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July 17, 2017
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Republicans decided last fall that they would use their unexpected control of the White House and Congress to quickly repeal the Affordable Care Act and move on, but as their replacement legislation faces yet another delay and continued uncertainty in the Senate, it is clearer than ever that President Trump and "many in Congress dramatically underestimated the challenge of rolling back former President Barack Obama's signature achievement," Politico reports.

Congressional GOP aides now point to the lack of experience, vision, and expertise in the slow-starting Trump White House, while White House aides note that congressional Republicans have been promising to repeal and replace ObamaCare since 2010, long before Trump ran for office. But the fissures in the Republican caucus were clear as early as late January, at a closed-door GOP policy retreat in Philadelphia, Politico says:

House Speaker Paul Ryan laid out a three-pronged approach to scrapping ObamaCare. He wanted to repeal as much of the legislation as possible, eliminate more through deregulation, and then work with Democrats on a replacement, said one former Republican aide. Many Republican lawmakers doubted Democrats would work with them on redoing the health-care law.

The president and one of his former campaign rivals also unexpectedly helped undermine the GOP's repeal plans. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on television the GOP needed a replacement plan if it was going to repeal the law. Then Trump endorsed that requirement. Their comments caused GOP leaders to start from scratch. Now that the Senate's attempt to revamp the health-care law has run into roadblocks — with moderates insisting on protecting coverage for their constituents, while conservatives focus on undoing as much of ObamaCare as possible — both Paul and Trump have suggested going back to a repeal-only bill. [Politico]

One White House aide told Politico that if Trump signs a health-care law by August, all this drama will be forgotten. You can read more about the Republican health-care missteps and inflated expectations at Politico. Peter Weber

12:29 p.m. ET
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On Friday, Hawaii will introduce its emergency plan informing residents and visitors what to do if North Korea strikes. The plan will require students to practice "evacuation drills similar to 'active shooter' situations" and there will be emergency siren testing on the first workday of every month, Time reported. If the incident should ever arise, announcements will be broadcast urging everyone to "get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned."

The plan is being released just weeks after North Korea tested a missile that U.S. authorities confirmed "could travel up to 4,000 miles, just outside of Hawaii's reach and fully within range of Alaska." "We do not want to cause any undue stress for the public," Vern T. Miyagi, Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency administrator, said in a statement. "But there is clear evidence that [North Korea] is trying to develop ballistic missiles that could conceivably one day reach our state."

Meanwhile, Alaskans remain surprisingly unconcerned about being very much in the possible range of a North Korean missile. Becca Stanek

12:26 p.m. ET

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned his post Friday, The New York Times reported, shortly after President Trump offered Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci the position of communications director. Spicer apparently vehemently opposed Scaramucci's appointment, and despite being asked by Trump to stay on in the administration under Scaramucci, Spicer resigned.

In light of the news, Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) on Friday offered her kudos to Spicer for not being the most invertebrate member of the Trump administration:

Trump publicly criticized Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, in an interview with The New York Times earlier this week. On Thursday, Sessions vowed to remain at the Justice Department for "as long as that is appropriate."

Spicer's tenure at the White House lectern was not quite the shortest in history; that dubious honor belongs to Jonathan Daniels, who served 19 days under President Franklin Roosevelt. Kimberly Alters

12:05 p.m. ET

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned Friday after telling President Trump that he "vehemently disagreed with the appointment" of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director, The New York Times writes. Scaramucci, a Wall Street financier and longtime Trump supporter, was named communications director earlier Friday.

Trump reportedly asked Spicer to stay on, although Spicer turned down the invitation, calling Scaramucci a mistake. Scaramucci has been working at the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and Trump has told aides he appreciates how he defends him in his appearances on Fox News. The communications director job has been open since Mike Dubke's short tenure ended in May. Read more at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

11:45 a.m. ET

You might call it downright surreal. Twenty-seven years after Salvador Dali was buried, his body has been exhumed — and his mustache is still entirely intact, The Associated Press reports.

Dali's embalmed body was dug up to test a tarot card reader's claim that she is the famous painter's daughter. It was necessary for Dali to be exhumed because there are no known biological remains of the artist.

Experts removed samples of Dali's hair, nails, and "two long bones" for testing, AP reports. His famous mustache was reportedly still in the "ten past ten" shape when forensic experts opened the coffin. Jeva Lange

11:25 a.m. ET
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Special Counsel Robert Mueller has requested the White House keep all documentation related to the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked lawyer, a person familiar with the decision told CNN. "[T]he Special Counsel's office is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of Donald Trump," Mueller's letter read. "Information concerning the June 2016 meeting between [Trump Jr.] and Natalia Veselnitskaya is relevant to the investigation."

The request covers text messages, emails, voicemail, and other communications.

Meanwhile, President Trump and some of his lawyers are actively looking at ways to undermine, discredit, or fire Mueller, including compiling a list of potential conflicts of interest that might be used to force him out, The New York Times and The Washington Post report. The effort has apparently ramped up as Mueller begins digging into Trump's financial history, and Trump is reportedly especially concerned that Mueller can access his tax returns. Jeva Lange

10:55 a.m. ET
Victor Fraile/Getty Images for Calvin Klein

It would appear it's too late for Justin Bieber to say sorry to China. Beijing's Culture Bureau on Thursday posted an announcement to its website that the Canadian pop star will be banned from performing in China from here on out because of his "bad behaviors." "Justin Bieber is a gifted singer, but he is also a controversial young foreign singer," the bureau said in its statement.

The bureau explained the decision was made "to maintain order in the Chinese market and purify the Chinese performance environment." "We hope that as Justin Bieber matures, he can continue to improve his own words and actions, and truly become a singer beloved by the public," the statement said. Bieber was slated to perform in Hong Kong this fall as part of the Asia portion of his Purpose World Tour.

The bureau didn't cite any specific examples of said "bad behaviors," but The New York Times noted back in 2014 Bieber "caused a diplomatic row when he posted photos of himself visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors Japanese war dead." The year before, Bieber was photographed "being carried up the Great Wall of China by his bodyguards," the Times reported. On that same trip, he also caused chaos when he skateboarded through Beijing's streets "while being frantically chased by his bodyguards."

At least Bieber can commiserate with Lady Gaga, Bon Jovi, Maroon 5, and Björk — all of whom have faced similar bans in China. Becca Stanek

10:08 a.m. ET
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As anyone with a brother or sister knows, it's always great when your parents are mad at your sibling because then your own shenanigans go unnoticed. It just so happens it works that way in politics, too.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson admitted to The Washington Examiner that he has found the silver lining to the Trump administration's ongoing scandals: "Let me put it this way," Carson said. "I'm glad that [President] Trump is drawing all the fire so I can get stuff done."

Carson knows something about drawing unwanted attention — he has been accused of elaborate exaggerations and brow-raising claims. But in this case, you've got to admire the man for his honesty. Jeva Lange

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