Unfiltered Political News

Scaramucci, repeatedly denied a White House role, finally sees a reward

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon confronted Anthony Scaramucci in the West Wing on Friday morning, threatening to block the financier’s appointment as Trump’s communications director.

Scaramucci laughed it off, according to a person familiar with the exchange, because he knew something they didn’t: He already had the job.

For Scaramucci, the appointment completed a remarkable journey that saw him rumored for one senior administration job after another only to see the offers slip away amid internal opposition from Priebus and others.

Now the telegenic Scaramucci, a fast-talking fixture on the international circuit from Davos, Switzerland, to his own lavish hedge fund conference in Las Vegas, is at the center of power in the chaotic Trump White House. He is now charged with repairing a toxic relationship between the press and a president who regularly rips what he calls the “fake news media.”

At a White House briefing on Friday, Scaramucci—widely referred to as “The Mooch”—spoke repeatedly of his “love” for the president, to whom he said he will report. “I think there has been at times a disconnect between the way we see the president and how much we love the president and the way perhaps some of you see the president,” he said.

Invoking Wall Street lingo, he added that there might an “arbitrage spread between how well we are doing and how well some of you guys think we are doing and we are going to work hard to close that spread.”

Scaramucci said he hopes that press secretary Sean Spicer – who resigned Friday after registering his own opposition to Scaramucci’s appointment – will go on “to make a tremendous amount of money.” He also repeatedly expressed his desire to work closely with Priebus, who he said he’d been “personal friends” with for years. “We are a little bit like brothers where we rough each other up once and a while,” he said, noting that he once offered Priebus a job at his hedge fund firm.

He said deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be elevated to replace Spicer, who will leave in August. “The Navy S.E.A.L.s will tell you that if you want to eat an elephant, you’ve got to do it one bite at a time and Sarah and I will do that together,” he said.

People who know Scaramucci say he could be a good fit for this new challenging role. A relentless networker who emerged as a major conduit of Wall Street cash to GOP candidates in recent years, Scaramucci generally likes and respects reporters and understands they have a job to do, people inside and outside the White House say.

He is a fierce counter-puncher who emerged in recent months as a Trump favorite for his television appearances defending the president. But he also likes engaging with the press and wants to present the White House message in a positive way rather than get dragged into daily scrums.

“When I first met him, within moments he drilled down into who I was, where I was from and what my world view was,” said Stu Loeser, who served as spokesman for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and now runs his own advisory firm. “He’s an incredibly charming person. And right now you have a White House that is so angry at its press corps, and vice versa, that it’s impossible for them to interact in even the smallest way and have positive movement forward.”

One White House official who backed Scaramucci’s appointment said of the former hedge fund manager: “He gets that we have a First Amendment in this country and that reporters are just trying to do their jobs.”

Critics of Scaramucci’s appointment, including Spicer, argue that the former Wall Street executive has no real communications experience and could flounder in the very difficult job of representing a boss who often ignores messaging advice and simply says whatever he wants whenever he wants no matter what it means for his struggling agenda.

And Scaramucci hasn’t always embraced the same commitment to transparency he talked about from the podium on Friday. A few years ago, while interviewing PR firms, he was blunt about what he was looking for, according to one person present for the meeting. During the 90-minute meeting, Scaramucci told this person: “I need someone who’s prepared to go to the mat and lie for me.”

One thing Scaramucci has right now is the admiration of the president for his many appearances on cable TV. That’s something Spicer, demoted from his on-camera job speaking for the president, sorely lacked.

Scaramucci, 53, was not always such a big Trump backer.

During the 2016 primary campaign he cycled through several candidates, beginning with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker then moving on to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, before finally coming around to Trump once the real estate magnate secured the GOP nomination.

Scaramucci was never quite “Never Trump” but he was critical of the GOP candidate on Twitter during the primaries, something Democrats gleefully noted on Friday. In an August, 2015 appearance on Fox Business, Scaramucci referred to Trump as “another hack politician” who would become “president of the Queens County Bullies Association.” Scaramucci said Friday he has repeatedly apologized to Trump for his comments.

As soon as the primaries ended, Scaramucci offered his services to the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign as a major donor, fundraiser and prominent public surrogate for the GOP nominee’s economic plans to cut taxes and regulations.

After Trump surprised the world and won, Scaramucci made plans to sell his hedge fund, SkyBridge Capital, in anticipation of taking a senior White House job. Initially, Scaramucci thought he would get the job of director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, a senior role equivalent to one held by Valerie Jarrett in President Barack Obama’s White House that manages relationships with big business groups.

But vetting Scaramucci’s sale of SkyBridge to a unit of China’s HNA Group and RON Transatlantic EG held up the appointment. So did opposition from Priebus who urged Scaramucci to pull out. Scaramucci’s name was later mentioned for other top advisor jobs and possible ambassadorships that he declined. The SkyBridge sale still has not closed. And Scaramucci said Friday his start date wouldn’t be for a couple of weeks so that everything can be “100 percent totally cleansed and clean and I don’t see an issue with it.”

Recently, Scaramucci accepted a post at the Export-Import Bank – but he always had his eyes on the West Wing. And after taking on CNN over a now-retracted report about his finances, Scaramucci rose even further in the estimation of a president obsessed with pushing back on negative media coverage, especially from CNN.

The job of White House communications director completes a long climb for Scaramucci, an Italian-American born to modest means on Long Island, where his father was a construction worker. He graduated from Tufts and Harvard Law School before beginning his Wall Street career in investment banking at Goldman Sachs, which has produced many of Trump’s top aides including Steve Bannon, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, among others.

Scaramucci left Goldman in 1996 and began a hedge fund career that included the founding of SkyBridge in 2005. In 2009, Scaramucci launched the SkyBridge Alternatives “SALT” Conference in Las Vegas, an event that quickly became a star-studded extravaganza featuring the likes of Magic Johnson and Kevin Spacey along with top politicians from both parties and senior Wall Street bankers.

Scaramucci became a regular on financial television including CNBC and later re-launched the defunct “Wall Street Week,” made famous by Louis Rukeyser, and sold the broadcast rights for the show to Fox.

Now he’s getting a chance to complete what he describes as a personal dream. “I have a lot of family members that served in the American military,” he said Friday. “I did not serve, I filled out the selective service. It’s one of the regrets for my life. So this is an opportunity for me to serve the country. I love the president.”

Annie Karni contributed to this report.

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Yes, Trump Could Pardon Himself. Then All Hell Would Break Loose

This week’s eye-popping constitutional question: Can President Trump pardon himself for criminal wrongdoing? With the Russia scandal swirling more intensely around the White House every week, the Washington Post reported Friday morning that the president might be considering pardoning himself and members of his family as a way of fending off legal consequences for whatever special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation turns up.

A self-pardon would be something new in American history — and just the kind of departure from prior norms that typifies Trump. The Constitution doesn’t specify whether the president can pardon himself, and no court has ever ruled on the issue, because no president has ever been brazen enough to try it. Among constitutional lawyers, the dominant (though not unanimous) answer is “no,” in part because letting any person exempt himself from criminal liability would be a fundamental affront to America’s basic rule-of-law values.

But as a practical matter, it’s not a panel of legal experts that will decide this issue. It probably won’t be a court, either. Instead, the answer will be fought out at the highest levels of American politics. And in real life, if the president signed a document with the words “I pardon myself”—which he certainly could—it’s impossible to know what would happen next.

Given the political firestorm that a self-pardon might provoke and the broader norm-smashing context of the Trump administration, an attempted self-pardon could do anything from keeping Trump out of jail to bringing down his presidency and landing him in the dock. Or it could do nothing at all—which would be troubling, too. All we can know for sure is that it would take our system, once again, into uncharted territory.

Here’s one possible scenario. Suppose the president announces a self-pardon, and Republicans in Congress follow the script they’ve used until this point: They express concern at the behavior but make no serious move to punish the president for it. The legal effect of the pardon would then go untested for years. A pardon is a shield against a prosecution, and in the absence of a potential prosecution it has no work to do. As long as Trump is president, there won’t be any prosecution to put it to the test, because a sitting president probably can’t be prosecuted for a crime. Again, this isn’t a certainty—the Supreme Court has made clear that a sitting president can be sued in a civil suit, as Bill Clinton was by Paula Jones—but the dominant view on the criminal side is that a President must be impeached and removed from office before he can be a criminal defendant. So while Trump remains president, an attempted self-pardon would be like an umbrella that hasn’t been taken out in the rain: We don’t know yet whether it works, or how well.

After Trump leaves office, the self-pardon would be tested only if the next administration were inclined to prosecute Trump. And this raises a potentially momentous but highly speculative question: How much might Trump’s prosecution be a campaign issue in 2020? Or 2024? Unlike many countries, in America there’s a strong norm that the winners of elections don’t go out and prosecute the losers, as many Trump opponents noted when Trump threatened to prosecute Hillary Clinton last fall. But if Trump pre-emptively pardons himself, he puts that issue on the table: A would-be successor almost has to answer the question. Surely a Trump-friendly successor wouldn’t consider it, and even a seriously anti-Trump candidate might care more about preserving American norms than delivering a comeuppance. But for the past year and a half, behavioral conventions that seemed well-settled have been crumbling almost weekly, and trying to predict how officials might act after four or eight more years like this is like trying to see beyond some constitutional event horizon. And it’s no easier to predict whether—if Trump were subjected to an unprecedented prosecution after his presidency—a court would block the prosecution on the equally unprecedented grounds that the president had pardoned himself.

There’s another possible future, if Trump announces a self pardon: It could be the moment that Republicans in Congress decide he has finally stepped over the line. To be sure, Congress has shown no inclination to remove the president to this point, and maybe it never will. But as the Supreme Court noted long ago, a pardon suggests the existence of illegal behavior—and a self-pardon itself would represent such flagrant disrespect for rule-of-law values that if anything could push Congress toward impeaching and removing the president, this might.

In that case, Congress wouldn’t just be stripping Trump of his presidency: In all likelihood, it would be converting his ostensible pardon from a shield against prosecution into one more reason to move against him. After all, the decision to impeach would, in itself, all but establish that self-pardons are inconsistent with American constitutional norms. So if ex-President Trump were subsequently prosecuted, the courts would be substantially less likely to see his self-pardon as a valid defense. The defendant would be a disgraced rule-breaker, and the self-pardon would be among his sins—indeed, Congress would have deemed it a “high crime and misdemeanor” under the constitutional provision governing impeachments.

So even if Trump announces a self-pardon, the question of whether that announcement “really” created a valid pardon is one that might never be answered. But if it is settled, it’s more likely to be answered by elected officials rather than in court. Either they’ll punish him or they won’t, and if they don’t, the pardon might never matter one way or the other.

So for Congress to play its role in the constitutional system responsibly, its members might need to confront the basic legal question: Whether the constitution is best interpreted as giving the president a power to pardon himself. There are good reasons to arrive at the conclusion that self-pardon is not acceptable. And the very fact that the issue can’t reach a court anytime soon is a further reason why Congress needs to take its constitutional responsibility seriously. If the president announces a self-pardon, the Republican congressional leadership will either let a chief executive with no evident respect for the rule of law trash yet another constitutional norm, or it will finally decide to confront a reckless president who still commands the loyalty of their own party’s voting base. It’s bang or whimper, and it isn’t pretty either way.

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Inside the 24 hours that broke Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer came to the White House on Thursday completely unaware President Donald Trump was planning to meet with Anthony Scaramucci, a longtime Wall Street friend, and offer him the job of communications director. Other top aides including Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon also had no clue.

But in Trump’s White House, where rumors of staff shake-ups loom for months, it all happened quickly. By Friday morning, above the strenuous objections of senior aides, Trump had a new communications director. And Spicer had made a spontaneous decision to resign, offended by the whole turn of events. He had been blindsided before by Trump but took particular umbrage at this one.

The wham-bam events of the last 24 hours were exceptional even by Trump’s standards: the dismissal of his top lawyer and the lawyer’s spokesman, West Wing blow-ups between the president and his top aides, a press secretary fending off rumors about his possible demise without knowing the entire truth, all while new reports landed about Trump going on the attack against the special counsel investigating his White House.

What struck one adviser who speaks to Trump frequently is that the president seemed calm — like he had a plan in mind all along — but just hadn’t shared it with many others.

“In the president’s business, you don’t have the luxury of time,” said Vincent Pitta, a longtime Trump friend from New York. “And marketing and communications has always been very important to him.”

The outgoing press secretary — who became a national celebrity for his contentious press briefings, inspiring Melissa McCarthy’s Saturday Night Live impressions of a moving podium — had tried to lower his profile, wary he was getting too close to the sun. Random passersby would honk and scream at him outside his house in Virginia while he talked on the phone.

“Just look at his great television ratings,” Trump wrote in a statement, praising him upon his departure, even though Spicer had not delivered an on-camera briefing since June 20.

Spicer thought he had succeeded in reducing his public footprint. One friend said he seemed to be returning to a more normal version of himself, with less stress and more positive things to say about other people. He had told friends he liked being away from the podium and working on longer-term issues, like tax reform — and had told others how well the White House was going to handle the issue under his stead. And he was coping relatively well with the stress of serving as both press secretary and communications director after Mike Dubke resigned in May.

Spicer had been spotted laughing and drinking with friends, colleagues and reporters at various places such as embassy parties, the Trump International Hotel. He seemed at peace with Trump’s erratic behavior. “He just kind of said, it is what it is, it is what it is, ” said one person who spoke to him recently. “I think he felt like he was getting to a place where he was going to take a lower profile and be successful and actually think about things long term.”

Meanwhile, Trump had complained that his White House’s TV coverage was getting worse and worse, aides and advisers said. He repeatedly said to friends that his communications operation was a problem, even if he didn’t always refer to Spicer by name. The briefings would make him upset every day — one reason the White House sharply cut them back. “We need new faces,” Trump told one adviser.

The president had watched Scaramucci act as a surrogate for him on TV and lavishly heaped praise on him to advisers. Two people who spoke to Trump said he particularly relished that Scaramucci forced CNN to issue a retraction on a story about the businessman’s Russian ties — and considered him almost a “white knight” for it, one of these people said. When Scaramucci visited the Oval Office two weeks ago, Trump reminded others repeatedly of the retraction, one senior official said.

Trump had told others that it might make sense to bring Scaramucci on to improve his TV coverage, one person who spoke to Trump recently said. But he didn’t want to fire Spicer. He would just make Scaramucci the communications director and give him power to fix some of the problems in the shop.

By Thursday, Trump had basically made up his mind — and invited Scaramucci back into the West Wing Thursday afternoon. Trump blocked aides who might oppose the move from the meeting, keeping it largely to family, administration officials and advisers said. Spicer had no idea that Scaramucci was in talks for the job — or that he was being offered it, according to administration officials. He learned later that evening, along with senior officials including Priebus and Bannon.

And Spicer was soon getting bombarded Thursday evening by media reports that he was getting a new boss in title — even though he didn’t know exactly what to say. There were efforts from Priebus and Bannon to slow or block the move. Administration officials and advisers said they had various reasons for their opposition, including fears that Scaramucci lacked the political or communications experience necessary for the high-profile job, and personal tensions between Priebus and Scaramucci.

Bannon had a very “aggressive” confrontation with Trump after he found out about Scaramucci’s appointment that was viewed by some others in the West Wing as remarkable, people with direct knowledge of the encounter said. Another person familiar with the encounter said Bannon’s behavior was “embarrassing.”

“There were a lot of people in the White House that didn’t want this,” one senior White House official said. “It happened because the family wanted it and because Trump wanted it.”

Spicer agonized Thursday night and thought Scaramucci might still be kept out. Putting Scaramucci over Spicer would diminish his standing in the West Wing and prove another humiliation.

He went into the White House Friday morning, saying he needed to see the president — who was also talking to Scaramucci. Spicer was weighing his options and wanted to see what job Scaramucci would get before deciding whether to resign. After Scaramucci’s position of communications director was announced in a larger senior staff meeting, Spicer returned to the Oval Office separately, told the president he disagreed with the pick and quickly resigned, people briefed on the encounter said.

Trump was taken aback and told Spicer to stay on board. Scaramucci and Spicer could work together, Trump said. “It would all work out, we’ll all be on the same team,” said a person told of Trump’s comments. But Scaramucci was going to be in charge and report directly to the president.

Spicer saw it as a personal affront to work for Scaramucci and told the president that it couldn’t work. Spicer expected to evolve into more of a full-time communications director role — because he was essentially no longer the public-facing press secretary, having turned over the podium.

Spicer returned angry to the press office, but put on a happy face for a brief resignation meeting, convened by Priebus. He even gave Scaramucci a half-hug.

Spicer had suffered other indignities: Being left out of a papal visit, being criticized by his boss for being played by a woman on TV and for his suits, and being mocked for huddling with his team near some bushes as reporters demanded answers about FBI Director James Comey’s firing. But even some of Spicer’s sharpest critics said he would land on his feet because he had good instincts as a strategist and was well connected in Washington, after having served years as a top official at the Republican National Committee.

Aides sympathetic to Spicer said he had an impossible job. It was difficult to respond to Trump’s misstatements without contradicting him. No communications plan could stay on track because of his Twitter finger. And the warring factions of the White House made it impossible to ever know exactly what was going on.

But he never was going to fully understand Trump. Trump wanted him to be combative — but then would say he was too combative. And at the end of the day, several White House officials said, he would never get past the first day briefing — where Trump forced him to falsely boast about the inauguration crowd size. Other embarrassing moments included where he was kept out of the loop on why Trump fired Comey, and gave an explanation the president later contradicted.

For months, he had faced repeated stories that his job was on the line — only to be reassured by Trump that it wasn’t in late night or early morning phone calls, people familiar with the talks say.

Bannon, people who spoke to him said, was still unhappy after Scaramucci’s official announcement. Priebus spent the day trying to convince others he was close friends with Scaramucci and that Spicer’s departure wasn’t bad for his embattled prospects in the White House. Scaramucci was heading back to New York for the weekend.

By the afternoon, people who spoke to Spicer said he seemed calmer and happier and ready to head home, even though he would return next week, as he plans to stay on until August. He was caught on cameras smiling and waving. Another person said he was laughing in the White House.

As for Spicer’s future, Jim Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Association, doubts that he will meet the test of history given the brevity of his tenure.

“Can you name Kennedy’s press secretary?” Grossman asked, highlighting the wit and humor of then-Press Secretary Pierre Salinger. “It could be that Melissa McCarthy’s brilliance will survive on YouTube, but not much else.”

And on Friday, for the first time in three weeks, the press briefing was on camera — with Scaramucci at the podium.

Jake Lahut contributed to this report.

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Alabama agonizes over Trump attacks on Sessions

Donald Trump’s harsh criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rattling Alabama Republicans, who are considered among the president’s staunchest and earliest supporters.

There are few places where the president is more popular than Sessions’ home state. Mobile was the site of Trump’s first big stadium-style rally in 2015, an event so pivotal in his campaign that Trump returned there in December for another rally to thank local voters.

That ardor hasn’t faded: A February poll showed Trump’s approval ratings at 88 percent among Alabama Republicans, with a stratospheric 69 percent strongly approving of his performance.

But Trump’s public attacks on Sessions for recusing himself in the ongoing Russia investigation have struck a nerve in a state that elected the attorney general to the Senate four times.

Conversations with nearly three dozen local Republicans turned up fond memories of Sessions, the state’s former senator — and frustration that he would be so publicly undermined by Trump.

“When President Trump says that, it’s disparaging and unproductive,” said Jefferson County GOP Chair Sallie Bryant, who hails from the most populous county in the state. “[Sessions] is a great guy, and he’s one of the most honorable people I’ve ever known. I’ve never known him to do something that he didn’t think was constitutional.”

Like Bryant, local GOP officials lined up to defend Sessions. Ozark Mayor Bob Bunting recalled that when his wife passed away on Christmas Eve in 2015, Sessions called just hours later to express his condolences and to check in on Bunting’s grandson, who now serves in the military.

“I was overwhelmed with that call, because nobody else out of Washington would ever call me in that way,” said Bunting. “That’s just the kind of person he is.”

Bunting, who considers himself a strong Trump supporter, was exasperated that Sessions’ decision to recuse himself was being used as a cudgel against him.

“And Trump expects the attorney general to not do the right thing for the country? Dear Lord,” he said. “He could be the greatest attorney general in history if they would just let him.”

Sessions, who offered his resignation to the president in May, said Thursday he intends to remain in his position for the time being.

Jackson County GOP Chair Ellen O’Conner felt torn between her support for Trump as an outsider and her admiration of Sessions’ ideological consistency.

“I don’t know what’s on Donald’s mind,” O’Conner confessed. “I don’t know why he made that stupid statement. To me it’s stupid. If he knew anything about how the federal government and FBI worked, he should have known that Jeff Sessions would have recused himself. The man will not go against the grain. He’s a very true conservative.”

Many GOP county chairs and local elected officials were highly critical of media coverage of Trump and effusive in their praise of Sessions — more than few referring to him as one of the best senators in state history. They remain supportive of Trump — acknowledging that they give him leeway to make mistakes on the job — but criticized the president for hindering Sessions’ ability to do his job.

“We’ve got the possibility of having one of the best AGs we’ve ever had if the media would just get off their back and return the greatness to this country,” Bibb County GOP Chair Jerry Pow said, adding that, “Sometimes Trump talks before putting his brain in gear.”

Bunting was equally blunt.

“I just wish he would throw his Twitter away and shove his shoe in his mouth. I just wish he would pull his head out of somewhere and start governing,” he said. “I’m surprised he hasn’t said anything about his son-in-law instead.”

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Steve Bannon’s disappearing act

Steve Bannon has largely disappeared from the White House’s most sensitive policy debates — a dramatic about-face for an operative once characterized as the most powerful man in Washington.

Bannon, chastened by internal rivalries and by President Donald Trump’s growing suspicion that he is looking out for his own interests, is in a self-imposed exile, having chosen to step back from Trump’s inner circle for the sake of self-preservation, according to several White House advisers who spoke to POLITICO on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering a colleague.

He was absent from Trump’s recent trips to Europe for the G-20 summit and from his visit with French President Emmanuel Macron. Bannon’s non-attendance is all the more noteworthy given his interest in European history and politics, particularly his antipathy to the European Union.

And while Trump’s rousing call in Warsaw for the defense of Western civilization echoed the populist ideology Bannon promoted as chief of the right-wing website Breitbart News, two senior White House aides said Bannon had no hand in crafting Trump’s populist address. He did not participate in administration conference calls planning the remarks, they say, which were largely written by chief speechwriter Stephen Miller, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and speechwriters Ross Worthington and Vince Haley.

“His name wasn’t even mentioned,” said a senior White House aide involved in the speechwriting process.

Whereas Bannon was, not long ago, a near-constant presence in the Oval Office — often seen standing over Trump’s shoulder or sitting in on calls with world leaders — he now spends hours camped out at the conference table in the office of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, reading the news or working on his phone, according to a senior White House aide.

Senior administration officials say a lower profile might suit a man once derided by critics as “President Bannon,” whose growing fame, including an appearance on the cover of Time magazine as “The Great Manipulator” and a spoofing by “Saturday Night Live” as a Grim Reaper shadowing the president reportedly irritated Trump. The president resented Bannon’s mythical status as the Svengali behind his improbable election, and called several reporters and television personalities complaining that Bannon was stealing credit for his victory.

Bannon is more comfortable operating in the shadows between government, big money and right-wing media, according to senior administration officials, who describe Bannon as “invisible,” “AWOL,” and “missing in action.”

That said, he continues to play an important role as a foul-weather friend to Trump, coaching his boss through the nonstop crises buffeting the West Wing. When Bannon returned early from Trump’s first foreign trip in May, for example, it was to quarterback the White House’s response to the metastasizing Russia scandal — which consumes his time and energy.

“He’s falling under the weight of it,” said a Washington-based insider who recently spoke to Bannon.

Neither Bannon nor a White House spokesman responded to a request for comment.

But he now plays a surprisingly minor role in key administration policy debates. White House aides speculate about whether Bannon is trying to protect his job amid long-running talk of a White House staff purge. Several West Wing advisers said they expect Trump to decide once and for all on a White House shakeup during his planned vacation next month, when he is expected to consult with friends beyond the Beltway. “If there is a big staff shakeup, it will be in August,” said a senior White House aide. “My guess is that Bannon probably sees that and doesn’t want to be in the press.”

For Bannon, reduced visibility has brought reduced influence. On trade, his protectionist views are well known; though he initially joined a series of White House meetings begun in the spring to resolve disagreements between advisers with disparate views on the subject, from free-traders like economic adviser Gary Cohn to protectionists like National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro, he has not shown up at one in six weeks.

Nor did Bannon attend a major policy meeting on Tuesday on trade policy toward China, even though he is known to favor tough economic measures toward Beijing. He did, however, have time for a meeting with former Trump campaign aides David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski that focused on political issues, including how to woo back Republican senators who had abandoned Trump on health care.

Bannon has not been entirely absent from the West Wing’s heftiest policy discussions. On Monday, he attended a meeting of the NSC’s Principals Committee, which includes top officials from throughout the government, according to a senior White House aide. Though the president removed Bannon from the NSC in April, the aide estimated that Bannon has been at approximately 20 percent of the Principals Committee meetings since then. Bannon has reportedly dueled with McMaster over troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria, in each case warning against deeper U.S. involvement.

“He follows everything closely. He knows what’s going on. I don’t know if he has a feeling that strategically it’s better if his hands aren’t directly on things, but he’s definitely in the fold on the legislative agenda,” said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump political adviser.

Bannon’s internal retreat has coincided with distance from other White House aides — most surprisingly Miller, a personal and ideological ally of many years. The two are “no longer working together in any substantive way,” according to a top White House aide.

Miller has followed a divergent path, integrating himself into the White House’s staff and building a strong relationship with less-ideological figures like McMaster and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with whom he has developed an increasingly close relationship as the two have collaborated on dozens of presidential speeches and policy initiatives.

Kushner and Bannon, by contrast, have a rocky relationship that bottomed in April when the Daily Beast reported that Bannon had described Kushner as a “globalist” and a “cuck” who was “trying to shiv him and push him out the door.”

One White House aide said Kushner’s embrace of Miller has been fueled in large part by Kushner’s desire to further isolate Bannon. A spokesman for Kushner declined to comment.

But no one threatens Bannon’s job security more than the man whose winning campaign he managed, particularly now that Bannon is back in the headlines thanks to the publication this week of Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Joshua Green’s book, “The Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency,” which depicts Bannon as a driving force behind Trump’s campaign and the early stages of his administration.

The president is “livid” about the book, according to the Washington-based insider, who said that he is “back to giving Bannon the cold shoulder” as a result.

Bannon, said the same source, is simply exhausted: “He doesn’t look well.”

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Imran Haque: Primary Care Physician Keeping His Community Healthy

For about fifteen years Dr. Imran Haque a North Carolina physician has cared for patients in Asheboro, Ramseur, and the surrounding area. He has earned the respect of his patients and colleagues, and many in the community know him as a highly skilled internist with a gentle and caring bedside manner.


As an internist, Dr. Imran Haque practices as a primary-care doctor by treating a wide variety of common illnesses in adult men and women. He provides services that include general physical exams, diabetes management, and weight loss and management. Dr. Imran also specializes in several methods of enhancing one’s appearance like Laser hair removal, 360 resurfacing, and Venus body contouring.


Dr. Imran Haque received his medical training at the University of Virginia in their Internal Medicine Roanoke-Salem Program. He also participates as an enrolled member in the Maintenance of Certification Program for Internal Medicine.


Before attending school in Virginia, Dr. Imran Haque attended Ibero-American University. The University is over seventy-years-old making it the oldest Jesuit University in Mexico. He did his residency in the Carilion Health System. Carilion has it HQ in Roanoke and is a network of hospitals, services, and both primary care and specialty doctors. Their mission is to help and motivate the community to stay healthy.


Dr. Imran Haque maintains affiliations with two hospitals in the Asheboro area; Randolph Hospital and Kindred Hospital-Greensboro. Affiliations give the doctor the right to admit patients to the hospitals, and the quality of the hospital is a good indication of the quality of their affiliated physicians.

Betsy DeVos Seeking Ways to Improve Quality of Education

For many years, Betsy DeVos has pursued reforms through a broad range of non-profit ways. Her reform agenda largely targeted the education sector, and through her efforts, thousands of students are now accessing quality education. Early this year, Mrs. DeVos was named by President Trump to head the education sector in his government. Since joining the political scene in early 1990s, she has worked hard to ensure all American kids are treated equally and are offered the opportunity to receive standard education. Betsy has been an active supporter of charter school movement and school choice programs that largely serve kids from less-fortunate kids. She has served as a leader of the movement that has been advocating for implementation of policies targeting to improve the standard of education in the United States. Today, the school-choice program has been approved by 25 state governments and also the District of Columbia.

How Mrs. Betsy DeVos Started Advocating for Reforms

Mrs. DeVos developed interest of pushing for reforms several years ago after visiting Potter’s House Christian School, which is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She realized that many parents in that school struggled to pay tuition fees for their children. Together with her husband Dick DeVos, they started a scholarship fund to support individual students at the school. Although the idea was good, they realized large number of students could not still receive the education they desired. Mrs. DeVos joined a foundation that provided scholarships to kids from poor families, and this allowed their parents to choose which schools to send their kids. The scholarship fund did not reach all the parents who were in need, and it was an obstacle Mrs. DeVos encountered. Her involvement in charities pushing for the expansion of educational option through tax-credits and vouchers also helped her to push her agenda forward. Her efforts later succeeded when she started a Michigan based PAC known as Great Lakes Education Project, which promoted charter school expansion in the state.

Biography of Mrs. Betsy DeVos

Mrs. Betsy DeVos is a leader with a proven track record in education, politics and business. She has been in the forefront to for the removal of obstacles, fight for change that offer a friendly environment, where individuals have chances of succeeding. Before joining the government, Mrs. DeVos served at The Windquest Group as one of the executives. For over 35 years, she actively engaged in Republican politics even being elected the chairperson of the party in Michigan. She held various leadership positions with PACs, party and charitable organizations. She served as chair of both the Philanthropy Roundtable and American Federation for Children. Mrs. DeVos received her education at Holland Christian High School and later attended Calvin College undergraduate degree.

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Sessions won't resign for now, but gets Trump's message

President Donald Trump’s broadside against Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a New York Times interview this week was no careless accident or slip of the tongue.

Instead, the president was sending a message, said a Trump adviser who talked with him after the interview—making a deliberate effort to convey his lingering displeasure with his attorney general, who recused himself in March from the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“He didn’t just do that randomly,” the adviser said of the president. “There was a certain thinking behind it.”

Precisely what Trump expected Sessions to do in response remains unclear. Sessions said Thursday that he intends to remain in his position for the time being. “I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate,” Sessions said at a Department of Justice press conference. “We’re serving right now. What we’re doing today is the kind of work that we intend to continue.”

One person close to Sessions said he has no interest in resigning, although he previously offered to do so in late May, following several outbursts by Trump over his recusal.

While the resignation attempt was previously reported, this person told POLITICO that Trump had demanded that Sessions submit a resignation letter. By the time Sessions did so the following day, Trump had cooled down and rejected the offer.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general and the White House did not immediately respond requests for comment on the episode.

In the interview Wednesday with the Times, Trump suggested he would have picked someone else to run the Justice Department had he known Sessions was going to remove himself from oversight of the Russia probe, which has expanded to include contacts between Kremlin-connected operatives and Trump aides and family members.

“How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you,’” Trump said, calling Sessions’ actions “very unfair.”

Trump further disparaged Sessions’ performance at his confirmation hearing. He also suggested that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia probe in Sessions’ stead, isn’t politically loyal to the administration.

One senior administration official said Trump remained angry about the recusal because he didn’t know it was coming and that “it made him look weak.” Trump learned about the recusal from news reports and had no idea it was under serious consideration, this person said.

“He never wants to look weak or give into his critics,” this person said. “This made it seem like Sessions had done something wrong, that there was a reason to recuse himself.”

Trump is also frustrated about the string of legal defeats for the travel ban and occasionally blames Sessions for that, this adviser said.

“I have heard him tell the same story about Jeff Sessions 10 times that he told the New York Times,” the official said. “No one was surprised at it. Everyone knew exactly how he felt. He has said it over and over and over.”

Trump’s public comments provoked a media firestorm and triggered widespread speculation that Sessions might resign or be fired.

Yet, after the interview Wednesday, Trump appeared to have no regrets, said the adviser. He was in a great mood and said the exchange with the Times reporters had gone well, this person added.

The adviser said a quick dismissal of Sessions wasn’t likely, nor did Trump think he could immediately fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Rather, this person said, the interview was intended to send a message to Mueller and to make sure Sessions understood the depths of the president’s anger. Several other Trump officials and advisers also said Thursday they do not expect the president to fire Sessions.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump’s comments were not a bid to get Sessions to quit. “I think you know this president well enough to know that if he wanted somebody to take an action, he would make that clear,” Sanders said during a White House briefing.

Another senior administration official said Trump has rarely spoken to Sessions in recent months and had no immediate plan to see him — and added that Sessions is not as often in the West Wing huddling with Trump or other top aides, like Stephen Miller, who worked for Sessions in the Senate before joining the Trump campaign. Sessions still talks to Miller, chief White House lawyer Don McGahn and Rick Dearborn, a longtime Senate aide who joined the administration.

Having the tensions with the president of the United States spill out in public as they did Wednesday created the prospect of a zombie attorney general—going through the motions of the office, while lacking any real connection to or support from the president and the White House.

“DOJ officials do not and should not communicate with the White House on routine criminal cases, so in that sense the day-to-day work can continue,” said former Justice Department Congressional liaison Ronald Weich, now dean of the University of Baltimore law school.

“But there are many policy, legislative and personnel matters where close coordination is appropriate and necessary if the Department is going to be effective in its mission. Also communication is vital on sensitive national security matters. So, the president’s public reproach of the AG and the DAG is unhealthy and quite bizarre,” Weich added.

At a scheduled press conference Thursday on a major action against crime on the “dark web,” Sessions didn’t respond directly to Trump’s criticism, but did say that the development hadn’t affected his ability to oversee the federal government’s law enforcement efforts.

“I’m totally confident that we can continue to run this office in an effective way,” the attorney general said.

Despite the obviously strained relationship with the White House, there were few outward indications Thursday that Sessions is feeling beleaguered.

“I have the honor of serving as attorney general. It’s something that goes beyond any thought that I would have ever had for myself. We love this job. We love this department,” Sessions said as a planned press conference on cybercrime was diverted by questions about Trump’s attention-grabbing critique.

In recent months, Sessions has made significant moves to seek stiffer sentences for criminals, end the practice of directing settlements to nonprofit groups and restore a program making it easier for local law enforcement to seize money and property from suspected criminals, even if they’re never convicted or even charged.

While Sessions isn’t getting many kudos from the White House these days and now finds himself receiving end of a humiliating public tongue-lashing from the president, the attorney general gets a lot of positive feedback from elsewhere for his work.

At a Justice Department event Wednesday, one speaker after another lavished praise on Sessions, with one sheriffs’ association official calling the attorney general’s work “amazing.”

“I just want to say thank you,” Oakland County, Mich. Sheriff Michael Bouchard said. “It’s a sea change in the last year. And it means a great deal to the men and women on the frontline to see that support getting back in the sails as we traverse these troubled waters.”

One former official said Trump’s effort to undercut Sessions may have actually strengthened his hand in the department.

“Actually, I believe that Sessions determination to stay on as attorney general in the face of Trump’s criticisms has likely enhanced his reputation within the Department of Justice,” said former acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger. “This is a strange world in which criticism by this particular president is not damaging.”

Given the tensions on display at the moment, it seems doubtful that Trump or other White House aides would go to bat for Sessions if—for instance—he decided to put up a fight over cuts to the Justice Department in the president’s budget.

But Sessions probably has the ties to Congress to make up for that, another former official said.

“Sessions…holds a lot of gravitas and respect with some of his former colleagues and no doubt will rely on his long-time service as senator in trying to get the department’s agenda addressed,” said Debra Wong Yang, who served as a U.S. attorney in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2006.

One strange aspect of Trump’s public attack on Sessions was that it caused Democratic lawmakers to rally to his side, even though they rarely agreed with him in the Senate and have vocally oppose nearly every major initiative he has undertaken as attorney general.

“I opposed Sessions, but he shouldn’t be forced to resign for following ethical rules – especially if he’ll be replaced by a Trump lackey,” Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said on Twitter. “Ultimately, this is about the rule of law, not Sessions. Protecting Mueller probe’s independence & integrity is the top priority.”

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Senate GOP’s latest health care push sputters

A harsh reality is setting in among Senate Republicans: They’re extremely unlikely to repeal Obamacare in the coming days.

Republicans felt somewhat buoyed by Wednesday’s White House meeting and late-night senators-only gathering, which left them feeling as though they’re making progress and that nearly every GOP senator is trying to get to yes.

But the math is increasingly working against them, with four Republican senators having announced opposition to starting debate — though the bill could further change — and more unannounced but likely no’s. Key Senate Republicans were set to meet again on Thursday afternoon, said Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), a critic of the GOP’s latest approach. But Heller won’t be there and said he’d send staff in his place.

Sen. John McCain’s diagnosis of brain cancer also has the GOP one vote down, or at least leaves a huge question mark regarding whether the beloved Arizona Republican would be able to make the trip back to Washington. And Heller said at a GOP lunch on Thursday, there was no clarity from GOP leaders on what the party would even be voting to debate next week.

“We didn’t have a firm commitment at lunch today,” Heller said. “We still can’t figure out what the first amendment is going to be after the motion to proceed.”

That uncertainty is blunting the GOP’s momentum as it heads into a weekend back home. So is President Donald Trump’s Wednesday interview with the New York Times, which allies of GOP leaders said had stomped all over a productive Wednesday meeting on health care with Republican senators by criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“They had their first productive day on health care in two weeks, and by 6 o’clock, Trump had screwed it up with his AG story,” said a Republican close to GOP leaders.

GOP leaders can lose only two Republicans and move forward. There could be as many as 10 GOP defections on the bill Tuesday if the current, informal tallies hold, according to GOP sources.

One persistent critic, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), said he might vote to proceed to the bill after saying he wouldn’t for several weeks.

“I’ve let leadership know I would vote to proceed if we can proceed to at least one of the choices being clean repeal. It’s still very vague and nebulous and that’s why it’s hard to say whether you’ll vote to proceed to something that you don’t know you’re proceeding to,” Paul said.

However, at the Wednesday night meeting, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Republicans that McCain had indicated privately that he would not support repeal only with no replacement, according to an attendee. That makes the path to 50 on a bill even more complex.

“Nearly all of our members still want to get to yes,” conservative Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who has opposed recent drafts, said in an interview. “I wish I could tell you we found the magic pathway last night.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the White House lunch with Trump on Wednesday drove home the importance of living up to the GOP’s seven-year campaign pledge on Obamacare repeal. Afterward, Republicans scrambled to revive their beleaguered efforts.

“The math has always been difficult, but there’s a feeling that we have a responsibility to get a result,” Alexander said. “And we’ve worked for a long time to get one, and we’re still trying.”

But besides Paul cracking the door open, there was little other evident movement after Wednesday. Heller and Rob Portman of Ohio are still publicly uncommitted on whether to start debate until they know what the bill is. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), one of the four announced “no” votes, said Thursday he has not changed his opinion on the motion to proceed.

“Everybody analyzes what they’re interested in for a ‘yes’ vote,” Moran said. “That was a significant part of the discussion last night.”

Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two more senators critical of recent bill drafts, seemed completely unmoved by a recent attempt by the president the leaders to create a burst of momentum. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was even more firm.

“As long as we are fundamentally changing Medicaid and taking some 700 billion dollars out of the program, I do not see myself voting for a bill that does that,” Collins said. “My intention unless the bill is substantially changed is to vote against the motion to proceed.”

Indeed, privately several senators say they don’t see the configurations of a bill that gets them to 50 votes. Aides working on the bill were equally downbeat.

Some Republicans are beginning to think that a failed vote — and the critical headlines and conservative blowback that would follow — might drive some senators back to the negotiating table.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still expected to hold a vote to try to begin debate on the repeal effort, likely on Tuesday.

“That’s my expectation. We can always come back if it’s not successful by one vote; we can come back when [McCain] is available,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the majority whip. “There is some benefit to moving forward and seeing where we are next week.”

The Congressional Budget Office on Thursday provided more dour news: The revised Senate repeal and replace bill would leave 22 million more Americans uninsured over a decade.

The new coverage projection — which accounts for billions of dollars in additional funding to appease moderate Republicans — is nevertheless the same as CBO’s estimate for the first version of the bill. The CBO report does not include an analysis of Sen. Ted Cruz’s amendment that would let insurers sell “skinny plans” — health plans with fewer benefits that don’t meet Obamacare insurance regulations — as long as they also sell ACA-compliant ones.

Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.

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CBO: Senate 'repeal-replace' plan would leave 22 million more uninsured

The revised Senate Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare H.R. 1628 (115) would leave 22 million more Americans uninsured over a decade, the CBO said Thursday.

The new coverage projection — which accounts for billions of dollars in additional funding to appease moderate Republicans — is nevertheless the same as CBO’s estimate for the first version of the bill.

The CBO report does not include an analysis of Sen. Ted Cruz’s amendment that would let insurers sell “skinny plans” — health plans with fewer benefits that don’t meet Obamacare insurance regulations — as long as they also sell ACA-compliant ones. Key insurance industry groups and many health care experts warn that could destabilize the insurance market and leave even more people uninsured. The administration released a study Wednesday saying it would bring premiums down and boost enrollment.

The tentative inclusion of that amendment in the bill won Cruz’s support as GOP leaders tried to gather support to start debate.

Republicans remain at least four votes short of the 50 needed to bring the bill to the floor, including ailing Sen. John McCain. Several more GOP senators critical of its effect on coverage remain uncommitted.

The repeal bill would now reduce the deficit by $420 billion over 10 years, following the preservation of more Obamacare taxes, as well as the addition of funding to combat the opioid crisis and strengthen the individual market.

That compares with the $321 billion reduction CBO projected for the initial version of the bill.

Average premiums on the individual market under this revised repeal and replace plan are still expected to increase sharply until 2020, after which they’d drop as much as 30 percent as insurers roll back benefits.

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