All 15 of the United Nations' Security Council members approved a statement released today calling for a "de-escalation, restoration of calm and a resumption of Mideast peace talks," The Associated Press reports.
The statement, while not legally binding, marked the first response from the U.N.'s most powerful body in regard to Israel's ongoing campaign against the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers. Israel's military claims to have hit more than 1,100 targets in the five-day-long operation, including Hamas-controlled rocket-launchers, along with facilities storing a variety of other weapons. A Gaza Health Ministry spokesman puts the death toll so far at 135, and the U.N. has said as many as three-quarters of those killed may have been civilians.
The Security Council's statement called for "respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians," on both sides of the conflict. Sarah Eberspacher
It's official: Ryan Seacrest is returning to host the American Idol revival. More than two months after ABC announced that it was bringing the singing competition back to the airwaves, Kelly Ripa finally confirmed Thursday on Live! With Kelly and Ryan that the show's longtime host will be coming back, too.
Seacrest hosted American Idol since its start in 2002, and he said it's "an honor, if not a bit surreal" to be returning to host Idol just a year after Fox canceled it last April following a 15-season run. "Very exciting," Seacrest said. "First of all, I don't know if you've ever been in a 15-year relationship and for a reason you really don't know you break up … I thought, 'Gosh, it'd be great to get back together at some point.'"
ABC, which announced in May it would be reviving the beloved show, is equally excited. "We are thrilled to be ushering in this new era of American Idol with Ryan at the helm," said ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey. “So much of American Idol's overwhelming success can be attributed to Ryan."
Precisely six months ago, President Trump was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice John Roberts. "We will face challenges," Trump said in his inaugural address, "but we will get the job done."
The "job" in question had been outlined in part by Trump himself in late October, when he released his "Contract with the American Voter" that outlined his promises for the first 100 days of his administration. Ever ambitious, Trump promised to introduce and pass 10 bills by his 100th day, including a major tax relief plan; a law to fully fund his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; and, of course, a plan to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with "something terrific."
Trump's 100th day in office was April 29 — and by then, he'd accomplished almost none of his stated goals. But as the deadline loomed, the president was quick to dismiss the 100-day mark as a "ridiculous standard."
In fairness, even former President John F. Kennedy made sure to disavow the arbitrary date in his inaugural address in 1961. After all, 100 days isn't even a round measure of time! What else in life is measured by what you accomplish in 14.285 weeks, or 3.333 months? So let's give Trump a break. Let's look at what he's done in, say, six months' time, given Thursday marks his six-month anniversary in office.
There: half a year, nice round number, and total Republican control of Capitol Hill that whole time to boot. So, now how's it going?
6 months (182 days) in, Trump hasn't passed a single bill of 10 he promised to pass in his first 100 days. (Republicans control everything). pic.twitter.com/tkDUJ0kZMu
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) July 20, 2017
Oh. Kimberly Alters
Fear can be an effective tool for a political leader — and, per The New York Times, it's one President Trump totally lacks:
Fear is perhaps the most powerful motivating force in politics, and fear of a powerful president is the surest lever to move a lawmaker from a "no" to a "yes" on a presidential priority. But over the past month, Mr. Trump scared no one into supporting the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. He has proved simply too unpopular nationally — polling at 36 to 40 percent approval this week — too weak in many senators' home states, too erratic, and too disengaged from the details of governing to harness his party, as other new presidents have. [The New York Times]
Rob Jesmer, the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a former aide to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), told The New York Times the total lack of fear is "a real problem," and one Trump "hasn't really tried" to remedy. "I don't get why he hasn't been more engaged," Jesmer said, wondering why Trump hasn't, for instance, appeared on local talk radio or made a trip to Kansas.
And it's not just senators who are totally unafraid of the man in the Oval Office: A Republican senator told The New York Times that Trump "scares no one in the Senate, not even the pages."
GOP lawmaker says he doesn't 'pay any attention' to the Trump administration because 'the president is a distraction'
Republican Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho) told America what he really thinks of President Trump in an interview with Politico published Thursday: "I don't even pay any attention to what is going on with the administration because I don't care. They're a distraction. The family is a distraction, the president is a distraction. At first, it was, 'Well yeah, this is the guy we elected. He'll learn, he'll learn.' And you just don't see that happening."
Simpson's brutal honesty poured out as he and other Republicans lamented the week's health-care crash and burn, the latest flop to stymie Republicans' agenda. While Trump is starting to hassle congressional Republicans for not getting the job done on health care, Politico reported that lawmakers are "starting to blame Trump for his handling of the Russia probe, Twitter feuds, and attacks on the media." Becca Stanek
Trump's top aides — including his national security adviser — keep trying to warn him not to trust Putin
President Trump's national security and foreign policy advisers aren't so keen on his insistence on reaching out to Russia. The Associated Press reported Thursday that there are "deep divisions" within the Trump administration on how best to approach Russia and "mixed signals" between Trump and his advisers.
While Trump has been doubting U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusion that Russia meddled in the presidential election, pushing for cooperation with Russia on Syria, and meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin over dinner, AP reported that "some top aides, including National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster, have been warning that Putin is not to be trusted":
McMaster expressed his disapproval of Trump's course to foreign officials during the lead-up to his trip to Germany. The general specifically said he'd disagreed with Trump's decision to hold an Oval Office meeting in May with top Russian diplomats and with the president's general reluctance to speak out against Russian aggression in Europe, according to the three foreign officials.
McMaster and other national security aides also advised the president against holding an official bilateral meeting with Putin. [The Associated Press]
Notably, McMaster did not attend Trump's bilateral meeting with Putin at the G-20 summit, though the AP noted that the national security adviser would typically be present at a meeting "with such critical national security operations."
Two new polls on Thursday show a sizable bipartisan majority of Americans wanting Republicans and Democrats to work together on health-care legislation, rather than the GOP trying to repeal and replace ObamaCare on its own. In a CNN/SSRS poll, 77 percent of respondents said they would like to see Republicans work with Democrats to pass a health bill with bipartisan support, including 69 percent of Republicans, while only 12 percent of all respondents (and 25 percent of Republicans) wanted the GOP to continue going it alone.
When asked how they would like Congress to handle ObamaCare, 35 percent said they wanted President Trump and the GOP to just abandon trying to change the law and keep it as is, 34 percent said they wanted to see parts of ObamaCare repealed only when a replacement was ready, and 18 percent (and 30 percent of Republicans) said they wanted ObamaCare scrapped, replacement or no.
In an Associated Press/NORC poll also released Thursday, 8 in 10 respondents — including 66 percent of Republicans — said they wanted Republicans to approach Democrats to negotiate, and almost 90 percent wanted Democrats to take the GOP up on that prospective offer, including 81 percent of Democrats. In the AP poll, solid majorities of voters opposed all the major parts of the GOP replacement plan, though they also did not seem enthusiastic about ObamaCare's individual mandate. And a growing majority, 62 percent, said the federal government has a responsibility to make sure all Americans have health coverage, while 37 percent disagreed.
The CNN/SSRS poll was conducted July 14-18 among 1,019 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. The AP/NORC poll was conducted July 13-17, also among 1,019 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 points. Peter Weber
President Trump's Commission on Election Integrity met again on Wednesday, with Trump kicking things off by insisting his administration has "no choice" but to investigate voter fraud, despite there being no evidence much of it exists. Trump formed the commission, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, after falsely claiming that three million people voted illegally for his opponent, Hillary Clinton. "Those mythical three million illegal voters are the president's obsession, his white whale," Samantha Bee said on Wednesday's Full Frontal, "although if the whale were white, Trump would be a lot less concerned about it voting."
Before the commission even met, it raised eyebrows and hackles by requesting sensitive information on every voter in all 50 states — a request at least partly denied by 45 secretaries of state. "Since the commission wants to know so much about us, let's find out a little about them," starting with Kobach, Bee said. "Expanding the franchise was never really Kris' thing." She noted that in the 1980s, Kobach wrote his thesis at Harvard arguing against divesting from Apartheid-era South Africa — and not surprisingly, he was also the rare Ivy League-educated birther. "But Kris doesn't just talk the voter-suppression talk, he walks he voter-suppression walk," Bee said.
Also on the commission are Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams, Bee noted. The three men share in common a concerted effort to purge voter rolls and a penchant for frequent appearances on Fox News. "Guys like this have been playing the long game, methodically chipping away at the Voting Rights Act since the moment LBJ signed it (and then left the room to expose himself to the steno pool)," Bee said. "And now, this president has handed them the keys to the candy shop so they can run in and purge all the chocolates." You can learn more about the 12 members of the commission from NYU Law School's Brennan Center for Justice, and watch Bee's decidedly NSFW introduction below. Peter Weber