Trump to reinstate US military ban on transgender people

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving “in any capacity” in the US armed forces.

The decision reversed a policy initially approved by the Defense Department under President Barack Obama, which was still under final review, that would allow transgender individuals to openly serve in the military. Defense Secretary James Mattis announced last month that he was delaying enactment of the plan to begin allowing transgender individuals to join the US military.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump said in a series of tweets Wednesday morning. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
    “Thank you,” he added.
    But Trump’s decision came without a plan in place to implement it.
    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not have an answer on what would happen to active transgender military members but said the White House and the Defense Department would work together “as implementation takes place and is done so lawfully.”
    Sanders said transgender service “erodes military readiness and unit cohesion” citing health costs. She said the move was based on a “military decision” and is “not meant to be anything more than” that.
    Sanders said the decision was made based “on what was best for the military” and was made in council with the President’s national security team.
    Ash Carter, the Defense secretary under Obama, ended the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military in 2016, but allowed for a year-long review process to allow the Pentagon to determine how it would accept new transgender recruits into the military.
    On the eve of that one-year deadline, Mattis announced that he was delaying the implementation of the new policy, saying he needed more time.
    “Since becoming the Secretary of Defense, I have emphasized that the Department of Defense must measure each policy decision against one critical standard: will the decision affect the readiness and lethality of the force?” Mattis said in a memo late last month. “Put another way, how will the decision affect the ability of America’s military to defend the nation? It is against this standard that I provide the following guidance on the way forward in accessing transgender individuals into the military Services.”
    A 2016 Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a “minimal impact” on readiness and health care costs, largely because there are so few in the military’s 1.3 million-member force.
    The study put the number of transgender people in the military between 1,320 and 6,630. Gender-change surgery is rare in the general population, and the RAND study estimated the possibility of 30 to 140 new hormone treatments a year in the military, with 25 to 130 gender transition-related surgeries among active service members. The cost could range from $2.4 million and $8.4 million, an amount that would represent an “exceedingly small proportion” of total health care expenditures, the study found.

    Trump’s decision marks a setback for LGBT rights groups who have expressed concerns that the Trump administration could chip away at progress the community has seen in recent years on the backs of a series of landmark decisions in recent years that have included the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide and a repeal of the ban on gay people openly serving in the military.
    Trump’s decision is also another setback for the transgender community following his decision several months ago to reverse an Obama administration policy allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.
    The announcement was immediately criticized by LGBT leaders and civil rights groups.
    The American Civil Liberties Union called the decision “outrageous and desperate” and said it was exploring ways to fight the policy shift.
    “Let us be clear. This has been studied extensively, and the consensus is clear: There are no cost or military readiness drawbacks associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country. The President is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country,” said Joshua Block, the senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project.
    Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, the vice chair of the congressional LGBT caucus, called Trump’s decision a “slap in the face to the thousands of transgender Americans already serving in the military” and said it “undermines our military’s readiness.”
    “Anyone who is willing to put on the uniform of the United States and risk their life in service to our country should be celebrated as patriots, regardless of their gender identity. This short-sighted and discriminatory policy will make America less safe,” said Kildee.
    The Obama administration faced heated criticism from conservatives last year when it announced the repeal of the ban, and several Republican members of Congress have urged the Trump administration to reverse the decision, saying that the decision does not serve the US’ defense interests.
    The President’s decision flies in the face of his 2016 campaign rhetoric, when he said he would be a strong defender of the LGBT community — and even claimed he would be a better president for LGBT Americans than his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
    Trump seized on the terrorist attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, as an opportunity to reach out to the LGBT community and promised he would be a better friend to the community than Clinton.
    “I will tell you who the better friend is and some day I believe that will be proven out big league,” Trump said.

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    Amid 2020 buzz, Warren urges Democrats to reject centrist policies and move leftward

    Atlanta (CNN)In the aftermath of last year’s election, the centrist old guard is out and progressives have won the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party, Elizabeth Warren declared Saturday.

    “But, boy, we’ve inherited a hell of a challenge, haven’t we?” she said at an annual gathering here of thousands of progressive activists.
    In a speech that outlined Warren’s vision for the party’s future, the Massachusetts senator offered a series of policy prescriptions, calling on Democrats to push for Medicare for all, debt-free college or technical school, universal pre-kindergarten, a $15-an-hour minimum wage and portable benefits.
      She dug in against President Donald Trump, saying Democrats would defend undocumented immigrants brought into the United States as children and that “we’re never, ever going to build your stupid wall.”
      And she celebrated the ascendant progressive wing’s takeover of the party — which has accelerated since November’s election.
      “We don’t have to tip-toe anymore. We don’t have to hedge our bets,” Warren said.
      Through her speech, Warren didn’t shy away from the prospect of a 2020 campaign for the presidency.
      “We’re going to fight to put more women in positions of power,” she said at one point, “from committee rooms to boardrooms to that really nice oval-shaped room at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
      The crowd responded with chants of “Warren 2020!” Warren paused and smiled, and then moved on without directly addressing the chants.
      Warren is already seen as one of Democrats’ foremost voices — along with Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders — on progressives’ economic policies.
      So she used her speech in front of about 3,000 attendees at the progressive Netroots Nation conference Saturday to dive into issues of culture, which have split progressive and centrist Democrats since Hillary Clinton’s loss in November.
      In a shot at Bill Clinton-era Democratic policies, Warren said Democrats are not “going back to the days of welfare reform and the crime bill.”
      “We’re not going back to the days of being lukewarm on choice,” she said. “We’re not going back to the days when universal health care was something Democrats talked about on the campaign trail but were too chicken to fight for after they got elected.”
      Warren’s comments came at a crucial moment for the Democratic Party.
      Its base is energized by the fight against Trump, and Democrats were thrilled to see the GOP effort to repeal former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act fail in late July.
      However, the party is also without a national leader, and its path forward on policy is not yet settled.
      For the first time in decades, Democrats reacted to a national election loss by moving leftward — rather than to the center. The party’s leaders have embraced confrontational tactics against Trump, while a growing list of its top prospects for the 2020 presidential race — including Warren — are embracing Sanders’ call for a “Medicare for all” single-payer health care system.
      But that shift has caused consternation in some quarters. Some leading Democrats — including Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy — recently backed the launch of a group called “New Democracy,” aimed at moving Democrats toward positions that can win over moderates, independents and disaffected Republicans.
      Warren pointed to a New York Times op-ed by Mark Penn, a Hillary Clinton 2008 campaign strategist, who called for the party to abandon “identity politics.”
      Warren noted that those calls, after previous election losses, had prevailed.
      “This time, no one cared,” she said. “Big yawn.”
      “In the wake of the last election, I’ve heard people say we need to decide whether we’re the party of the white working class or the party of Black Lives Matter,” Warren said.
      “I say we can care about a dad who’s worried that his kid will have to move away from their factory town to find good work — and we can care about a mom who’s worried that her kid will get shot during a traffic stop,” she said. “The way I see it, those two parents have something deep down in common — the system is rigged against both of them — and against their kids.”
      Warren argued that many of the voters who abandoned Democrats and either fell into Trump’s camp or stayed home in November because they see a “rigged” system and “don’t feel like anyone in politics is doing anything to un-rig it, or it’s too broken to un-rig at all.”
      “So spare me the argument about whether we ought to be trying to bring back folks who voted for Donald Trump or trying to turn out folks who just didn’t vote,” she said. “Because we can’t do either of those things until we can show that things can change — and that we will fight to change them.”
      Warren broke out her biggest applause line mid-speech, saying Democrats don’t need permission from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — a reference to a clash between her and the Kentucky Republican earlier this year.
      “He would probably tell me to sit down and shut up,” Warren said. “Nevertheless, I would persist.”

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      The 39 most eyebrow-raising Donald Trump quotes today

      (CNN)After largely avoiding the media since a solo press conference in mid-February, President Donald Trump held two extended press availabilities on Thursday at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

      Below, I picked out the 39 most remarkable quotes from Trump. They’re in no order other than the way I heard them.
      1. “The people who were questioning that statement, ‘was it too tough,’ maybe it wasn’t tough enough. They have been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years. It us about time someone stuck up for the people of other country (sic). If anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough and we are backed by 100% by our military, we are backed by everybody and we are backed by many other leaders.”
        So, when Trump said Tuesday that “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States, …they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” the problem wasn’t that he went too far, it was that he didn’t go far enough. Aha! And yes, this is a classic example of Trump leaning into criticism and refusing to ever even consider apologizing or pulling back from something he said off-the-cuff.
        2. “For a thing like that to happen is a disgrace. And frankly, it shouldn’t have happened. That I can tell you — it shouldn’t have happened.”
        Trump is talking here about the one-vote failure of the Senate Republican attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. What’s interesting is that, by all accounts, Trump was at best a neutral force in the attempts to bring 50 GOP senators on board — and he may have been a negative one. His public threat to Republican Sen. Dean Heller and his attempts at persuading GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) all seem to have backfired, making passage of not only health care but any other major legislation that much more difficult.
        3. “Well, I’ll tell you what, if he doesn’t get repeal and replace done and if he doesn’t get taxes done, meaning cuts and reform, and if he doesn’t get a very easy one to get done, infrastructure — if he doesn’t get them done, then you can ask me that question.”
        The president of the United States floating the possibility of the Senate majority leader (of his party) stepping down. No words.
        4. “The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially, right now, it is an emergency. It’s a national emergency.”
        Yes, Trump declared a national emergency on the spot. And, yes, that decision did seem to conflict with what his administration had said a few days earlier.
        5. “There are no mixed messages. There are no mixed messages.”
        6. “The people of this country should be very comfortable, and I will tell you this: If North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about (attacking) anybody that we love or we represent or our allies or us, they can be very, very nervous. I’ll tell you what.”
        This is, um, not terribly reassuring.
        7. “I have great respect for China and Russia, what they did on sanctions. I believe that will have an effect. I don’t think it will have the kind of effect, even though I was the one — we were the ones that got it.”
        Trump is trying to claim credit here for the 15-0 UN Security Council vote on tightening sanctions against North Korea while also, seemingly, getting on-record that he doesn’t think they will work.
        8. “But, if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade, a lot differently toward trade. So we will do — I think it’s — I — the people of our country are safe. Our allies are safe.”
        Um, OK. So, China should help more on North Korea and then we will do something with them on trade. Also, our allies are safe.
        9. “We are having a meeting today. We (inaudible) a much larger group than this. This is the finals.”
        “The finals.” Everything a competition, everything a reality show.
        10. “But that has been a place — 17 years, our longest wars, I read in one of your columns.”
        Trump is talking about Afghanistan here. But it’s worth noting the “I read in one of your columns” reference — proving, for the billionth time, that he consumes more media than any previous president.
        11. “He’s our friend. He’s my friend. And he’s a very talented man. I like him and I respect him.”
        So, would you say national security adviser H.R. McMaster is a friend of mine or a friend of ours?
        12. “I think I have great support, or have had great support from that community. I got a lot of votes.”
        Trump is saying he got a “lot of votes” from the transgender community. Which, in case you were wondering, is not quantifiable in any way.
        13. “No, I want to thank him, because we’re trying to cut down on payroll. And as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll.”
        This may be the oddest moment of the entire day. Trump is saying here that he appreciates Russian President Vladimir Putin expelling hundreds of US diplomats from the country. It would seem Trump is a) unaware that Putin did this as a penalty to the United States and b) these diplomats are still on the payroll.
        14. “I thought it was a very, very strong signal, or whatever.”
        Trump’s take on the pre-dawn raid of one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s Virginia home by the FBI. It did send a strong signal. Or whatever.
        15. “But to do that early in the morning, whether or not it was appropriate, you’d have to ask them.”
        In truth, no one likes to get up before dawn. Especially when the people doing the waking up are FBI agents seizing things they believe are connected to a special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in a presidential election.
        16. “To wake him up, perhaps his family was there — I think that’s pretty tough stuff.”
        The real crime here is waking Manafort up. He could have been in REM sleep for all we know!
        17. “It’s fine. It is what it is. It’s fine.”
        Two things here: 1) “it is what it is” is the worst phrase ever and needs to be excised from the English language 2) If I am Attorney General Jeff Sessions, this is not exactly the endorsement I was looking for from the boss.
        18. “We had 42 to 48 bills passed.”
        It’s one or the other right? Not a range?
        19. “I think that General Kelly is going to be a fantastic chief of staff, however.”
        That’s how Trump finished his answer to a question about whether he had confidence in Sessions. So…
        20. “He got away with it for a long time, between him and his family. He’s not getting away with it. This is a whole new ballgame.”
        Shorter Trump on Kim Jong Un: There’s a new sheriff in town. Or a new baseball manager. One or the other.
        21. “You’ll see. You’ll see. And he’ll see. He will see.”
        Yes, we will. All see. Or will we?
        22.”It’s not a dare. It’s a statement. It has nothing to do with dare. That’s a statement.”
        No dare! No dare! Just a statement.
        23. “Yeah, nuclear to me — number one, I would like to de-nuke the world.”
        Trump nuclear policy: Step 1 — de-nuke the world. Step 2: See step 1.
        24. “And nobody, including North Korea, is going to be threatening us with anything.”
        25. “I did extremely well with the military vote.”
        Among the 13% of voters who were military veterans, Trump beat Clinton 60%-34%. Also, the election ended 275 days ago.
        26. “We’re … increasing our budget by many billions of dollars, because of North Korea and other reasons, having to do with the anti-missile.”
        Ah, yes. The “anti-missile.”
        27. “You have the leaks where people want to love me and they’re all fighting for love.”
        The love leaks, of course. What Trump is trying to say is there is a difference between leaks of classified information and leaks about who is in good with the President and who isn’t. He is right about that.
        28. “So they’re investigating something that never happened.”
        This is Trump’s take on the special counsel investigation being run by Robert Mueller. Trump’s argument is that no collusion has been proven and so the investigation is a waste of time. The special counsel was convened, however to look at Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election primarily, and possible collusion secondarily.
        29. “Russia — is very important for Russia, oil. Oil and gas.”
        [Nods head] Yes, yes. Go on…
        30. “The Democrats colluded on the Ukraine. So they colluded.”
        This has been a hobbyhorse for Trump — and conservative media — for some time. The allegation is that a woman named Alexandra Chalupa, who worked as a consultant to the Democratic National Committee, served as a conduit for damaging information about Trump via the Ukraine. Here’s a good piece that explains all that.
        31. “Did they do something wrong because they didn’t file the right document or whatever? Perhaps. You’ll have to look at them.”
        Did some people who work for me break the rules? Maybe. But that’s their problem.
        32. “I’m not dismissing anybody.”
        Trump knocks down rumors that he might fire Mueller. Of course, given his changeability from day to day, this promise has a quick expiration date.
        33. “There’s no — there is no collusion. You know why? Because I don’t speak to Russians.”
        That Trump doesn’t speak to the Russians is not proof — or anything close to it — that there was no collusion in the election. To be clear: There is no proof that collusion happened. But this is not evidence it didn’t.
        34. “I won because I went to Wisconsin. I went to Michigan. I won Pennsylvania.”
        The election happened 275 days ago.
        35. “I’m very disappointed in Mitch. But if he gets these bills passed, I’ll be very happy with him.”
        Look, Mitch. You are giving me a sad face right now. But pass some bills I want and that frown will turn upside down!
        36. “He just left the Democratic Party, and he became a Republican, which was a great moment; hasn’t happened in many years.”
        Democratic Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia announced plans to switch parties last week. But party switching is slightly more common than Trump seems to believe.
        37. “They make the Apple iPhones. They make all of the desktop. They make — they’re the biggest in the world.”
        They make the desktop. So true.
        38. “Nobody has better respect for intelligence than Donald Trump.”
        And no one — and I mean no one — goes third person like Donald Trump.
        39. “I don’t know that it’ll be the end-all, but I think it’ll be a very, very — I think it’ll have a big impact on North Korea and what they’re doing.”
        This feels like a good place to end.

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        Trump at 200 days: Declining approval amid widespread mistrust

        (CNN)Six months into his presidency, Donald Trump’s overall approval rating stands at its lowest point in CNN polling, while three-quarters of Americans say they can’t trust most of what they hear from the White House.

        Overall, 38% say they approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, with 56% saying they disapprove. Just one other newly-elected president has held an approval rating below 50% at this point in his presidency since modern polling began: Bill Clinton, whose approval rating stood at 44% at this point in 1993.
        Enthusiasm breaks against Trump by a 2-to-1 margin. Nearly half in the new poll say they strongly disapprove of Trump’s handling of the job (47%), while just a quarter say they feel strongly positive about Trump’s performance (24%).

          Those numbers have soured in recent months, particularly among Trump’s core supporters. Among Republicans, strong approval has dropped from 73% in February to 59% now. Among whites who do not have college degrees, a core component of Trump’s base, just 35% strongly approve, down 12 points since February. At the same time, strong disapproval among Democrats has held steady around 80%.
          On top issues, Trump’s approval ratings largely tilt negative. And perceptions of the President as someone who will bring change are fading. Just 43% say Trump can “bring the kind of change the country needs,” down from 48% in April, and the share who say he “can manage the government effectively” now stands at 39%, down from 44% in April.
          The poll finds widespread doubts about the veracity of information coming from the White House. Only a quarter of Americans (24%) say they trust all or most of what they hear in official communications from the White House, while more (30%) say they trust “nothing at all” that they hear from the President’s office. (Even among Republicans, only about half say they can trust most of what they hear from the White House.)

          Trump’s acumen as a manager and ability to bring change were the brightest spots for the President in polling conducted before he took office. But cracks in Trump’s base of support are evident in the results on those questions now.
          Among Republicans and independents who lean Republican, the share saying Trump can manage the government effectively has dipped 10 points since April’s CNN/ORC poll. Among whites without a college degree, just 50% see Trump as an effective manager. Those non-college whites are also less likely to see Trump as a change agent, 58% say so now, down from 64% in April.
          Still, these tepid ratings come even as most Americans feel things in the country are going well (53% say so), a number that’s held roughly steady since April.
          That positive feeling hasn’t boosted Trump’s ratings on the issues, however. He gets a mixed 48% approve to 47% disapprove rating on national security, and Americans are also divided on his handling of the economy (47% disapprove to 45% approve). On just about every other issue tested, majorities disapprove of Trump’s work, including on health care policy (62%), foreign affairs (61%), immigration (55%) and helping the middle class (54%). Nearly half (48%) disapprove of his handling of taxes while just 34% approve.
          Looking back over the first 200 days of Trump’s time in office, just 36% say they consider it a success, and 59% consider it a failure. Both Barack Obama and George W. Bush were viewed as successful at this stage of their presidency by most Americans (56% for Bush, 51% for Obama).
          Further, 62% overall say that Trump’s statements and actions since taking office have made them less confident in his ability to be president. Half of whites without college degrees share that view.
          The day-to-day operations of the executive branch appear to be chipping away at confidence in Trump and his management style. Most Americans (59%) say Trump hasn’t paid enough attention to the country’s most important problems. About the same number say his management style and the high rate of turnover in the West Wing hurts the administration’s ability to be effective (58%). Slightly more say Trump has done a poor job assembling a team of top advisers to work in the White House (62%, up from 56% saying so in April).
          Personal praise for the President is scarce, just 30% say they admire the President, and 34% say they are proud to have him as president. A majority (55%) say he has lowered the stature of the office of the president. Six in 10 don’t consider Trump honest and trustworthy.
          Looking more deeply at Trump’s tweets: About 7 in 10 agree with the President’s assessment that they allow him to communicate directly with his supporters without a media filter, but fewer see other positives in his use of the social media service.
          A majority (52%) say his tweets are not an effective way for him to share his views on important issues, and 72% say they do not send the right message to other world leaders.
          Seven in 10 say they too often seem to be in response to TV news the President may have seen, and 71% that they are a risky way for a president to communicate. Six in 10 say they are easy to misunderstand, 63% that they too often turn out to be misleading.
          Few Americans report having personally shared or responded to a tweet from Trump, just 10% say they’ve done that on Twitter or other social media platforms.
          The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS by telephone August 3 through 6 among a random national sample of 1,018 adults. The margin of sampling error for results among the full sample is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, it is larger for subgroups.

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          Four tribes of Trump’s GOP opposition

          Washington (CNN)Democrats aren’t the only people in Washington who have stood in the way of Donald Trump’s agenda over his first six months in office.

          Even members of the Republican President’s own party haven’t been the easiest to work with at the beginning of his term, disagreeing on everything from the Russia investigation to health care reform to those early morning tweets.
          The President’s relationship with Republicans in Congress has become more complicated after he criticized senators for not passing a health reform bill and then large majorities passed a Russian sanctions bill over his objection.
            So who are these Republicans who aren’t always on board with Trump? They range from moderate governors to conservatives in the Senate — and when it comes to Trump’s tweets — more Republicans than you might think.
            Here are the four tribes of Republicans who have stood up to Donald Trump.

            1. The libertarian leaners

              Sen. Mike Lee pens new book on figures left out of history

            Some libertarian-leaning Republicans and conservatives on the far right of the political spectrum haven’t been afraid to voice their opposition to Trump and his agenda.
            Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz were three of the several initial holdouts in the Senate health care debate. Trump has a particularly unique rivalry with Cruz, who ran against Trump in the 2016 presidential election and failed to endorse him at the GOP convention. Sen. Ben Sasse also often falls into this orbit.
            Meanwhile, on the House side, the libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash from Michigan has also voiced his opposition to Trump. He’s been one of the few Republicans to even mention the word impeachment and has been outspokenly critical at times against the President.

            2. The moderate wing

              Collins, Murkowski open up about ‘no’ vote

            Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have repeatedly been the reliable GOP opposition in the Senate — on Betsy DeVos’s nomination to become secretary of education, on allowing states to strip funding from Planned Parenthood and on multiple health care reform votes.
            Meanwhile, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and his state’s governor, Brian Sandoval, opposed the GOP health care plan through much of the process, as did West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. Heller made a forceful speech in June opposing an early version of the bill, calling it “not the answer.” Heller and Capito, however, did vote to advance the “skinny repeal” amendment backed by McConnell and most of the GOP caucus.
            Other moderates who haven’t hesitated to oppose the President include Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, who like Heller, faces a tough re-election battle in 2018.

            3. The bipartisan advocates

              Sen. Flake: GOP is facing an identity crisis

            Some more moderate Republicans and also conservatives have explicitly made arguments appealing to a higher sense of bipartisanship and integrity while opposing the Trump agenda.
            Sen. Jeff Flake waded into this camp in an excerpt of his book in Politico this week. “There was a time when the leadership of the Congress from both parties felt an institutional loyalty that would frequently create bonds across party lines in defense of congressional prerogatives in a unified front against the White House, regardless of the president’s party,” he wrote.
            Sen. John McCain made similar remarks from the Senate floor days after his brain cancer diagnosis and before sinking the health care bill.
            “I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us,” he said.
            Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of Trump’s primary rivals in 2016, has been calling for bipartisanship and critiquing the President from afar. Collins and Murkowski have also made these calls, especially during the health care debate.

            4. The Twitter opposition

            But many more Republicans — including some who don’t usually hold themselves in opposition to the President — have voiced concern about his tweets.
            Trump has raised eyebrows throughout the campaign and his young presidency with tweets about everything from Russia to Hillary Clinton to criticizing his own attorney general.
            Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described Trump’s tweets amid the health care debate as making his job “more challenging.”
            Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse called a June tweet about MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski “beneath the dignity of your office” and Sen. Lindsey Graham agreed. And Speaker Paul Ryan said he didn’t “see that as an appropriate comment” lamenting that it did not help attempts to improve the civility of politics in Washington.
            And Republican voters agree. A majority of Republicans (53%) said in a Fox News poll in June that Trump’s tweets are doing more to hurt his agenda than help it. Six in 10 evangelical Christians and almost two in three whites without a college degree say they are not fans of Trump’s tweets.
            Even a majority (51%) of self-reported Trump voters said his tweets hurt his agenda. And four in five Republicans say they either disapprove of Trump’s tweet or wish he’d be more cautious.

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            Christie pleads for Trump to declare opioid crisis a national public health emergency

            (CNN)New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for President Donald Trump to elevate the opioid epidemic to a national public health emergency in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Monday.

            “We hope that the President declares a public health emergency in this country,” Christie said, speaking on behalf of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
            The Republican governor, who chairs the President’s commission, officially spoke with the five-member panel for the first time Monday afternoon to discuss its interim findings. Although the commission was initially asked to release its long-awaited interim report on June 27, a date set when Trump signed his executive order on opioids in March, the commission missed that deadline twice.
              The former US attorney compared the loss of life to opioids to the terror attacks of September 11.
              “We have a 9/11-scale loss every three weeks,” Christie said, adding that three-fourths of those losses are from opioid overdoses. He stressed that four out of five new heroin addicts in the US started on prescription opioids.
              The commission’s long-term solutions center on increased education for health professionals as well as mandatory continuing education for certain professions, according to Christie.
              Monday was also new White House chief of staff John Kelly’s first day on the job. According to a senior administration official, Kelly will receive “full authority” within the West Wing, signaling a shift to a more streamlined White House chain of command.
              “Everyone must report to the chief of staff, including the President of the United States,” Christie said.
              Christie expressed optimism that this structural change would allow the President to be more “effective,” suggesting that the previous setup may have hindered Trump’s executive abilities.
              “The three-person structure doesn’t work,” Christie said, adding that it led to the downfall of former chief of staff Reince Priebus. “I said all along that Reince was a bit of a victim of the structure that got set up.”
              The governor also addressed his recent return to the media spotlight. After a short break from the front pages following his “Beachgate” photos on the Fourth of July weekend, Christie ran into some trouble with a Chicago Cubs fan at a Milwaukee Brewers game Sunday when he responded to the spectator’s verbal attacks, saying, “You’re a big shot,” according to a viral video of the scene.
              “I think that was a very mellow reaction,” Christie said. “Public officials are public servants, but they’re not meant to be public punching bags.”

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              5 of the most interesting things we saw at Politicon, the Comic-Con of politics

              Pasadena (CNN)Politicon has lived up to its reputation as the “Comic-Con of politics.”

              The third annual event, held in Pasadena, California, drew in thousands of political commentators, journalists, celebrities and politics nerds from across the US.
              Here are five of the most interesting things we spotted at the two-day conference.
                1. Tomi Lahren mania
                Lahren knows how to stir up a crowd.
                The conservative firebrand, who made a name for herself speaking sharp and fast about conservative politics, told an audience at Politicon that she wants to repeal and replace Obamacare — but then casually added later she’s still on her parents’ health care plan.
                “Luckily I’m 24 and I’m still on my parents’ health care plan,” she told comedian Chelsea Handler, who conducted the Q&A.
                Some people in the crowd booed, seeing it as a contradiction because former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law and frequent Lahren target — the Affordable Care Act — is the reason why she can still be on her parents’ health insurance plan. The ability to stay on your parents’ plan until you turn 26 is a popular feature of Obamacare.
                But Lahren has as many fans as she does haters.
                Devin Dudley, 18, trekked from Michigan sporting a T-shirt with a collage of Lahren’s face.
                “I got if off a website because I heard she was going to be here,” he told CNN. “I was looking for different types of merch, and I found this and said ‘I have to have this.’ I like that she’s very outgoing, she doesn’t hold back. She loves to talk about politics, just like I do. I might not agree with her about everything, but we do agree a lot.”
                2. Creative outfits
                Alex Ishkov, Brandon Firla and Richard Kenyon (above) came dressed as George Washington, Abe Lincoln and founding father Alexander Hamilton.
                But they weren’t the only people at Politicon who got creative with their attire.
                Artist Ricky Rebel came clad in an America jumpsuit.
                “Make America glam again,” he said while posing in front of a giant American flag during the event.
                3. Fun activities on the con floor
                Anthony Scaramucci, the newly appointed White House communications director, bailed on Politicon after The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza published a piece last week detailing a phone conversation he had with President Donald Trump’s new hire.
                But just because he wasn’t there doesn’t mean he was forgotten. Politicon had a photobooth set up where attendees could get GIFs of themselves in front of a White House-esque podium. Cut-outs of ‘the Mooch,’ now ex-White House press secretary Sean Spicer and his successor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, were available for people to pose with.
                Also on the floor: A booth where attendees could make their own “pussyhats,” the pink, handmade, cat-eared knit hats created to show solidarity and support for women’s rights.
                “Politicon reached out to us they wanted to be be part of it,” Kat Coyle, who helped design the hat for Pussyhat Project co-founders Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, told CNN.
                4. Politically inspired art and merch
                Organizations handed out everything from pins to comics, showcasing their various politically inspired products.
                One company, The Tea Book, put up a large poster showcasing the cover art for its latest tea-storage devices, which are made to look like books on the oustide: “poli-tea-cal,” and “ImPeachMint.”
                “We create teas that tell stories. Every tea has a character that talks about different issues,” Noah Bleich, who owns the Tea Book, told CNN.
                5. Lots and lots of Trump swag or impersonations
                Many attendees sported the Trump campaign’s signature red “Make America Great Again” hats. Others took their passion for the President further by dressing up as him — and a few wouldn’t break character.
                Even outside the event on Saturday, a person dressed as Trump danced on the street.
                Some of the cars that drove by honked.

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                AG Sessions ‘confident’ he ‘made the right decision’ to recuse himself

                Washington (CNN)Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that President Donald Trump’s critical tweets about him were “kind of hurtful,” but insists he “made the right decision” in recusing himself from investigations related to the 2016 campaign.

                “I understand his feelings about it,” Sessions told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Thursday of Trump, who recently said he is “disappointed” in the Justice Department head. “Because this has been a big distraction for him. But … I’m confident I made the right decision, a decision that’s consistent with the rule of law.”
                Sessions said that the flurry of tweets Trump has sent off criticizing him were not the easiest to swallow, but he still defended his boss’s leadership style.
                  “Well it’s kind of hurtful, but the President of the United States is a strong leader,” Sessions said, adding that he believes Trump remains committed to making the country “great again.”
                  “He is determined to move this country in the direction he believes it needs to go to make us great again, and he has had a lot of criticisms — and he is steadfastly determined to get his job done and he wants all of us to do our jobs and that’s what I intend to do,” Sessions said.
                  Trump’s remarks represent an extraordinary rebuke from the President toward the nation’s top law enforcement official, who is also one of his earliest political allies — Sessions was the first sitting senator to back Trump’s presidential bid.
                  “Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the President,” Trump said in the interview. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the President.”
                  Sessions said if Trump “wants to make a change, he can certainly do so,” but noted that he thinks the Department of Justice is “making tremendous progress” under his leadership.
                  “We’ve achieved in many ways more than I thought at this point in time,” he said.
                  When asked about investigations into criminal leaks — which Trump has asked the Department of Justice to crack down on — Sessions said he has “not been happy with past prosecutions and investigations.”
                  “It cannot continue, some people need to go to jail,” he said. “The President has every right to ask the Department of Justice to be more aggressive in that, and we intend to.”
                  Sessions aid he doesn’t have any conversations with Trump scheduled in the near future.
                  “I don’t think it’s on the calendar yet,” he said when asked about any future meetings with the President. But “people have talked about it at the White House.”

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                  Senate health care: ‘We’re in the twilight zone of legislating’

                  Washington (CNN)It was a dramatic turn of events Thursday night when four Republican senators gathered for an impromptu press conference in the Capitol to declare they would only vote for a last-ditch piece of health care legislation if they had a guarantee — that it would never become law.

                  The “skinny bill” would repeal Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates, but a growing number of Republican senators say they don’t want it to become their legacy when it comes to fullfilling their seven-year promise to overhaul the Affordable Care Act. It’s an atypical legislative strategy in which Republicans would vote “yes” on legislation that no one wants to ultimately pass.
                  And so Republicans are actively lobbying their fellow Republicans in the House to make sure they will stand in the way of House Speaker Paul Ryan if he does bring it to the floor for a vote. Ryan issued a statement saying he would go to conference, but didn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be a vote on a Senate-passed “skinny bill.”
                    Sen. John McCain didn’t like what he heard.
                    “I would like to have the kind of assurances he didn’t provide,” McCain, R-Arizona, told reporters.
                    Graham told reporters that he was communicating with the leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows, all day Thursday trying to get assurances that his conservative members would block Ryan.
                    “We’re in the twilight zone of legislating,” Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said Thursday of the GOP’s strategy.
                    A slew of Republican senators openly acknowledged on Thursday that the “skinny repeal” bill wasn’t perfect, while some went as far as to blast it as bad policy.
                    “The majority leader cannot promise what the House can do,” said Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson. “That’s not in his powers. The House has to decide that. It’s the House’s decision.”
                    “It may be all we can get,” said Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona who was among those members who thought it might not be the worst outcome.
                    Graham, meanwhile, called the proposal a “political cop-out” that would throw the insurance markets into “disarray,” and that “as a final product, it would be a disaster.”
                    “The worst possible outcome is to pass something that most of us believe is a placeholder and it becomes the final product,” Graham said.
                    Republican senators know that they need to pass something in the next few hours if they want to advance their health care negotiations to conference where a group of House and Senate members could then be tasked with hammering out the final legislation. But they also recognize that strategy is rich with risks — one of them being that the “skinny repeal” could become all they get when it comes to gutting Obamacare.
                    It’s possible that even if Republican senators pass the “skinny repeal” and it goes to conference, House and Senate Republicans won’t be able iron out disagreements between moderates and conservatives that have dogged them for months.
                    Republican senators are also very aware that the “skinny repeal” might not get them any closer to the goal they set from the outset of the process to lower premiums.
                    GOP Sen. David Perdue conceded the “skinny repeal” bill would make it hard for people to afford insurance, but that he would vote for it — if he knew the bill could be improved during conference.
                    “I’m gonna have to have some assurances that they’re not going to pass that. I’m passing this wanting to get to a conference bill,” Perdue said.
                    As he received a barrage of questions from reporters about the Senate’s apparent strategy of passing something that it doesn’t ultimately want the House to pass, Cornyn pushed back with this quip: “I guess we ought to go back to Schoolhouse Rock.”

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                    Conservatives lobbied White House on transgender policy but total ban wasn’t what they asked for

                    (CNN)Republicans on Capitol Hill are scrambling to respond to President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday to reinstitute a ban on transgender people serving in the military after conservatives who lobbied the White House say they were pushing only to prevent the Pentagon from paying for medical costs associated with gender confirmation — not an outright ban.

                    Trump’s decision, announced Wednesday on Twitter and sparking bipartisan outrage on Capitol Hill, comes after the White House was lobbied by conservatives on the issue, including Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who proposed an amendment on the defense authorization bill to ban the Pentagon from paying what Hartzler called “transition surgeries,” as well as hormone therapy. The Missouri Republican lobbied the White House in recent weeks to do something on the issue, a GOP congressional aide familiar with the situation told CNN.
                    House Republican leaders knew the White House was already looking to change policy related to transgender people, but only as it relates to how or whether taxpayer money is being used for medical treatments, two Republican leadership sources told CNN.
                      Trump’s announcement on a total ban of transgender people serving in the US military was “far beyond leaders’ expectations and caught many by surprise,” one of those sources told CNN.
                      Hartzler tried to engage with Defense Secretary James Mattis on service members’ gender-related medical costs before the House took up the defense authorization bill, the aide said. When her amendment to that bill failed, she went to the White House to “address the issue” before the security spending bill was brought to the floor, a GOP congressional aide familiar with the situation told CNN.
                      While Hartzler was pushing for her proposal on the cost issue, she still supported Trump’s decision to ban transgender service members.
                      A study from the Rand Corporation estimated the cost of medical services for transgender individuals in the military at $2.4 million and $8.4 million out of a $6.2 billion medical budget for the military.
                      CNN has reached out to the White House for comment on whether conservatives lobbied for the change and have not yet gotten a response. News of conservatives lobbying Trump on transgender issues was first reported by Politico.
                      Republicans on Capitol Hill are having difficulty responding because the Pentagon is still trying to explain the actual policy and how it would be implemented.
                      There were no plans to have another debate on the House floor on the taxpayer pricetag for gender-related medical expenses for members of the military. The House defeated Hartzler’s amendment 209-214 on the defense authorization bill earlier this month, with 24 Republicans joining with Democrats to defeat the measure.
                      Aides stress that, among those who did not want the Pentagon to pay for these costs, there was concern about losing a second battle on the floor after Hartzler’s amendment on the defense bill had been defeated.
                      Some conservatives, such as Rep. Mark Meadows and others in the Freedom Caucus, had been threatening to try to kill the spending package if the transgender health provision was not included, but Republican leadership was confident they had the votes to get the bill over the finish line, according to congressional aides.
                      House conservatives were trying to avoid a roll-call vote, too, pushing leadership to add the amendment banning medical expenses for trans service members as a “self-executing” provision to the House Rule for the security bill, which would have avoided a specific vote, according to a senior GOP aide. But leadership rejected that idea. On Wednesday afternoon the final parameters for debate on the spending bill were set and no amendments or changes to the bill were allowed ahead of floor votes on the military portions of that legislation.
                      Congressional aides said none of the defense committees — House or Senate armed services and the defense appropriations panels — were given any kind of notice or briefing on the decision.
                      House armed services committee Chairman Mac Thornberry told CNN Trump’s decision appeared to catch the Pentagon by surprise, too, in addition to Congress.
                      “It was a complete surprise, not only to us but to the Pentagon apparently,” Thornberry said.
                      Asked if he agreed or disagreed with Trump’s decision, Thornberry said: “I don’t know what it means.”
                      Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, who served in the Army in the JAG Corps, admitted he didn’t know what the administration policy announcement was because he missed the tweets.
                      He supported the effort to ban the Pentagon from using taxpayer money to cover medical costs of transgender medical procedures. But he told reporters the President’s tweets on the new transgender policy “throws us off” the message about what the Republican Congress is accomplishing.
                      He pointed to the President tweeting about Attorney General Jeff Sessions when the Senate was making progress on repealing Obamacare, and the President tweeting last month about something off-topic on the same day that the House passed an immigration bill known as “Kate’s Law” that the administration supported.
                      But things may be different in the Senate, where Sen. John McCain — who criticized Trump’s move Wednesday — could soon be presiding over his defense policy bill when health care is done.
                      “I would assume there will be an effort on the floor to do something,” Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Armed Services panel, told CNN.

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