Happy Wednesday, everyone. Just as I was finishing up the newsletter version of Primer—which you can sign up for by emailing us here—some news broke: Representative Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican and the House majority leader, was shot this morning during a congressional baseball practice. From CNN:

“Rep. Steve Scalise was shot in Alexandria, Virginia, Wednesday morning, Rep. Mo Brooks told CNN. Brooks said he was on deck at a practice for the congressional baseball team when the shooting occurred. Scalise appears to have been shot in the hip and it appears two Capitol Hill police agents were shot. Alexandria police said earlier Wednesday they were responding to a “multiple shooting” in the city. The tweet also said the suspect is in custody.”



On May 4, during a Rose Garden celebration of the House’s passage of the American Health Care Act, President Trump called the bill “something very, very incredibly well-crafted.” Since then, it seems, he’s had a change of heart. Yesterday, according to the Associated Press, Trump told Republican senators that the House bill was “mean, mean, mean”—according to a CNN producer, he also called the bill a “son of a bitch”—and urged them to devise something “more generous.”

  • Nut graph, from Politico: “Trump threw a party in the Rose Garden celebrating the passage of the House bill and has publicly called it ‘terrific.’ But aides and associates said he has not liked the news coverage and has shown little interest in what is in the bill—but wants it to be received well.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Were I an elected Republican, I would take two things away from this news: 1) Trump clearly has no interest in or understanding of policy. 2) He’ll throw you under the bus the first second it suits his interests to do so.

WHAT’S NEXT: Trump wants something he can defend in the press—and something that won’t get Republicans slaughtered in 2018. But more robust tax credits for low-income people and reduced cuts to Medicaid would increase the bill’s cost and cut into tax cuts for the wealthy. They might also be a nonstarter for Freedom Caucus types in the House. In the meantime, the Senate soldiers on in secrecy, with Republican senators defending their secrecy.

  • Money quote: “Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was asked Monday how much time the public deserved to see the bill before a vote and whether a few days would suffice. ‘Well I think we’re not worried so much about that as we are getting it together so we can get a majority to vote for it,’ Hatch said.”

Related:Republicans pretend Medicaid is broken. It isn’t. If the Senate’s repeal bill goes through, it will be. [Slate]


THE GIST:In testimony yesterday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called assertions that he had colluded with Russia in that country’s interference into the 2016 election an “appalling and detestable lie.” On the other hand, as The Washington Post leads, he “repeatedly refused to answer questions from senators Tuesday about his private conversations with President Trump, including whether he spoke to Trump about former FBI director James B. Comey’s handling of the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential race.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Sessions was cagey, especially on his conversations with Trump, asserting an executive privilege that the president has not yet invoked. Most pointedly, he declined to talk about whether they discussed Trump’s rationale for firing Comey. As Axios reports, former Obama Justice Department official thinks Sessions’s non-answer waved “a red flag in front of the bull named” special counsel Robert Mueller. “If Sessions had a good answer about conversations with Trump about firing Comey, he would’ve just given it. … Sessions can probably get out of ever giving the answer to a Republican Congress, but my guess is his performance earned him a ticket to a grand jury.”

Related:There was some sexism—probably racism, too—in how Senator Kamala Harris of California was treated both by Sessions and her white male colleagues on the committee, including North Carolina’s Richard Burr, the chairman.

Also related:Trump’s advisers have prevailed on him not to fire Mueller, at least for now.


Nearly sixteen years on, the war in Afghanistan is not going well. In the words of defense secretary James Mattis, the Taliban has been “surging” over the last two years, along with ISIS and other militant groups. Trump’s answer, according to The New York Times and other media outlets, is to give Mattis authority to deploy troops as he sees fit, which means several thousand more Americans will soon find themselves shipped halfway across the world to fight a war that will apparently never end.

WHAT IT MEANS: Trump’s move marks a dramatic break from President Obama, in that while Obama was deeply involved in decisions regarding troop deployments—he was sometimes accused of micromanaging—Trump is in essence giving the Pentagon leeway to do whatever it wants, both in Afghanistan as well as in Somalia and Yemen.

WORTH NOTING: The Pentagon doesn’t yet have a plan to reestablish momentum in the conflict. On Tuesday, this fact raised the ire of Senator John McCain: “We’re now six months into this administration. We still haven’t got a strategy for Afghanistan. It makes it hard for us to support you when we don’t have a strategy.”


THE GIST: Last week, Governor Cooper called for a special session to redraw legislative districts, which Republicans ignored. Yesterday, Cooper demanded a special election ahead of new year’s short session, which Republicans will also ignore. Today, the Republicans fire back, pointing out that Roy Cooper was in the Senate in the early nineties when the Democrats passed a ridiculous gerrymander of their own.

  • Money quote: “I don’t think anybody could draw a map quite like this one. This one is about as bad as it gets, and this happens to be our governor’s map in 1990 that he drew.” —Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown.

FACT CHECK: Eh, not really. Cooper was a freshman senator in 1992, when that map was drawn. He did lead the redistricting committee in 1997, after the 1992 map was ruled unconstitutional. Those maps were approved by the Supreme Court. But the moral of the story is that partisans tend to look after partisan interests—which is a compelling argument for an independent commission to draw district maps, perhaps.




Primer this week is sponsored by Beer Camp on Tour, June 17 in Raleigh. For tickets and additional info, click the image below.