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POTUS' SCOTUS decision has conservatives pushing their favorites

Neil Gorsuch, left, with Supreme Court Justice Anthony

Neil Gorsuch, left, with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy before taking the judicial oath at the White House on April 10, 2017. Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Brendan Smialowski

Making their case

President Donald Trump's upcoming pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy is, of course, expected to buttress the Supreme Court's conservative edge. The Republicans who control the Senate will surely have no problem with this. But experts and activists see key shades of difference among the stated candidates, so scrambling is underway as Trump promotes his decision with the usual drum roll and hype.

One contender, Appeals Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, has drawn fire from some conservatives as having been too close to the Bush White House and, based on his rulings, insufficiently hostile to the current health-care law. But he clerked for Kennedy and has deep support from well-known Republican lawyers.   

“You hear the rumbling because if you’ve been part of the establishment for a long time, you’re suspect,” veteran conservative consultant Richard Viguerie told The Washington Post. “Kavanaugh carries that baggage.”

Among others under consideration is Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a former Notre Dame professor who clerked for the late Judge Antonin Scalia. She's considered a favorite of the evangelical right.

Plan or placebo? 

Trump said May 30 that drugmakers would announce within two weeks  "massive" price cuts arising from action the administration took. Two weeks later, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar gave no specifics and told Congress it could take some time to happen.

In real life, drugmakers are going the opposite way. Bayer in recent weeks raised the price of two cancer drugs by hundreds of dollars and Novartis has taken similar action. "A Wells Fargo report found 104 price increases in June and the first two days of July, with an average jump of 31.5 percent and a median increase of 9.4 percent," as Politico describes it. 

No news on Kim nukes

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes his third trip of the year to North Korea this week. United States officials told Reuters there is little progress so far toward even defining the key terms of an agreement. In fact, one mantra carried earlier by the Americans seems to have gone into retreat: Before the much-ballyhooed Singapore summit, Pompeo said Trump would reject anything short of “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.” After talks Sunday between subordinate officials of both nations, that language seemed to have dropped out of State Department messaging.

The winds of trade war

Plans and threats of tariffs and how these will play out among the United States and overseas trade rivals remain fairly fluid. But some aspects of the situation are becoming clearer.

Efforts to get Congress to defy Trump on tariffs and to shut the Chinese telecom company ZTE look highly unlikely to succeed, Bloomberg News reports.

Trump tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods are slated to begin at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Beijing, which was going to act earlier on its retaliatory tariffs, now says it will wait for the U.S. to act first, according to The Wall Street Journal.

And a document cited by the Business Insider suggests China seeks to specifically target Trump's political base with its retaliations.

What else is happening:

  • Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a Trump ally on Russiagate, denied claims he ignored sex-abuse charges against a team physician while a wrestling coach at Ohio State.
  • Invading Venezuela was an option Trump asked advisers about in August, CNN reported.
  • Longtime lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen has stopped identifying himself as Trump's attorney in his Twitter bio.
  • Forty-nine percent of voters say Trump is a racist, according to a Quinnipiac poll. Another 47 percent say he isn't. 

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