Politics: Anthony Scaramucci's New Job, What's Next For Health Care

Jul 23, 2017
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Are you keeping track of the reversals of fortune in Washington? The GOP health care bill isn't quite dead. But after this past week, it's a bit of a zombie. Anthony Scaramucci is hot, Sean Spicer is not. And the president spent some quality time with The New York Times. Here to navigate us through it all is NPR's political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, let's start with the big shakeup at the White House. The president has a new communications lineup. You know, you've spent a lot of time in that press briefing room. What do you think about this team and what the president wants?

LIASSON: Well, the president clearly wants someone more like himself to be defending him in public, especially as he gears up for a big battle with the special counsel and the other Russian investigations. Scaramucci is a wealthy financier from New York. He's both scrappy and smooth on television. And, you know, this has been a very combative relationship between the White House press staff and the press. Scaramucci might make some changes. He has suggested, at one point, that the White House should have its own news show shot from the White House lawn.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Something to look forward to. Now let's move on to that New York Times interview, which just gave so many headlines. The president, despite his dismissal constantly of The New York Times, did not hold a lot back. And he basically put his attorney general, Jeff Sessions who's been his ally all this time, on notice.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he were to recuse himself before the job, I would've said, thanks, Jeff, but I can't - you know, I'm not going to take you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can Sessions hold onto his job?

LIASSON: That's a big question. Sessions says he is going to stay. We know the president has been fuming about Session's recusal for a long time. That recusal was something Sessions had to do under Department of Justice rules. But it led to the chain of events that got President Trump the Mueller investigation. And now there's even more bad news for Jeff Sessions. The reason he recused himself from the Russian investigation was because of an undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador.

He also said he never discussed campaign-related matters or policy with the ambassador. But now The Washington Post is reporting that U.S. intelligence has intercepted conversations between the ambassador and Russian officials saying Sessions did discuss campaign matters with the ambassador. And there's even more news on the Russian investigation. Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager, and Jared Kushner, his top adviser and son-in-law, will be before several committees in Congress. Although, there's no date set yet for that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, that interview went on for 15 minutes. What else stuck out for you?

LIASSON: The biggest takeaway for me was that this is a president really obsessed and resentful of the investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and whatever connection his campaign may have had with that. He didn't rule out firing Bob Mueller. The Washington Post has been reporting that Trump has been looking into what powers he might have to pardon himself and other aides.

Now he has a new awkward situation with the Congress over Russia. The House has agreed with the Senate to pass a package of new sanctions on North Korea, Iran and on Russia for meddling in the 2016 elections. This is something that the president has still refused to accept. And the new sanctions against Russia are something he doesn't want. And now the only way he may have to stop them is to veto the bill.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And, of course, all of this at a time when health care, which is so important to so many Americans, is still in limbo. Where can the Republicans find a win on this - can they?

LIASSON: That's a really good question. Right now, they can't get the votes for either version of repealing Obamacare or repealing and replacing Obamacare. And so far, they're empty handed. No big legislative wins yet. It's already this summer. The window is closing pretty fast before the 2018 election season. And this raises questions about whether the Republicans can come together around tax reform, where there's a lobbyist behind every deduction. So I think Republicans are learning once again that being the opposition party is easy, being the governing party is very hard.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, that's NPR's political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thank you so much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.