Photos: Bloomberg, Getty; photo illustration: Tom Hall/Bloomberg

Balance of Power: Obamacare, Leaks and Loyalty

President Donald Trump got a badly needed victory yesterday when the Senate voted by the slimmest of margins to start debate on getting rid of Obamacare. 

It gets much harder from here -- almost astronomically so -- with no bill, no clear plan to get one and a self-imposed deadline to vote by Friday. But a win's a win in politics, where momentum matters. 

So was Trump in a celebratory mood? 

Not even close.

Instead, Trump wanted to talk about media leaks and disloyal government officials, past and present. And one of the most disloyal in Trump’s eyes is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who he blames for not ferreting out the leakers.

Trump said ominously that “time will tell” regarding Sessions’ fate. Some close to the president say the former senator is too far gone to get back in Trump’s good graces. So why not just quit? Or why won't Trump just fire him?

For now, it’s a standoff. And it’s robbing the White House of energy and focus at a time when the true victory -- a health-care bill that can be enacted into law by Congress -- is months away and far from assured.

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, right, listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks on Feb. 9, 2017. 
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Global Headlines

What's next for Obamacare? | Senate Republicans plan votes on a slew of measures to test the waters to see how close they can get to securing the votes needed. It starts today with full repeal, delayed by two years. That’s expected to fail. Our Washington bureau lists some of the other proposals that may be considered, here.

Kremlin courts Kim | The Trump administration has been pushing to clamp down on trade with North Korea, hoping to pressure the reclusive regime over its nuclear-missile program. Russia isn’t getting the message, and as Ilya Arkhipov writes, the Kremlin is maintaining links -- including a new ferry service -- to remain a player in the crisis and defend its interests.

Gulf mediation hits wall | Indications are fading that the Saudi-led boycott of Qatar might be nearing an end. A Gulf official with direct knowledge told Bloomberg that the Riyadh-backed alliance -- which also includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt -- hasn’t responded to U.S. and U.K. proposals meant to kick-start direct talks and that no new ideas are on the table.

China’s most mysterious company | Regulators on three continents are trying to work out just who owns HNA Group Co., the conglomerate with alleged links to Communist Party officials that’s made more than $40 billion of acquisitions in 18 months. And if that wasn't enough, the largest shareholder of Hilton Worldwide Holdings and Deutsche Bank also wants to buy the hedge-fund firm of Trump’s new communications chief, Anthony Scaramucci. Read more in our QuickTake Q&A

Do you come from a land down under? | Australia’s history as a land of immigrants is upending careers. Resources Minister Matt Canavan stepped down when it was revealed he may have dual citizenship, and two Green Party senators quit for similar breaches. It's another distraction for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's unpopular government and a reminder that the constitution -- in a country where nearly half were born abroad or have a parent who was -- may be out of date.

U.K. targets gas guzzlers | Britain, home to Rolls Royce and Top Gear, became the latest European country to embrace a generational shift to electric cars. Like France, the U.K. is banning gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040. Car manufacturers may not be happy, but they're already adapting. For environmentalists, though, the move is too little to combat worsening smog.

And finally... A private conversation between two senators that was caught on a live microphone revealed the strain in Washington. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, unknowingly aired their unease with how Trump is dealing with the budget. Collins also mocked her Texan colleague Blake Farenthold for suggesting they duel to settle differences. The two later made up, promising we won't get a sequel to the showdown that killed legendary Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.

Illustration of the duel Between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr
Photographer: Bettmann

 

— With assistance by Rosalind Mathieson, Michael Winfrey, and Kathleen Hunter

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