On Wednesday, the Montana Senate race changed dramatically for the third time. Max Baucus‘s sudden retirement from the Senate and former Gov. Brian Schweitzer‘s (D) surprise decision to pass on the race shifted what looked like a solid Democratic seat firmly into the GOP camp. Now, with Baucus headed to China before his term is up, Democrats will get to rally behind his appointed replacement, an incumbent seeking election.
— It would count as a shock if Gov. Steve Bullock (D) didn’t tap his lieutenant governor, John Walsh (D), for the post. He was already the Democratic frontrunner for the seat, and Bullock has been bullish about his prospects. Others, including Walsh’s primary opponent, former Lt. Gov. John Bollinger (D), are calling on the governor to appoint a caretaker, but doing so might cost his party its best (and maybe only) chance of winning next year’s race.
— Walsh’s advantages would be numerous: As an incumbent, his name ID and fundraising could surge. His voting record would be closely scrutinized, but a few months on the job would offer Big Sky voters a chance to see Senator Walsh in action. Barring a major mistake, the time could be invaluable as he states his case in November.
— He would, however, have to find a new rationale for running — so far he’s positioned himself as an outsider against freshman Rep. Steve Daines (R), and that doesn’t work so well when you’re already serving in the Senate. And Republicans say appointing Walsh to the seat unilaterally will leave a bad taste in the mouths of voters, a controversy they will hope hangs over his entire campaign. The NRSC has already tagged the upcoming appointment as the “Big Sky Buy-Off.”
Walsh will also have to see whether Bohlinger bows out of the race. But make no mistake, Baucus’s exit is good news for Democrats. They don’t enter as a favorite by any means, but the race suddenly looks a lot more like a toss-up than just a day ago.
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As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."