denies funding to Planned Parenthood (for one year) and allows states to seek waivers from consumer protections.

“The American people have suffered under Obamacare for too long,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.  “It’s time to end the failed status quo.  It’s time to send

legislation to the president that will finally move our country beyond the failures of Obamacare.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) sent senators a statement saying that if “moving forward” required talks with the Senate, the House would be “willing” to do so (in joint conference meetings).

Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate.  McConnell can lose only two Republican votes if all Democrats vote against the effort and Vice President Mike Pence breaks the tie.

President Trump, who has been pushing Senate Republicans to pass some sort of health care legislation, tweeted encouragement to senators Thursday morning.

“Come on Republican Senators, you can do it on healthcare,”  Trump said.  “After seven years, this is your chance to shine!  Don’t let the American people down.”

Friday, July 28 (Day 190):

Three GOP Senators vote to keep Obamacare; repeal falls one vote short

Maine Senator Susan Collins, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Arizona Senator John McCain voted down the “skinny” Obamacare bill which would have repealed individual and employer mandates and defunded Planned Parenthood for one year.  The measure failed 49-51.  The swing vote was Arizona Senator John McCain.  A 50-50 ties would have resulted in a Vice President Mike Pence voting in favor of the “skinny” Obamacare bill.

President Trump responded with the following tweet:  “3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down.  As I said from the beginning, let Obamacare implode, then deal. Watch!”

 

White House Chief of Staff fired; General appointed as new Chief of Staff

Reince Priebus, the White House Chief of Staff, has been fired.  Priebus was returning with President Trump and other White House staff from an event in Long Island, New York.  The announcement was made as the President returned to Andrew Air Force Base.

President Trump selected Marine General John Kelly as his new chief of staff, replacing the former Republican National Committee (RNC) chair.  “I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff,” Trump announced on Twitter. “He is a Great American and a Great Leader.”

“John has also done a spectacular job at Homeland Security,” Trump added on Twitter. “He has been a true star of my Administration.”  Trump continued, “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!”

Earlier in the week, new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci has attacked Priebus for the leaks coming out of the White House.

Former CIA Director supports resistance if President Trump fires Mueller

John Owen Brennan, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama (now being investigated for unmasking by the House Intelligence Committee), says he supports resistance if President Trump fires special counsel Robert Mueller.

“I think it’s the obligation of some executive branch officials to refuse to carry that out,” said Brennan. “I would just hope that this is not going to be a partisan issue; that Republicans, Democrats are going to see that the future of this government is at stake and something needs to be done for the good of the future.  If Mueller is fired, I hope our elected reps will stand up and say enough is enough.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ replacement in the Russia case, Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, took it upon himself to appoint Robert Mueller to preside over the probe… devised by fired FBI Director James Comey, who just happens to be Mueller’s close friend and long-time professional ally and mentor.

Rosenstein, authored the memo that led to Comey’s firing which is reportedly being examined by Mueller as possible obstruction of justice. President Trump has tweeted, “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!”    

Some have pointed out that if Sessions were to leave the Justice Department or be fired, President Trump could then name a new acting attorney general who would not only replace Sessions, but assume oversight over Mueller’s investigation, pushing aside Rosenstein. 

For now, President Trump seems to be escalating the pressure on Jeff Sessions to resign.  At the same time, the president is mounting a public case that Robert Mueller is the wrong person to serve as special counsel.

North Korea tests another intercontinental ballistic missile

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that the country’s second flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile shows that the country is capable of hitting the mainland U.S.

The Hwasong-14 missile reached a maximum height of 2,314 miles and traveled 620 miles from the launch point before landing in waters near Japan on Friday. Analysts say the data suggests that a wide swath of the U.S., including Los Angeles and Chicago, is now within range of North Korea’s weapons.

President Donald Trump said that the tests further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy and deprive its people. Trump says the U.S. will take all “necessary steps” to protect the homeland as well as U.S. allies in the region, including Japan and South Korea.

Kim said the launch late sent a “serious warning” to the United States, which has been “meaninglessly blowing its trumpet” with threats of war and stronger sanctions.

David Wright, a physicist and co-director of the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that if reports of the missile’s maximum altitude and flight time are correct, it would have a theoretical range of at least 10,400 kilometers (about 6,500 miles). That means it could have reached Los Angeles, Denver or Chicago, depending on variables such as the size and weight of the warhead that would be carried atop such a missile in an actual attack.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry denouncing the launch as a “grave threat” to regional and international security. But the ministry also said South Korea will continue to try to reach out to the North and called for Pyongyang to accept Seoul’s recent offer for talks to reduce animosities along their tense border and resume temporary reunions of relatives separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

(Editor’s Note:  Mr. Hernandez is dedicating himself to advance the 13 spheres – as a “City Upon A Hill”; developing an interactive California citizens news platform as an alternative to mainstream media; while building local school-community partnerships.)

 

Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service, founder of History Makers International, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email: [email protected].


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