TRUMP AGENDA: Listen all of y'all, it's sabotage
Last night's big news: "The White House announced late Thursday that it would no longer reimburse insurers for lowering costs for customers under the Affordable Care Act, a decision Democrats condemned as "spiteful." President Donald Trump had indicated he was considering cutting off the payments in order to increase pressure on lawmakers to repeal the ACA, also known as Obamacare. "Based on guidance from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare," the White House said in a statement. "In light of this analysis, the Government cannot lawfully make the cost-sharing reduction payments," the White House statement said."
More, from the Washington Post: "Health insurers and state regulators have been in a state of high anxiety over the prospect of the marketplaces cratering because of such White House action. The fifth year's open-enrollment season for consumers to buy coverage through ACA exchanges will start in less than three weeks, and insurers have said that stopping the cost-sharing payments would be the single greatest step the Trump administration could take to damage the marketplaces — and the law. Ending the payments is grounds for any insurer to back out of its federal contract to sell health plans for 2018. Some states' regulators directed ACA insurers to add a surcharge in case the payments were not made, but insurers elsewhere could be left in a position in which they still must give consumers the discounts but will not be reimbursed."
And here's NBC's Benjy Sarlin, on Trump's other move yesterday to disrupt the ACA. "Experts say it has the potential to upend the current health care system for small businesses and individuals by opening up cheaper options for some customers, while spiking costs for others and encouraging more insurers to flee Obamacare's exchanges…. Trump's order, however, lacks details and does not take effect anytime soon. Instead, it directs federal agencies to look at broad goals set out by the White House and decide over time whether new regulations might be possible. That makes judging the order's impact difficult."
The AP: "President Donald Trump will say Friday the Iran nuclear deal is no longer in U.S. national security interests, but he won't withdraw from the landmark 2015 accord or immediately re-impose sanctions against Tehran, according to U.S. officials and outside advisers to the administration. Trump's speech from the White House will outline specific faults he finds in the pact but will also focus on an array of Iran's troubling non-nuclear activities, four officials and advisers said. Those include Tehran's ballistic missile program, support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, Lebanon's Hezbollah movement and other groups that destabilize the region, including in Yemen."
What does it mean for Europe? The Washington Post: "European leaders said Friday that President Trump's expected decision to strip backing from the nuclear deal with Iran could undermine further international attempts to restrict Tehran's ability to expand its atomic program. At the same time, Europe readied measures to keep the deal on track despite the U.S. uncertainty. European diplomats have started a wide-ranging effort to lobby U.S. lawmakers in recent weeks on the assumption that Congress will be the main battleground over the future of U.S. participation in the two-year-old deal between Iran and six world powers. The pact limits Iran's uranium enrichment in exchange for lifting international sanctions."
White House chief of staff John Kelly told reporters yesterday that he's "not so frustrated in this job that I'm thinking of leaving."
The Wall Street Journal: "President Donald Trump is nearing a decision on whom to pick to lead the Federal Reserve, and met Wednesday with one of four candidates, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Trump met with Stanford University economist John Taylor, a White House official said. Mr. Taylor has criticized the central bank's easy-money stimulus policies since the financial crisis and pushed for the adoption of a mathematical formula to guide the Fed's interest-rate decisions. The president met late last month with former Fed governor Kevin Warsh and current Fed governor Jerome Powell to discuss the job."
A buzzy story from the Washington Post: "At the Interior Department's headquarters in downtown Washington, Secretary Ryan Zinke has revived an arcane military ritual that no one can remember ever happening in the federal government. A security staffer takes the elevator to the seventh floor, climbs the stairs to the roof and hoists a special secretarial flag whenever Zinke enters the building. When the secretary goes home for the day or travels, the flag — a blue banner emblazoned with the agency's bison seal flanked by seven white stars representing the Interior bureaus — comes down."
OFF TO THE RACES: Feinstein's primary challenger emerges
AL-SEN: Here's how Roy Moore is pushing back against a Washington Post report on his foundation's accounting practices, via AL.com.
CA-SEN: From CNN: "California Democratic state Senate president Kevin de León intends to enter California's 2018 Senate race against Sen. Dianne Feinstein, three sources with knowledge of his plans say. De León has begun calling labor leaders and elected officials to inform them of his plans, the sources said, and is expected to soon announce his campaign against Feinstein, a giant of California Democratic politics who has held the office since 1992."
IL-GOV: The Chicago Sun-Times: "Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) has dropped out of the governor's race, saying he simply doesn't have the money to compete statewide against wealthy competitors. "We raised $828,000 from 2,600 donors. But we don't have enough money to meaningfully scale our campaign," Pawar told the Chicago Sun-Times after announcing his decision in an email to supporters."
ME-SEN: The Portland Press Herald reports on Collins' decision day.
MS-SEN: Concerns continue to mount about Thad Cochran's health.
NJ-SEN: The latest in the Menendez trial, from POLITICO: "After hearing testimony from Senate staffers, government bureaucrats, private jet pilots, models and former senators and Cabinet secretaries, Judge William Walls indicated he may dismiss most of the 18 charges against Menendez. Prosecutors were unable to produce a smoking gun demonstrating that New Jersey's senior senator explicitly promised to do something for his co-defendant, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, in exchange for a gift or campaign contribution. Still, Walls said he would not dismiss lesser charges the Democrat filed false information by not listing private jet flights and hotel stays provided by Melgen on his U.S. Senate financial disclosure forms." MORE: "The latest developments are no doubt good news for Menendez, whose trial reconvenes Monday in Newark. But not necessarily for his party: If Menendez prevails in court, Democrats would face the real possibility that the powerful senator will be hell-bent on running for re-election next year, despite having gone through an embarrassing and politically damaging trial."
VA-GOV: Ed Gillespie is arguing that Virginia's next governor can't afford a bad relationship with Trump.
WI-SEN: From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Less than two months after entering the race for U.S. Senate, Leah Vukmir suggested this week that Republican rival Kevin Nicholson run for another office and gain experience before making a bid for high office."