Time, People pull out of WHCD party

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A picture of Donald Trump appears on a screen as former President Barack Obama tells a joke during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington, D.C., on April 28, 2012. | Getty

Time and People magazine will not hold their glitzy, celebrity-filled party the night before the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the magazines confirmed.

The move follows several other high profile parties being canceled for the annual event, during which the Washington media, politicians, and often celebrities gather to celebrate journalism awards, scholarships and normally to toast the president. President Donald Trump has announced he will not attend the dinner, the first time a sitting president has skipped the dinner in decades. There are still many other unknowns about the dinner, including whether any administration officials will attend and who the entertainer, typically a comedian, will be.

Vanity Fair and The New Yorker have also announced they are canceling their annual events, which like the Time and People magazine party were normally the most celebrity-filled events of the weekend. Other parties, such as MSNBC’s after-party, have not yet been announced. Typically a Republican president attracts fewer Hollywood-types to the weekend, but Hollywood has been particularly anti-Trump, and thus far it seems as though this year’s dinner will be a much more subdued affair, which may have led to several of the parties to be canceled.

Time will still attend the dinner, while People will be making a donation to the White House Correspondents’ Association in lieu of tables at the dinner, a spokesperson said.

“This year we have decided to focus on supporting the White House Correspondents Association, which plays a crucial role in advocating for the broadest possible access for the press at the White House,” Alan Murray, Time Inc. chief content officer said in a statement.

Hadas Gold is a reporter at Politico.

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Trump lets his aides sweat the details on health care

Donald Trump is pictured. | Getty

On Monday, President Donald Trump’s team continued heated discussions with lawmakers, but the president was fixated on investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and the related congressional hearings. | Getty

The president spent the weekend talking about his travel ban and North Korea, but not so much about the must-pass health reform bill.

President Donald Trump’s aides spent the weekend fretting over the health care law, huddling in a room at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for hours, wrangling with members of Congress on the phone, flying conservatives to the Florida retreat and making final deals with House leadership in hopes of getting the bill passed.

But while Republicans are looking for Trump to close the deal on replacing Obamacare – an objective his top advisers believe is crucial to furthering the rest of the president’s agenda, including winning changes in the tax system and expanding infrastructure spending – the commander in chief, according to several aides and advisers, seems more interested in discussing other things.

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He told associates he wished he hadn’t listened to White House lawyers and instead kept fighting for his original executive order blocking refugees and visa-holders from majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S., rather than introducing a second, weaker version. Both now have been blocked by the courts, frustrating and angering the president.

He asked a number of visitors over the weekend what they thought of Neil Gorsuch, his Supreme Court nominee. He asked others about North Korea.

And he complained about leaks coming from inside the federal government, saying they were the bigger story than his recent claims about being wiretapped by former President Barack Obama at Trump Tower and “even going into the statutory authority of how to deal with them,” according to Alan Dershowitz, who was at Mar-a-Lago and spoke to the president at length there.

Trump told Dershowitz he’d seen him on TV saying that the reframed travel ban had a chance in the courts, and called him a “man of integrity,” with the two hashing out strategy to move the ban forward. (The Department of Justice is appealing the most recent injunctions.)

“He had some ideas on the Middle East he wanted to test out with me,” Dershowitz said, adding the president jokingly called him a “liberal Democrat” several times during their conversation.

On Saturday, Trump played golf, for the tenth time of his presidency, and posed for a picture with a white golf glove, thumbs up and grinning. On the way back from the course, he saw fans waving on the side of the road – and dispatched aides to bring them to Mar-a-Lago for pictures and a quick chat. On his way to the airport, he stopped again to see fans.

Aides sought to project that Trump was busy with matters of state and refused to concede he was playing golf. A spokeswoman said he may have “hit a few balls.” The spokeswoman declined to comment on why he skipped a meeting with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who flew to Mar-a-Lago on Saturday to negotiate changes on the health care bill. “Health care is a top priority of this administration,” said the spokeswoman, Lindsay Walters.

That’s been the job of Trump’s aides. In conversations over the weekend, Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, worried about containing costs and how that could backfire on Republicans. Marc Short, Trump’s legislative affairs director, analyzed votes back in Washington, tried to neutralize powerful conservative groups that have opposed the law and negotiated with lawmakers.

Top staffers, including budget director Mick Mulvaney and Tom Price, have made frequent calls to legislators, people familiar with the calls said. Vice President Mike Pence has huddled with conservative groups and frequently trekked to Capitol Hill.

Several people with knowledge of the discussions said having Trump on the golf course wasn’t a bad thing for his team, who could wade more into the nitty-gritty and have “real talk” with the conservatives. They fear that when he meets with legislators or interest groups that he’ll promise them too much – or change the terms under discussion altogether. “It’s easier to negotiate sometimes without Trump,” one adviser said.

On Monday, Trump’s team continued heated discussions with lawmakers, but the president was fixated on investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and the related congressional hearings.

Advisers say he is very much interested in the law passing – and believes that if it doesn’t, that would be considered “a failure that hurts his presidency,” as one White House official put it. But they acknowledge that he’s less compelled by the substance of the law – the fine details of who wins or who loses. “He’s very interested in having it happen,” said Newt Gingrich, a top ally. “He’s not vested in every single piece of it.”

Trump has told several legislators and aides that he knows the current proposal wouldn’t be perfect, but one person who frequently speaks to him said the president believes “they’d fix it in the next phases”—something President Barack Obama also hoped would be true of his signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act, when it passed in 2009. “He is tired of seeing it criticized on TV,” the person added.

He recently had Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Tennessee Republican skeptical of the law, fly with him on Air Force One back from a Nashville rally. Trump made a case for the House law, trying to win a vote. In another meeting, he huddled with conservatives in the White House and asked individual members for their votes. Trump is speaking at the Republican conference meeting tomorrow, according to sources.

“The Congressman has problems with the legislation as it stands. He continues to discuss potential improvements with his House colleagues and the President,” said Brendan Thomas, a spokesman for DesJarlais.

Members of Speaker Paul Ryan’s team, trying to appeal to Trump’s ego and deal-making sensibilities, have begun calling him the “closer” or the “ultimate closer.”

Gingrich said he believes the House will get the votes to keep the bill going, but that Trump will have to wheel and deal through the Senate and conference phases. “That will be tougher,” he said. “Trump’s job at each stage is to keep it alive.”

On Saturday night, Trump was focused on closing a different deal. Noting that Dershowitz, a Democrat, voted for Clinton in 2016, Trump told the emeritus Harvard Law professor that he wanted to change his mind.

“If I can get this guy to vote for me in 2020, it would be a real accomplishment,” Dershowitz said Trump told him. The law professor added: “He was in a really good mood.”

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Trump to huddle Tuesday with House GOP on Obamacare

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It’s President Donald Trump’s last sales pitch before an expected Thursday vote on the measure. | AP Photo

President Donald Trump will huddle with Republican lawmakers at the Capitol on Tuesday to make a final pitch for the House GOP leadership’s proposed Obamacare replacement, according to GOP sources.

It’s the last sales pitch before an expected Thursday vote on the measure, which faces uncertain prospects in a sharply divided GOP conference. House leaders have expressed optimism in recent days that they can convince nearly all of their Republican colleagues to back the measure, which has faced alternating criticism from conservative and moderate factions.

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Trump’s presence on Capitol Hill is a signal of how crucial the legislation is to the rest of Trump’s first-term agenda. Trump has been lobbying lawmakers in recent days to try to unify the GOP caucus around the measure, dubbed the American Health Care Act.

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Live updates: Will Obamacare be repealed under Trump?

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Republican leaders are negotiating furiously to build support for their health care bill. | AP Photo

The GOP bill has come under fire from House conservatives and moderates, both of whom think the legislation needs changes to make it more palatable.

Updated

House Republicans are racing toward a landmark vote this week on repealing Obamacare — and whether it’s a cathartic victory or a stunning flop for the GOP depends on how the next 72 hours play out.

Republican leaders are negotiating furiously to build support for the bill, trying to bring the party’s disparate factions together behind a package that would dismantle large parts of Obamacare and overhaul Medicaid. Winning over the 216 necessary votes ahead of Thursday’s planned vote would represent a major step toward fulfilling the GOP’s long-held promise to tear down the health law.

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The GOP bill, known as the American Health Care Act, has come under fire from House conservatives and moderates, both of whom think the legislation needs structural — and conflicting — changes to make it more palatable. That leaves House leaders with the difficult job of threading the needle on last-minute tweaks as Thursday’s deadline creeps closer.

Failure would threaten to destroy the repeal effort and deliver a huge setback to President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda. Speaker Paul Ryan and company are confident that they can unite the party in the next few days, believing the bill’s skeptics won’t risk fumbling this opportunity to dismantle Obamacare.

Trump has stepped into the fray as a champion for the bill, and he’ll travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to make a final pitch to lawmakers. But it’s still unclear whether those efforts will be enough.

Follow along with live updates on the high-stakes situation in the House:

WHIP COUNT: The House Republicans standing in AHCA’s way

Republican leaders agreed to a series of changes to the legislation this afternoon, in a bid to string together the final votes needed to get the repeal bill through the House. The tweaks include concessions to both the party’s conservative and moderate factions — but may not go far enough to totally satisfy either group.

To win over the hard-right Freedom Caucus, the package of amendments includes provisions giving states the option of creating Medicaid work requirements and receiving a fixed block grant to fund the program. A separate provision speeds up the repeal of the various taxes tied to Obamacare.

The updated legislative text also allocates $75 billion to bulk up tax credits for older enrollees — an adjustment aimed at quelling concerns that low-income Americans just shy of Medicare eligibility would face significantly higher premiums under this bill.

The big question now is whether those changes win over enough skeptical lawmakers. House Republicans can only afford to lose 21 votes on their side of the aisle, and the Freedom Caucus — which is made up of about 20 to 30 Republicans — resisted earlier overtures from GOP leadership and the Trump administration. It’s also not clear how these changes would affect the CBO’s estimate that 24 million fewer Americans would be insured under the repeal bill, a major sticking point for House moderates.

One amendment apparently won over Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.), who until last week was leaning “no.” She changed her mind after House leaders agreed to a relatively minor provision meant to discourage states from raising Medicaid funds from local governments.

Trump’s huddle on health care today

The president hosted Vice President Mike Pence, Ryan and HHS Secretary Tom Price Monday morning, as well as a surprising guest — ex-Obama administration official Zeke Emanuel. Trump met with Emanuel during his transition to talk health care, and he’s bringing him back into the fold now despite Emanuel’s outspoken disdain for the House repeal bill.

Trump road show rolls into Louisville, Capitol Hill

Health care could take center stage tonight as well, with Trump scheduled to hold a campaign-style rally in Louisville, Ky. At a similar event last week, Trump pledged to pass an Obamacare repeal bill that’s “gonna be great.” But he also left the door open for more negotiation, telling reporters afterward that “we’re going to mix it up. We’re going to come up with something.”

Trump will head to the Capitol on Tuesday to make an in-person appeal to House Republicans in favor of the repeal bill, according to GOP sources.

WHAT COMES NEXT: The final House committee hearing

The House Rules Committee this morning said it will take up the repeal bill Wednesday at 10 a.m. for a final hearing before it hits the House floor. The session is sure to be a marathon, with Democrats offering all kinds of amendments to slow down the process. But committee Republicans, led by Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), aren’t likely to crack, knowing they have the votes to shepherd the bill to the floor.

The committee does have a few procedural obligations, likely headlined by a vote to incorporate any last changes into the final bill. Those tweaks aimed at appeasing the bill’s various Republican skeptics are expected to be offered in a so-called manager’s amendment ahead of the hearing.

Democrats bringing in the big guns on Obamacare

Democrats announced Monday morning that Vice President Joe Biden will headline a rally at the Capitol to save Obamacare the day before Republicans are scheduled to vote to dismantle the health law. Biden will join House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday, in one of his first major appearances since leaving office.

Democrats have united in support of Obamacare, vowing to oppose any repeal efforts. Now they’re bringing in Biden — who famously called Obamacare’s passage a “big f—ing deal” in 2010 — to turn up the pressure during the House’s home stretch.

GOP preps media blitz

House Republicans are assembling a makeshift “media row” for the run-up to the vote, clearing out a space where GOP leaders can drop by to give interviews on the state of play surrounding the repeal bill. The designated area for reporters will be open all Wednesday and Thursday.

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Clinton camp unloads on Comey

Former top officials for Hillary Clinton’s campaign vented their frustration with both FBI Director James Comey and congressional Republicans on Monday as he testified on Capitol Hill.

Five months after Comey stepped into the 2016 election fray in the campaign’s closing days to talk about investigations into Clinton’s email use — which Clinton herself has said was a cause for her loss to Donald Trump — many Democrats are still seething about his role.

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Noting that Comey acknowledged receiving Department of Justice approval to publicly reveal his agency’s investigation into potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia, Clinton’s former press secretary Brian Fallon tweeted, “An approval he did not care to obtain in Clinton’s case.”

Fallon — who was a former senior official in the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder — joined other former Clinton aides in also grumbling about the revelation that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign as of late July, but that Comey didn’t disclose it until now.

“Russia probe that Comey confirmed was, as best we can tell, in effect before Nov. 8,” he wrote, referring to Election Day. “Fair to ask why he didn’t think voters deserved to know.”

“Doing some jobs right requires being in the news everyday, becoming a household name, enraging everyone,” wrote longtime Clinton aide Philippe Reines, who played Trump during her debate prep, tapping into Democrats’ pool of anger with Comey. “FBI Director isn’t one of them.”

But the operatives’ frustration also extended to the talk of Russia’s meddling in the election more generally — and Comey’s acknowledgment of the country’s intent, now that Trump is president.

Noting that Comey said it is “correct” to say that Russia preferred Trump to Clinton in the election, former Clinton communications staffer Tyrone Gayle, now the press secretary for California Sen. Kamala Harris, wrote, “That sound you just heard was every ex-Clinton staffer banging their heads on the wall from California to DC.”

Nearly a year-and-a-half after Clinton herself testified before Congress over the 2012 attack in Benghazi, they also had little patience for House Republicans.

“Focus on leaks meant to serve same purpose as Trump allegation about wiretapping: distract from possible collusion,” Fallon wrote in response to GOP lawmakers’ lines of questioning about leaks to the media.

“To Members of House Intel deflecting real questions on Russia hack for partisan purposes: this threat isn’t partisan,” added former campaign manager Robby Mook, who has raised the alarm about Russia’s election meddling across the world since November. “Anyone could be next.”

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