Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
⇒Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions:
Republicans say, “He did nothing wrong. These are purely partisan attacks. He could have phrased his answer better, but he did nothing wrong and, to be on the safe side, has taken himself out of any investigations of Russian interference in the US election.”
Democrats say, “He is Benedict Arnold. Or at least he might be if we can find any evidence.”
Comment: He should have corrected his misstatement to Sen. Franken. It’s hard to say if the false statement was deliberate or referred to anything serious. My guess is that you don’t commit treasonous collusion at a public event (at the Heritage Foundation) on your Senate office, meeting with the Russian ambassador, with other people in the room.
Still, the whole Russian connection needs a serious investigation and I publicly called for it some time ago.
My guess is that Putin now realizes that he badly overplayed his hand. After the issue of Russian interference blew up, the chances of more amicable relations between Washington and Moscow were significantly reduced.
The leaks from US intelligence sources are also very disturbing, not only because they disclose secrets but because they appear partisan. That seriously damages the intel community’s reputation.
◆ “White House Needs To Curb Iran’s Cruise Missiles” (Breaking Defense) Jonathan Ruhe and Blake Fleisher note that the US and Iran’s opponents in the Middle East focus, understandably, on nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. But, they argue, Iran’s developing cruise missile capabilities are also a major problem.
Usually, it’s Iran’s ballistic missiles that grab the headlines. The largest such arsenal in the Middle East, they can strike anywhere in the region, and Tehran has transferred thousands to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran also tests new nuclear-capable versions regularly, as they have done in recent weeks.
[But, the Trump Administration] must ensure the new administration reverses a decades-old pattern of neglecting Iran’s nuclear-capable cruise missile capabilities and their importance to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. . . . The nuclear deal will raise this high ceiling for Iran’s cruise missile program even further. –Ruhe and Fleisher in Breaking Defense
What to do?
The United States and its allies must act to halt Iran’s progress. Unlike its predecessor, the Trump Administration should utilize the nuclear deal’s Procurement Working Group to block Tehran’s illicit missile technology acquisition efforts. It is time to demand verification – as authorized by the JCPOA – of the end use of sensitive Iranian imports. Because Resolution 2231 was passed under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, the United States and its partners should consider enforcement actions, including sanctions and use of force, against any material breaches by Iran. –Ruhe and Fleisher in Breaking Defense
Related Story: “Yemen Has Become Iran’s Testing Ground for New Weapons” (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The Houthi rebels are getting ongoing assistance from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), mainly via Hizbullah trainers, in the use of missiles and rockets, drones, explosive devices, and battlefield materiel. –JCPA
◆ “Paul Ryan’s feeling confident about repeal-and-replace. McConnell not so much” (Washington Post)
Ryan and his top lieutenants are increasingly optimistic they will have the votes to pass their version of legislation to repeal the health-care law and replace some elements of it. –Washington Post
The Freedom Caucus is still not on board but Ryan has extra votes to play with. There is hardly any margin for error in the Senate.
In the Senate, under special budget rules allowing a simple majority for the repeal effort, McConnell can lose just two GOP senators and then use Vice President Pence to cast the tiebreaking vote to get the legislation to President Trump’s desk.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a leading moderate, might oppose the legislation because it would revoke Planned Parenthood funding, and a bloc of conservatives is threatening to vote no because Ryan’s emerging bill relies on new tax credits to help consumers buy health insurance. Some big-state Republicans worry that the House bill would leave millions of their constituents without health care because of its approach to the expansion of Medicaid that took place in their states after the ACA became law.
“It’s just a very narrow path,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a junior member of McConnell’s leadership team, said Thursday. –Washington Post
◆ Related story: NPR blames the Republican “hard liners,” not moderates, like Susan Collins, for opposing health-care reform.
Comment: In this case, both NPR and the Washington Post are right. Lots of Senators and some Representatives recognize they have leverage because of the thin margins.
◆ How nasty is the opposition to Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch?
Well, here is a fundraising letter I saw today:
Comment: When you resort to saying Gorsuch is “clear unqualified,” then your definition of “qualified” is nothing more than “he does not agree with my preferred policy outcomes.”
◆ Chuck Schumer: Trump’s new immigration crime office is “ridiculous” (Business Insider)
The overwhelming majority of immigrants are law abiding, they want to be part of the American dream, and most Americans agree with that. So to put an office like this out there shows how anti-immigrant this president is. –Chuck Schumer