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July 20, 2017

Fear can be an effective tool for a political leader — and, per The New York Times, it's one President Trump totally lacks:

Fear is perhaps the most powerful motivating force in politics, and fear of a powerful president is the surest lever to move a lawmaker from a "no" to a "yes" on a presidential priority. But over the past month, Mr. Trump scared no one into supporting the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. He has proved simply too unpopular nationally — polling at 36 to 40 percent approval this week — too weak in many senators' home states, too erratic, and too disengaged from the details of governing to harness his party, as other new presidents have. [The New York Times]

Rob Jesmer, the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a former aide to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), told The New York Times the total lack of fear is "a real problem," and one Trump "hasn't really tried" to remedy. "I don't get why he hasn't been more engaged," Jesmer said, wondering why Trump hasn't, for instance, appeared on local talk radio or made a trip to Kansas.

And it's not just senators who are totally unafraid of the man in the Oval Office: A Republican senator told The New York Times that Trump "scares no one in the Senate, not even the pages."

Read more on Trump's inability to inspire fear at The New York Times. Becca Stanek

July 19, 2017

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) admitted Wednesday that there might not even be 40 votes for Senate Republicans' plan to repeal ObamaCare now and replace it later. "I don't think there are 40 votes to repeal and say to the American people, 'Well, trust us to come up with something in the next couple of years.' I don't think that's a good idea," Alexander told CNN reporters.

Alexander's comments came just after he and other Senate Republicans attended a luncheon hosted by President Trump at the White House to talk about health care. On Monday evening, it became clear that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare did not have enough support to move forward, leaving Republicans to resort to attempting repeal without a replacement in hand.

Three senators — enough to kill the effort — have already announced their opposition to a clean repeal, suggesting Alexander might have a point. Becca Stanek

July 6, 2017
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Tesla is no longer the biggest automaker in America. Following the recent plummet in the electric car company's shares, the top position now belongs to General Motors, valued at $52.7 billion to Tesla's $51.6 billion.

On Thursday, Tesla's stock fell another 5 percent, continuing its multi-day tumble. Since hitting an "all-time high" just two weeks ago, Tesla's shares had dropped by a total of 20 percent as of Thursday afternoon. Losses for the week now sit at 14 percent.

The week's drop coincides with Tesla's disappointing second-quarter results, which the company has blamed on "a production issue with its 100 kilowatt-hour battery packs," CNBC reported. Tesla's new Model S also recently failed to meet top safety standards, seemingly debunking Tesla's claim that the car was the safest ever.

High Tech editor Fred Hickey contended Tesla's stock "was pushed to ridiculous levels on the notion that the Model 3 would be a slam-dunk success," and he also noted that the company's "$100,000+ models aren't selling as well and are piling up in inventory." "This bubble stock is losing air rapidly, as it should," Hickey said. Becca Stanek

June 7, 2017
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Readership on right-wing website Breitbart News has dropped dramatically since President Trump won the election. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that visitor traffic on the site "has fallen 53 percent since November, from 22.96 million unique individuals to 10.76 million last month."

While Breitbart isn't the only news site to suffer a traffic drop-off since the election — The New York Times, for instance, has seen a 26 percent drop in traffic since November — Breitbart's dive is noticeably steeper. In a statement to the Post, Breitbart framed claims about its dwindling traffic as "liberal hysteria," noting its traffic "has increased 59 percent on a year-to-year basis and that it ranks No. 60 among U.S.-based websites."

But traffic isn't the only thing slipping at Breitbart. The number of advertisers on the site has also sunk, dropping from 242 companies with ads on the site in March to just 26 companies last month. The company has also pushed back plans to expand to France and Germany. Most recently, Breitbart fired reporter Katie McHugh for suggesting "there would be no deadly terror attacks in the U.K. if Muslims didn't live there."

All of that combined has raised the question of whether Breitbart will be forced to change, as the right starts to turn on the site. "Breitbart has never been under more pressure than it is now, trying to establish itself as the premiere right-wing outlet even as liberal boycott threats have cost it hundreds of advertisers," said Will Sommer, who writes a newsletter on conservative media. "So now, any staffer who hurts Breitbart's request for respectability (and advertisers) can expect to be fired." Becca Stanek

June 5, 2017
ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly made her debut on NBC News on Sunday night in a sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the highly anticipated first episode of Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, Kelly peppered Putin with questions about the Russian government's contacts with President Trump's team and Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

About all Kelly got out of Putin was a string of denials and some brutal quips, like when he inquired, "Do you even understand what you're asking or not?" Kelly's critics weren't much impressed, either, as evidenced by the array of headlines below. Becca Stanek

1. NPR: Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly makes a tepid debut
2. Los Angeles Times: Megyn Kelly gets outmaneuvered by Vladimir Putin on her NBC premiere Sunday Night
3. CNN: Megyn Kelly gets off to low-key start on Sunday Night
4. The Hollywood Reporter: Critic's Notebook: Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly spends 60 minutes trying to be 60 Minutes
5. Vanity Fair: Even Putin seemed bored with Megyn Kelly's interview
6. Newsday: Megyn Kelly off to rough start with NBC show's premiere
7. Yahoo News: Megyn Kelly's Putin interview: A 'load of nonsense'

May 24, 2017
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, a devout Catholic, couldn't wait to meet Pope Francis alongside President Trump on Wednesday, a source "close to the White House" told CNN. "That's all he wanted," the insider said.

But when the big day finally arrived, Spicer wasn't invited. Trump had everyone from his wife Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, his National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, his communications adviser Hope Hicks, his former bodyguard Keith Schiller, and his social media director Dan Scavino by his side — but Spicer was apparently told "there wasn't room for him on the roster."

The White House insider told CNN this should "'very much' be seen as a slight." The two times that former President Barack Obama visited the Vatican, his press secretaries were in attendance. Spicer additionally hasn't been seen at some top-level meetings, amid reports that Trump is considering nixing his daily on-camera White House briefings.

A White House official insisted the Vatican was just "strict" about how many people could attend and insisted a "very small delegation" joined Trump. Becca Stanek

April 28, 2017
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The economy grew at just a 0.7 percent rate in the first quarter of 2017, the Commerce Department reported Friday, marking the slowest quarterly expansion rate in three years. The clip is a steep drop-off from the previous period, when the economy grew at a 2.1 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Despite President Trump's promises to boost economic growth, consumer spending in his first quarter in office increased by just 0.3 percent, which Bloomberg reported was "the worst performance since 2009."

Economists had projected a sluggish first quarter and expect growth to bounce back in the second quarter. Reuters noted that this isn't a "true picture of the economy's health," as the labor market reaches "near full employment" and consumer confidence soars. Becca Stanek

April 25, 2017

A new poll by Vanity Fair and 60 Minutes revealed more than a third of Republicans aren't certain the freedom of the press, protected by the Constitution's First Amendment, is actually a democratic necessity. The poll found that 36 percent of Republicans believe the press' freedom "does more harm than good." Just 13 percent of Democrats said the same.

The majority of Democrats and Republicans, however, do believe in the value of a free press. The poll found that 61 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of Democrats believe freedom of the press is "necessary."

Most Americans are still relying on TV, newspapers, and talk radio as their "most accurate and honest" sources of news, though 8 percent said they depend on Facebook. More Americans said they rely on their mother (6 percent) for accurate news than on President Trump (5 percent).

Check out the full breakdown of the poll in the nifty graphic below. Becca Stanek

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