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White House sources think Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court's ideological fulcrum, may announce his retirement today, as the justices gather on the bench for the last time this term.
If that happens, Day 158 instantly becomes President Trump's biggest moment.
Be smart: Few domestic developments could more instantly and decisively change the national conversation — blotting out almost everything else, and vastly reducing the sting for conservatives is healthcare tanks.
A Washington wise man emails: "With two court appointments and maybe one more, Trump's presidency will be consequential even if he has few legislative achievements. This week may well demonstrate both."
Pressure is growing for Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to give the healthcare bill some breathing room past this week.
The plan had been to force a vote before the July 4 break, with votes possibly extending into early Saturday. The theory has been that passage won't get any easier with time, and the only hope was to just get it over with.
Be smart: White House officials expect a roller-coaster week, with cycles of the bill being declared dead, followed by supposed breakthroughs that may prove illusory. But the bill is so politically fraught that it's hard to see its chances improving if it's still in limbo when senators — skeptical themselves — go home to face constituents.
P.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, one of the endangered Republican votes, has an Op-Ed in today's N.Y. Times, "Where the Health Care Bill Fails."
Many Republicans wondered this weekend if it made sense for America First Policies, the outside group backing President Trump, to run attack ads against Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) for wavering on healthcare, when his vote is desperately needed.
"Does Trump team think it's smart to attack the most endangered GOP senator, from a state Trump lost?" asked a longtime lion of the GOP. "This is the second dumbest thing Trump has done since firing Comey."
Well, I've learned that the group is giving Heller a chance to modify his blast at the bill, before unleashing an advertising attack in his home state.
"Watergate didn't become Watergate overnight, either" — New York mag cover story, by Frank Rich :
"For all the months of sensational revelations and criminal indictments (including of his campaign manager and former attorney general, John Mitchell), a Harris poll found that only 22 percent thought Nixon should leave office. Gallup put the president's approval rating in the upper 30s, roughly where our current president stands now — lousy, but not apocalyptic. There had yet to be an impeachment resolution filed in Congress by even Nixon's most partisan adversaries. ... [A]fter Nixon hit a new low of a 27 percent approval rating in November 1973, he spiked to 37 in a Harris poll a month later. ...
"Looking back on it all, Elizabeth Drew would write, 'In retrospect, the denouement appeared inevitable — but it certainly didn't feel like that at the time.'"
P.S. John Dickerson "Notebook" on "Face the Nation": "Why would President Trump encourage Nixon obstruction of justice comparisons by talking about tapes?" (Video)
The N.Y. Times has a top-of-front-page update on the surprising sidelining of one of Trump's invisible men, SecState Rex Tillerson — former Exxon CEO, and one of the more impressive "gets" for the Cabinet:
"Tillerson Finds Role Undercut By Oval Office," by David E. Sanger, Gardiner Harris and Mark Landler:
P.S. L.A. Times lead story, "Nations feel cut off from the Trump White House: With few ambassadors and an anemic State Department, foreign envoys resort to novel ways to connect," by Tracy Wilkinson: "Of the most important positions, only the U.S. envoy to China, former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, has been confirmed by the Senate."
The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin digs into "The National Enquirer's Fervor for Trump: The tabloid is defined by its predatory spirit. Why has it embraced the President with such sycophantic zeal?"
A record number of investors are pressuring fossil-fuel companies to reveal how climate change could hit their bottom lines, Axios' Amy Harder writes in her "Harder Line" energy column:
"Google faces $1bn Brussels fine for abuse of dominance in search: Final decision by EU college of commissioners expected [Wednesday]," by Financial Times' Rochelle Toplensky (Subscription):
With yesterday's end of Metro's yearlong emergency maintenance blitz, SafeTrack, the N.Y. Times' Nicholas Fandos takes a foreign correspondent's look at the D.C. subway:
As HBO's Silicon Valley ends Season 4, showrunner Mike Judge talks to Hollywood Reporter's Bryn Elise Sandberg:
How difficult was building an entirely fake tech conference [Hooli-Con]?
We're been talking about having one of those giant tech conferences like Dreamforce and CES of our own for a while ... All the companies that you see in there except for the ones that are characters are real. We got people to volunteer to come and just set up their stuff in order to be in the show and be seen. I think they thought it would be fun — but one of the challenges was that these are people with some very successful tech companies and I think they're not used to be told by an AD [assistant director] to be quiet and to stand there all day long or to move their mouth but not make a noise.
And ADs are used to very obedient extras. It was a little awkward. A lot of these companies are successful tech people and suddenly it's like, "No, don't stand there. Be quiet." [Laughs.] And they don't really care if they don't ever work as an extra again. They were all really nice, it was just kind of funny to watch.
Could [Uber] provide fodder for a season 5 plot?
We had written most of last season when that started to go on so it didn't really make its way in there, but that certainly seems like something we can look into. There's other stories that we've heard, not about Uber, but just in general about ... sexist VCs. There's at least one or two that I've heard that still haven't made their way into the show. I think it will more likely be in that area based on something that wasn't in the newspaper. But I'm sure we'll find a way.