Sessions resists GOP pressure on Clinton probe – BY KATIE BO WILLIAMS – 11/14/17 05:31 PM EST

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday resisted calls from Republicans that he appoint a second special counsel to investigate a slate of conservative allegations related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In a marathon appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, the pressure the former Alabama senator faces from his own party and the White House was at the forefront even as he endured tough questions from Democrats.

The most memorable exchange of the day came when Sessions told a testy Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a leading voice among House conservatives, that it would take “a factual basis that meets the standard of a special counsel” for the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor.

“We will use the proper standards and that’s the only thing I can tell you, Mr. Jordan,” Sessions said. “You can have your idea, but sometimes we have to study what the facts are and to evaluate whether it meets the standards it requires.”

Sessions on Tuesday did not entirely close the door to a probe and later clarified that he had made no “prejudgment” on the need for a new special counsel.

He testified that he has directed senior Justice Department prosecutors to “evaluate” the concerns raised by conservatives — including whether any merit the appointment of a special counsel.

But it was apparent throughout the five-and-a-half-hour hearing that his refusal so far to appoint a special prosecutor is frustrating Republicans.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) in his opening statement zeroed in on his own stymied demands for a special counsel — and Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia probe, which has soured his relationship with President Trump.

“You have recused yourself from matters stemming from the 2016 election, but there are significant concerns that the partisanship of the FBI and the department has weakened the ability of each to act objectively,” Goodlatte said.

As special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has escalated, Sessions has come under pressure from Trump himself to take action against Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.

On Nov. 3, shortly before leaving for a nearly two-week trip to Asia, Trump told reporters that the Justice Department should be “looking at” Clinton and the Democrats.

Asked if he would fire Sessions if the Justice Department didn’t have agents investigate the Democratic National Committee, Trump responded, “I don’t know.”

“A lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me,” he said.

Article continues:

GOP eying ‘blue slip’ break to help POTUS fill the courts – Jordain Carney 09/17/17 10:30 AM EDT

Momentum is building in the Senate for doing away with an arcane rule that allows senators to block some of President Trump’s judicial nominees.

The “blue-slip” rule — a precedent upheld by Senate tradition — allows a home-state senator to stop a lower-court nominee by refusing to return a sheet of paper, known as a blue slip, to the Judiciary Committee.

Conservatives have clamored for months to get rid of the rule, arguing Democrats are abusing the process to block qualified nominees.

They recently gained a powerful ally: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), at least when it comes to picks for the U.S. courts of appeals.

“My personal view is that the blue slip, with regard to circuit court appointments, ought to simply be a notification of how you’re going to vote, not the opportunity to blackball,” McConnell told The New York Times.

He added that he supports keeping the blue slip rule for district court judges, whose decisions can get appealed to the circuit court.

With Trump and congressional Republicans struggling to rack up major legislative wins — they have, so far, failed to repeal ObamaCare and tax reform is months behind schedule — the courts offer perhaps the best path for the GOP to make lasting change in the majority.

Trump currently has 144 vacancies to fill in the federal court system, with nominees already named for 45 of those spots. The vacancies include 21 on the circuit court, which span multiple states and ranks only below the Supreme Court.

Because the Senate’s “blue slip” practice isn’t a rule but a tradition enforced by the Judiciary Committee chairman, the decision on whether or not to move forward ultimately rests with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.).  But Democrats are prepared to test the issue.

Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) are pledging they will not return their slips for Ryan Bounds, Trump’s ninth circuit pick, or “any other nominee that has not been selected through our judicial process.”

“As senators charged with the task for advice and consent in the selection of candidates, we take our responsibility to identify and recommend candidates to fill Oregon judicial vacancies very seriously,” they wrote in a letter to the White House.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is also refusing to return his blue slip for David Stras, Trump’s eighth circuit nominee.

Article continues:

GOP Congressman Claims Charlottesville’s Deadly White Nationalist Rally Was a Left-Wing Set-Up – Bryan SchatzSep. 14, 2017 5:06 PM

And that’s why Heather Heyer was killed?

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) at a cannabis conference in Berlin, Germany, in April 2016. Paul Zinken/AP

California’s Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher apparently believes the deadly white nationalist protests that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month were the result of a left-wing plot orchestrated to score political points against President Trump.

A profile published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday exposes Rohrabacher’s alternative thinking:

Rohrabacher isn’t buying that conspiracy theory, but he’s deep into another — that Democrats were behind last month’s white nationalist riots in Charlottesville, Va. Oh, and calling them white nationalist riots is a liberal media deceit, he said.

“It’s all baloney,” Rohrabacher said.

Under Rohrabacher’s scenario, a former “Hillary and Bernie supporter” got Civil War re-enactors to gather under the guise of protecting a Robert E. Lee statue there.

“It was a setup for these dumb Civil War re-enactors,” Rohrabacher said. “It was left-wingers who were manipulating them in order to have this confrontation” and to “put our president on the spot.”

Those of you who are fans of conspiracy connoisseur and conservative commentator Alex Jones, host of “Info Wars,” will recognize that scenario as one of his dreamscapes, which is “Pants on Fire” groundless, according to the nonpartisan Politifact.

One wonders if Rohrabacher believes these same unidentified “left-wingers” were also somehow responsible for James Alex Fields Jr., who’d been protesting alongside white nationalists in Charlottesville, ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protesters and brutally killing Heather Heyer.

Rohrabacher—the pro-Russia, pro-Trump, pro-pot, embattled congressman from California’s 48th district—is facing a field of nine challengers in the 2018 primary. The DCCC has identified him as vulnerable, but as the Chronicle explains, unseating him won’t be easy—even if he continues to peddle such insane conspiracy theories.

Bryan Schatz is a reporter at Mother Jones. Reach him at

Republicans on recess hold town halls, are met with constituents angry about health care – Angelo Young MONDAY, AUG 7, 2017 06:51 AM PDT

A Colorado senator holds two town halls and is met with constituents angry about his attempts to repeal Obamacare

Republicans on recess hold town halls, are met with constituents angry about health care

As lawmakers head back to their districts for the August congressional recess, many of them are bracing to hear earfuls from their constituents over national healthcare policy during their latest round of town hall meetings.

With the Republicans’ failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act this summer and with the cost of healthcare continuing to rise (as it has been for decades), lawmakers will struggle to pivot attention away from healthcare and to the next item on their agenda: tax cuts.

In Durango, Colorado on Friday, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner was thrown off his guard at a town hall meeting that was supposed to focus on environmental policy. Instead, he faced a packed room of frustrated constituents who shouted at him for his support of his party’s efforts to repeal the ACA.

“Why on Earth did you vote for the Republican [health] care bill when the vast majority of your constituents opposed it?” one man asked the first-term senator as the crowd cheered, according to The Denver Post.

In his first in-person town hall meeting in more than a year, Gardner replied that he won on the promise he would vote to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation. Gardner voted in favor of every Republican attempt to pass some form of ACA repeal, including one that would have repealed the law without providing a replacement.

During a telephone town hall meeting on Aug. 2, Gardner faced a barrage of questions that were critical of his voting record, including from some participants who supported ACA repeal but were angry that the Republicans couldn’t get it done.

Article continues:

McConnell says GOP must shore up ACA insurance markets if Senate bill dies- By Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein July 6 at 8:44 PM

The Republicans’ time-crunched effort to pass a health-care bill is hitting a lot of resistance in the Senate. The Post’s Paige Cunningham explains five key reasons the party is struggling to move their plan forward. (Video: Jenny Starrs/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that if his party fails to muster 50 votes for its plan to rewrite the Affordable Care Act, it will have no choice but to draft a more modest bill with Democrats to support the law’s existing insurance markets.

The remarks, made at a Rotary Club lunch in Glasgow, Ky., represent a significant shift for the veteran legislator. While he had raised the idea last week that Republicans may have to turn to Democrats if they cannot pass their own bill, his words mark the first time he has explicitly raised the prospect of shoring up the ACA.

“If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur,” McConnell said. “No action is not an alternative. We’ve got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state.”

McConnell, who pledged in 2014 to eradicate the law also known as Obamacare “root and branch,” initially raised the prospect of having to work with Democrats last week after he pulled a measure he had crafted behind closed doors. That bill would jettison the ACA’s requirement that most individuals prove they have health coverage, would repeal or delay billions in taxes imposed under the current law and would make deep, long-term cuts to the nation’s Medicaid program.

Article continues:

Why is the GOP so terrible at health care? So many reasons — but largely because they don’t understand political reality – MATTHEW SHEFFIELD

John Boehner saw all this coming — and despite this week’s debacle, Republicans will likely push on toward disaster

On Tuesday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell formally decided to call off a health care vote that he and other senior Republicans had been pushing toward for weeks.

Straddling a mere two-seat majority in the chamber, McConnell had to beat a hasty retreat after a number of his members indicated that they would not support the Senate’s version of the Obamacare repeal bill, officially called the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The cancellation paralleled an earlier move in March by the House GOP leader Paul Ryan to scuttle a vote doomed to fail.

One person who saw all this coming was former House Speaker John Boehner. Out of Congress since the end of 2015 following a conservative attack on his leadership, Boehner told a high-dollar health care industry conference in February of this year that there was no way that Republicans were going to be able to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.

“In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never, ever, one time agreed on what a health care proposal should look like. Not once,” Boehner told attendees, according to a report by Politico’s Darius Tahir.

Article continues:

GOP Losing Votes on Health Bill, Imperiling Its Chances – By Kristina Peterson and Stephanie Armour WSJ Updated May 2, 2017 3:14 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—House Republican leaders are on the brink of losing too many GOP votes to pass their health-care bill overturning much of the Affordable Care Act, potentially dashing hopes raised by the White House of a big legislative win this week.

At least 21 House Republicans have now said they oppose the latest version of the Republican plan to overhaul the health-care system, with an almost equal number publicly undecided on the bill. House GOP leaders can likely lose only 22 GOP votes to pass the bill, because it isn’t expected to receive any Democratic support.

House GOP leaders—often prodded publicly by the White House—have tried to reach enough support to call a vote on the health bill twice before, and a third disappointment could sink their efforts for the foreseeable future. That would mark a significant setback for a Republican Party that now fully controls Congress and the White House and has made undoing the ACA a top promise for the past six years.

Source: GOP Losing Votes on Health Bill, Imperiling Its Chances – WSJ