Welcome to The Daily Roundup, your one-stop news shop’s briefing on the top news of the day. Subscribe and make sure you never miss a beat. Here’s the latest for Tuesday, September 26th 2017.
“Graham-Cassidy” GOP Obamacare Repeal Bill is Dead:
• It appears the Graham-Cassidy bill may be officially dead with Politico reporting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not put the bill up for a vote. Earlier in the day, we reported on the bill’s likely failure as Senator Susan Collins’ opposition rendered a path to 50 votes increasingly unlikely.
• The death of the Graham-Cassidy bill which sought to cut federal funding and shift implementation to the states while also removing protections for pre-existing conditions and essential health benefits may force a more bipartisan approach. When the budget “reconciliation” process deadline at the end of September arrives, Republicans will be forced to secure at least 60 votes to avoid a filibuster. This will likely mean they will need the support of at least 8 Democrats.
• A bipartisan bill had already been in the making when Republican leadership shelved it to line up support behind Graham-Cassidy. The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and committee ranking member, Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington sought to shore up state insurance markets, stabilizing the Affordable Care Act. Whether Democrats continue to work with the Republicans will remain to be seen.
The Russia Investigation:
Today was a big news day for the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any potential links between Russian efforts and the Trump campaign. Multiple major stories with potentially explosive implications broke across a variety of different outlets as the investigation heats up.
• The IRS is now sharing information with Special Counsel Robert Mueller: CNN reports that the IRS information sharing with Mueller’s office includes material on key Trump campaign officials, specifically former campaign manager, Paul Manafort and former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Mueller’s investigators have sought records reaching back 11 years that they believe could contain information on possible tax and financial crimes. CNN attributes their reporting to search warrant documents obtained and speaking with a “high-level” Justice Department official, who claimed the data would likely involve anything tax return-related including real estate and banking records. According to CNN, the IRS Criminal Investigation had already been working with the FBI to investigate Manafort for possible money laundering and tax fraud, even before the election. Mueller’s team is also scrutinizing payments made to Flynn from Turkey and Russia which may potentially violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act. It is still currently unclear if Special Counsel Mueller has asked for or obtained President Trump’s tax returns.
• Special Counsel Mueller may begin interviewing White House staff this week: A busy day for CNN, they also broke a report claiming that Mueller’s investigators are planning to interview current and former White House officials in connection with the Russia probe as early as later this week, although the cautioned details were still being worked out and interviews may be delayed until next week. In particular, witnesses may include former chief of staff Reince Priebus, former press secretary Sean Spicer, communications director Hope Hicks, White House counsel Don McGahn, communications adviser Josh Raffel and associate counsel James Burnham.
• Sean Spicer Has Layered-Up: Fresh off a controversial appearance at the Emmys, the Daily Beast reports that Sean Spicer has officially obtained a lawyer in connection with the Russia probe. Spicer hired Chris Mead, a high-powered criminal defense attorney who, according to his law firm bio, specializes in white collar criminal defense, Congressional investigations, and issues related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a seemingly fitting background for his client. Mead’s bio also adds that he gained “extensive experience in money laundering” prosecutions when he was a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland. With Axios reporting just last week that Spicer was meticulous in his note taking during his tenure at the White House and CNN reporting that witness interviews with officials including the former communications director may begin as early as this week, Spicer appears wise to obtain quality counsel.
• Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal Calls Criminal Charges “Virtually Certain”: The Connecticut senator told Politico that he believed that criminal charges against two former top advisers to President Trump, Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, are a virtual certainty. Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and former U.S. attorney, said that he was “about 99 percent sure there will be some criminal charges from this investigation,” calling Manafort and Flynn “the most prominent,” before adding, “but there may well be others.” However, despite his certainty regarding Trump associates, Blumenthal was less certain that Trump himself would be charged with a crime, including potential obstruction of justice.
• Manafort Attorneys reportedly expect immanent indictment: According to CNN’s Manu Raju, Roger Stone has said that Paul Manafort’s attorneys have told Stone’s attorneys that Manafort himself expects to be indicted soon. Manafort also reportedly told Stone that he believed the no-knock raid on his Alexandria, Virginia home to be “outrageous.”
Roger Stone says Manafort attorneys have told his attorneys that Manafort expects to be indicted soon— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 26, 2017
Other Domestic Political News:
• Republican Senator Bob Corker Retires: After much speculation, Tennessee Republican Senator and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, has announced that he will retire after his current term finishes in 2018. Despite chatter of his potential retirement, Corker’s announcement sent shock waves through the Senate as many of his Republican colleagues doubted that he would ultimately step down. Corker’s retirement will force Republicans to scramble as they seek to defend a seat without the benefit of incumbency (something that should not be too difficult in deep-red Tennessee). However, even if the seat does not change party hands it may have a lasting impact on Senate processes, as Corker was known as a source of cross aisle deal-making. The moderate Republican had often worked in a bipartisan fashion with Democrats in his tenure. If a staunch conservative in the Bannon-mold were to claim Corker’s seat, it may ultimately drive the Senate’s partisanship divide deeper.
• Staunch Conservative Roy Moore Wins Alabama Senate Seat: Roy Moore, the staunchly conservative, anti-establishment candidate, beat out Luther Strange, to win the special election for an Alabama Senate seat made vacant by Jeff Sessions’ nomination as Attorney General. Luther Strange has been temporarily filling the seat left vacant by Sessions after his appointment by then-Governor Robert Bentley. Roy Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court Justice, has been known to make his fair share of controversial remarks on topics that include gay rights, abortion, and the attacks on 9/11. However, despite stoking controversy, in the runoff Moore garnered over 55% of the vote, as Strange, who was backed by Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, fell far short of a majority dealing a humbling blow to Republican leadership.
• According to Al Arabiya, a Saudi-owned Arab news channgel, Saudi Arabia’s King Salaman has issued a historic royal decree granting drivers licenses for women in the kingdom by next June. The royal decree ordered the establishment of a high-level committee of the ministries of internal affairs, finance, labor and social development to implement provisions of traffic regulations. This marks another step towards modernization for Saudi Arabia, which has increasingly sought reforms putting the kingdom in lock-step with the international community which may counter vocal outcry of human rights abuses leveled at the kingdom.
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