Chief strategist Stephen Bannon apparently wasn't behind President Trump's decision to launch a missile strike against Syria — but Trump went ahead and ordered it anyway. Daily Intelligencer's Gabriel Sherman reported Friday that Bannon, long considered a key Trump influencer, argued that the Syrian strike contradicted Trump's "America First" doctrine. "Steve doesn't think we belong there," a Bannon ally told Sherman.
The fact that Trump went ahead with the strike despite Bannon's opposition is further indication of the decline of Bannon's power and the rise of Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner's, Sherman said:
The debate over Syria is the latest fault line that has opened up in the once close Bannon-Kushner relationship. "During the campaign and transition, they had an almost uncle-nephew thing going," one Bannon associate said. But in recent weeks, Kushner and Bannon have clashed over the direction of Trump's agenda. While the press has covered it as a personality feud, Bannon allies say the rift is about policy differences. "The press is calling it fighting, we call it debating," Bannon told an associate, according to a source. On a board in his West Wing office, Bannon keeps a list of promises Trump made to populist voters. Kushner, whose portfolio has ballooned in recent weeks, seems much less interested in keeping those promises. [Daily Intelligencer]
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is 'just taking a little time off,' not quitting, his spokeswoman says
Rex Tillerson has never been the most energetic, popular, or accessible secretary of state, but when reporters noticed that his public schedule has not listed any public events or other information for a few days, or been incorrect, they asked State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Tuesday why the department isn't saying where Tillerson is or has been. "He does have the ability to go away for a few days on his own," she said, and Tillerson is "just taking a little time off" after his "mega-trip overseas" earlier this month to the G-20 summit, plus trips to Ukraine, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. "He's entitled to take a few days himself," Nauert said, though she wasn't sure why the schedule just said he was taking vacation days.
— CSPAN (@cspan) July 25, 2017
Nauert declined to say if Tillerson is happy at his job, but said that recent reports that he's considering quitting the Trump administration "false." "The secretary has been very clear he intends to stay here at the State Department," she said, adding that he "does, however, serve at the pleasure of the president, just as any Cabinet official would." Tillerson has reportedly clashed with the White House over its micromanaging of his policy and staffing decisions and the assignment of big parts of his portfolio to Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser. Trump has also contradicted him several times, and Tillerson is said to be angry over Trump's treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
On Monday, CNN's John King reported that Tillerson's friends are suggesting he may step down before the end of the year, with one friend saying Trump's treatment of Tillserson is "becoming a death by one thousand little insults." You can watch King's short report on a Tillerson "Rexit" starting at the 3:25 mark. Peter Weber
Adrian McKinney II is only 9, but he already has his future planned: When he's an adult, he's going to be a CEO.
The Ohio resident got a taste for the executive life on July 10, when he was CEO for the day at the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. McKinney has sickle cell anemia, and last year, while recovering from a bone marrow transplant, Make-A-Wish sent his family to Hawaii. During the Make-A-Wish Gala earlier this year, McKinney met Doug Kelly, CEO of Make-A-Wish Foundation of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. "I always wanted to be a CEO," McKinney told InsideEdition.com. "When I met him, he said, 'Have you been thinking about the future for your wish?' I said, 'Yes. I want your job.'"
On the spot, Kelly told McKinney he could have his job for one day, and even took out a business card, crossed out his name, and replaced it with McKinney's. "It was pretty amazing," McKinney said. He showed up at the office on July 10 in his most professional suit and bowtie, gave a speech, accepted a donation, and led a staff meeting. He said he's thankful for Make-A-Wish, because the organization was there for him during his treatment, and his mother, Torie McKinney agreed. "To have Make-A-Wish come and make his wish come true not only one time, but two times, we're just grateful," she said. Catherine Garcia
At Emily Leehan and Joshua Newville's wedding in Ripley, New York, last weekend, the bride declared her love in front of friends and family not only for her husband, but also her new stepson, Gage.
Leehan has known Gage, 4, for two years, and she wrote two sets of vows: one for Newville and one for his son. "I want you to be safe and to try your hardest and to be a good person," she told Gage. "I know that you and I will butt heads, but I hope that with all my heart, that as you become a grown man, you will understand my methods and realize that I have only done what is best for you and that I love you." She went on to add, "I may not have given you the gift of life, but life surely gave me the gift of you."
Her words moved Gage to tears, and he kept going back and forth between Leehan, a senior airman in the Air Force, and Newville, a sergeant in the Marines, giving them tight hugs. Leehan told HuffPost his reaction "meant everything" to her. Catherine Garcia
Trevor Noah tries to explain just how crazy and reckless the Senate GOP's DIY health-care legislating really is
President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell managed to bring TrumpCare back from the dead, getting 50 Republicans senators and Vice President Mike Pence to agree to start debate on... well, some sort of health-care bill, Trevor Noah marveled on Tuesday's Daily Show. McConnell couldn't get 50 votes on any of the many GOP plans to repeal and/or replace ObamaCare, even his own, Noah said, so "then, I guess, Mitch McConnell smoked some weed and was like, 'You can't vote for a bill if you don't have a bill.'"
Now, the Senate is in the midst of a bizarro legislative process to revamp one-fifth of the U.S. economy, and everybody's health-care options, on the fly before Friday. "The new GOP plan is to reinvent the national health-care system by Thursday? I admire their optimism," Noah said. "And by the way, this isn't three real days, it's technically 20 hours of actual working time. Twenty hours, that's all they have. And 20 hours is not a lot of time to build a new health-care system — hell, I can't even build an Ikea bookshelf in 20 hours."
He tried to explain to Republican senators (and anyone else who's both confused and interested) what they are doing. Instead of trying to repeal and replace ObamaCare the normal way, through committee markups and hearings — "because you knew your ideas would die of exposure," he said — the Senate GOP "tried to write the bill in a 13-dude chamber of secrets," and when that failed, McConnell's "new plan is to throw the entire national health-care system out on the Senate floor, let everyone randomly spitball on what it should be, and then you hope that 51 of them agree by the end of the week."
"No one knows how that will turn out — nobody knows," Noah said. "The one thing we do know is Mitch McConnell is determined to pass something. How determined?" He imagined the conversation McConnell had to get John McCain, fighting brain cancer, to return to Washington to vote. Watch below. Peter Weber
In a 45-minute Oval Office interview with The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, President Trump said he hopes to tackle tax reform after health care, however that turns out, and then infrastructure; said he expects to declare Iran noncompliant with the nuclear deal in September, even if his advisers object; took aim again at Attorney General Jeff Sessions; and named his economic adviser Gary Cohn as a candidate for Federal Reserve chairman next year.
"He doesn't know this, but yes, he is," Trump said of Cohn, who was sitting in on the interview along with Ivanka Trump, White House Chief of Staff Renice Priebus, strategic communications director Hope Hicks, and new communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen is also "in the running to stay," he added. Trump said that Scaramucci would help quash the infighting and melodrama in the West Wing, which he characterized, apparently jokingly, as "White House stuff, where they're fighting over who loves me the most."
On tax reform, Trump said his priority is to focus on lowering the corporate tax rate to 15 percent and helping "the middle-income people in this country, who have gotten screwed." If any taxes are raised, "it's going to be on high-income people," he said, though, the Journal notes, Trump and his team have been "vague on significant middle-class provisions" in the tax overhaul, "while promising specific benefits for high-income households such as the repeal of the estate tax and alternative minimum tax."
Trump has been increasingly critical of Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia election-meddling and collusion investigation, and he argued to the Journal that this recusal was the reason Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel. He declined to say if he planned to fire Mueller, which would be very controversial and which he cannot do directly, telling the Journal: "I have no comment yet, because it's too early. But we'll see. We're going to see." He also did not express much confidence in Sessions, saying that the former senator's early endorsement of him was because Trump was popular in Sessions' home state, Alabama, "so it's not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement."
Below, Associated Press White House reporter Jonathan Lemire recaps Trump's mounting public and private abuse of Sessions, reminds why it is so unusual, and runs down what Trump may do next, assuming Sessions refuses to step down voluntarily. Peter Weber
What he thought was a productive conversation with Ukraine's prime minister was actually the latest embarrassment for Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Earlier this month, Perry, a former governor of Texas, spent 22 minutes chatting with a person he believed was the prime minister, sharing that the Trump administration is against a Russian project to bring natural gas to Europe across the Baltic and hinting that the Commerce Department was trying to figure out ways to bring more coal to Ukraine. It turns out Perry was really speaking to Russian pranksters Vladimir Krasnov and Alexei Stolyarov, who have been called the "Jerky Boys of Russia," Reuters reports.
Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes told Reuters the jokesters are "known for pranking high-level officials and celebrities, particularly those who are supportive of an agenda that is not in line with their governments. In this case, the energy security of Ukraine." Krasnov and Stolyarov, who once fooled Elton John into thinking he was conversing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, recorded their phone call with Perry, and posted it online. Catherine Garcia
The Senate on Tuesday night rejected a modified version of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
Nine Republicans joined the Democrats in voting against the bill, and with a final total of 43 in favor and 57 against, the measure did not receive the 60 votes necessary to pass. Earlier in the day, the Senate split 50-50 on voting to begin debate on a health-care bill, and Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie, with the motion passing.
On Wednesday, the Senate is set to vote on an amendment similar to a 2015 bill passed by the Senate to repeal ObamaCare, which was ultimately vetoed by former President Barack Obama; this proposal is expected to fail. Catherine Garcia