Pressure To Push Out Bannon Could Backfire

Republicans are growing increasingly frustrated with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, with one GOP lawmaker calling for his ouster yesterday.

But GOP members also acknowledged that pressing President Trump to dump Bannon — whose recent comments in an American Prospect interview and ongoing friction with other White House officials have unnerved members of the party — would likely only backfire.

“There are a lot of people in the president’s orbit who would probably like Bannon to resign,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “At the same time, the president realizes that Bannon is an important factor for his agenda.”

But a number of Republican strategists and congressional aides told the Herald that despite growing irritation at Bannon from within the party, confronting the president comes with its own hazards — primarily facing the ire of Trump and those who voted for him.

“I don’t think voters who voted for him are under any illusion about who they put in office,” O’Connell said. “They don’t always like what he’s done as candidate or in office, but they really like his agenda.”

And GOP lawmakers will work with Trump, despite Bannon, O’Connell said, “because their political lives depend on it.”

Read more from Kimberly Atkins at the Boston Herald

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GOP Thinks It Has Winning Message On Taxes

GOP lawmakers and strategists think they have a winning message on tax reform.

After a brutal fight over ObamaCare that included difficult votes and a painful loss on the Senate floor in July, Republicans are eager to move on to tax reform, which they argue will create jobs, simplify the tax code and put more money in people’s wallets.

Voter enthusiasm for their legislation will be important.

Republicans desperately want to enact major legislation after the failure on ObamaCare, which was hastened by the dismal poll numbers of the GOP repeal bills.

Republicans can’t afford to run into similar problems on their next top legislative goal.

The GOP thinks tax reform will be different, in part simply because tax cuts are an easier sell than the healthcare overhaul, which would have taken away benefits from millions of people.

“What they need to be saying over and over is simple: that this is a jobs bill that is going to put money back in the pockets of Americans,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

If Republicans make it clear that tax reform boosts jobs for everyone, they are “nullifying” Democrats’ arguments about wealth inequality, O’Connell said.

Read more from Naomi Jagoda at The Hill

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After Trump Threats, Did Kim Jong Un Just Blink? Or Wink?

After North Korea's military presented its leader with detailed plans to launch missiles into waters near Guam, Kim Jong Un made a show of not approving them, at least for now.

In other words, he blinked. Or did he? 

The latest crisis was set in motion when President Trump, speaking to reporters on Aug. 8, said "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.

"They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen," Trump told reporters during an event at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club.

North Korea announced two days later that it was drawing up plans to fire missiles in the direction of Guam, a U.S. territory with more than 160,000 residents. The threat was very specific, down to the exact number of missiles, their flight path over Japan, the number of seconds they would be in the air and how far away from Guam they would land, all just awaiting the execute order from Kim.

It may have been a bluff, but Trump effectively called it, said Ford O'Connell an adjunct professor at The George Washington University.

"We can debate about whether or not he was actually going to do it, but the fact that he had to change course so quickly is a pretty significant event," O'Connell said.

O'Connell argues it's not just the tough talk from President Trump, who threatened to unleash "fire and fury" on Pyongyang, but equally strong, if less colorful statements from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who warned Kim to "cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."

Read more from Jamie McIntyre at the Washington Examiner

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Trump Is Best Chance At Blocking Anti-Gay Ex-Judge Roy Moore From Senate

The biggest thing in between controversial former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) and the U.S. Senate is Donald Trump.

Heading into election day on Tuesday, the question is whether the president and the GOP establishment have been able to do enough to push their favored candidate, appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), into a runoff where they think they can defeat a man best known for his anti-gay and religious right stances.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his donor network have gone all-in for Strange, a former state attorney general and lobbyist who was appointed to the Senate after Jeff Sessions left to become attorney general

With $4 million in negative ads attacking Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) for his earlier criticism of  Trump and the president’s last-minute support in a state where he’s immensely popular with the GOP base, they’re feeling confident that they’ve put their man into the top two in the race ahead of a likely runoff on Sept. 28.

“I’m not inclined to believe Moore can’t win this race,” said Ford O’Connell, a national GOP strategist who did some work on Strange’s 2010 race for attorney general. “A lot of folks in Alabama are looking for someone who’s a lot more fiery. They’re looking beyond the usual business conservative wing, they’re looking for ideologues who represent them.”

Read more from Cameron Joseph at TPM

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Pence To Prez: Times Story All The News Unfit To Print

Vice President Mike Pence seems to have a plan for how to survive the Trump administration with his political future intact: Walk softly, and carry a big sign that says, “I’m loyal to you, Mr. President.”

Yesterday, that sign took the form of an official White House statement from Pence blasting a New York Times article suggesting he is positioning himself for a 2020 presidential bid should Trump not seek re-election.

“Today’s article in the New York Times is disgraceful and offensive to me, my family, and our entire team,” Pence said in the statement. “The allegations in this article are categorically false and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this Administration.”

Pence did not specify what part of the story — which detailed his fundraising, GOP outreach efforts and selection of political operatives over government veterans as his top aides — he is alleging is false.

The Times piece noted that despite Pence’s quiet political maneuvering, he’s gone out of his way not to appear out of step with Trump in any way, let alone publicly criticize him. That’s because even if he doesn’t believe in everything Trump stands for, he needs the votes of those who do.

“Trump voters are a plurality of the Republican Party,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said. “If they see him as potentially trying to force out Donald Trump, they are not going to support him. You can’t win the Republican nomination, let alone the election, without them. Pence is not an idiot.”

Read more from Kimberly Atkins at the Boston Herald

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Republican Attorneys General Dominating Democrats In Fundraising Battle

Republican attorneys general are trouncing their Democratic counterparts in 2017's fundraising wars amid liberals' failure to capitalize on resistance to President Trump.

The Republican Attorneys General Association raised $7.4 million through the first half of 2017, which the group said is a record-high number for the organization that formed in 1999. During the same period in 2015 and 2013, the association raked in $5.1 million and $4.2 million, respectively, as it headed into major election cycles.

The Democratic Attorneys General Association, meanwhile, raised about $3.1 million between January and June and reportedly hired full-time finance staffing for the first time in 2017.

The GOP is aiming to flip a pair of Midwestern states in 2018 where Trump outperformed expectations in 2016: Iowa and Minnesota. Republicans also are heavily invested in snatching the Virginia attorney general seat this year. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney John Adams, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, will square off against the Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring there.

Ford O'Connell, a GOP strategist and veteran of Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, said the cash raised by Republicans will prove helpful, but "there is only so much you can do to overcome" the "electoral winds favor[ing] the Democrats."

O'Connell noted that both Democrats and Republicans recognize that the upcoming attorneys general elections will be of critical importance for redistricting and states' rights issues.

But the Democrats' strategy for thwarting the GOP's effort to paint all the attorneys general seats red focuses on making the coming elections all about Trump.

Read more from Ryan Lovelace at the Washington Examiner

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Trump Turns On GOP Congress

President Trump is firing pointed criticism at the GOP Congress, ripping lawmakers for sending him a Russian sanctions bill he opposes while failing to negotiate an ObamaCare repeal bill.

While tensions between the president and GOP lawmakers have been simmering for months, the latest exchanges suggest a turn in the relationship.

Trump lamented Thursday that the U.S.-Russia relationship is “at an all-time and very dangerous low.”

“You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us [healthcare]!” he tweeted.

It was the second day in a row that Trump ripped the Congress on both issues, and GOP lawmakers were happy to return fire.

Despite Trump’s stumbles, GOP strategist Ford O’Connell warned that lawmakers’ distancing themselves from Trump was risky. Highlighting divisions with Trump while failing to fulfill major campaign promises would demonstrate to voters that Republicans can’t govern, he warned.

“Running from Trump is a bad idea in terms of the policy and the agenda,” O’Connell said. “They don’t get it that their job is to govern.”

Read more from Jordain Carney and Christina Marcos at The Hill 

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Health Care, Tax Reform, Russia Loom As Trump, Congress Leave Town

All in all, July was not a great month for the Trump White House.

Setting aside the staffing drama and the brief rise and fall of the Mooch, the president’s top legislative priority stalled in the Senate, his son’s attempt to obtain politically damaging information about Hillary Clinton from Russia was revealed, and Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation imposing new sanctions that he had threatened to veto.

As Trump prepares to embark on a 17-day vacation in Bedminster Friday, his poll numbers continue to slip, Republicans in Congress are growing restless, and his ability to execute the ambitious agenda he campaigned on is somewhat in doubt.

According to Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, however, those who are impeding the president are hurting their own party’s chances to retain control of Congress.

“What Congress has to understand is that the Trump administration must deliver results, particularly by passing tax reform before the 2018 midterms,” he said.

Whatever Republicans think of the president’s behavior, Trump’s policy agenda still mostly aligns with theirs, and with their voters.

“Voters are not going to fire them over Trump’s tweets…. Running away from Trump is stupid,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at WJLA

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Former Clinton Special Counsel: Trump Approved Russian Sanctions To Avoid Embarrassment

President Trump's decision to approve sanctions against Russia won't prove he is serious about taking on Moscow because the bill was signed to avoid embarrassment from his own party, according to President Bill Clinton's former special counsel.

Davis argues the sanctions do not negate Trump's encouragement of Russia during the campaign to hack into Hillary Clinton's email server, and publish whatever they may have found. 

Some Republicans agree that Trump was forced to sign the sanctions not because he wanted to but due to what they consider the media's fixation with the Russia storyline.

"I would be lying if I said Trump was not backed into a corner on signing the sanctions bill because of the media's obsession with Russia," Ford O'Connell a Republican strategist and former adviser to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, told the Washington Examiner.

While O'Connell believes signing the sanctions were the right thing to do, he expressed a fear many conservatives have that the newly imposed measures against Moscow could hurt the administration down the road.

"If it were not for the Russia/2016 election storyline, Trump should not have signed the bill. Not because Russia should not be punished for its actions in the 2016 election, Ukraine, etc., but because the bill encroaches on the president's foreign policy powers as outlined in Article II of the Constitution. In essence, ceding presidential authority to a dysfunctional Congress could come back to bite not only the Trump administration but also America with the bevy of problems brewing all over the globe," O'Connell added.

Read more from Sean Langille at the Washington Examiner

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Trump Continues To Push For Healthcare Revamp, But It Could Be Too Little, Too Late

U.S. President Donald Trump is still pushing for a healthcare revamp, even though his bill -- considered a last-ditch effort to pass legislation -- failed in the Senate last Friday.

Despite years of promise that they would repeal and replace the 2010 healthcare law, known as Obamacare, Senate Republicans failed last week to pass a draft bill. That sparked the White House's wrath, but President Trump did not not give it up.

Trump "will not accept those who said, quote, 'it's time to move on,'" Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump's senior advisers, told conservative TV program Fox News on Sunday.

"If a new Health Care Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon," the president tweeted Monday in a bid to tighten the screws on the Republican Congress.

However, Trump's threats to the Congress may be futile, as the party simply does not have the votes to repeal Obamacare, despite the controversy the bill has elicited over the past years.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua that last week's failure was not as much of a loss for the White House as it was for GOP lawmakers.

Repealing and replacing Obamacare "is a promise that they made seven years and four election cycles ago...This promise was made long before Donald Trump came along to be their nominee," he said.

O'Connell said that the Republican party would have had this problem regardless of which Republican sits in the White House.

"Voters are not going to blame Trump. They are going to blame the members of Congress who couldn't uphold their promises," he said.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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