Inside the Secret Plan to Stop Putin’s Election Plot

Time: “On Nov. 1, the White House went so far as to war-game an Election Day attack. Over the course of five hours, the National Security Council ran a fictionalized sequence of events to rehearse how federal agencies would communicate and respond in a real attack. Some of the scenarios dealt with actual vote meddling, while others focused on disinformation efforts to undermine the election. As the nightmare scenarios unfolded—from voters turned away to violence at polling places—the team went over what actions each agency would take and what the legal constraints were on what they could do.”

Trump’s Big Win Has Been on Judges

Ron Klain: “He not only put Neil M. Gorsuch in the Supreme Court vacancy created by Merrick Garland’s blocked confirmation, but he also selected 27 lower-court judges as of mid-July. Twenty-seven! That’s three times Obama’s total and more than double the totals of Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton — combined. For the Courts of Appeals — the final authority for 95 percent of federal cases — no president before Trump named more than three judges whose nominations were processed in his first six months; Trump has named nine. Trump is on pace to more than double the number of federal judges nominated by any president in his first year.”

“Moreover, Trump’s picks are astoundingly young. Obama’s early Court of Appeals nominees averaged age 55; Trump’s nine picks average 48. That means, on average, Trump’s appellate court nominees will sit through nearly two more presidential terms than Obama’s.”

GOP Leaders Say Infrastructure Plan Must Wait

“The timing and fate of President Trump’s infrastructure plan may depend on whether the GOP enacts major tax reform — a task that could prove challenging amid the struggle to pass a healthcare bill,” The Hill reports.

“Republicans are signaling that a massive rebuilding package, which has long been one of Trump’s top priorities, will most likely have to wait on the sidelines until lawmakers overhaul the tax code.”

Mueller Expands Probe Into Trump’s Finances

“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,” Bloomberg reports.

“The president told the New York Times on Wednesday that any digging into matters beyond Russia would be out of bounds. Trump’s businesses have involved Russians for years, making the boundaries fuzzy so Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears to be taking a wide-angle approach to his two-month-old probe.”

“FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008.”

22 Million Would Lose Coverage Under GOP Plan

A new CBO report says that about 22 million people would lose health insurance coverage over the next decade under the most recent revision of the Senate’s Obamacare replacement bill, The Hill reports.

“The number is slightly less than what was predicted in the original draft of the legislation released last month, but still far more than the number of uninsured under the Affordable Care Act.”

“However, the CBO did not score an amendment added to the bill by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), which would let insurers opt out of ObamaCare regulations as long as they also sell ObamaCare-compliant plans.”

GOP Tax Negotiators Run Into a Math Problem

Jonathan Swan: “Sources familiar with the Republican tax negotiations say there’s an acknowledgment within the working group that setting the corporate rate at less than 25 percent may be unworkable if the tax reform is going to be revenue neutral.”

“This is far from the number the administration wants, but a source familiar with the discussions said it’s a simple numerical cash problem. They’ve done away with the border adjustment tax, health care repeal is failing, and there are no politically-palatable alternatives to fill more than $1 trillion in missing revenue.”

Quote of the Day

“I don’t even pay any attention to what is going on with the administration because I don’t care. They’re a distraction. The family is a distraction, the president is a distraction. At first, it was ‘Well yeah, this is the guy we elected. He’ll learn, he’ll learn.’ And you just don’t see that happening.”

— Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), quoted by Politico.

Senate Still Stalled on Health Care

“A key group of Senate Republicans met late into the night Wednesday to try to salvage their health care bill, but emerged without any breakthroughs and still appeared far from finding the votes to repeal Obamacare. Still, as GOP senators left the nearly three-hour meeting, they professed optimism,” Politico reports.

Said one former aide to Caitlin Owens: “They can’t accept they’ve been promising something that is undeliverable and a bad idea for seven years.”

Exchange of the Day

President Trump spoke to Maggie Haberman of the New York Times:

HABERMAN: “Am I wrong in thinking — I’ve talked to you a bunch of times about this over the last couple years, but you are generally of the view that people should have health care, right? I mean, I think that you come at it from the view of …”

TRUMP: “Yes, yes. [garbled]”…

TRUMP: “It’s been a long time. Nothing changes. Wait till you see what we’re going to do on trade.”

HABERMAN: “Sounds like it’s going to be very interesting.”

TRUMP: “Much more interesting than anybody would understand.”

Trump Goes Off Script Again

Politico: “President Donald Trump impressed senators Wednesday with a cogent, engaged pitch on health care that didn’t veer wildly from the script. Within an hour, without seeking advice from his lawyers or his senior aides, Trump was in the Oval Office telling reporters from the New York Times that he regretted hiring Jeff Sessions as his attorney general and discussing a sensitive investigation his lawyers have told him to keep quiet about – a performance that once again left his most senior aides startled and scrambling to respond.”

“Because only one staffer, Hope Hicks, was in Trump’s interview, others were left to hurriedly transcribe a tape recording of the meeting after the fact – just so they could know what the president had said. Others rushed to talk to Hicks in the West Wing.”

Said one White House official: “Only Hope really knew. Everyone else was in the dark.”

Associated Press: “The White House notably made no effort to walk back Trump’s comments or display confidence in the attorney general. Instead, the two Trump advisers acknowledged that the president’s public comments largely reflected what they have heard him say about Sessions privately.”

House GOP Leaders Can’t Get Votes for Budget

“Speaker Paul Ryan and his top lieutenants have a serious math problem when it comes to their budget. After weeks of delays and false starts, House Republicans are expected to advance their fiscal blueprint through committee on Wednesday night. But they’re far from the 218 votes needed to pass it on the floor,” Politico reports.

“With only one more week until the House leaves for the August recess, it looks increasingly likely that Republicans will punt once again on the most fundamental task of governing: passing a budget. Missing that deadline will leave the GOP exposed to criticism at home and undermines their chances of moving on to another key agenda item.”

One in Eight Trump Voters Would Not Do So Again

“About one in eight people who voted for President Donald Trump said they would not do so again after witnessing Trump’s tumultuous first six months in office,” according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll of 2016 voters.

“While most of the people who voted for Trump on Nov. 8 said they would back him again, the erosion of support within his winning coalition of older, disaffected, mostly white voters poses a potential challenge for the president. Trump, who won the White House with the slimmest of margins, needs every last supporter behind him to push his agenda through a divided Congress and potentially win a second term in 2020.”

Another Powerful Right Wing Media Company Emerges

Bloomberg Businessweek: “Whatever a particular station’s network affiliation—ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, or NBC—Sinclair viewers get a steady dose of conservative political commentary. Lately, Executive Chairman David Smith has begun assembling a kind of junior varsity squad of commentators and making unspecific murmurings about competing head-to-head with the senior lettermen and women at Fox News. To left-leaning viewers only just becoming aware of the company’s reach, Sinclair is positioned to flip a switch and turn those 173 stations’ newscasts—currently delivering bulletins on weather, school closings, and local affairs—into a cohesive network that pushes a Fox News-esque worldview of outrage and conflict into individual cities, counties, and towns.”