Fox News Halftime Report -- Family business bites Trumps

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Fox News Halftime Report

July 12, 2017

By Chris Stirewalt

 

On the roster: Family business bites Trumps - FBI pick defends Mueller probe, promises independence - GOP senators vow to unveil health bill Thursday - What a health plan B may look like - Nope, nope, nope, nope…

FAMILY BUSINESS BITES TRUMPS 
One of the reasons that Americans have tended to shun hereditary rule is that family loyalties make things too complicated. 

Having had additional insights to the way the Trump campaign and White House operate, we can say that there is surely truth in that. 

President Trump's eldest son, Donald Jr., admitted Tuesday to what amounts to an unseemly enthusiasm for working with the Russian government to harm Hillary Clinton and some pretty astonishing naiveté. As Trump the younger told Sean Hannity, "I'm still way in the learning curve on all of this."

The younger Trump's much-belated admission that he arranged a meeting in hopes of obtaining dirt from the Russian government to use against Clinton isn't an admission of a crime. It will, however, damage to his father's presidency. 

As we discussed Tuesday, the problem is one of credibility. The Republicans who the president needs to mount near-daily defenses of the administration about collaborating with Russia took these latest revelations as a gut punch. 

Whatever degree of inexperience led the president's son to set up such a sketchy meeting and to bring other senior campaign staffers into it still cannot excuse the decision by all involved to not disclose the meeting, especially if it was innocuous. 

Certainly, allowing senior officials, including the vice president and president, to make blanket denials of any contact with Russians represents close to malpractice for those who knew about it. 

So why didn't somebody find a way to disclose this conversation before the NYT found out about it? The answer there likely has something to do with family. 

In its follow-up reporting, the Times offers some insight on how the meeting came to light, saying that the emails arranging the meeting were discovered by attorneys for Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser and brother-in-law to Donald Trump Jr. After their discovery Kushner disclosed the meeting to national security officials by amending his security clearance forms. 

But he wasn't the only one talking. The Times also says that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, whom Donald Trump Jr. also brought into the meeting, told Congressional investigators about the sit-down session.      

President Trump announced today that the White House is "functioning perfectly." That, we might submit, sounds something of an overstatement.  

Either Kushner did not tell the president (aka his wife's dad) that there was trouble coming on the Russia front when news of this meeting eventually got out or the president and his team opted to let the matter fester. Neither option sounds particularly good. 

These revelations have kicked off the latest round of palace intrigue stories, including the evergreen rumor that the Trump family is looking to push out Chief of Staff Reince Priebus

But if Kushner is dropping dime on his brother-in-law and not telling anybody about it, one can hardly blame the chief of staff. 

Trump defense attorney Jay Sekulow was absolutely adamant in multiple morning show appearances today that the president knew nothing about the meeting until the news broke. Sekulow said President Trump had no input on the White House response and was in the dark until the end. That may just be a lawyer trying to protect his client, but it does not suggest anything like "perfect" functionality. 

During any political scandal, it is crucially important for all of the principle actors to disclose everything, at least to each other. 

Whether it was the arms-for-hostages deal of the Reagan administration, multiple scandals during the Clinton years, the missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or the doctored talking points about the Benghazi attack, at some point somebody had to tell it all. They told it to a lawyer or to a chief of staff, but everyone, including the president, had to come clean. 

Siloing information is a problem for any White House. Knowing what others don't gives people power. But in times of scandal, hidden facts turn in to landmines. Exasperated Republicans in Washington continue to wonder why the White House is so bad at heading off these explosions. The answer is as obvious as it is simple: The inhabitants of the administration do not trust each other enough to share even vital information.

And that brings us back to the part about the family business. It was only because of his relationship to his father that Donald Trump Jr. was able to set such a high level meeting with such a shady lady. And it was also because of that relationship, presumably, that no one felt able or willing to disclose the session, even after it had become an obvious liability. 

It has increasingly become the norm for presidential candidates to include their families in their campaigns. Chelsea Clinton was a senior staffer on her mother's 2016 bid and Mitt Romney's adult sons had roles to play in their father's 2012 campaign, but there are still lots of good reasons to keep family life out of politics. 

The Trumps are getting a very good lesson on that right now.     

FBI PICK DEFENDS MUELLER PROBE, PROMISES INDEPENDENCE
Fox News: "FBI Director nominee Christopher Wray said at his Senate confirmation hearing this morning that he does not view Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation as a 'witch hunt.' The remark came during questioning by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who peppered Wray with numerous questions concerning allegations of collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia. 'Do you consider this endeavor a witch hunt?' Graham asked. 'I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt,' Wray answered. He also said he was unsure of whether President Trump could legally fire Mueller, but would look at it further and report back to the Senate panel."

Meet Allen Futerfas, the colorful lawyer representing Donald Trump Jr. - Miami Herald: "…Futerfas attended the Juilliard School in Manhattan, where he studied bass trombone. After Juilliard, he broke into the criminal defense field while attending Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law."

THE RULEBOOK: KEEP THE PEACE
"An insurrection, whatever may be its immediate cause, eventually endangers all government." – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 28

TIME OUT: MOTORIN'
New Yorker: "Last Friday, Tesla's Model 3, the upstart automaker's first mid-priced, mass-market electric vehicle, began rolling off the assembly line. … But other automakers are increasingly more interested in another aspect of the Model 3: a self-driving system called Autopilot that, according to Tesla, uses cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors to see through rain and fog, set speed based on traffic conditions, stay in a lane, pass slow-moving vehicles, exit freeways, and park without driver input. Tesla's C.E.O., Elon Musk, predicted recently that in about two years people will be able to go to sleep in a moving Tesla and wake up to find they have arrived at their destination. … What changed? Put simply, Silicon Valley discovered Detroit. Pursuing new revenue streams outside of their usual markets, firms like Google, Apple, and Uber, along with well-heeled venture capitalists, poured hundreds of billions of dollars into partnerships and internal design teams to produce hardware and software for self-driving electric cars. It was a natural fit, a by-product of the advanced research in robotics and artificial intelligence that tech companies were already focused on."

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -12.2 points
Change from one week ago: +1 point

G.O.P. SENATORS VOW TO UNVEIL HEALTH BILL THURSDAY 
NYT: "Senate Republican leaders, facing their restive colleagues after the Fourth of July recess, vowed on Tuesday to press ahead with their effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, with a new version of their bill on Thursday and a vote next week — regardless of the deep divisions in the party. … Changes are coming, but none that are likely to radically alter the estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that 22 million fewer people would have health insurance in 2026 under the Senate health care bill than under the Affordable Care Act. A new estimate is expected from the budget office early next week. The revised bill is expected to include a $45 billion fund to help combat the opioid epidemic, as well as a provision allowing consumers to use health savings accounts to pay for premiums. Senate Republicans are also likely to keep a pair of taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act on people with high incomes. The law increased the payroll tax rate for many high-income taxpayers and imposed a tax on their investment income. Both taxes would be eliminated by the repeal bill passed by the House in May and by the original version of Mr. McConnell's bill."

What a health plan B may look like - Bloomberg: "The main ideas involve creating a reinsurance fund and authorizing cost-sharing payments for insurers so they don't have to raise prices for covering a sicker pool of customers. 'We don't agree with Obamacare, but recognize the fact that these markets are collapsing; insurance companies need it to provide the certainty of how they're going to price the 2018 premiums,' said Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican. Congress should 'bite the bullet and stabilize those markets,' Johnson said. There is substantial Republican support for that idea -- the original McConnell health-care bill included $50 billion in insurer funds to stabilize markets and reduce premiums. Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Tuesday he'll release an outline of an alternative health-care plan this week. He said he's seeking support from governors and senators of both parties."

Poll shows public wants GOP to work with Dems on health care - Axios: "A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll to be released Friday suggests that's actually what the American people would like to see happen. … It looks like Republicans could neutralize a backlash from the base if they give up on repeal and work with Democrats. … But this new poll finding suggests that even if Republicans lose ground with some in the base by failing to repeal the ACA, they could make up for it with Trump supporters, Republicans and independents who want to see them work across the aisle on ACA fixes. Working on repairs rather than repeal could be more of a short-term problem with anti-ACA Republican political contributors, but they will likely come back to incumbents they can rely on for other issues once the health care debate dies down. Still, whether Republicans and Democrats could actually bridge their differences and work together to improve the ACA is a very open question."

PLAY-BY-PLAY 
Trump heads to Paris for Bastille Day WaPo

Report: Trump's top economic adviser frontrunner to replace Yellen at Fed - Politico

Scalise out of ICU The Hill

AUDIBLE: 'VERY, VERY'
"And [the president] was only made aware of the email, then this chain of emails, which he only saw yesterday as it was released, he was made aware of it just, in the last-- really, very, very recently, by his lawyers." – Jay Sekulow in an interview with NBC News regarding the president's eldest son's meeting. 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
"I side with the Republicans almost always but have to admire the Democrats continuing ability to keep their positions, even if they are patently wrong, in the forefront of the nightly news.  The Republicans have, for years and years, an uncanny ability to lose track of what it is they promise the electorate in every election they win.  As a result, they have to start over almost every electoral cycle." – Robert Arvin, Birmingham, Ala.

[Ed. note: To be fair, Mr. Arvin, what Democrats want changes less often than it does for Republicans. You are right that Democrats tend to show more discipline in their ranks and a greater resolve when it comes to achieving long-sought objectives like universal health insurance. But Republicans have gone through multiple ideological makeovers in the past generation. Part of the challenge on health insurance for the GOP is that the member of their party that got elected president took a completely different view on the subject than most Republicans had prior. Republicans do lack discipline, but cut them some slack as they transition from a party arranged around more affluent suburbanites to one dominated by blue-collar voters.]

"All this shows is that Trump is not a politician with the political instincts to send a surrogate.  If you don't think Clinton was doing the same thing I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.  Also where was all the political and MSM outrage over the Clinton slush fund - Foundation. Funny how after the election the donations dried up - some charitable organization huh. It seems that in this climate scandals only go one way.  Obama has the IRS, Fast & Furious and Benghazi. Clinton has her long list including the Foundation, Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton. If Clinton had been elected there would 'for sale' signs on every government agency and every room in the White House and you would not hear a peep.  As for the GOP Leadership let me know if one shows up.  We the people elected Trump and would the rest of you to get off your hypocritical high horses and start working for the country and not your self-serving selves." – Michael Johnson, Fairfield Glade, Tenn.

[Ed. note: There is an interesting phenomenon about journalists demanding to be lied to better. When you hear complaints about "optics" that often times means reporters don't like the lack of polish being applied to the horse apples laid in front of them.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

NOPE, NOPE, NOPE, NOPE…
AP: "U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents received a slithery surprise when they checked a mail container at Kennedy International Airport. The agency said Tuesday that officials seized five live king cobras and three geckos during an inspection at the airport mail facility on June 29. Agents first discovered the dangerous contents of the package in an X-ray scan. The reptiles were sent in a container from Hong Kong. The agency's New York Field Operations Office said the seizure shows the wide-ranging responsibility of the agency. The reptiles have been sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. King cobras are the world's largest venomous snakes, growing up to nearly 19 feet."

 


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