We Now Return You To Health Care…

Those Of You Who Think Republicans Aren’t Going To Try To Ram A Horrible Health Care Bill Through In The Next 2 Weeks, Forget About It!

Yes, things have been quiet over the past week. But we think that’s being misinterpreted as a sign of imminent defeat.

We think it’s been quiet because: 1) The President’s been in Europe, 2) Everybody else has been on vacation.

And think about when you come back from vacation: you feel refreshed, rejuvenated, maybe even a little angry that you had to come back to work, right? Not demoralized. Fired up.

This definitely falls into the “we really hope we’re wrong about this” category. And we certainly don’t have the certitude we did when it seemed to us like everybody else was prematurely celebrating the demise of the House bill. More Republicans, including Republican governors seem to be against it now. We’re just saying it ain’t over yet.

A couple of interesting things to consider:

• Over the break, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell managed the neat trick of pushing President Trump to the right of him. He brought up a scenario in which Republicans and Democrats work together on health reform. Not as something he favors, more as something he warns against. But he spoke about it frankly, and as a real possibility vs. Trump’s “Obamacare is dead” mantra.

• Democrats (even though they won’t say it publicly) would almost definitely work on a bill if it’s truly bipartisan. And it might end up being a pretty good bill. Even though we kind of think they should, Democrats won’t ultimately be as obstructionist as their friends across the aisle have been if they feel they can do some good. And the President has said he wants Democrats involved, only so far his definition of involvement means either voting for a Republican plan in which they have no say, or coming back to him in shame and defeat after Obamacare “explodes” (we still think he means “implodes.”)

So progress might be as simple, or as difficult, as Trump getting on board with the idea that a “win” on health care might be created through bipartisanship, not through one side crushing the other. But so far he hasn’t really promoted any win that doesn’t involve a loser getting severely punished.

This Might Be The Most Under-Covered Story So Far This Month

Steve Bannon wants to raise taxes on the rich, higher than they are now. Yes, you heard that right, at least according to Axios. Over at the NY Times, Maureen Dowd explores the topic further in one of her most amusing columns of late.

Of course, this could not be a real thing at all, just a big bluff aimed at hounding the Senate into passing a bad health care bill. Along the lines of: “if you don’t, this is what we’re going to throw at you, and see how your constituents treat you if you’re on the other side of that.”

This Might Be The Most Under-Covered Story Of The G20

Give Trump some credit: no one has cared this much about the G20 economic meeting in years.
As he would say: Good!

And yes, most of the interest was because of the wildly built up Trump/Putin showdown/not showdown; promoted by the media almost like it was an MMA event.

At the close, the broad joint declaration by world leaders was typically bland, despite being characterized otherwise by some in the media. (Our proof of this will come in your trying to read all the way through it without falling asleep.) Which in itself is quite a feat considering one of your most powerful members just dropped out of one of your greatest collective achievements ever, The Paris Accord on climate change.

One thing that got lost in all that noise was Trump’s continuously dropping hints that he’s on the verge of starting a trade war. He even Tweeted about it, but it’s by far his least commented on, least re-Tweeted Tweet of the G20:

Specifically, he could start tariffs on steel any day now, and while the U.S. doesn’t import much steel from the EU, it’s not like the EU is just sitting around waiting for Trump to get around to them. At the G20, EU officials made it pretty clear they’d be ready to go after U.S. products such as bourbon, orange juice, and dairy. The EU President declaring, “Our mood is increasingly combative.”

We (and Goldman Sachs apparently) would suggest if anything was going to trigger a downturn in the stock market, a trade war might be it. Especially if it expands beyond steel (which has been targeted before), so it’s not as radical as many of the other rollbacks Trump talks about.

Tillerson Comes On Strong In Ukraine

The Secretary of State, in Kiev Sunday, said Russia sanctions will stay in place until what he called “territorial integrity” is returned to Ukraine. President Trump said he did not discuss sanctions in his Putin meeting.

Syria Ceasefire Holds Into 2nd Day, Iraq Declares Victory Over ISIS

Some skepticism over whether a ceasefire in Syria will last, underscored by the fact that many news organizations almost seemed surprised that it held through its first day. Here’s a pretty good roundup from Al Jazeera:

Trump gave himself (and Putin) credit for that. Tweeting: “came out of meeting. Good.”

You know what? We’re fine with that. If the ceasefire holds, and civilians stop getting killed, he can take all the credit he wants.

Meanwhile Iraq’s Prime Minister showed up in Mosul to declare the city which was the birthplace of ISIS, is now free of ISIS. Apparently, that’s not quite entirely true, but it seems to be headed in that direction.

Now on to Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold in Syria. We found this interesting analysis of the potential pitfalls and opportunities ahead in continuing to battle ISIS and what happens after it’s defeated.

Trump, Jr. Says What Might Be A Smoking Gun Really Isn’t

Reacting to a string of stories in the New York Times, Donald Trump Jr. offered two explanations for a meeting he held with a Russian lawyer prior to the Presidential election. The one that he seems to be sticking with now: the lawyer said she had damaging information on Hillary Clinton, but then offered “no meaningful information.” That’s a day after Trump, Jr. said Clinton wasn’t discussed.

Trump Sr.’s folks say he wasn’t at the meeting and doesn’t know anything about it. Manafort and Kushner were at that meeting.

Problem is, as we’ve pointed out before, the Trump family M.O. is sit around hoping stuff doesn’t come out; acting only when it does, and they’re forced to. They never seem to even attempt getting out in front of anything. Because of that, everything ends up looking really fishy.

Even If…

Even if there are only 4 intelligence agencies who say “Russia” and not 17, even if there are zero intelligence agencies, even if the DNC refused to turn over its servers to the FBI and CIA, even if John Podesta was behind it, even if Obama knew and did nothing, even if Trump is not naive and even if Putin did not hack, does any sensible person think this is a good idea?

Our favorite comment comes from fired Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara:

Never Mind…

A rare evening Tweet from the President. And please don’t minimize the multi-layered perplexity of this one. We know it’s a high bar, because, Trump, but in this he rises to a whole new level.