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Mixed ruling keeps Trump travel ban on its legal trek

President Donald Trump with Kansas Secretary of State

President Donald Trump with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Saul Loeb

Relative judgment

The U.S. Supreme Court is still scheduled to hear arguments in October on President Donald Trump’s temporary restrictions on travel from six Muslim-majority nations.

But for now, the court says the administration may move ahead with plans to bar a broad range of refugees — though judges agreed to exempt residents’ relatives who had been targeted for exclusion.

That is, SCOTUS said Trump & Co. cannot bar admission to people from those nations who are grandparents, aunts, uncles and other extended family of U.S. residents.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, the sole Trump appointee, favored allowing the president’s order as it was first issued. This week he got an earful on the ban at a conference in San Francisco.

The ban was supposed to be temporary pending a review of how federal officials vet those arriving. So the full issue has yet to unwind, both legally and administratively.

Election dissection

Three weeks after winning via the Electoral College, but losing the popular vote, Trump claimed: “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Since then, his evidence-free assertion has been widely dismissed as an occult belief, a hallucination or a wild lie. He didn’t repeat it Wednesday at the first meeting of his ad hoc voter commission. But he did try to stir suspicion.

For several reasons, most states have refused commission requests for voters’ data.

“If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they are worried about,” Trump asked. “There’s something, there always is.”

Gripe Sessions

Trump said Wednesday that he wouldn’t have appointed his campaign loyalist Jeff Sessions as attorney general if he knew the former Alabama senator would recuse himself from the Russia probe.

“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump told The New York Times. Trump called this unfair, to himself.

Politically, the statement is expected to reinforce charges from critics that Trump sought all along to have any investigation of Russia be less than independent. Trump, in the interview, also denounced and made new allegations against former FBI director James Comey and his law-enforcement colleagues.

Vlad will be glad

Trump is moving to end an Obama-era CIA program to arm and train Syrian rebels against the Bashar al-Assad regime, The Washington Post reports.

While Russia has long sought that change, even backers of the program questioned its effectiveness in ousting Assad, since President Vladimir Putin now has forces in Syria.

Still, Trump’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said in April there is “no way” peace will come to the region with Assad in power.

Summer of health?

Republican senators heard Trump say he does not want them to leave Washington for August recess until a health care bill is approved. Efforts fell apart this week.

“We can repeal” the current health law, Trump told his GOP guests in a luncheon meeting Wednesday. “But we should repeal and replace. And we shouldn’t leave town until this is complete.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said as he departed, “We all agree it’s better to both repeal and replace. But we could have a vote on either.”

Repealing without replacing would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 17 million in 2018, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports.

What else is going on

  • Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, it was announced. The 80-year-old former prisoner of war is reviewing treatment options with his family.
  • Long Island billionaire Trump backers Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah are “apoplectic” over the GOP health care debacle, BuzzFeed News quotes a Trump adviser saying.
  • The U.S. Postal Service violated the Hatch Act by allowing letter carriers to take time off to campaign for Hillary Clinton and other union-backed Democrats, investigators concluded.
  • Starved for a legislative win, the White House is scaling down its ambitions by calling for a lesser corporate tax cut, The New York Times reports.
  • Trump politically threatened Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who laughed as he sat next to him at the health care luncheon meeting.
  • Donald Trump Jr. and former campaign manager Paul Manafort are due to testify July 26 before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel announced.
  • Manafort owed well-connected Russian interests up to $17 million before joining the Trump campaign last year, records filed in Cyprus show.
  • Talks on Russian compounds seized by the U.S. last year, including one in Upper Brookville, have failed despite initial signs of a Trump administration thaw.

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