Thursday's HOT MIC

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Happy Thursday Morning!

Here is what's on the President's agenda today:

  • The President will meet with Catholic Cardinals and leaders.
  • Later in the morning, the President will sign the Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty and participates in the National Day of Prayer Event.
  • In the afternoon, the President will depart the White House for Joint Base Andrews en route to New York, New York.
  • The President will then meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia.
  • Later in the afternoon, the President will have an expanded bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Turnbull.
  • In the evening, the President will give remarks commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Across the pond

Late last night the internet was buzzing when Queen Elizabeth summoned her entire staff to London. Initially, folks were speculating on a royal death, but Buckingham Palace assured people there was "no cause for concern."

The SunUK is now reporting that Prince Philip will "retire" at the end of this year.

PRINCE Philip will retire from public engagements this year, Buckingham Palace has confirmed.

The news was announced at an “emergency meeting” with all senior staff and aides at the palace this morning.

The staff was addressed by Lord Chamberlain, the most senior officer in the royal household at the meeting this morning.

From the AP:

Buckingham Palace has announced that Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, will stop carrying out public engagements sometime between now and August.

The palace said Thursday that the 95-year-old Philip will continue heading numerous charitable organizations but will not play an active role attending engagements.

In the past Philip has suffered heart problems but has maintained a vigorous public schedule.

Seems reasonable for a 95-year-old man.

The religious liberty executive order

From the White House, here is the summary of the executive order the President will sign this morning:

  1. Declares that it is the policy of the administration to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty;
  2. Directs the IRS to exercise maximum enforcement discretion to alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious leaders from speaking about politics and candidates from the pulpit;
  3. Provides regulatory relief for religious objectors to Obamacare’s burdensome preventive services mandate, a position supported by the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby.

The Hill explains:

Trump plans to sign an order in the morning that attempts to overcome a provision in the federal tax code prohibiting religious organizations from directly opposing or endorsing political candidates. This prohibition is known as the "Johnson amendment," because it was proposed by then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson (D-Texas) in the 1950s.

Easing restrictions on church political activity has been a longtime priority for Trump, social conservatives and a number of congressional Republicans. They argue the Johnson amendment stifles churches’ First Amendment rights.

Naturally, there are objections to the EO.

But a number of Democrats, charities and even some religious groups have supported the current ban on political activity by religious groups and nonprofits.

They point out that the Johnson amendment doesn’t just apply to religious institutions but also applies to other charities with status as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations. And they are concerned that it could lead to a politicization of nonprofits and an influx of “dark money” in politics.

In other words, they are concerned about money coming from the right side of the political spectrum.

And right around the corner, there is the war of discrimination going: There are those who say Christians are discriminated against by being forced to violate their religious convictions and those who say that the LGBT community will face discrimination if Christians are not forced to provide them wedding services and participate in their weddings. There was no indication this particular religious liberty issue will be addressed in the EO, but the left is gearing up for a fight.

Earlier in the day Wednesday, civil rights and LGBTQ advocates rallied outside the White House after reports indicated that Trump was preparing to sign an executive order on religious freedom Thursday they fear will allow individuals and organizations to discriminate against women and LGBTQ Americans.

An EO in this spirit will go to court immediately, as the ACLU has said it will file a lawsuit.

Healthcare overhaul heads to a vote today

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters late Wednesday that the "repeal and replace" healthcare bill will head to the House floor for a vote today.

"We're going to pass it!" McCarthy said. "Let's be optimistic about life."

Republican leaders and the White House spent the day Wednesday hunting for votes and are believed to be within striking distance of passing the measure.

The margin is expected to be razor-thin. According to McCarthy, the House Rules Committee will meet this evening to set the parameters of debate on the floor.

Opponents of the bill are already attacking Republicans for scheduling a vote before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has analyzed the amended bill.

Fox News reports:

The latest iteration of the GOP bill would let states escape a current requirement that insurers charge healthy and seriously ill customers the same rates, a measure that has drawn the ire of some moderate Republicans.

However, a pair of moderates flipped their position earlier Wednesday and announced they were supporting the legislation after winning Trump's backing for their amendment to the measure.

The proposal by Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich. and and Billy Long, R-Mo., would provide $8 billion over five years to help some people with pre-existing medical conditions afford coverage. Upton said their plan would put "downward pressure" on premium costs.

The Washington Post has a rundown of what you need to know about preexisting conditions.

Mike Allen's Axios AM newsletter points out: The WashPost warns: "[I]ndependent analysts remained skeptical that the new proposal would fully address the needs of at-risk patients who receive coverage guarantees under the Affordable Care Act."

What isn't pointed out is that the people who've been tasked with paying for this kind of high-risk coverage, the American middle class, can't afford to do it. Insurance premiums have doubled and tripled over the years because of Obamacare.

Minority Leader Pelosi grumbled about the lack of a CBO score. "Forcing a vote without a CBO score shows that Republicans are terrified of the public learning the full consequences of their plan to push Americans with pre-existing conditions into the cold," Pelosi said. "But tomorrow, House Republicans are going to tattoo this moral monstrosity to their foreheads, and the American people will hold them accountable."

I agree with that last part, but not for the reasons she does. The American people surely held the Democrats to their original moral monstrosity with electoral punishment. The GOP should just jettison the entire thing instead of taking ownership of it. The bill will head to the Senate after the House signs it.

Comey's testimony: A new red scare

Yesterday, FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee for four hours. One morsel from the testimony that is getting little coverage from the MSM is the connection between Democrat research firm Fusion GPS and the Russians. The left has been very busy trying to make this Trump/Russia alliance stick, but Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley threw a bit of wrench in that narrative.

Mollie Hemingway over at The Federalist has written about this: Top Senator: Wait, The Firm Behind Trump Dossier Was Funded By Russia?

Multiple U.S. senators are now demanding that FBI Director James Comey disclose whether Fusion GPS, the Democratic opposition research firm that produced the debunked dossier on President Trump’s alleged Russia ties, was itself a Russian agent working on behalf of Vladimir Putin’s regime. In a letter sent to Comey in March, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) dropped a bombshell and disclosed that a complaint against Fusion GPS had been filed with the Department of Justice alleging that the oppo firm “violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by working on behalf of Russian principals to undermine U.S. sanctions against Russians.

Is that so?

Senator Lindsey Graham questioned Comey on this complaint.

Graham: Are you familiar with Fusion?

Comey: I know the name.

Graham: Are they part of the Russian intelligence apparatus?

Comey: I can’t say.

Graham: Do you agree with me that if Fusion was involved in preparing a dossier against Donald Trump, that would be interfering in our election by the Russians?

Comey: I don’t want to say.

The Daily Caller writes:

Fusion GPS was hired in June by an ally of Hillary Clinton’s to research Trump’s ties to Russia. The firm, founded by a former reporter named Glenn Simpson, hired ex-British spy Christopher Steele to dig up dirt on the Republican candidate. Steele would go on to compile 17 memos full of salacious and largely unfounded claims about Trump and several of his campaign advisers.

Despite questions about the veracity of the memos, the FBI has reportedly used them as part of its Trump investigation.

Read the whole DC article for the scoop.

The New York Times offers its readers, which I am so you don't have to be, five takeaways from the hearing. They do not mention Fusion GPS.

Susan Rice refuses to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee

Liar Susan Rice turned down a request to testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Russian activities during the 2016 presidential campaign. Rice's lawyer and committee ranking member Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent a letter to Senator Lindsey Graham, who had made the request, saying Rice would not appear and the invite was "a significant departure from the bipartisan invitations extended to other witnesses."

Had she appeared, Rice would have likely faced questions about the so-called "unmasking" of American citizens caught up in conversations with foreign targets of surveillance by the intelligence community. The most prominent figure to be "unmasked" was retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who resigned as Trump's national security adviser in February.

Rice became a central part of the Russia investigation when President Donald Trump said she may have committed a crime when she asked intelligence analysts to disclose the name of a Trump associate mentioned in an intelligence report. Rice has said she did nothing improper.

Chairman Grassley said of Rice's snub: "Declining to attend because you didn't get an invite from a member of your party is a poor excuse and makes it appear as though she’s hiding something. No investigation will be complete until her role is understood."

Other testimony is expected from DNI Director James Clapper and Obama's Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

Remaining morsels:

Lawyers for quadruple murder suspect blame low sodium levels -- He was probably just following the idiotic government food guidelines

Code Pink harpies convicted of disrupting Sessions' confirmation hearing

Former UN Consultant Whitewashes Female Genital Mutilation As ‘Gender-Egalitarian Surgeries’ -- This exchange was amazing, watch the video. This lady is batty.

May the fouth be with you! (HT: Kemberlee Kaye)

What I type into the Report box when iTunes crashes isn't suitable for a family blog.

Cute: This Newborn Posed for a Photo With His Mom’s ‘Failed’ IUD.

If I had thought ahead, I'd have taken baby pictures of my boys posed with empty wine bottles.

Well, there's always Photoshop...

On today's Right Angle: Bill Whittle, Scott Ott, and Yours Truly discuss the death of civil discourse, which was killed by those *&^#-)#@•ing mother#*(%#$s on the Left.

Okay, this looks killer:

Mark Perry is another Twitter feed worth watching:

This is why United sucks and Southwest doesn't:

When Peggy Uhle boarded her flight from Chicago to Columbus, Ohio, she turned off her cell phone as the plane rolled away from the gate.

But she and her fellow passengers didn't get very far, because the plane suddenly turned around on the tarmac at Midway Airport and taxied back toward the gate.

Peggy and the rest of the passengers had no idea what was happening at all.

Go read the whole thing. We'll wait.

A woman who identifies as Hillary Clinton led police on a wild chase from Maryland into Pennsylvania earlier this week.  Ms. Clinton (aka 36-year-old  Holly Lynn Donahoo, of Louisville, Kentucky) was caught after police put spike strips in the road to flatten her tires.

The New York Post notes, "it’s unclear why she identified herself as Hillary Clinton" -- which is all the more reason to be sensitive to her wishes. If self-identity is a social construct, and if this woman identifies as drunk Hillary Clinton, are we not small-minded bigots to refer to her otherwise?

She was charged with driving under the influence and fleeing or eluding the police.