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Collins will oppose health care bill

Sen. Susan Collins said she opposes the Senate's health care plan. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Sen. Susan Collins officially will oppose the Senate's latest bill to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, two senior GOP aides said— yet another nail in the coffin for a bill that's moving further away from the 50 votes it would need to pass.

Why it matters: It would only take three "no" votes to kill the bill. And Collins' opposition makes it a total of four Republicans who say they won't vote for the bill — two moderates (Collins and Sen. John McCain) and two conservatives (Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz).

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Report: 'Iranian missile test' Trump tweeted about never happened

Missiles are on display in Tehran on Sunday during the country's annual Defense Week. Photo: Vahid Salemi / AP

On Friday, Iran claimed to have tested a new medium-range ballistic missile capable of striking Israel with multiple warheads — but, according to Fox News, that missile launch never actually took place. Video footage purporting to show the launch was actually from a failed test back in January.

Why it matters: The world is waiting to hear President Trump's decision — he claimed to have made up his mind last week — on whether or not to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. It's significant that Trump used the "launch" to again decry the deal, tweeting on Saturday: "Not much of an agreement we have!"

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All five living former presidents are raising money for Puerto Rico

OneAmericaAppeal.org

All five living former presidents — Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — are fundraising for Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

The One America Appeal was launched after Hurricane Harvey to give aide to the Gulf Coast. It expanded to help Irma relief efforts, and now donations can be sent to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The full scale of Maria's massive impact, here.

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How NFL teams have reacted to Trump's comments

Alex Brandon / AP

At a rally Friday night and on Twitter over the weekend, President Trump lashed out at NFL players who have followed Colin Kaepernick's lead in sitting or kneeling during the national anthem. Trump has suggested that they be "fired" for disrespecting the American flag.

On Sunday, NFL players, coaches, owners and whole teams reacted to Trump's comments by speaking out and kneeling, linking arms or remaining in their locker rooms during the anthem.

Teams' reactions:

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks stayed in their locker rooms during the national anthem yesterday, with the exception of Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, who emerged and stood for the anthem.
  • The entire New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals teams linked arms, and the whole Oakland Raiders team sat down with their arms linked during the anthem.
  • New England quarterback Tom Brady linked arms with his teammates during the national anthem, and called Trump's tweets "divisive."
  • Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers joined arms with his teammates during the national anthem, and before the game posted on Instagram a photo of himself kneeling alongside other Packers players with the caption "#unity #brotherhood #family #dedication #love #."

Owners' reactions:

  • Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: "I do not think the place to express yourself in society is as we recognize the American flag, and all the people that have made this great country the very opportunity for us to be there in front of the nation. So that's not the place to do anything other than honor the flag and everybody that's given up a little bit for it."
  • Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank:"I think we have to celebrate their right to express themselves, as every American does."
  • Jacksonville Jaguars' owner Shahid Khan linked arms with players during the national anthem. He previously donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration.
  • New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft: "I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday. I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger."
  • Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie: "Every day I see the genuine dedication and hard work of our players. And I support them as they take their courage, character and commitment into our communities to make them better or to call attention to injustice. Having spoken with our players, I can attest to the great respect they have for the national anthem and all it represents. We at the Philadelphia Eagles firmly believe that in this difficult time of division and conflict, it is more important than ever for football to be a great unifier."
  • Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, Blank and Lurie all linked arms with their players during the national anthem.
  • NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement on Saturday: "Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities."

Anthem singers' reactions:

  • At the Seahawks-Titans game, Megan Lindsey took a knee after singing the national anthem.
  • At the Falcons-Lions game, the singer Rico LaVelle also took a knee at the end of the anthem.

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Puerto Rico is without power and low on supplies

A man looks at the horizon early in the morning after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. Photo: Carlos Giusti / AP

While national and presidential attention has been directed at NFL protests, Puerto Rico remains without power and short on supplies after being slammed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Officials are having difficulty even communicating with outlying towns that were devastated by the storm, and the humanitarian crisis is growing.

From Governor Ricardo Rosselló: "We are U.S. citizens that just a few weeks ago went to the aid of other U.S. citizens even as we're going through our fiscal downturn and as we were hit by another storm…Now, we've been essentially devastated. Complete destruction of the power infrastructure, severe destruction of the housing infrastructure, food and water are needed. My petition is that we were there once for our brothers and sisters, our other U.S. citizens, now it's time that U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are taken care of adequately, properly."

From Manati mayor Jose Sanchez Gonzalez: "Hysteria is starting to spread. The hospital is about to collapse. It's at capacity," he said, crying. "We need someone to help us immediately."

The scale of the crisis

  • Government officials said Sunday a dam on the Western part of the island "will collapse at any time." Eastern areas, which were hit by the eye of the storm, could take years to recover.
  • Officials estimate it could take up to 6 months to restore power to the whole island.
  • Federal agencies have cleared the Port of San Juan for daytime operations, but accessing Puerto Rico is pretty difficult right now — airports and harbors are severely damaged and the whole island remains out of power. 11 ships have delivered 1.6 million gallons of water, 23,000 cots, dozens of generators and food, per the AP. Many hospital patients are being flown to the U.S. mainland for treatment.
  • The death toll is at least 10 in Puerto Rico, and 31 if you include other Caribbean islands, per the AP.
  • 1,360 of the island's 1,600 cell towers are down. 85% of phone and internet cables were knocked out.

Personal experiences

  • When locals see outsiders, the first thing they ask is "Are you FEMA?" per The Washington Post.
  • "Nothing's working, we don't hear from anyone…We feel abandoned," Toa Baja resident Johanna Ortega told USAToday.
  • Food at local grocery stores is "VERY LIMITED," San Juan resident Claudia Batista messaged Axios. Batista described the situation in San Juan as "desperate times," saying because of "all the material loss, people are losing control and patience and are stealing in other homes and assaulting people on the streets."
  • Some local responders in Juncos cleared streets with machetes since the town doesn't have enough chain saws. People are riding bikes and walking for miles to get to gas stations

What FEMA is doing

  • FEMA teams were in Puerto Rico earlier this month following Hurricane Irma, and as soon as Hurricane Maria's winds died down they launched search-and-rescue missions, per USAToday.
  • All of the 28 task force teams around the U.S. have been recruited to help, which is rare, per Karl Lee, a FEMA Incident Support Team member.
  • FEMA responders are using a San Juan hotel as a command center.
  • 4,000 U.S. Army Reserve members have also been deployed to the island. The Army Corps of Engineers dispatched the 249th Engineer Battalion, per CNN.

What Trump has said

Trump declared a major disaster in Puerto Rico and said all of the U.S. government is behind the relief efforts. White House adviser Tom Bossert and FEMA's chief are heading to Puerto Rico Monday, although a trip from Trump isn't expected for a while, per CNN.

  • Rosselló thanked Trump on Monday for having federal emergency assistance provided, per the AP, noting FEMA has done a "phenomenal job."

Trump's most recent tweets about Puerto Rico, from last week:

Take a look

How to help

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Trump expected to dramatically lower refugee intake

Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

The Trump administration is expected to notify Congress this week that it's dramatically lowering the number of refugees admitted into the United States over the next fiscal year.

Three officials close to the process say the consensus among the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department is to accept somewhere in the range of 40,000 refugees — far fewer than the 110,000 refugees President Obama said he wanted to welcome into the U.S. in fiscal year 2017 and a reduction from the 50,000 cap that Trump set earlier this year.

What's next: Trump needs to make his final decision on the refugee intake before October 1 (the deadline for the annual decision on refugee admissions required by the Refugee Act of 1980.) A White House official told me that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke will head to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to consult Congress, before a final decision is made.

Behind-the-scenes

State Department: Two sources close to the process say that Tillerson signed off on a State Department memo recommending that Trump accept 45,000 refugees in the next fiscal year.

  • A number of State career officials are unhappy and believe the U.S. should accept a significantly higher number, given the scale of suffering in countries like Iraq and Syria. A senior source at the State Department said many career employees believe the White House is walking away from America's global leadership and harming Tillerson's ability to conduct diplomacy by so dramatically reducing the intake of refugees.
  • A source close to Tillerson said the Secretary of State didn't think now was the time for a "philosophical argument about American diplomacy." The source said Tillerson was "practical" and agreed with the consensus view within the Trump administration that the administration can help exponentially more people by investing in refugee settlement near Iraq and Syria. "It isn't about making America the permanent destination; it's about helping to stabilize these places on the ground," the source said. "You can't stabilize a community by moving to Albany."

Homeland Security: Sources close to the refugee decision process told me the Department of Homeland Security recommended a refugee intake number slightly lower than Tillerson's 45,000.

White House: Trump's top policy adviser Stephen Miller has advocated for a far lower intake of 20,000 refugees, according to sources close to the process. But other senior administration officials thought Miller's desires were unrealistic and would diminish America's standing with allies.

  • Per a WH official: "The president's strategy on refugees is guided first and foremost by the safety and security of the American people. The United States can also help a larger number of refugees by resettling them in their home region and enabling their eventual safe return home."
  • Trump's final decision will be the culmination of an interagency decision-making process that's run far more smoothly than the administration's early bumbling efforts to roll out the travel ban and other controversial policies.

Bottom line: Trump's refugee decision reflects, as much as anything, how starkly different his worldview is from Obama's. The previous administration wanted to expand the refugee intake amid the horrors in Syria and Iraq; and top officials viewed the program as core to America's leadership and moral standing in the world. The Trump administration officials involved in the process — that I've spoken to — regard an argument over the U.S. intake of refugees as relatively insignificant, with one telling me it "sounds lovely" to take several thousand more, but doesn't put a dent in the larger problem.

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White House: "We've not declared war on North Korea"

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivers a news briefing at the White House. Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

Sarah Sanders said Monday that the White House has "not declared war on North Korea," as the country's foreign minister claimed this morning. Sanders added that "frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd."

  • On criticism of Trump's NFL comments: "This isn't about the president being against anyone, but about millions of Americans being for something." Later Sanders said that if NFL players are protesting police brutality, then "they should protest the officers on the field," not the flag.
  • Did Trump go too far in calling some players SOB's that should be fired? "It's always appropriate for the president to defend our flag, defend our national anthem."
  • On Trump tweeting about NFL but not Puerto Rico: "He's emphasizing something that should be unifying... Celebrating and promoting patriotism in our country is something that should bring everyone together."
  • Puerto Rico recovery efforts: Federal response to Hurricane Maria is "anything but slow," said Sanders. Trump sent FEMA Administrator Brock Long, Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert to Puerto Rico today.
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Cassidy-Graham hearing: A dramatic political showdown over a dying bill

Capitol police remove protestors from the Finance hearing on Cassidy-Graham. Photo: Caitlin Owens/Axios

The Senate Finance Committee hearing on Republicans' latest health care bill is about as chaotic as congressional hearings get, with senators talking over one another, testifying about bills they wrote (which is unusual), and protestors in wheelchairs being dragged out of the committee room.

Be smart: This dramatic political showdown is all happening for a bill that's widely assumed to be dead. Not only are Republicans highly unlikely to pass this bill, but now they'll also have to deal with photos of disabled people in wheelchairs being removed from a hearing about a bill they fear could take away their health care coverage.

What's happened:

  • Protestors attending today's hearing on Republicans' health care proposals were immediately removed by Capitol police after they began chanting, "No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty" as soon as Chairman Orrin Hatch gaveled the hearing into session. The hearing couldn't begin for roughly 20 minutes — until the protestors, many in wheelchairs, had been removed. "If you can't be in order, then get the heck out of here," Hatch said once the protestors were removed.
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy, one of the bill's sponsors and one of the witnesses testifying at the hearing, said the most recent version of the bill is also the final one, aside from corrections to drafting errors.
    • Ranking Member Ron Wyden asked if the most recent version of the bill is the one the Senate will vote on. "Yeah, I believe so…I hope a correction of a drafting error doesn't constitute a whole 'nother version," Cassidy replied.
    • Why this matters: Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are withholding their votes for the bill unless they get policy changes they've asked for. Cassidy made it sound like those changes aren't coming. Sen. John McCain is the third public "no" vote, meaning the bill is looking pretty dead.
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NFL won't punish players who didn't take field for national anthem

At a Sunday game, the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans are absent from the sidelines during the national anthem. Photo: Mark Zaleski / AP

Despite a rule in the NFL game operations manual that requires players to be on the sidelines when the anthem is played, league spokesman Joe Lockhart said, "There will be no discipline handed down this week for anyone who was not there [during the playing of the national anthem]."

Why it matters: President Trump used Twitter to urge the NFL to discipline its players, but the league, along with several franchise owners and coaches, is standing behind the players who chose to protest the anthem.

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Trump to announce computer science education initative

President Trump will announce a new initiative this afternoon directing the Dept. of Education to prioritize the exapnsion of STEM and computer science education. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

President Trump will announce a new executive memorandum this afternoon that will direct the Department of Education to expand students' access to STEM and computer science — fields that the administration says are increasingly playing a more vital role in the economy and lead to more lucrative careers.

Why it matters: At a time when partisan politics strikes down the majority of legislation put forth by Washington lawmakers, this initiative is largely one that both parties can get behind. Barack Obama introduced similar legislation at the end of his presidency, though his proposal, which was much pricier than the $200 million baseline incorporated in Trump's version, never made it through Congress. To avoid the same hiccups, the White House has introduced this as a narrower administrative action.

The memorandum directs the Dept. of Ed to:

  • Establish a goal of devoting at least $200 million per year in grant funds towards this priority.
  • Explore administrative actions that will add or increase focus on Computer Science in existing K-12 and post-secondary programs.
  • Ask that these programs and curriculums be designed with gender and racial diversity in mind.
  • Require an annual report to gauge the effectiveness of these programs. The reports will emphasize analysis on both the students' dropout and program completion rates.
  • The grants will target rural communities and inner cities, but the administration hopes the initiative can extend across the U.S.
Private sector involvement:
  • Ivanka Trump, who has played an integral role in the creation of this initiative, will travel to Detroit Tuesday to discuss their pledge to computer science education. She will also visit a public school Wednesday to experience coding with students firsthand.
Reasoning behind this directive:
  • One senior administration official said interest in this program stems from conversations with business leaders from both large and small companies who have said they are struggling to fill open positions due to a shortage of employees with the necessary training in these fields.
  • The gender and minority pay gap: the fact that women and minorities are not equally participating in these lucrative fields is a contributing factor.