Montana Democrats Demand Party Attention

New York Times: “After a hard-fought campaign to fill a House seat in the Atlanta suburbs fell just short of outright victory on Tuesday, the House seat in Montana vacated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is up next, and a groundswell of new activism on the left is demanding attention.”

“Democrats have now chalked up a closer-than-expected loss in a House special election in Kansas this month and a near miss in Georgia, leading logically to discussions of how hard to play going forward — not only in the June 20 runoff between their first-time candidate Jon Ossoff and the Republican Karen Handel in Georgia, but also in looming House races in Montana and South Carolina.”

“But grass-roots liberals are not about to let party leaders lapse back into traditional red state, blue state assumptions. Instead, the Democrats’ enthusiastic base is demanding to compete on terrain that once seemed forbidding, a formula for disputes now and in 2018 about where to put the party’s money and field operations.”

Do Republicans Have a Health Care Deal?

“GOP moderates and conservatives are nearing a deal on health care that in theory could get the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act out of the House and over to the Senate. The changes also might move Republicans even further away from passage ― no one really knows,” the Huffington Post reports.

“The deal, brokered between House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Tuesday Group co-chairman Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), would allow states to get waivers eliminating the so-called community rating provision ― the rule that prohibits insurers from charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions. In order to obtain the waiver, states would have to participate in a federal high-risk pool or establish their own, and satisfy some other conditions.”

GOP Plays Defense In Governor’s Races

Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Those looking for electoral drama in the 2018 cycle should pay attention to the 38 gubernatorial races being held this year and next. In our initial ratings of these contests, more than half of them — 20 of 38 — start in the competitive Toss-up or Leans Republican/Democratic categories. That includes a whopping 10 Toss-ups: five of those are currently controlled by Republicans, four by Democrats, and one by an independent (Bill Walker of Alaska).”

“Contributing to this slew of competitive ratings is the fact that so many of the governorships contested over the next year and a half are open: At least roughly half of them will not feature an incumbent, and an additional three (Alabama, Iowa, and South Carolina) will or are likely to feature an unelected incumbent seeking a first elected term.”

White House Takes Harder Line in Shutdown Talks

Politico: “The White House, under internal pressure to show legislative achievements ahead of the 100-day mark, is gearing up for a government-shutdown fight to secure money for a border wall, more immigration enforcement officers and a bigger military, according to White House and congressional sources familiar with the plan. It is a risky gambit. With almost uniform Democratic opposition to nearly all of the Trump administration’s spending proposals, the fight could lead to a government shutdown next Friday — the day government spending expires, and right before the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency. Officials could also strike a one-week compromise, giving them more time for a broader agreement.”

“Congressional Republicans, desperately looking to avoid a shutdown scare, are eyeing a modest increase for border security – perhaps an increase in funding for surveillance technology – and a small uptick in military spending. But two senior White House officials say they want a bigger win out of the fight, and an important deadline might help.”

Politico: 5 reasons the government might shut down.

North Korea Warns of ‘Super-Mighty Preemptive Strike’

North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear program, Reuters reports.

Said the statement: “In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes.”

White House May Try Again for Trumpcare Vote

“Two sources close to the health care legislative process tell CNN the White House is exploring whether to take one more stab at repealing and replacing Obamacare before President Trump hits the key milestone of 100 days in office late next week.”

Said one official: “I don’t think it’s having to rewrite the bill. It’s just a total trust gap. As soon as we solve that, we can have a vote.”

Strange Now Likely to Face Crowded Primary

“With less than 10 weeks of Capitol Hill experience under his belt, Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) suddenly faces a special-election primary in just four months and with far more serious vulnerabilities,” National Journal reports.

“Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Tuesday moved up the special election for the seat from 2018 to 2017. The decision came a week after former Gov. Robert Bentley resigned amid a scandal involving an alleged affair, and the messy exit is renewing concerns about Strange’s Senate appointment.”

“Alabama Republicans predicted that the earlier election timeline would result in a crowded, free-for-all primary that would leave Strange significantly more at risk.”

CIA and FBI Launch Manhunt for Leaker

CBS News has learned that a manhunt is underway for a traitor inside the Central Intelligence Agency.

“The CIA and FBI are conducting a joint investigation into one of the worst security breaches in CIA history, which exposed thousands of top-secret documents that described CIA tools used to penetrate smartphones, smart televisions and computer systems.”

“Sources familiar with the investigation say it is looking for an insider — either a CIA employee or contractor — who had physical access to the material.”

Trump Adviser’s Moscow Visit Got FBI’s Attention

“Ever since FBI investigators discovered in 2013 that a Russian spy was trying to recruit an American businessman named Carter Page, the bureau maintained an occasional interest in Mr. Page. So when he became a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign last year and gave a Russia-friendly speech at a prestigious Moscow institute, it soon caught the bureau’s attention,” the New York Times reports.

“That trip last July was a catalyst for the FBI investigation into connections between Russia and President Trump’s campaign, according to current and former law enforcement officials.”

Fox Executives Fear There’s More to Come

Vanity Fair: “The move to dethrone O’Reilly, once unimaginable, crystallized over the past week, as advertisers continued to flee his show, more women came forward, and, perhaps most important, Fox News management came to realize that there was no way to stem the possibility that more accusers might surface, anonymously or not, and that O’Reilly would be a liability for the company as long as he stayed on at the network.”

“The most unsettling feeling among some at Fox News, however, is that Wednesday’s events are only the beginning. ‘There’s more to come,’ one Fox News insider told me, suggesting that there are more women with stories of harassment who have not come forward publicly. This estimation was affirmed by two people who heard such stories directly.”

CNN: What will Bill O’Reilly do now?

Russian Think Tank Had Plan to Help Elect Trump

“A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system,” three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters.

“They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election.”

“It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama, the seven officials said.”

Graham Heaps Praise on Trump

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) enthusiastically praised President Trump for his foreign policy, “a continued departure from his sharp criticism of Trump during the 2016 race and even after the election,” Politico reports.

Said Graham: “I am like the happiest dude in America right now. We have got a president and a national security team that I’ve been dreaming of for eight years.”