• RNC Proactive with Document Preservation

    The Republican National Committee is asking its employees to preserve all documents related to the 2016 presidential campaign, BuzzFeed Newsreported. RNC lawyers are describing the request as a precautionary measure, given the federal investigations into Russian meddling in the election—and allegations of collusion by the Trump campaign. According to a July 28 staff-wide memo obtained by BuzzFeed, employees were ordered not to “delete, destroy, modify, or remove from your paper files, laptop computer, desktop computer, tablet, mobile device, email, or any storage system or device, any documents, records, or other materials that relate to the 2016 presidential election or that may relate to any investigation concerning the election.” According to the memo, the RNC has not been contacted regarding any of the investigations.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think the RNC took these steps?
    • Do you think documents have already been destroyed? Why or why not?
    • Do you think anything will come from the investigation? Why or why not?
  • Scaramucci Suggests Leakers Should Be Punished

    Anthony Scaramucci, the White House communications director, said on CNN’s New Day today that leakers in the administration “would have been hung 150 years ago.” Scaramucci has threatened to purge the entire White House press office since assuming his post last week, with his main focus on anyone leaking information to reporters. In a since-deleted tweet Wednesday, he implied that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus could be responsible for some of the information that has been passed on to the press. “In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45.” He added: “If Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker, let him do that.” An FBI spokesperson had no comment.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think Scaramucci made this claim?
    • Do you think Preibus is behind the leaks? Why or why not?
    • What do you think will ultimately happen in response to the leaks? Why?
  • Trump Going after Sessions

    President Trump began this morning with a series of tweets expressing open hostility toward his own attorney general. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” Trump wrote. “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign—‘quietly working to boost Clinton.’ So where is the investigation A.G. @seanhannity.” According to a report from the Associated Press, Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Sessions. Just a day earlier, Trump attacked a “beleaguered” Sessions for failing to look into Clinton’s emails from her private server. Last week the commander in chief told The New York Times he would not have appointed Sessions if he knew he would recuse himself from the Russia probe.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think Trump is going after Sessions in this way? Do you believe it's fair?
    • If Sessions were to be removed, how do you believe the public will react? Why?
    • Who would be a good replacement for Sessions, if he were to be removed? Why?
  • Schumer and Clinton Tangle over Cause of Defeat

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer ripped his former colleague, Hillary Clinton, over her election loss to President Donald Trump and her subsequent efforts to explain why she lost. “When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things—Comey, Russia—you blame yourself,” Schumer told The Washington Post. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.” Schumer’s comments—referring to Clinton blaming Russian meddling and the former FBI director for her loss to Trump—come as Democrats are trying to re-brand ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Democrats unveiled their new slogan as, “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you believe Schumer is raising these concerns now?
    • How do you think this news relates to Schumer's public comments about Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russians?
    • How do you think Clinton will respond? Why?
  • Spicer is Out

    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned this morning in response to President Trump hiring New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. One official, speaking anonymously, remarked: “Surprised it took this long.” Additionally, The New York Times reported, “The president requested that Mr. Spicer stay on, but Mr. Spicer told Mr. Trump that he believed the [Scaramucci] appointment was a major mistake, according to person with direct knowledge of the exchange.” Spicer later told CNN’s Dana Bash: “I wanted to give the president and the new team a clean slate.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you believe Spicer resigned?
    • How do you think Trump will react to this decision?
    • How do you believe the White House relationship with the press will change as a result of this, if at all?
  • Trump Battles Senate Republicans

    During a lunch at the White House with GOP senators, President Trump tossed a not-so-veiled threat at Senator Dean Heller, who was famously a holdout on voting for the president’s repeal-and-replace efforts. The president lamented several Republicans turning against the Senate bill, effectively killing it this week: “The other night I was surprised when I heard a couple of my friends—my friends, they really were and are. They might not be very much longer, but that’s okay. I think I have to get them back,” he said to laughter in the room, at one point turning to Heller to say, “[You were] the one we were worried about. You weren’t there. You’re going to be.” And then Trump added: “He wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?” The president continued, as Heller’s smile turned uncomfortable: “I think the people of your state—which I know very well—I think they’re going to appreciate what you hopefully will do.” The president concluded with what can effectively be seen as a word of warning to Republican holdouts: “Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America that you’re fine with Obamacare.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe Trump was threatening Heller? Why or why not?
    • Why do you think Trump chose to do this publicly?
    • Do you think this tactic will work to apply pressure to Republicans? Why or why not?
  • Trump Support at 50% in Counties he Won

    According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released earlier today, President Trump’s approval rating sits at 50 percent in the counties that experienced either a “surge” or a “flip” in fueling his election win. Half of the adults in these so-called “Trump counties” approve of his job performance (with 29 percent strongly approving), while 46 percent disapprove (35 percent doing so strongly). When broken down into “surge” counties (where Trump built big gains upon Romney’s 2012 wins) and “flip” ones (where he turned the county from an Obama 2012 victory), the numbers suggest the president is losing ground in the latter. For those “flip” counties, his approval now only stands at 44 percent; and in “surge” counties, he sits at 56 percent.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think these results have emerged?
    • Do these findings surprise you? Why or why not?
    • How do you think Trump could most easily improve his poll numbers?
  • Another Version of a Republican Healthcare Bill

    Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his deeply divided Senate Republicans today unveiled their last, best chance for a Republican-only authored bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. According to the discussion draft, the legislation would keep in place the taxes on the wealthy that were instituted under Obamacare, and would allocate an extra $70 billion to states with the goal of driving down premiums. The bill would also provide $45 billion for opioid treatment and recovery, in addition to a provision championed by conservative Senator Ted Cruz and Mike Lee that would allow insurers to sell plans that do not comply with ACA regulations as long as they also sell plans that are compliant with the rules. McConnell can only afford to lose two Republican votes on the proposal.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you think this proposed bill will pass? Why or why not?
    • What do you think this bill imrpoves upon from the previous Republican draft?
    • What areas do you think still need to be improved on? Why?
  • Who Had the Hillary Information in Russia?

    Donald Trump Jr. released alleged email correspondence with music publicist Rob Goldstone during the 2016 election, in which the two set up a meeting with a Russian lawyer to discuss “sensitive information” about then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The email’s subject line reads “Russia - Clinton - private and confidential.” Goldstone wrote, “The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” He continued, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think Goldstone sent these emails to Trump, Jr.?
    • How does the publication of these emails change your thoughts about the potential meeting? Why?
    • Do you believe Trump, Jr. did anything illegal? Why or why not?
  • Should Ivanka Trump have Sat at G20?

    President Trump defended his daughter’s taking his seat at the G20 summit, which was widely criticized over the weekend. The elder Trump tweeted, “When I left Conference Room for short meetings with Japan and other countries, I asked Ivanka to hold seat. Very standard. Angela M agrees!” German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday did stand up for Ivanka Trump’s place at the table, arguing that “the delegations themselves decide, should the president not be present for a meeting, who will then take over and sit in the chair. Ivanka Trump was part and parcel of the American delegation, so that is something that other delegations also do. It’s very well known that she works at the White House and is also engaged in certain initiatives.” Trump tweeted, “If Chelsea Clinton were asked to hold the seat for her mother, as her mother gave our country away, the Fake News would say CHELSEA FOR PRES!” Most criticism of the younger Trump’s participation in the high-level meetings focused on her lack of experience, not her name.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you have a problem with Ivanka Trump sitting in for her father? Why or why not?
    • How would you describe the media response to this event?
    • How would you describe Merkel's response to the event?
  • Russia Still Confused by Trump

    The Russian government “still has no understanding” of what Washington wants from Moscow, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. The comment comes before President Trump and Putin will come face-to-face for their first bilateral meeting at the G-20 summit in Germany. Peskov said the meeting will give the two presidents an “opportunity to get acquainted and understand the true approach of both of them to the bilateral relations, and not the approach which is broadcasted by the media.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • What do you expect to come from Trump and Putin's meeting at the G20?
    • Why do you think Russia is claiming to not know what D.C. wants from them currently?\
    • How do you believe recent actions by North Korea factor into U.S.-Russian relations? Why?

  • North Korea Launches ICBM

    North Korea conducted a missile test this morning and claimed it was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could strike anywhere in the world. Later on today, CNN and NBC reported that U.S. officials “believe” the missile was, in fact, an ICBM, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement declaring the launch "a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world." Tillerson also warned that the U.S. would be seeking redress with the UN security council over Pyongyang's actions and that Trump's administration would "enact stronger measures to hold the DPRK accountable." The launch was into the sea towards Japan, South Korea’s military said. Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launch came from North Phyongan province. Japanese authorities said the missile was thought to have landed in the country’s exclusive economic zone, though there were no reports of damage to ships in the area. The latest launch, which came on the eve of America's Independence Day holiday, followed a series of missile tests in recent months that have raised fears of Pyongyang becoming capable of launching a missile at the U.S. In the wake of the latest launch, President Trump took to Twitter to ask whether China will “put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • How do you believe the U.S.should respond?
    • What do you think Russia will do in response? China?
    • Do you believe North Korea is a true threat to the United States? Why or why not?
  • Christie Enjoys Private Beach

    While Island Beach State Park on the Jersey Shore was closed to the public over the holiday weekend, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got the state-run beach entirely to himself, thanks to a governor’s residence right on the shore. Christie was joined by wife Mary Pat and other members of his family on early yesterday afternoon, photographs taken from the air showed. Legislators were unable to pass a budget for New Jersey on Friday night, causing the state shutdown, which included all 40 state parks and affected as many as 35,000 state workers. Christie did, however, sign an executive order permitting the operation of essential services and New Jersey Transit. “The governor has a residence at Island Beach. Others don’t,” Christie said ahead of his trip. “Run for governor and you can have the residence.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you believe the media has made a big deal of this story?
    • Should Christie have gone to the beach? Why or why not?
    • How does this story impact your view of Christie? Why?