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Happy actual Friday! We're getting a better picture of the Obamacare replacement plans the House committees will start working on after the recess. But they're still figuring out critical details, like any numbers at all, and they're nowhere close to getting all Republicans on board.

Surprise! It was "A Better Way" all along

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We've all been in suspense, chasing the details of what House Republicans will do to replace Obamacare — and now it's clear we could have been reading House Speaker Paul Ryan's "A Better Way" plan the whole time. The briefing document from yesterday's House Republican meeting sticks closely to the Ryan plan from last year, at least in the parts it includes.

The big things that are being picked up from "A Better Way":

  • Tax credits (fixed amounts, based on age, not income)
  • Health savings accounts
  • Medicaid reform (choice between per-capita caps and block grants)
  • "State Innovation Grants" (can be used for high-risk pools)

The big pieces that are left out:

  • Limiting the tax breaks for employer health coverage (Republicans are still talking about it)
  • Medicare "premium support" plan (President Trump's not interested)
The backstory: None of this should be a surprise. Ryan has been the driving force in the House on health care reform all along, and he noted yesterday that his former colleague, Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, was "one of the primary architects" of the Better Way plan. The Senate still has to buy off on it, but the thinking among House GOP aides is that the House has more leverage because Ryan has been working on these ideas for years.

They haven't solved the Obamacare Lite problem

The big signal that House Republican leaders are sending with the Obamacare replacement plan: The Freedom Caucus doesn't get to run the show.

  • The conservatives have insisted that the law needs to be repealed before they worry about a replacement. And earlier this week, Rep. Raul Labrador said they don't want to pass anything that looks like "Obamacare Lite" — another huge overhaul of the health care system that just happens to be more conservative.
  • But House Republicans are clearly headed for an ambitious overhaul, and they even brought in Price to tell the rank and file that President Trump wants the repeal and replacement to happen at the same time.
  • Labrador made it clear the new plan didn't avoid the "Obamacare Lite" trap. "No," he said when I asked him. "So far it just sounds like Obamacare Lite."
  • He said he wanted to find out more about it, but "there were only two minutes of time for members to ask questions." Rep. Jim Jordan had the same complaint.

Why it matters: The House leadership is calling the bluff of the Freedom Caucus — but they do need their votes to pass the plan. And then they'll have to keep the conservatives on board if the Senate tries to moderate the plan.

FWIW: Caitlin Owens reports that none of the Senate Republicans she asked had read the House plan. They didn't know it was out.

Ryan on the big problem: Medicaid

Here's what Ryan said at his weekly press conference yesterday: "I think it's 32 states, if I am not mistaken, have Medicaid expansion. Mine did not. We're going to have to find a solution that accommodates each of these two concerns."

What's in the plan: States that expanded Medicaid could keep getting their extra federal funds "for a limited period of time," but they'd go back to the regular federal matching rate "at a date certain." Republicans are still figuring out what those dates will be, but the goal is to stop the states that expanded Medicaid from enrolling new people.

What's missing is what matters the most

The briefing document lays out all of the ideas but includes almost none of the specifics that really matter, like the size of the tax credit, the amount of the "state innovation grants," or the ways to pay for all of it. That's partly because Republicans are still getting official cost estimates, but those are the details that will really make a difference, according to outside analysts:

  • Harvard's John McDonough, former Senate Democratic aide and member of the Axios board of experts: "What is the size of the credit? Why so shy about this? Why the veil over the most important single item in a plan? Maybe because revealing the number will allow experts to figure out quickly how many will lose coverage."
  • Chris Condeluci, former Senate Republican aide and member of the Axios board of experts: Key questions are whether it really repeals all Obamacare taxes right away or phases some out gradually, and how to be fair to states that expanded Medicaid and the ones that didn't.
  • Zeke Emanuel of the Center for American Progress: "How much is the subsidy? We don't know their value so we cannot say what it will cover ... There is not enough information but what appears is that people will pay more and many people will find insurance impossible to buy."

How the FTC’s new competition chief could affect health care

President Trump's acting Federal Trade Commission chairwoman, Maureen Ohlhausen, is wasting no time shaking up the agency. Bob Herman reports that she named Tad Lipsky the new acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition yesterday — the office charged with policing mergers and acquisitions for most of the health care industry.

What this means: Potentially less oversight, but not for all health care players. Lipsky replaces Deborah Feinstein, who went after some large hospital and health system mergers. However, her group has been lax on many transactions involving drug companies, pharmacy benefit managers and retail pharmacies.

  • Former FTC staffers say Lipsky is a pro-business conservative who is less aggressive in challenging M&A, but he also is knowledgable about health care and likely won't slow down reviews on hospital mergers.
  • Former FTC antitrust attorney John Kirkwood: "This is not choosing a Steve Bannon ... This is like choosing another establishment figure to the right of Debbie Feinstein."

Key quote: Here's what Lipsky said to U.S. News & World Report in December after Trump won: "The purpose of antitrust is not necessarily to prevent firms from succeeding, even when they become very dominant in their industry."

A few big moments at the Seema Verma hearing

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services nominee didn't answer all of the questions at the Senate Finance Committee hearing yesterday — especially on the new Obamacare rule, which came from the agency she'll be running. But there were a few standout moments:

  • She defended the Indiana approach to Medicaid, which requires low-income people to contribute to their health care: "It gives dignity to individuals ... We don't assume that just because someone is poor, they don't want choices about their health care."
  • She said she doesn't support what Sen. Bill Nelson called a "voucher" system for Medicare, meaning the premium support model that Ryan wants — a sign that the Trump team has given her full permission to brush it away.
  • She might actually be a fan of pharmaceutical benefit managers, which are taking a lot of grief lately for their possible role in contributing to rising drug prices.
  • She said the MACRA bill, which reformed how Medicare pays doctors, was an "important step forward" for outcomes and providers.
For more highlights, read Caitlin Owens' roundup here.

For more Obamacare replacement light reading ...

Republicans went on a tear yesterday with the bill introductions, as they unloaded more details of other pieces of Obamacare replacements. Bookmark these and make someone read them for you:

Between the lines: The pre-existing conditions bill reads a lot like Obamacare — it looks like Republicans suddenly decided to just cover all sick people. But it's supposed to be paired with a "continuous coverage" bill, which would allow people to be charged more if they didn't keep themselves insured. It's also possible that the Trump administration will take some of their own steps to promote continuous coverage, as we noted yesterday.

What we're watching next week: National Governors Association winter meeting, Washington, Feb. 24-27. Also: what's the reaction to the House GOP plan? And what will be the next Obamacare town hall video to go viral?

Have a great weekend, and tell us what you're hearing and what else we need to know: david@axios.com.

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Police discover trailer with 8 dead in San Antonio

Eric Gay / AP

AP/San Antonio: "Eight people were found dead in a tractor-trailer loaded with at least 30 others outside a Walmart store in Texas' stifling summer heat in what police are calling a horrific human trafficking case. The driver was arrested."
  • "Twenty other people in extremely critical or serious condition and eight more with lesser injuries including heat stroke and dehydration were found inside the truck, which didn't have a working air conditioning system despite blistering temperatures that topped 100 degrees."
  • "A person from the truck initially approached a Walmart employee in a parking lot and asked for water late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, said police in San Antonio, where temperatures on Saturday reached 101 degrees. The employee gave the person the water and then called police, and when officers arrived they found the eight people dead in the back of the trailer and 30 other survivors inside."
  • "Investigators checked store surveillance video, which showed vehicles had arrived and picked up other people from the tractor-trailer. ... [M]any of those inside the truck appeared to be adults in their 20s and 30s but also apparently two school-age children."
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Scaramucci's fiesty exchange with Jake Tapper over deleted tweets

New White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci has been deleteting some of his old tweets, including comments on topics like climate change and guns.

Below is his Sunday exchange with CNN host Jake Tapper on the topic:

A sampling:

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Trump's mini-me

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Look for Anthony Scaramucci, the incoming White House communications director, to take the White House podium more often than his predecessors. In past administrations, it has been a largely behind-the-scenes position, with the press secretary doing the daily on-camera talking.

  • "He's good at it and he's competitive," one friend said. "He's going to want to be out there on the days with the biggest sh--storms. He likes the game. He likes to spar, but he's not nasty about it. And he likes the controversy — he's a typical Wall Street guy."
  • Nevertheless, Mooch plans to elevate the cachet of the new press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Expect her to do the vast bulk of on-camera briefings.
  • He's been deleting lots of old tweets, but here they are.

Talker column by Maureen Dowd on "The Mooch And the Mogul":

"A wealthy mini-me Manhattan bro with wolfy smile and slick coif who will say anything and flip any position. A self-promoter extraordinaire and master salesman who doesn't mind pushing a bad product — and probably sees it as more fun. ... The Mogul and the Mooch is a tender love story with dramatic implications for the imploding White House.
"Both enjoy stirring the pot ... They savor counterpunching ... But a change in communications personnel will not solve the central problem for President Trump. He doesn't understand that Robert Mueller is not a contractor he's in a civil litigation dispute with, someone he can intimidate and wear down and threaten and bleed out."
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Scaramucci promises "dramatic action" to stop the leaks

New White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci is making the Sunday Show rounds today.

  • From Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: "[W]e have to get the leaks stopped. If we don't get them stopped. I'm a businessperson so I will take dramatic action to stop those leaks. ... If the leaks don't stop I'm going to pare down the staff because it's just not right.... Something is going on inside the White House that the president does not like. We will fix it."
  • From an interview with John Dickerson of CBS News, when asked how he'll treat leakers on his watch: "They're going to get fired. I'm just going to make it very, very clear, okay? Tomorrow I'm going to have a staff meeting. And it's going to be a very binary thing. I'm not going to make any prejudgments about anybody on that staff. If they want to stay on the staff, they're going to stop leaking."
  • Bonus: Scaramucci told Wallace that while he thinks some members of the press are stretching or making up stories, he wants to "engage" the mainstream media, adding that he wants to "de-escalate" tensions between the press and the White House.
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Newfound Clinton-era memo: presidents can be indicted

Susan Walsh / AP

"Can Presidents Be Indicted? A Long-Hidden Legal Memo Says Yes," by N.Y. Times' Charlie Savage:

  • "A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr's independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton ... raises the possibility that Mr. Mueller may have more options than most commentators have assumed."
  • The 56-page memo was written for Starr by constitutional scholar Ronald Rotunda, "locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act."
  • The memo concludes: 'It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president's official duties ... In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.'"
  • "In 1974, the Watergate special counsel, Leon Jaworski, had also received a memo from his staff saying he could indict the president."
  • See the Starr memo, posted by The Times.
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Report: U.K. wants Trump test trip before full State visit

President Trump has been asked to visit the U.K. for low-key talks with Theresa May this year, according to a report by the Daily Mail, which says the trip will be a test run for whether to hold a full State visit.

The British tabloid claims U.K. leadership is concerned about Trump potentially violating protocol while visiting the Queen, in addition to fears of a falling out with British PM Theresa May that could risk a bad post-Brexit U.S. trade deal for the U.K., while the White House wants to avoid the embarrassment of major anti-Trump rallies during a visit with an ally.

Then-president Barack Obama's first U.K. state visit in 2011 included meetings with the Queen, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and PM David Cameron and opposition leader Ed Miliband.

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General: "unimaginable" to allow North Korea capability to nuke U.S.

Wong Maye-E / AP

Comments yesterday at the Aspen Security Forum from Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, via Politico's Nahal Toosi:

"Many people have talked about military options with words like 'unimaginable'... I would probably shift that slightly and say it would be horrific... [A]nyone who's been alive since World War II has never seen the loss of life that could occur if there's a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
"[I]t is not unimaginable to have military options to respond to North Korean nuclear capability. What's unimaginable to me is allowing a capability that would allow a nuclear weapon to land in Denver, Colorado. That's unimaginable to me. So my job will be to develop military options to make sure that doesn't happen."

Go deeper: We asked experts how to deal with North Korea.

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Lawmakers agree on Russia sanctions for election-meddling

Evan Vucci / AP

A group of bipartisan lawmakers agreed today to move forward with legislation that would impose sanctions against Russia for their meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, NYT reports. Congress will vote on Tuesday. The expansive sanctions are also for continuing to deploy military forces in Ukraine, annexing Crimea, and abusing human rights.

  • The White House has argued that Congress should allow Trump to have flexibility in his ability to adjust these sanctions as a way to handle Russia how he sees fit. Trump has tried to manage the U.S.' relationship with Russia on his own terms, and these sanctions would make that more difficult.
  • Why it matters: Congress will force Trump into a difficult decision: veto the bill, or move forward and risk his efforts to improve our relationship with Russia. The legislation includes sanctions on North Korea and Iran.
  • Paul Ryan's spokeswoman AshLee Strong told Axios: "This a tough sanctions package that includes measures overwhelmingly supported on a bipartisan basis that would hold three bad actors to account: Iran, Russia, and North Korea. We look forward to moving these sanctions next week before the August work period."
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Major problems plague start of Pokemon Go Fest

Credit: Niantic

The creators of Pokemon Go held their first major in-person event in Chicago on Saturday but things got off to a rough start. Many of those who paid to attend the event reported being stuck in line or unable to log into the app. Attendees would have a chance to catch rare Pokemon — including a Pokemon "monster" if certain goals were met, per Chicago Tribune.
CEO John Hanke was booed as he took the stage in Grant Park, and festival attendees reportedly started chanting "fix the game" at him when they realized they were unable to log on. Niantic is currently working on the issue and the company will reportedly refund participants for their tickets and give them $100 in virtual currency for the game.
Why it matters: Live events are seen as a big part of the company's strategy to keep the game's most active players engaged, so technical issues during a highly-anticipated event do not bode well for the company.
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Scaramucci goes full Breitbart

Breitbart / YouTube

Anthony Scaramucci gave his first interview as White House communications director to Breitbart's Matt Boyle. The two sounded like old friends, with Scaramucci kicking off the early-morning SiriusXM's "Breitbart News Saturday" interview by jokingly asking Boyle, "Did you send your job application form in yet, Matt?...Do you need my email so I can get your resume over here?"

Boyle laughed and replied: "Anthony, I'm honored, maybe we can talk about that later." Scaramucci praised Breitbart for capturing "the spirit of what is actually going on in the country, where there's a large group of people...who've been disaffected from the economic franchise." (FWIW: I asked Boyle whether he'd seriously consider a job in the White House press shop and he declined to comment.)

Between the lines: Sean Spicer had a terrible relationship with Breitbart, the right-wing outlet whose alumni, including Steve Bannon, now work in the White House. Scaramucci now appears to want to elevate the outlet in general, and Boyle in particular. By giving Boyle (Breitbart's most unrestrained attack dog) such prominence from the outset, Scaramucci is signaling that the President wants to make better use of conservative/friendly media outlets to transmit his messages without a critical filter.

Interview highlights:

  • Breitbart First: Scaramucci told Boyle that he and the President talked Friday about the fact that there are "enough outlets, whether it's Breitbart, the President's social media feed, all of the different apparatus that we have where people will allow us to deliver our message to the American people unfiltered."
  • Fresh start: Scaramucci also called his appointment a "fresh start" and said he wanted to see if he could "de-escalate" tensions with mainstream media outlets.
  • Bonding over "fake news": At the end of the interview Boyle asked Scaramucci how he planned to "combat" the "fake news" given he was a "victim of fake news" recently on CNN. Boyle was referring to CNN's recent retraction of a story about Scaramucci, which resulted in CNN management firing three employees. Boyle wrote more than a dozen pieces bashing CNN during that period. Scaramucci said to Boyle: "You've also been a great help in terms of exposure and I do appreciate what you did for me during that incident...I want to thank you publicly in front of your listeners."