We are in the midst of a bizarre process

The big health care showdown in the Senate began yesterday, and no one was sure what would happen. For example, Senator Struggling To Weigh Interests Of Entire Constituency Against Nothing (35,000+ shares). “Onion brings tears, laugh or cry to eye,” as Ian Williams tweets of this widely shared story from The Onion. Spoiler alert: The senator in question, Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), opted for the “emptiness, literal emptiness” of voting yes.

Ultimately, it came down to Vice President Mike Pence, who Breaks Tie as Senate Votes to Begin Debating Obamacare Repeal, as reported in The New York Times by Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan. But hours later, a setback. Pear and Kaplan write, “The Tuesday night tally needed to reach 60 votes to overcome a parliamentary objection. Instead, it fell 43-57. The fact that the comprehensive replacement plan came up well short of even 50 votes was an ominous sign for Republican leaders still seeking a formula to pass final health care legislation this week.”

FIveThirtyEight has been providing continuing coverage of the Senate Health Care Debate, where Perry Bacon, Jr., writes, “we are in the midst of a bizarre process.” He notes, “Nine Republican senators (Collins, Paul, Murkowski, Heller, Lee, Moran, Graham, Corker and Cotton) effectively voted against one version of repeal (the McConnell bill with the Medicaid cuts) last night. I expect Corker, Cotton, Lee, Paul and Moran to vote for the repeal-and-delay bill today, allowing those members to say that they too have voted to end Obamacare.”

For more, check out The New York Times’ ongoing coverage, Live: Senate Vote on Obamacare Repeal Proposal, from Alicia Parlapiano, Wilson Andrews and Jasmine Lee. 

One thing’s for sure: “Beware of hot mics! That's when the real truth comes out,” tweets Phil Latzman. Philip Bump of The Washington Post reports, Senators on hot mic: Trump is ‘crazy,’ ‘I’m worried’ (71,000+ shares). That’s Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) with the “crazy,” and  Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) who’s “worried.” Says Philip Rucker, “This hot mic conversation between Sen Collins and Sen Reed is... wow.” Collins also took the opportunity to comment on Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, saying, “Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel?” adding “He’s so unattractive, it’s unbelievable.” (The two have since apologized to each other.) “The hot mic got the best scoop of the day,” says Alex Roarty.  

Culture wars, standoffs and shake-ups

So this morning, Trump Says That Transgender People Will Not Be Allowed in the Military, as Eileen Sullivan reports for The New York Times. Adam Nagourney has two points: “1) Is Trump goading Dems into culture war, taking lesson from ’16 campaign? 2) NYT uses word tweet as a verb!” Stat News’ Andrew Joseph explains, Trump says it’s too pricey to have transgender troops. Here’s the truth. Tweets Jason Ukman, “We fact-checked @realDonaldTrump claim that military faced huge medical costs w/ transgender troops. It wasn’t hard.”

For a real-world story of service, Noah Shachtman says, “Read this amazing story about Kristen Beck, who won a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star... and transitioned.” He links to Yes to LGB, No to T: The Pentagon Still Has a Transgender Ban, by Tim Mak in The Daily Beast.

Meanwhile, Radley Balko says, “Looks like Trump is offering up rank bigotry as compensation to conservatives angry about Sessions.”

Ah yes, Jeff Sessions. At The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Philip Rucker and Sari Horwitz report, The standoff between Trump and Sessions escalates. Tweets Robert Costa, “Sessions chief of staff Jody Hunt has told Priebus over several convos in recent days that AG will *not* resign.” Betsy Woodruff and Asawin Suebsaeng of The Daily Beast write that Jeff Sessions Is Growing ‘Pissed’ at Trump His Allies Say. And He Doesn’t Plan to Quit. And Breitbart’s Adam Shaw gets into the fray, writing that Trump’s Attack on Sessions over Clinton Prosecution Highlights His Own ‘Weak’ Stance. “Wow. Breitbart beats the hell out of POTUS over Sessions. Calls him a hypocrite,” tweets Jonathan Swan.

Here’s another story we’re going to have to preface with “Not The Onion”: As Reuters’ Timothy Gardner reports, U.S. energy secretary duped into fake interview with Russian comedians. Tweets Vera Bergengruen, “Omg - Rick Perry discussed US coal exports & energy with Russian prankster he thought was Ukraine’s prime minister.” To summarize: “Trump Cabinet: Sessions hangs by thread, Tillerson has a foot out the door, & Rick Perry getting punk’d,” says Tim Johnson.

Also, Anthony Scaramucci leaked that he would fire a press aide, then complained about the leak, reports Vox’s Garet Williams. As CBS News’ Emily Tillett writes, assistant press secretary Michael Short “promptly resigned following his rumored termination.”

But the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg says There’s No Shakeup That Can Fix the Trump White House.

Oh, and one last Scaramucci note: In a 2016 Davos story from BBC News’ Joe Miller, Scaramucci is not only quoted as saying the rich ‘should intervene’ in politics, he also talks about the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency, saying, “If Donald Trump becomes the next president, I'm looking forward to the BBC helping me find a flat somewhere in London.”

More trouble in Wasserman Schultz World

Marc Caputo links to Wasserman Schultz aide arrested trying to leave the country (11,000+ shares), from POLITICO’s Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan. “House staffer at the center of a bank fraud investigation has been arrested while trying to leave the country,” tweets Paul Volpe, and Matt Pearce highlights, “Alvi had ‘numerous pieces of luggage’ and more than $12,000 in cash.” “Whoa,” says Farhad Manjoo.

Elsewhere

“Superb piece,” says Gay Alcorn. “Bloody hell David Marr's a great journo. The most gripping account of a court mention you’ll ever read,” says Paul Maley. They’re referring to Secrecy and security envelop George Pell's magistrates court show, by The Guardian’s David Marr. Adds Neil McMahon, “Many joys in reading David Marr. A colour piece is one of them. Here, a masterclass from a six-minute court mention.”

Rolling Stone puts Justin Trudeau on the cover and asks, Is the Canadian Prime Minister the Free World’s Best Hope? Of Stephen Rodrick’s Trudeau profile, Charlie Gillis tweets, “Roll over, Hunter S. Thompson. It’s come to this.” And Anna Mehler Paperny says, “This lede is a time-travelling press release.”

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza explains How Jared Kushner Helped the Russians Get Inside Access to the Trump Campaign. Lizza tweets, “Michael Hayden: every case officer he's talked to thinks the meeting at Trump Tower was a Russian intel operation.”

111 NFL Brains, a new interactive piece for The New York Times by Joe Ward, Josh Williams and Sam Manchester, looks at the findings from a neuropathologist who has examined the brains of 111 N.F.L. players. All but one were found to have C.T.E., the degenerative disease linked to repeated blows to the head.

Katherine Goldstein tweets, “I'm pleased to share the most important piece of work i've ever done, a cover story about mothers in journalism.” She links to Where Are the Mothers? her new piece for Neiman Reports. Rachel Schallom calls it an “excellent read.” Says Laura Wides-Munoz, “Worth read w/ coffee for media friends & beyond-see part about reducing burnout for non-parents too.”

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