×
December 15, 2018

Friday night's federal court ruling that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as ObamaCare, is unconstitutional because of its individual mandate provision raised two key questions: What does this mean for Americans' health-care coverage? And will the ruling stand?

On the first point, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said there will be "no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan." Beyond that, many legal experts are skeptical of the decision's longevity because though it claims the individual mandate is "essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA," 2017's GOP tax reform law nixed the mandate's penalty.

Law professor Jonathan Adler explained this argument at length at The Volokh Conspiracy and in brief for Vox:

[Legal experts] say [the ruling] willfully ignores the intent of the 2017 Congress, which zeroed out the individual mandate penalty without touching the rest of the Affordable Care Act.

"They are asking the court to evaluate the current law on the basis of what the law used to be," Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western University who supported previous ObamaCare challenges, has told Vox. "That whole analysis just doesn't apply or work anymore." [Vox]

Ted Frank, director of litigation for the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, likewise deemed Friday's ruling "an embarrassingly bad decision," arguing that "if a liberal judge had issued something like it goring a conservative ox, conservatives would be rightly up in arms." And New York Times editorial board member Cristian Farias contended the "partisan, activist ruling cannot stand," urging ACA supporters not to panic.

But George Mason University law professor llya Somin, also writing at The Volokh Conspiracy, sounded a note of greater caution. "I do not expect this ruling to survive on appeal," he said. "But I am not quite as confident on that subject as most other commentators seem to be. The fact that one federal judge has endorsed the states' severability argument increases the odds that others might, as well." Read his reasoning here. Bonnie Kristian

1:51 a.m.

President Trump might soon restrict Rudy Giuliani's television privileges, but that's likely as far as his punishment will go for a problematic media tour.

On Sunday, Giuliani announced on Meet the Press that discussions about the Trump Tower Moscow project continued until October or November 2016, meaning that Trump was dealing with Russians throughout the entire campaign, contradicting Trump. Giuliani tried to do damage control on Monday, saying his comments were "hypothetical," but then he dug himself a deeper hole by telling The New Yorker he listened to tapes of Trump and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. When pressed, he backtracked. "I shouldn't have said tapes," Giuliani replied. "No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this."

This left Trump and some of his allies completely agitated, three White House officials told The Associated Press, and Trump is being encouraged to put Giuliani on a TV timeout. His antics have overshadowed what Trump saw as good news: Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office saying portions of a BuzzFeed News article about Trump directing Cohen to lie are not accurate. Giuliani "changed the headlines," but not in a good way, AP notes.

A White House aide told Politico that "handling Rudy's f--kups takes more than one man," but people close to Trump tell CNN and AP that Trump doesn't plan on giving Giuliani the ax. Still, Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman reports, Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are both urging him to cut ties.

The big question isn't whether Trump will fire Giuliani, but rather, what's behind all the mixed messages? Some theorize that Giuliani likes to drop bombs right before major stories break, but friends of Giuliani say it's simple: He loves being in the spotlight, even if he's struggling to adapt to the current media landscape. As one buddy told Sherman: "There's a school of thought that it's better to be famous and ridiculed than ignored." Catherine Garcia

1:50 a.m.

President Trump may get easily bored by former House Speaker Paul Ryan, but he apparently never tires of space travel. NASA is currently shuttered in the 32-day-old government shutdown, but in April 2017, Trump was willing to give the space agency unlimited funding if it spent the money getting astronauts to Mars while he was still in office, according to former Trump aide Cliff Sims' new memoir, Team of Vipers.

Anyone who watched Trump's public April 24 video chat with astronauts on the International Space Station heard him say he wanted to speed up the manned mission to Mars by a decade, New York's Olivia Nuzzi notes. And according Sims, Trump was dead serious. About three minutes before the video chat, Trump abruptly asked acting NASA chief Robert Lightfoot Jr. about the plan for Mars, Nuzzi recaps:

Lightfoot explained to the president — who, again, had recently signed a bill containing a plan for Mars — that NASA planned to send a rover to Mars in 2020 and, by the 2030s, would attempt a manned spaceflight. "Trump bristled," according to Sims. He asked, "But is there any way we could do it by the end of my first term?" Sims described the uncomfortable exchange that followed the question, with Lightfoot shifting and placing his hand on his chin, hesitating politely and attempting to let Trump down easily. ...

"But what if I gave you all the money you could ever need to do it?" Trump asked. "What if we sent NASA's budget through the roof, but focused entirely on that instead of whatever else you're doing now. Could it work then?" Lightfoot told him he was sorry, but he didn't think it was possible. This left Trump "visibly disappointed," Sims wrote. [New York]

With about 30 seconds until chat time, Trump took a detour to "his white-marbled bathroom for one final check in the mirror," Sims writes. "In the bathroom mirror, Trump smirked and said to himself, 'Space Station, this is your president.'" Read more at New York.

12:50 a.m.

Tuesday was Day 32 of the government shutdown, and Stephen Colbert is prepping to live without a government. "I'm licking raw chicken to build up an immunity, and I'm practicing to be my own TSA," he joked on Tuesday's Late Show. "I'm hiding something somewhere, and I'm gonna find it." There is some hope for a temporary end to the shutdown, Colbert noted, but there was also "some bad news from the Supreme Court," which revived President Trump's ban on transgender military service. "That was like 15 bigoted policies ago," he said, and since it was a 5-4 party-line vote, Colbert threw in a Brett Kavanaugh joke.

Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani "stepped in it" on Sunday by saying Trump's Moscow Trump Tower deal was under negotiation until right before the 2016 election, but he "tried to call backsies" in a "weird" and "rambling" interview with The New Yorker on Monday night, Colbert said. Giuliani appeared to disclose Trump-Russia tapes and conversations he later said he shouldn't have mentioned, contradicted himself repeatedly, and mused about lying for Trump being on his tombstone and how he would convince St. Peter he was honest. "You know things are going great when your lawyer is already prepping his argument to stay out of hell," Colbert said.

Cliff Sims, a former Trump staffer with a new tell-all out, will be on The Late Show next week, Colbert said, and he ran through some of the newly released revelations, like Trump's reliance on budget-brand hairspray ("Now we know where Trump gets most of his best ideas from — the fumes," Colbert joked) and Trump walking out on a droning Paul Ryan to turn on the TV in a room down the hall. In Colbert's imagination, the TV wasn't tuned to Fox News.

On The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon put on his Trump outfit and imagined what other things are going through Trump's head these days. Watch below. Peter Weber

12:04 a.m.

For three months during the Korean War, 1,000 sailors aboard the USS Point Cruz doted on a tiny passenger: A baby rescued from a trash can in Seoul.

While on a walk in 1953, Navy medic Norm Van Sloun of Minnesota and a few other sailors heard a cry, and that's when they found the baby, left for dead. He was half-Korean, with blonde hair and blue eyes, and Van Sloun told WCCO that at the time, orphanages "wouldn't have anything to do with Caucasian babies." So, he was brought on board, and within five hours, carpenters had a crib ready for him and a sick bay was transformed into a nursery.

The baby was named George Ascom Cruz — ASCOM after the compound where he was found, and Cruz in honor of the aircraft carrier. He spent three months on board, and during that time, the skipper flew a diaper right below the American flag. The baby had visiting hours, and the sailors would "all line up to come see George," Van Sloun said. "It was amazing."

Van Sloun always wondered what happened to George, and so did his children, who grew up hearing stories about the baby their father found. His daughter Mary Beth Bouley recently posted about George online, and it didn't take long for him to get in touch. His name is now Dan Keenen, and he was adopted by a Navy surgeon in Spokane, Washington. Keenen is married and has two sons, and couldn't wait to see Van Sloun.

They recently reconnected via video chat, with Van Sloun, now 88, reminiscing with Keenen about the time they spent together. Keenen told Van Sloun he could never fully convey just how much he appreciated what the sailors did for him. "If it weren't for these guys," he said, "I literally wouldn't be here today because I wouldn't have survived there." Catherine Garcia

January 22, 2019

Late Tuesday, Los Angeles teachers approved a contract deal and agreed to return to the classrooms on Wednesday after a six-day strike in the nation's second-largest school district. The votes of the 30,000 teachers union members were still being counted Tuesday night, but "a vast supermajority are voting yes for the agreement that we made," said union president Alex Caputo-Pearl. "Those are preliminary results but they're so overwhelming that we know what the results are going to be."

The deal, finalized early Tuesday, gives teachers a 6 percent raise, reduces class sizes incrementally over the next few years, and increases the number of support staff, including teachers and librarians. The Board of Education is expected to ratify the deal in short order. Caputo-Pearl called the agreement a "historic victory" for "educators, students, and parents" achieved through "unity, our action, and our shared sacrifice." Peter Weber

January 22, 2019

Pitcher Mariano Rivera made history on Tuesday, becoming the first player unanimously voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Rivera, who played for the New York Yankees for 19 seasons, received a vote on all 425 ballots cast. Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, and Mike Mussina were also elected on Tuesday. In December, the Today's Game Era Committee picked Harold Baines and Lee Smith for induction. They will be honored during a ceremony July 21 in Cooperstown, New York.

With Rivera as a closer, the Yankees won five World Series titles. The 13-time All-Star was also named the MVP of the 1999 World Series. Before Rivera, Ken Griffey Jr. came the closest to being unanimously elected, receiving 99.3 percent of the vote three years ago. This was the first year Halladay, who died in a plane crash in November 2017, was on the ballot. The last player to be elected on the first ballot posthumously was Christy Mathewson in 1936, the Los Angeles Times reports. Catherine Garcia

January 22, 2019

A former Trump campaign aide told CNN on Tuesday that when he was interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, investigators asked him about how the National Rifle Association forged a relationship with the campaign.

Sam Nunberg said he was also questioned about President Trump's speech at the NRA's annual meeting in 2015, and how that opportunity came up. Nunberg was interviewed in February 2018, but CNN reports that as recently as a month ago, investigators were asking about ties between the NRA and the campaign.

The NRA spent $30 million to support Trump's candidacy, more than the organization spent on presidential, House, and Senate races combined in 2008 and 2012. People familiar with the matter told CNN that Mueller did not ask Trump about the NRA in the written questions he sent him.

Last month, Russian national Maria Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring against the United States, and has acknowledged forming friendships with prominent NRA members in order to gain access to GOP political circles. She said she was working under the direction of Alexander Torshin, a former Russian central banker and lifetime member of the NRA. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads