President Obama opened his press conference Thursday with a bold proclamation that “the repeal debate is and should be over.” But his declaration of victory in the long-running war over his health care overhaul did not last long. Only five questions later, he was forced to offer a softer, almost wistful acknowledgement of the reality that there are many more battles to wage and the debate could go on for years.
It was one of the fastest backtracks at any presidential press conference. From optimist to realist in less than 45 minutes. Obama the Optimist cited the sign-up numbers for the Affordable Care Act, the revised numbers for premium costs, and the good news on the expected life of the Medicare trust fund. Almost in awe, he declared, “This thing is working.” But Obama the Realist admitted the Republican opposition has been unchanged by every statistic he cited. The GOP, he suggested, is going through the stages of grief. “Anger and denial … we’re not at acceptance yet,” he said, though he added hopefully that his critics may get there “at some point.”
Even as the press conference was going on, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas helped make that point, tweeting, “The repeal debate is far from over.” Criticisms of the law followed quickly from both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner. Even the president told reporters that the debate may not end “until after November because it seems as if this is the primary agenda item in the Republican political platform.”
But by the end of the press conference, when reporter David M. Jackson of USA Today pressed him on how long the law will be “a political football,” the president was setting an even longer timeline. “That’s going to take more time. But it’s not for lack of trying on my part,” he admitted. He reached back for a historical analogy, noting that opponents of Medicare fought for years after that law’s 1965 passage. “So we’ve been through this cycle before. It happens each and every time we make some strides in terms of strengthening our commitments to each other and … we expand some of these social insurance programs. There’s a lot of fear-mongering and a lot of political arguments and debate, and a lot of accusations are flung back and forth about socialized medicine and the end of freedom.”
Eventually, he said, the public realizes that the law works and “then we move on.” But he acknowledged, “I don’t know how long it’s going to take.”
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"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."