Fox News Halftime Report -- Trump makes ready for his attack on Mueller

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Fox News Halftime Report

July 21, 2017

By Chris Stirewalt

 

On the roster: Trump makes ready for his attack on Mueller - Power Play: Your forecast? Delicious bacon - Trump officials now back findings on Russia - Ryan sells tax reform while on the road - There's stiff coffee and then there's stiff coffee…
 
TRUMP MAKES READY FOR HIS ATTACK ON MUELLER  
The story of most outsider presidents who come to Washington is one of learning the ways of the capital and governance and, as part of that, broadening out an inner circle to include more seasoned advisors.
 
Maybe not surprisingly, President Trump is going a different way.

With the departure of Press Secretary Sean Spicer, we see the strongest evidence yet of the shift to a war footing in the White House as the besieged president surrounds himself with hometown loyalists for what he clearly expects to be a struggle to remain in power.
 
The elevation of Trump loyalist and Wall Street insider Anthony Scaramucci to the top message man for the White House is further proof that the new focus isn't about winning the Washington game but rather survival.
 
It also tells us what's likely to happen next. 

The competing voices inside the president's inner circle, and maybe within the president's own mind, have been whether or not to go to war with special counsel Robert Mueller

This is something of a predictable moment since, as we said when Mueller was appointed back in May that it would be hard to imagine a figure who would perturb Trump more than the patrician Boy Scout Mueller.

If you will excuse us for quoting ourselves: "If [James Comey] got Trump's goat, Mueller will get the whole pasture." 

Trump and his team have flirted from time to time since then with the idea of waging open war against Mueller, even as most prominent Republicans praise the former FBI director and say that he and his team should be allowed to finish their work. 

But as we have also talked about in the context of Trump and the Russia matter, as recently as in regard to his attack this week on his own attorney general, Trump seems to believe that other people think and function as he does. 

The basic thesis of Trumpism is that the system is rigged and that Trump can effectively exploit that corruption for the people of the United States as he did for himself personally in his business career. 

If you looked at the world like that, you'd assume then that Mueller – from his Bronze Star as a marine in Vietnam, across his decades of service, through his appointment by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama as FBI director and now as the finder of fact in the Russia probe – is a big fat phony. 

Mueller is exactly the kind of WASP blue blood who Trump has loved taking on and tearing down throughout his life. And now, Mr. Prep-School Prefect is rooting around through Trump's tax returns and business records. 

We won't waste a lot of time talking about if Trump did fire Mueller, or take steps causing Mueller to be fired. To say that it would close the door to a successful presidency is no overstatement. The second firing of the person in charge of an investigation into your own campaign is a very guilty-seeming act. Doing it to a person who is as esteemed and trusted as Mueller would bring the house down. 

The option short of a bloodbath at the Justice Department, however, is to do what Bill Clinton did when he was similarly under siege 20 years ago, and seek to discredit Mueller. Trump is working right out of the Clinton playbook as he tries to turn Mueller into a 21st century Ken Starr.

Certainly, for the 27 percent of voters in this week's Fox News poll who said that they strongly support Trump, attacking Mueller in advance of any findings will help inoculate the president when the evidential findings to come. 

And for surviving the scandal, it may be Trump's only remaining hope. 

Keeping core Trump supporters on board as bad news comes in requires doing just what Trump is doing: Attack the process as corrupt, attack the reporters covering the story and attack the prosecutor on the case. 

For the persuadable members of the other 73 percent of the electorate, though, the question becomes whether Trump is a victim fighting against an unfair system or simply a guilty man taking desperate steps to save his own skin. Is Trump Richard Kimble or Dudley Smith?

THE RULEBOOK: ALL DRESSED UP 
"What degree of agency these reputed lawgivers might have in their respective establishments, or how far they might be clothed with the legitimate authority of the people, cannot in every instance be ascertained." – James MadisonFederalist No. 38

TIME OUT: JUST A TAD
The Atlantic: "On its own, this feature seems doomed to mechanical failure. But the risk is worthwhile to facilitate the toaster's star ability: the 'A Bit More' button. That modest attribute offers a lesson for design of all stripes… The button also makes toasting bread, normally a quantitative act, more qualitative. The lever dials in numerical levels of browning, and the 'A Bit More' button cuts it with you-know-what-I-mean ambiguity. That dance between numbers and feelings apologizes even for a slightly over-browned slice of toast by endearing the eater to the result the button helped produce. … It highlights an obvious but still unseen problem with electric toasters, devices that have been around for more than a century. And then it solves that problem in an elegant way that is also delightful to use. It's just the kind of solution that designers desperately hope to replicate, and users hope to discover in ordinary products." 
 
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -17.2 points
Change from one week ago: -1.4 points

POWER PLAY: YOUR FORECAST? DELICIOUS BACON 
We have a rookie and a vet in this week's weekly news and trivia quiz. Chris Stirewalt welcomes our Fox News colleague Griff Jenkins
for his first time and the return of FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten. Which player will know who was president when an American last walked on the moon? Play along! WATCH HERE

TRUMP OFFICIALS NOW BACK FINDINGS ON RUSSIA 
The Hill: "Top homeland security and intelligence officials in President Trump's administration have thrown their support behind the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential campaign, breaking from the president's own wariness to endorse the findings. At the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on Thursday, Thomas Bossert, the president's homeland security adviser, said there was no question that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election in comments reported by USA Today. 'There is a pretty clear and easy answer to that and that is yes,' Bossert said when asked if he backed the conclusion from U.S. intelligence agencies. … President Trump's CIA Director Mike Pompeo joined Bossert, asserting that Russia had involved itself in several U.S. elections. 'Of course,' Pompeo said Thursday when asked if Russia interfered. 'And the one before that, and the one before that. (Russia) has no intention of backing off.'"

Putin's hackers under attack from Microsoft - Daily Beast: "Last year attorneys for the software maker quietly sued the hacker group known as Fancy Bear in a federal court outside Washington DC, accusing it of computer intrusion, cybersquatting, and infringing on Microsoft's trademarks.  The action, though, is not about dragging the hackers into court. The lawsuit is a tool for Microsoft to target what it calls 'the most vulnerable point' in Fancy Bear's espionage operations: the command-and-control servers the hackers use to covertly direct malware on victim computers."

Congress likely to tie Trump's hands on Russia sanctions - Politico: "Senior Republican lawmakers and aides gave their clearest comments … Thursday that the bill would ultimately move forward without changes sought by the White House, potentially undermining Trump's ability to warm relations with Moscow. The Senate already passed the bill on a 98-2 vote. And while it's stalled in the House amid partisan finger-pointing, most Republicans are joining Democrats to support adding new sanctions while curbing Trump's power to roll back the penalties against Russia."

Special counsel investigating possible money laundering by Manafort - WSJ: "Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating possible money laundering by Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign manager, as part of his criminal investigation into what U.S. intelligence agencies say was a Kremlin-backed campaign to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, according to a person familiar with the matter."

Sessions won't resign for now, but gets Trump's message - Politico: "…the president was sending a message, said a Trump adviser who talked with him after the interview — making a deliberate effort to convey his lingering displeasure with his attorney general [Jeff Sessions], who recused himself in March from the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. "He didn't just do that randomly," the adviser said of the president."

Report: Spokesman for Trump's legal team resigns - Politico: "The spokesman for President Donald Trump's legal team has resigned within two months of being on the job, according to people familiar with the matter. Mark Corallo, the spokesman, had grown frustrated with the operation and the warring factions and lawyers, these people said. Corallo also was concerned about whether he was being told the truth about various matters, one of these people said."

RYAN SELLS TAX REFORM WHILE ON THE ROAD 
Boston Globe: "US House Speaker Paul D. Ryan pitched the outlines of his tax reform package at a sneaker factory Thursday, promising congressional Republicans are more united on that issue than over their ailing health care plan. Addressing local business leaders and New Balance factory workers, Ryan said a simplified, streamlined tax code would goose the national economy, encouraging employers who have sent jobs overseas to bring them home. The Wisconsin Republican said the tax rates for all employers should come down from roughly 35 percent to closer to the average across the rest of the industrialized world of 22.5 percent. He said he wanted to eliminate loopholes and, for individual taxes, cut rates and consolidate deductions. … Still, contending that the current political climate offered a 'once-in-a-generation moment,' Ryan vowed, 'We're going to get this done in 2017.'"

Under fire for opposing health bill, Mike Lee hits back - Politico: "Mike Lee hears the chorus of critics, with blame from the establishment wing of the GOP cascading on the Utah senator for being the Republican that stopped Obamacare repeal. And he's ready to respond. In an interview in his Capitol Hill office Thursday, Lee said he was willing to be the lone senator to bring down his party's health care bill because it did not do much to stop Obamacare in its tracks. 'I'm not being an absolutist,' he said, adding that he didn't need 100 percent of the law to be repealed. 'I'm a little frustrated by some who are eager and willing to call me out for saying this doesn't go far enough in doing what we promised to do for seven years.'"

PLAY-BY-PLAY 
DNC lags behind RNC in June, brings in $5.5 million Free Beacon

Rumored DNC motto ripped straight from Papa John's Pizza WashEx

Trump Picks Richard Grenell for U.S. Ambassador to Germany NYT

Ralph Peters writes about the everyday patriotism of John McCain - NY Post

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This Sunday, Chris Wallace will have Sens. John Thune R-SD., and Ben Cardin D-Md., to discuss passing the GOP healthcare bill. Watch "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week's media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

AUDIBLE: LOWKEY
"Let me put it this way, I'm glad that Trump is drawing all the fire so I can get stuff done." – Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson in an interview with the Wash Ex.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
"I totally understand your arguments about the investigation. Here is the problem. What is the crime we are investigating? What Statute? … There are no parameters in this investigation. I say again, what is the crime? Jeff Sessions can recuse himself all he wants but he is in charge of the AG department budget, so he would well be in his right to ask what is the crime? What are we spending millions investigating? I think that is what frustrates the President." – Doreen HowardNewmarket, N.H.

[Ed. note: It is not illegal, Ms. Howard, to eat maple syrup on your cod cakes or put thumb tacks on your bed. There are lots of things that are not illegal that are still not good to do. The special counsel is investigating what Kremlin agents did to influence the 2016 election, and whether any Americans helped them do it. That focus has fallen to Trump's campaign. Those who suggest that the national-security investigation be suspended because of a technicality – that colluding with a hostile foreign power to interfere with an American election – isn't a black-letter crime seem to express little confidence in the innocence of their president.]

"Why would Russia want Trump in the White House?  Above all else, they want the president to be predictable.  Hillary is predictable; not only that, Russia knows they could walk all over her.  Trump is a wild card; unpredictable and uncontrollable.  It doesn't make sense that Russia would help Trump win the presidency. I don't hear anybody asking that question." – Tom Kilian, Burtrum, Minn.

[Ed. note: The conclusion of the intelligence community, even now under the Trump administration, is that Russian operatives did, in fact, mean to harm Clinton and help Trump. Now, it is possible that they did not expect their efforts to be successful, thinking they would be left with a weakened Hillary. Some of what Trump has done has been more helpful to Moscow than the stated policies of his 2016 opponent. But, some of it has been harsher toward the Kremlin than Clinton might have been. With Clinton, the Russians suspected they'd see a continuation and probably a toughening on the U.S. line against Moscow, but with Trump had plenty of reason to hope that he would favor a thaw. Time will tell if whether they made a good bet or a bad one.]

"Are there polling data available for just those directly affected by the proposed changes in ACA, excluding those on Medicaid, Medicare or having employer-paid insurance? It doesn't seem possible to present an accurate picture of the impact of Republican Healthcare efforts if those not impacted are included in the polls." – Peter Booth, Atlanta

[Ed. note: Well, Mr. Booth, that wouldn't be exactly cricket. After all, the beneficiaries are not the only ones involved. Taxpayers are certainly involved. Everyone with private insurance who sees changes to markets and regulations is certainly involved. Every employee and employer is involved, since the way health insurance is provided is so central to America's working life. Plus, what about those who aren't enrolled in an ObamaCare program this year, but might be next year? That is a long way of saying no issue touches more Americans more intimately than that of health insurance and health care.

"Thank you so much for that 'trail note' link.  I swear that that final line in that article brought a tear to my eye.  Senator McCain is a 'hero' like no other.  He is a 'patriot' and a 'true American' who puts the welfare of others ahead of his own.  I will truly 'never' forgive our 'current president' for his cold/callous and inaccurate words during the campaign in reference to his perception that Senator McCain was no hero. Don't get me wrong, I voted for Mr. Trump - as the alternative was way too dire to even contemplate. But, I have NO RESPECT for any human being who can be so callous and cold and disrespectful in regard to others - especially extraordinary worthy Americans such as John McCain.  I still, to this day, wish with all my heart that Mr. Trump would 'take those words back' in a sincere and heartfelt apology." – Susan St. Onge, Nashua, N.H.

[Ed. note: One of the tests for our words in this life is to consider how we would feel if they were our last to someone else. Different seasons of life call for different responses and attitudes, so we are not able to always be tender, but when we think about how we wish to be received and heard, sometimes it helps to think about the lasting legacy our remarks might leave.]

"Mind your manners, peasant! Address his royal highness as King George! I kid; but what are your top 4 favorite 'King' George Strait
tunes? You gave great Tom Petty recommendations, try your hand at this impossible task! Did Dana make you include this?" – Jack Whiteman, St. Louis 

[Ed. note: I will confess that Strait has never been exactly my particular can of Copenhagen, which is why I found the piece so great. I personally believe that "country-Western" is a misnomer. Texas swing and good Hillbilly music are both enjoyable but have about as little in common as KISS and Bob Seeger. The piece gave me a new appreciation for Strait who, if anyones does, bridges the gap between two disparate genres. His workmanlike style and approach to his music added greatly to my admiration.]

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

THERE'S STIFF COFFEE AND THEN THERE'S STIFF COFFEE…
USA Today: "A Texas company issued a voluntary recall after a substance similar to one used in Viagra was found in its coffee, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration notice. Bestherbs Coffee LLC issued a recall of New of Kopi Jantan Tradisional Natural Herbs Coffee after FDA testing found the presence of desmethyl carbodenafil, according to the FDA. 'Desmethyl carbodenafil is structurally similar to sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, an FDA-approved prescription drug for erectile dysfunction,' the FDA said in a statement. The product also contained undeclared milk, according to the FDA. While the New of Kopi Jantan Tradisional Natural Herbs Coffee is marketed as a male enhancement product, the desmethyl carbodenafil could interact with nitrates in some prescription drugs and possibly lower blood pressure to dangerous levels, the FDA said in a statement."

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
"Look, Trump is completely unconventional. We knew that coming in. But there's a reason for the conventions. And that is you so undercut an underling that he can't really function effectively, and that's what's just happened now." – Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier."

 


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