Ryan Lizza, New Yorker: On Wednesday night, I received a phone call from Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director. He wasn't happy. Earlier in the night, I'd tweeted, citing a "senior White House official," that Scaramucci was having dinner at the White House with President Trump, the First Lady, Sean Hannity and the former Fox News executive Bill Shine. It was an interesting group, and raised some questions. Was Trump getting strategic advice from Hannity? Was he considering hiring Shine? But Scaramucci had his own question -- for me. "Who leaked that to you?" he asked. I said I couldn't give him that information. He responded by threatening to fire the entire White House communications staff. "What I'm going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we'll start over," he said. I laughed ... "O.K., I'm going to fire every one of them, and then you haven't protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks." read more
E.J. Dionne, Washington Post: The news is being reported on split screen as if the one big story in Washington is disconnected from the other. But President Trump's lawless threats against Attorney General Jeff Sessions have a lot in common with the Senate's reckless approach to the health coverage of tens of millions of Americans. On both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, we are witnessing a collapse of the norms of governing, constant violations of our legitimate expectations of political leaders, and the mutation of the normal conflicts of democracy into a form of warfare that demands the opposition's unconditional surrender. Our country is now as close to crossing the line from democracy to autocracy as it has been in our lifetimes. Trump's ignorant, self-involved contempt for his duty under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" ought to inspire patriots of every ideological disposition to a robust and fearless defiance.
President Trump tweeted on Wednesday that transgender people cannot "serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," repeating a claim from conservative Republicans that transgender service members disrupt the ranks and add medical costs that undermine troop readiness. The abrupt announcement seemed to stun military leaders, even though Trump said in a series of tweets that he consulted with "my generals and military experts." At the Pentagon, the first of the three tweets raised fears that the president was getting ready to announce strikes on North Korea or some other military action. Many said they were left in suspense for nine minutes, the time between the first and second tweet. Only after the second tweet did military officials receive the news the president was announcing a personnel change on Twitter. read more
Ross Douthat, New York Times: So it's basically madness all the way to the top: bad policy, bad strategy, bad politics, bad legal maneuvering, bad optics, a self-defeating venture carried out via deranged-as-usual tweets and public insults. Trump hasn't had a stroke or suffered a neurological disaster, and his behavior in the White House is no different from the behavior he manifested consistently while winning enough votes to take the presidency. Nonetheless clearly impaired, gravely deficient somewhere at the intersection of reason and judgment and conscience and self-control. Pointing this out is wearying and repetitive, but still it must be pointed out. You can be as loyal as Jeff Sessions and still suffer the consequences of that plain and inescapable truth: This president should not be the president, and the sooner he is not, the better.
In case Senate Republicans' efforts to pass a bill to both repeal and replace Obamacare didn't look dire enough already, the Senate parliamentarian has decided two more portions of the bill can't be included without a 60-vote threshold. According to Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee, the parliamentarian has struck down even larger portions of the bill than before. The latest parts of the bill subject to the so-called "Byrd Bath," violating the Byrd rule that constrains what can be considered under reconciliation, are the GOP's plan to allow insurers to charge older Americans five times more for health insurance than younger ones, and a provision allowing small businesses to create health associations that could be sold across state lines. That's on top of a whole host of other objections the parliamentarian has made that already were going to force a 60-vote majority to pass and kill the bill, as it currently doesn't even have majority support in the Senate. read more