Here are the stories our DC insiders are talking about in this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast, where you get a glimpse of tomorrow’s headlines today.
1. Rod Rosenstein’s resolve
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is accustomed to the piñata treatment from President Donald Trump and his allies.
But now, he is taking some hits from Democrats, as well, after months of praise from the left for his steadfast support of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The Democrats’ beef: they see the willingness of the Justice Department and FBI to share some classified information about Russia meddling investigative tactics as bowing to pressure from Trump.
Rosenstein makes light of his predicament, at times, during public appearances. But the Justice Department lifer is not a spotlight seeker and is said to not enjoy being in the middle of a political storm.
“Clearly under stress but remarkably calm,” is how one longtime Rosenstein associate described his mood. The deputy AG is not one to talk shop during his rare time away from the office, but the associate told CNN: “Rod is rooted in two things – the process and the law. And he says he is OK.”
2. Why GOP might not hate working through August
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a warning for reporters on Capitol Hill: Don’t buy any non-refundable plane tickets for the month of August.
Congress is scheduled to go home then, but sources told CNN’s Phil Mattingly that the always-debated but never-implemented talk of nixing the August break is very real this year.
“Spoiler alert: this will happen this time around,” Mattingly said of canceling the August recess.
Why, according to Mattingly, is an interesting blend of motives.
Mattingly said McConnell wants to keep Trump happy, and acceding to Trump’s demand to do away with some of the recess is an easy way to preserve the current state of the relationship.
One Republican lawmaker described the prevailing dynamic this way to CNN: “There is peace in our time between the Senate Republicans, and the President.”
Another reason, Mattingly said, is the extra work weeks would allow lawmakers to get a head start on avoiding what would be a “pure nightmare” – a government shutdown weeks before the midterm elections.
Mattingly said the extra few weeks could help the GOP sort out its spending priorities, and help clear a path to avoid a shutdown.
3. Opioid crisis obstacle
Last week, Sen. Joe Manchin scolded his Senate colleagues for being “afraid” to take on a big lobby over a pressing problem crippling millions of American families: combating the opioid epidemic.
Lobbyists for the American Medical Association, according to the Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich, have successfully shut down efforts to implement CDC guidelines on prescribing painkillers.
The CDC measures, issued in March 2016, would limit doctors to signing off on only three-day supplies of the powerful drugs.
The AMA says that’s too restrictive, and that prescriptions should stay between doctors and patients.
Kucinich said that lawmakers once eager to curb opioid abuse, including codifying the CDC guidelines into law, have been moved off those demands by AMA lobbyists.
“This just highlights how difficult and complicated it is to really solve this problem in America,” Kucinich said.
4. Dallas fundraiser’s China connection
Who’s invited to Trump’s upcoming Dallas fundraiser is generating some controversy and some uncomfortable legal questions for the Republican National Committee.
Reports from Bloomberg News and the Washington Post say a letter, bearing the seal of a Republican committee, solicited wealthy Chinese investors to attend the scheduled Thursday fundraiser.
The offer, according to the reports? That would be $100,000 in exchange for a handshake and a one-on-one photo with Trump.
Raising campaign money from foreign nationals is illegal.
Bloomberg’s Toluse Olorunnipa said the stories again raise ethical concerns about where the President draws the line on money, politics and policy.
The RNC denied they were aware of the letters that went out to Chinese investors, but Olorunnipa said the timing of the story, against the backdrop of ongoing negotiations with Chinese techology company ZTE, could cause a political headache for the White House.
5. Abbas’ Medical Condition
The President’s promise to strike a peace deal in the Middle East could soon meet another roadblock.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, was hospitalized three times this month. Anne Gearan of the Washington Post noted that Abbas, now 82-years-old, is a heavy smoker, and his failing health has sparked questions of what happens if he dies or steps aside.
According to Gearan, there’s no real succession plan for Abbas, and no guarantee that his replacement will commit to a two-state solution.
“If he is not in the picture, whoever succeeds him might not be committed to those same things,” Gearan said.
The net result, Gearan said, could be the US loses leverage for a peace deal that’s already struggling to take shape.