Fox News Halftime Report -- The end of the Trump-GOP honeymoon

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Fox News Halftime Report

August 1, 2017

By Chris Stirewalt

On the roster: The end of the Trump-GOP honeymoon - Report: Trump authored false statement on meeting - Senate pivots to taxes, ignoring Trump demands - Heat is on Wasserman Schultz over I.T. aide - Burnasaurus Rex

THE END OF THE TRUMP-GOP HONEYMOON
The tacit agreement between Donald Trump and the Republican Party was that if the GOP helped him get elected, he would deliver on party priorities.

For the opening months of the Trump administration, this compact served Trump well. Aside from appointing conservatives to key posts, especially Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump also used his executive authority to roll back Obama-era regulations and advance key right-wing agenda items.

When the Russia scandal or presidential intemperance reared up, even those who were deeply skeptical of Trump, could shrug it off and point to concrete accomplishments and, most importantly, the fact that Hillary Clinton wasn't presently grinding their bones into dust.

Trump never had a "honeymoon" in the traditional sense, but he certainly enjoyed a lengthy grace period with his adopted party. We seem to be coming to the end of that phase.

The Trump-GOP truce has been in jeopardy before, with the president threatening to ditch balky Republicans and carve out a new coalition with his staunchest supporters and Democrats to pass measures on big-ticket items like taxes and infrastructure. When he found no Democrats willing to play, the president quickly reverted to the GOP brand.

But the summer has been unkind to that always-strained relationship.

The most recent fraying follows the ouster of two of the highest ranking Republicans, Sean Spicer and Reince Preibus, from the administration. These two were a big part of Trump's nod to the GOP establishment, but are now gone with The Mooch.

But more significant than that has been Trump's sustained assault on Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions is well-regarded by Republicans across the ideological spectrum, and Trump's demeaning treatment of his attorney general has left many wondering where the limit is for the president on attacking his party.

The staff shakeup at the White House and the scourging of Sessions has all been related to the central issue to the president: The ongoing investigation into his 2016 campaign by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

From the moment Trump flamboyantly fired former FBI Director James Comey, members of his own party have been increasingly unwilling to stick their necks out to declare the president innocent of wrongdoing. And with the revelation that the president's son, son-in-law and top aides met with Kremlin-connected operatives, that unwillingness has turned into almost obduracy.

This, understandably, infuriates Trump, who very plainly sees Mueller as corrupt and the investigation as an attempt by Democrats to strip him of power.

And right at the moment when Trump's anger over what he sees as his persecution was reaching a crescendo, the Republicans in Congress not only dealt him a stinging defeat on a bill to prop up ObamaCare but simultaneously jammed him up with a set of tough new sanctions against Russia.

Trump, who still refuses to accept his intelligence chiefs' conclusion that Russia was behind the theft and distribution of embarrassing emails from the Clinton campaign, is essentially being forced into signing legislation that bases new sanctions on that very conduct.

Trump's second son, Eric, vented his father's frustrations in an interview with Sean Hannity, saying: "[Donald Trump] is the best fighter in the world. He will do a better job fighting for himself than all of them [Republicans] will do fighting for him. But how much weight does he have to carry by himself?"

That kind of sums up the problem. Republicans are willing to fight for an agenda, but not for Trump himself, whom they have mostly treated as a means to an end.

But Trump now wants personal loyalty, not the conditional or situational loyalty on which he predicated his relationship with his party. As Sessions has discovered, the dangers of such mismatched expectations are severe.

The president has a new, non-partisan chief of staff who is simultaneously trying to enforce order on the chaotic administration (and its chief executive) and open up new lines with Democrats in a bid to revive Trump's agenda. And given the degree to which Republicans have increasingly disregarded Trump's demands, it may be the best option.

But assuming John Kelly finds that Democrats remain staunchly opposed to helping Trump, what promises to lay ahead for the administration and the GOP is intensifying enmity.

The next two months will bring some of the most difficult policy choices so far on debt, spending, national security and, yes, ObamaCare. It is also sure to feature more bombshells about the ongoing investigation.

If Trump and the Republicans in Congress can't bring back that loving feeling before September, this promises to be a very unhappy breakup for both.

THE RULEBOOK: ALL TOGETHER NOW
"It is well worthy of consideration therefore, whether it would conduce more to the interest of the people of America that they should, to all general purposes, be one nation, under one federal government, or that they should divide themselves into separate confederacies…" – John Jay, Federalist No. 2

TIME OUT: OH, THE HUMANITIES…
Atlantic: "By its very name, the liberal-arts pathway is tinged with privilege. Blame this on Cicero, the ancient Roman orator, who championed the arts quae libero sunt dignae (cerebral studies suited for freemen), as opposed to the practical, servile arts suited for lower-class tradespeople. Even today, liberal-arts majors in the humanities and social sciences often are portrayed as pursuing elitist specialties… Look more closely, though, and this old stereotype is starting to crumble. … A close look at the career trajectories of liberal-arts graduates highlights five factors—beyond traditional classroom academics… Strong support from a faculty mentor is a powerful early propellant. … Other positive factors include a commitment to keep learning after college; a willingness to move to major U.S. job hubs… and the audacity to dream big. Finally, students who enter college without well-connected relatives … benefit from programs designed to build up professional networks and social capital."

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

SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -17.6 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.8 points

[President Trump's score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

REPORT: TRUMP AUTHORED FALSE STATEMENT ON MEETING
WaPo: "On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany last month, President Trump's advisers discussed how to respond to a new revelation that Trump's oldest son had met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign — a disclosure the advisers knew carried political and potentially legal peril. The strategy, the advisers agreed, should be for Donald Trump Jr. to release a statement to get ahead of the story. They wanted to be truthful, so their account couldn't be repudiated later if the full details emerged. But within hours, at the president's direction, the plan changed. Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had 'primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children' when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations."

Putin intensifies showdown with troop deployment - NYT: "Russia is preparing to send as many as 100,000 troops to the eastern edge of NATO territory at the end of the summer, one of the biggest steps yet in the military buildup undertaken by President Vladimir V. Putin and an exercise in intimidation that recalls the most ominous days of the Cold War."

Rep. Trent Franks calls on Mueller to resign - WaPo: "Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), a staunch conservative and one of the more senior members of the House Judiciary Committee, argued that [Robert Mueller] and former FBI director James B. Comey have 'a close friendship' and that Mueller 'appears to be a partisan arbiter of justice.'"

Sen. Jeff Flake: 'My party is in denial about Donald Trump' - Politico: "I've been sympathetic to this impulse to denial, as one doesn't ever want to believe that the government of the United States has been made dysfunctional at the highest levels, especially by the actions of one's own party. Michael Gerson, a con­servative columnist and former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, wrote, four months into the new presidency, 'The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased,' and conservative institutions 'with the blessings of a president … have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion.' For a conservative, that's an awfully bitter pill to swallow."

Rory Cooper: The dangers of presidential cynicism - Time: "A modest temperament grounds a leader who must make life-altering decisions, and it reminds him or her of who and what they represent. For a president to spread their cynicism onto staff is disturbing. It's small. And cruel."

SENATE PIVOTS TO TAXES, IGNORING TRUMP DEMANDS
The Hill: "Senate Republicans appear poised to ignore President Trump's demands that they immediately resurrect ObamaCare repeal and abolish the legislative filibuster. Trump has waged a public pressure campaign against GOP senators since they failed to pass even a 'skinny' bill repealing ObamaCare last week. Unless Republicans are 'total quitters,' Trump tweeted, they will revive their years-long effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare. … But Trump's demands might fall on deaf ears. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) warned reporters Monday not to 'leap to conclusions' that Republicans won't be able to pass a healthcare bill, but appeared to hint that a second vote isn't imminent. … [Mitch McConnell] shot down previous calls from Trump to end the legislative filibuster. … Asked if that was still McConnell's position, a spokesman for the Kentucky Republican said that if Senate Republicans change their mind on the rules, they'd make an announcement."

Conservatives challenge Trump to revoke Obamacare subsidy for Congress - Wash Times: "Top conservatives challenged President Trump on Monday to revoke the special $12,000 Obamacare subsidy members of Congress receive each year courtesy of taxpayers, saying the best way to force lawmakers back to the bargaining table is to force them to fully obey the struggling law. Mr. Trump appears to be on board, having tweeted twice in recent days that it was unfair for Congress to give itself extra help to pay for insurance premiums when average Americans are struggling."

Trump on tricky legal ground - AP: "President Donald Trump's threat to stop billions of dollars in government payments to insurers and force the collapse of 'Obamacare' could put the government in a tricky legal situation. Legal experts say he'd be handing insurers a solid court case, while undermining his own leverage to compel Democrats to negotiate, especially if premiums jump by 20 percent as expected after such a move."

HEAT IS ON WASSERMAN SCHULTZ OVER I.T. AIDE
Fox News: "Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is coming under mounting pressure to explain why she kept an IT aide on the payroll for months after a criminal investigation was revealed, facing calls from Republicans to testify as well as a newly filed ethics complaint. Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman who led the Democratic National Committee until last year, terminated Imran Awan's "part-time" employment last week, when he was arrested at Dulles International Airport trying to fly to Pakistan. He was charged with a bank fraud count. But he and other former IT aides for House Democrats have been on investigators' radar screen for months over concerns about possible double-billing, alleged equipment theft and access to sensitive computer systems. Most lawmakers fired Awan in March, but Schultz kept him on, though he was barred from the House IT network."

Uproar after Dem House campaign boss drops abortion litmus test - Daily Caller: "The Democratic party is facing a revolt from the left after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman said the party would back pro-life candidates in 2018. The DCCC chairman, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, told The Hill that there will not be 'a litmus test' for candidates on the subject of abortion. Lujan's comments come as Democrats attempt to rebuild a broken party that has hemorrhaged elected offices on both the state and national level. Lujan's comments sparked immediate outrage from left-wingers. 'I'm afraid I'll be with holding support for the DCCC if this is true,' said former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose name was briefly floated this year as a candidate for DNC chair. 'What better strategy than to betray their base and reaffirm that women's basic rights are negotiable and disposable,' said prominent liberal columnist Jill Filipovic."

Some Dems reject new party talking points - Politico: "Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill will spend the next 15 months talking up the "Better Deal" economic message they unveiled last week. What's not clear is whether anyone else will follow. The national party remains far from consensus on a unified message – Democrats can't even agree on whether the party needs one. 'Just as there isn't one kind of Democrat, there [is] not just one kind of message that works,' said California Rep. Jim Costa, a Blue Dog Coalition co-chair. 'One size doesn't fit all. We have an economically diverse country.'"

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Obama's inner circle is urging Deval Patrick to run in 2020 - Politico

Stephen L. Miller: The reality of "Senator Kid Rock" - Fox News

White House officials tricked by email prankster - CNN

AUDIBLE: HEY-O!
"They thought we colluded, but we couldn't even collude with our local offices." –Senior Adviser to the President Jared Kushner joking with congressional interns about the 2016 election, according to the magazine Foreign Policy.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
"Why does there never seem to be any discussion around US healthcare becoming more like the German statutory system of 'universal multi-payer' health care? They have been tweaking their model since the 1880's with seemingly minor pain except for the potential and too often quite real 'overuse / abuse' of too many procedures that are either redundant or not medically necessary. Can't we learn from that and improve on it? It seems that they also in some way 'encourage' the proliferation of non-profit hospitals, medical facilities and insurance companies. Somewhat ironically it seems that in the US currently it is the non-profit hospitals that are making money and the for-profit ones are collapsing and / or being gobbled up rapidly in mergers and acquisitions." – Jim Burrow, Colleyville, Texas

[Ed. note: One of the central problems with the issue of health care is that popular sentiment is a terrible way to gauge what would work best. Like foreign policy, it's one of those issues on which leaders often have to reject the will of the electorate in order to carry out rational policies. The more intimately involved the government becomes in the application of health care, the less likely we will be to see rational policy applications. Who would vote against care for the sick? Who would risk infuriating voters by closing hospitals? There are lots of irrational ways of providing health care to people. Trust that in time, lawmakers will try them all.]

"I've come to really look forward to the Halftime Report. I think you do a great job being fair to both sides of the aisle. And I'll admit that I have more than half my body standing on the left side of the aisle. My question for you, difficult as it may be, is about how many congressmen and women do we currently have that could be considered centrists? And are there enough of them that a bipartisan coalition could actually be productive?  And, finally, is it even possible in today's America to have a bipartisan coalition? I'm sure it's a pipe dream but it would be great to see more efforts at finding bipartisan solutions. I have to believe the country is starving for that." – Scott Sheridan, Park Ridge, N.J.

[Ed. note: Thanks for the kind note, Mr. Sheridan! Maybe not a pipe dream, but certainly far off at the moment. The problem, as we have discussed before, is that in our well-sorted electorate, there is little incentive for lawmakers in either party to get caught working with members from the other side. Primary elections are a concern, so too is an increasing reliance on the strategy of base intensity to win general elections – and certainly one begets the other. But the door is certainly open for centrists who can find a way to hack the system.]

BURNASAURUS REX
The [U.K.] Telegraph: "The Natural History Museum has been forced to change a dinosaur display after a 10-year-old boy pointed out a mistake. Charlie Edwards was enjoying a birthday 'sleepover' at the world famous attraction when he noticed the error. Charlie realised a silhouette display which was meant to represent an Oviraptor - a small carnivore with a parrot-like beak - was in fact a completely different dinosaur. Museum staff had mistakenly used a silhouette of a Protoceratops which was a sheep-sized herbivore. Charlie told his parents - Justin and Jade, both 29, about what he had spotted but their initial reaction was uncertainty as they could not believe it would be the museum's mistake. But the passionate amateur palaeontologist refused to back down and after returning home Charlie's family e-mailed The Natural History Museum to see if he was correct. Jade was delighted to receive a reply confirming that Charlie's instinct was spot-on and the museum even sent him a letter thanking him for his efforts."

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
"Scaramucci, we hardly knew ye. Though, I think he would be a better contestant on "Dancing With The Stars" than Spicey would." – Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier."



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