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Highlights: White House briefs media after press shop shake-up

Highlights: White House briefs media after press shop shake-up

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders arrives to speak to members of the media in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House on July 21 followed by Anthony Scaramucci. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Sarah Huckabee Sanders took the podium as the briefing room buzzed with the news of Sean Spicer's abrupt departure.

By Madeline Conway and Louis Nelson

07/21/2017 02:09 PM EDT

Updated 07/21/2017 02:54 PM EDT


The White House communications shop held its first on-camera briefing for reporters in weeks on Friday, just hours after press secretary Sean Spicer resigned.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders and new communications director Anthony Scaramucci took the podium as the briefing room buzzed with the news of Spicer's abrupt departure, which came in protest of President Donald Trump's decision to bring on Wall Street financier Scaramucci.

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Here are the key moments from the briefing.

• Sanders read a pair of statements from Trump on the resignation of Spicer and the hiring of Scaramucci.

"I am grateful for Sean's work on behalf of my administration and the American people. I wish him continued success as he moves on to pursue new opportunities. Just look at his great television ratings," Trump said of Spicer.

"Anthony is a person I have great respect for, and he will be an important addition to this administration," the second statement said. "He's been a great supporter and will now help implement key aspects of our agenda while leading the communications team. We have accomplished so much and we are being given credit for so little. The good news is the people get it even if the media doesn't."

Sanders will succeed Spicer as press secretary , Scaramucci, taking the briefing room podium for the first time, announced to reporters. He also thanked Spicer for his service and wished him well.

"I applaud his efforts here and I love the guy and I wish him well," Scaramucci said. "And I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money."

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Scaramucci and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus , who reportedly opposed his hiring, are like squabbling brothers, the new communications director said.

"There's been some speculation in the press about me and Reince, so I just want to talk about that very quickly. Reince and I have been personal friends for six years. We are a little bit like brothers where we rough each other up once in a while, which is totally normal for brothers. There's a lot of people in here that have brothers and so you get that. But he's a dear friend," he said.

The incoming White House communications director said it was Priebus who first brought him into the political world and recalled that he had once asked the chief of staff to join


Spicer's tenure: Short but memorable

Spicer's tenure: Short but memorable

Even if he didn't answer them directly, Sean Spicer did not seek to evade the hard questions. | Andrew Harnik/AP


Trump team’s attacks on Mueller rattle Washington

Robert Mueller is pictured. | AP Photo

Even as President Donald Trump’s team tries to undermine the various probes, special counsel Robert Mueller has been widely praised by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, complicating the White House’s messaging effort. | J. Scott Apllewhite/AP Photo

White House

The president and his allies have ramped up their warnings against the special counsel in recent days.

By Matthew Nussbaum

07/21/2017 11:05 AM EDT

The White House is rapidly ratcheting up its public threats against special counsel Robert Mueller and his team, raising concerns among Democrats and Republicans alike across Washington.

President Donald Trump continues to deride Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election as a “witch hunt,” and warned the longtime prosecutor in a Wednesday interview with the New York Times to stay away from investigating his family’s finances, saying it would be a “violation.”

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The president also pushed the notion that some members of Mueller’s team, who have previously donated to Democratic campaigns, are ethically compromised. His surrogates have pushed similar talking points, while White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders reiterated Thursday that Trump retains the right to remove Mueller.

The prospect of Trump firing the special counsel sends shivers across Capitol Hill, with one senior Republican congressional aide telling POLITICO on Friday that the only reason he could think of for such a move would be “trying to obstruct justice.”

“He is a revered figure on the Hill, he is someone who has a sterling reputation,” the aide said of Mueller. “No one really questions his integrity.”

Trump’s allies defended the various tactics on Friday.

“People should know what folks’ pasts and their motivations and their political motivations are. These weren't minor donations,” Kellyanne Conway, a senior White House aide, told Fox News on Friday about Mueller’s team. “Now, whether that prejudices them one way or the other in the investigation remains to be seen. But it is relevant information for people to have.”

“If you’re going to be sued or are sued, you’re always going to look for conflicts with the judge, with prosecutors, with witnesses,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), an early Trump supporter, in an interview with CNN. “I think this is nothing more than standard practice when you’re involved in litigation or potential litigation.”

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The Trump team’s defense of the Mueller attacks come after a flurry of reports emerged Thursday evening that the president’s lawyers and aides were stockpiling information against Mueller and his team to discredit the probe and possibly lay the groundwork for firing him.

The intensified effort also comes before two highly anticipated congressional appearances next week – Trump son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner is due to testify behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee, while former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Donald


‘America First’: Who Really Wins?

When Donald Trump raised the roof at his raucous rallies with pledges to put “America First,” he hit a political nerve. The long-mothballed phrase, revived from another era of American history, became shorthand for rethinking our whole relationship to the world. Seven decades after the end of World War II, why does the United States still guarantee the security of Germany and Japan? Does boosting Mexican manufacturing through the North American Free Trade Agreement really help American workers? Why are 23 of the 28 NATO members allowed to ignore NATO rules on how much they must spend on defense? Why must the U.S. do more so that others can do less?

Six months into his presidency, we’ve seen enough of the program to assess just how well he’s fulfilling this promise. Is America First paying off for America?

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Not exactly. Trump has definitely shaken up the old certainties of global relations. But for whose good? It’s not clear how bombing Syria’s Bashar Assad advances U.S. interests as Trump has defined them. There are still U.S. troops in Afghanistan for some reason. His back-and-forth on U.S. support for NATO has motivated members to make new promises, but he has also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defend Montenegro against foreign aggression—surely not a priority of heartland voters. If you think the Paris accord on climate was a bad deal for the U.S., you’re happy that he pulled the U.S. out. If you think he did this mainly to throw his base a bone as other campaign promises go unrealized, you might be a bit more cynical. If you think it serves U.S. interests to signal European allies that they better make defense plans that don’t include Washington, then you’re probably pleased. If you think shaking up the alliance actually makes the U.S. less secure, then you’re not.

So who, if not America, benefits most from the Trump foreign policy? We surveyed the past six months, cutting through the rhetoric to take a clear look at who’s up, who’s down, and who the real policy winners are under America First. The methodology is pretty simple. Multiply 1) the likelihood they'll be helped by Trump’s policies, 2) the magnitude of that help, and 3) how soon that help will arrive.

Let’s start with some big names that you won’t see on this list: Russia and China. Vladimir Putin might have expected Trump’s victory to clear obstacles in Russia’s path, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Suspicions that Russians interfered in the U.S. elections feed anti-Russian sentiment in Washington. U.S. sanctions against Russia remain in place. Trump’s willingness to let the Pentagon make Syria policy has U.S. and Russian defense officials directly at odds. And whatever Trump says about Putin and his government, there are plenty of Trump administration officials, both Pentagon types and diplomats, singing from a very different hymnal. Putin is pleased that Hillary Clinton lives in Chappaqua and not on Pennsylvania Avenue, but Trump and his team are


Trump's war of attrition against Obamacare

Obamacare may escape another GOP repeal effort, but surviving a hostile administration could be a much tougher challenge.

If a last-ditch repeal effort fails in Congress next week, all indications are the Trump administration will continue chipping away at the Affordable Care Act — if not torching it outright.

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President Donald Trump, who regularly says that Obamacare is already dead, has already taken steps to undermine the law even as the legislative battle over repeal drags on. His administration has slashed crucial advertising dollars, cut the enrollment window in half, and regularly pumps out anti-Obamacare videos and graphics — actions sure to reduce the number of people who sign up.

Trump has plenty of other options to roll back a program covering roughly 20 million Americans. Those includes ending enforcement of the mandate to carry insurance, imposing work restrictions and nominal premiums on low-income adults who qualify for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and letting states relax the law’s robust coverage rules.

The man charged with oversight of many of these decisions, HHS Secretary Tom Price, noted in his confirmation hearing that Obamacare grants him broad authority leeway about how to enact it — powers that in his hands could be used to the scale back the law's reach.

“Fourteen hundred and forty-two times the ACA said ‘the secretary shall’ or ‘the secretary may,’” Price noted in March.

One possible brake on the administration might be the pushback from some Republican governors and lawmakers who oppose letting insurance markets crumble on their watch — even as Trump insists voters will blame Democrats. After the Senate’s repeal effort appeared to unravel earlier this week, Lamar Alexander, chairman of a key health care committee, announced plans to hold hearings on stabilizing Obamacare’s shaky insurance marketplaces.

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“The best next step is for both parties to come together and do what we can all agree on: fix our unstable insurance markets,” wrote 11 governors this week in a bipartisan letter led by John Kasich of Ohio and John Hickenlooper of Colorado.

However, there's no sign that most Republicans in Washington are ready to drop their longtime vow to dismantle Obamacare, even with a planned Senate vote on repeal next week likely to fail .

The most devastating thing the administration could do to Obamacare is pull insurance subsidies, worth about $7 billion this year, that are paid to insurers to cover the out-of-pocket costs of low-income consumers. That could lead to an exodus of insurers from the Obamacare markets, send premiums soaring, and lead already wobbly markets in some states to collapse.

“We pay hundreds of millions of dollars a month in subsidy … and when those payments stop, it stops immediately,” Trump said in a meeting with Republican senators Wednesday. "It doesn’t take two years, three years, one

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