Midterm Elections Remain Vulnerable to Russian Meddling, U.S. Spy Chief Says

The November midterm elections are vulnerable to the Russian interference that plagued the 2016 presidential election, the Trump administration’s top intelligence official said Tuesday.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Moscow could undertake cyber-influence operations in the coming congressional elections similar to those it stands of accused of running in 2016.

.. “Influence operations, especially through cyber means, will remain a significant threat to U.S. interests as they are cow-cost, relatively low-risk and deniable,” wrote Mr. Coats, a former Republican Indiana senator appointed by Mr. Trump to the top intelligence job in his administration last year. “Russia probably will be the most capable and aggressive source of this threat in 2018.”

.. Mr. Coats, along with the leaders of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency, told the panel they had already seen evidence Russian intends to interfere in the 2018 elections, but declined to elaborate, citing the public nature of the hearing.

.. Russia’s goal, Mr. Coats said, was to “create wedges that reduce trust and confidence in democratic processes.”

.. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo suggested that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un would be reluctant to give up his nuclear arsenal for fear that it would undermine his standing at home.

.. “The impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent—and possible upheaval—through 2018,” Mr. Coats’s assessment found.

Bannon pledges not to go to war vs. House Republicans

The Breitbart chief tells top House GOP campaign strategists that his focus is on Mitch McConnell.

.. Top House GOP campaign strategists met with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Friday morning — an indication party leaders are attempting to avert the divisive primaries that Bannon is organizing against Senate Republicans.

.. Bannon pledged to Stivers and Rogers that his focus is not on toppling establishment-oriented House incumbents in the 2018 midterm elections, according to two people familiar with the meeting, but rather on waging an all-out war against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

 .. Behind the scenes, Bannon has been telling conservative leaders to focus on primaries in the Senate and not the House. He has framed Senate primaries — beginning with this fall’s Alabama GOP runoff — as headline-grabbing, climactic battles that will determine the direction of the Republican Party during the Trump era.
.. Senate Republican strategists have responded with fury, casting Bannon as an out-of-the-mainstream figure who is threatening to imperil the party’s midterm prospects.
.. Bannon’s best opportunity to shape House primaries, however, comes in open seats.

GOP Dysfunction Will Paralyze the Conservative Base in 2018 

If Republicans can’t get their act together, they will pay at the polls.

.. Republicans reputedly control majorities in both houses of Congress. A GOP chief executive itches to deploy his signature pen. Regardless, senators from President Trump’s own party concoct excuses to avoid forwarding bills to his desk

.. The free-market, conservative movement is blessed with hardworking, dedicated, and idealistic (in the best sense) donors, scholars, opinion journalists, broadcasters, and activists. Alas, we are doomed by flaccid, nearly non-existent congressional leadership, “so-called Republicans” (in President Trump’s words) who crave big government, and libertarian utopians who — on too many issues — will reject significant policy improvements while demanding nothing less than a live-action version of Atlas Shrugged.

.. The free-market, conservative movement is blessed with hardworking, dedicated, and idealistic (in the best sense) donors, scholars, opinion journalists, broadcasters, and activists. Alas, we are doomed by flaccid, nearly non-existent congressional leadership, “so-called Republicans” (in President Trump’s words) who crave big government, and libertarian utopians who — on too many issues — will reject significant policy improvements while demanding nothing less than a live-action version of Atlas Shrugged.

.. he should have yanked their committee assignments. This perfectly illustrates McConnell’s problem: He is neither loved nor feared. He is barely respected. Mainly, he is disregarded

.. The end of reconciliation means that any new repeal-and-replacement bill will need 60 votes, rather than 51. The need to recruit at least eight Democrats to push a new healthcare bill over the filibuster threshold will move it, ipso facto, to the left of GCHJ. Perhaps Rand Paul and Ted Cruz can explain how this would advance capitalism and freedom.

.. “Collins’ state would have received a 43 percent increase in federal healthcare funding” from GCHJ, health-policy expert Betsy McCaughey of the London Center for Policy Research tells me. “She was cowed by the rhetoric and demagoguery.”

.. McCain left intact a calamitous law that lacked bipartisan support and jacked up the average Arizonan’s premiums last year by 116 percent.

.. Come 2018, the Republican Party will need these patriots to knock on doors, man phone banks, attend get-out-the-vote rallies, and of course, cast ballots. Watching Republicans stagger from one self-inflicted defeat to another will unleash a pandemic of learned helplessness on the Right. If repeatedly campaigning hard for Republican candidates achieves so little, why knock ourselves out a year from now?

.. GOP powerbrokers worry that inability to deliver while in full control of government will enrage the grassroots and depress turnout of a broader electorate that could wonder what’s the point of reelecting a Republican House and Senate.”

Centrist Project 2018: Run 3-5 Senate Seats

1). We are organizing a campaign to draft a slate of 3-5 Centrist, independent candidates for U.S. Senate (stay tuned!). Recognizing the high barrier to entry at this level, we are focusing on potential candidates who would be instantly credible and viable based on their existing name recognition and fundraising capacity.

2). For the first time, we are recruiting a slate of Centrist, independent candidates to run for state legislature in at least two potential target states, such as Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Oregon, Nevada, and Connecticut. Winning races at this level can serve as a proof of concept that can be scaled to other states and up the ballot in future elections, while simultaneously building a farm team of leaders to run for higher office in the future.

While over 40% of voters self-identify as independent voters, fewer than .01% of legislators are elected as independents. Why? Talented leaders don’t run as independents because there is zero infrastructure to support their campaigns, unlike major party candidates. That is the core problem we are determined to solve.

Donald Trump Deepens GOP Divide

President’s turbulent week fuels frustration in his party, though core supporters remain loyal

President Donald Trump’s tumultuous past week has widened rifts in his party, between those who vocally support the president’s combative style and others who bridle at it ..

.. After a week that included the president attacking his attorney general, the collapse of a GOP health bill, a surprise effort to bar transgender people in the military and a White House staff shakeup, divisions that were largely set aside at the start of 2017 have emerged anew.

..“Particularly among some of my former colleagues in the House, there is a frustration and lament about opportunities squandered in what should be a prime time for a GOP legislative agenda,” said former Republican Rep. David Jolly of Florida.
..“They are going to stick with Trump—they like him the more combative he is and the more his back is against the wall,” he said. “He captured a very angry base, and Trump has mastered the suggestion that fighting and being angry is actually accomplishing results.”
.. Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) said that Republican leaders were complicit if they didn’t call out Mr. Trump for his behavior. “We can’t respond to everything,” he said. “But there are times when you have to stand up and say ‘I’m sorry. This is wrong.’ ”
.. On the other side are Republicans who echo Mr. Trump’s behavior and tone.Rep. Blake Farenthold (R., Texas) last week suggested that he would have settled differences with Ms. Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), who both made decisive votes against a GOP health plan, by challenging them to duels had they been male. Mr. Farenthold later apologized. Rep. Buddy Carter (R., Ga.), asked about Trump’s decision to attack Ms. Murkowski on Twitter over her “no” vote, used a confusing but coarse phrase that suggested resorting to physical assault.

.. Rep. Chris Collins (R., N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Mr. Trump, said that instead of turbulence, Mr. Trump last week “had one of the best weeks he has ever had.” Pointing to his calls to crack down on the street gang known as MS-13, Mr. Collins said that “he is addressing one of the scourges of America.”

.. Signs are emerging that the intraparty battle could threaten the party’s standing in the 2018 elections and the president’s beyond that. Mr. Jolly, the former Florida congressman, said he is part of a group discussing how to put together a primary challenge to Mr. Trump in 2020.
.. Michael Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman and lieutenant governor of Maryland, said “the president is in his element when in front of a crowd of 40,000 instead of behind his desk dealing with the minutiae of governing. That’s not governing, that’s theater, a reality TV presidency.”

s Health care is now set to be a defining issue in the next election cycles

Governors, gubernatorial candidates and state legislators, meanwhile, will be asked whether they intend to “opt out” of provisions in the Affordable Care Act that are overwhelmingly popular with voters, as is permitted under the Republican plan. Their plans for state Medicaid programs also will be scrutinized if massive GOP cuts to Medicaid funding are realized.

.. I can’t recall a vote this significant in terms of its political potential in 20 years.”

.. Trump’s political advisers calculated that it was less damaging electorally for congressional Republicans to pass a bill that some of their constituents see as deeply flawed than to have passed nothing at all.

.. Polling shows that the public disagrees with Republican health-care plans. Thirty-seven percent of Americans support repealing and replacing the law known as Obamacare, while 61 percent want to keep it and try to improve it

.. slash Medicaid spending by more than $800 billion and cut nearly $600 billion in taxes under the health-care law, most of which will benefit the wealthiest Americans.

.. the Republican bill would lift that prohibition and give states the option to let insurers charge more for them.

.. Wilson added, “Republicans in the House right now should be on their knees praying for the Senate to kill this,” arguing that the line of attack would be less powerful if the bill does not become law.

.. whether it’s the AARP saying it charges people over 50 five times more, or the American Cancer Society saying it guts protections for preexisting conditions. There’s no real way to defend that to voters.”