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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

HHS Secretary Alex Azar

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday announced that Donald Trump will sign an executive order declaring that it is the "the policy of the United States" that people with preexisting conditions will be protected.

However, Azar admitted on a call before Trump's announcement that the order holds no legal weight. As the Daily Beast's Sam Stein reported, Azar said the executive order would have no affect if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare and said it is merely a "defined statement of U.S. policy that people with preexisting conditions are protected."

That policy that protects people with preexisting conditions is Obamacare, which bans insurance companies from denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions.

But if the Supreme Court overturns the law — which Trump is currently urging the court to do — then Americans will lose preexisting conditions coverage regardless of what Trump's executive order says.

Azar said that if Obamacare is overturned, the White House would have to "work with Congress" to find a fix.

"An executive order directed at private parties has no more legal weight than a press release," Nicholas Bagley, a professor of administrative law at the University of Michigan, tweeted.

Trump, for his part, has repeatedly lied about his efforts to protect people with preexisting conditions.

In fact, he has made multiple attempts to repeal or sabotage Obamacare, which prohibits health insurance companies from charging higher premiums or denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions.

In 2017, Trump backed a GOP proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare that would have increased premiums for those with preexisting conditions. The Republican effort ultimately failed, and the GOP abandoned the effort, which was immensely unpopular with the electorate and may have even contributed to the party losing its House majority in 2018.

Later in October 2017, Trump signed an executive order that allowed for the sale of junk plans that would have raised costs for those with preexisting conditions.

Ultimately, Trump has been promising a health care plan for years that he said will be better and cheaper than Obamacare, always promising it will arrive in two weeks. He made that same claim at an ABC town hall on Sept. 15, saying that his plan was "ready" without providing any details about what it entails.

Azar's announcement was an attempt to finally release that long-awaited plan, but it is not a plan at all.

The effort to make it look like Trump supports preexisting condition protections as he advocates for repealing Obamacare comes in the final days of the election, in which polls show voters trust Democrats over Trump and the GOP on the issue of health care.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

President Trump and former Vice President Biden at first 2020 presidential debate

Screenshot from C-Span YouTube

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Donald Trump is claiming that he will still debate despite the rule change that will cut off the candidates' microphones while their opponent delivers his initial two-minute response to each of the debate's topics. But everything else Trump and his campaign are saying sounds like they're laying the groundwork to back out.

"I will participate," Trump told reporters Monday night. "But it's very unfair that they changed the topics and it's very unfair that again we have an anchor who's totally biased." At his Arizona rally Monday, Trump attacked moderator Kristen Welker as a "radical Democrat" and claimed she had "deleted her entire account," which is false. Trump's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, went further in his whining about the debate.

Stepien touted a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates as "Our letter to the BDC (Biden Debate Commission)." That letter came before the CPD announced that it would mute microphones for portions of the debate in response to Trump's constant interruptions at the first debate, though Stepien knew such a decision was likely coming, writing, "It is our understanding from media reports that you will soon be holding an internal meeting to discuss other possible rule changes, such as granting an unnamed person the ability to shut off a candidate's microphone. It is completely unacceptable for anyone to wield such power, and a decision to proceed with that change amounts to turning further editorial control of the debate over to the Commission which has already demonstrated its partiality to Biden."

Shooooot, here I thought it was generous to Trump that the microphones will only be cut to give each candidate two uninterrupted minutes, leaving Trump the remainder of each 15-minute debate segment to interrupt.

But what did Stepien mean by "other possible rule changes," you ask? What was the first rule change? Well, it wasn't one. Stepien wrote to strongly complain that "We write with great concern over the announced topics for what was always billed as the 'Foreign Policy Debate' in the series of events agreed to by both the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign many months ago." Welker's announced topics include "Fighting COVID-19, American families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership," Stepien complained, using this as a launching pad to attack Biden on foreign policy.

Except this debate was never billed as a foreign policy debate. It's true that in past years, the third debate has sometimes focused on foreign policy, but here in 2020, the CPD's original announcement of debate formats and moderators said of the third debate, "The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate," and the first debate "will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator."

So even before the CPD finalized the decision to prevent Trump from interrupting for two minutes in each of six segments, so 12 minutes out of a 90-minute debate, Team Trump was falsely complaining that the debate was rigged. No wonder—as a Biden campaign spokesman noted, the Trump campaign is upset "because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response."

Trump has lost one debate and backed out of one debate. If he goes into this one with the attitude he's showing now—attacking the moderator, attacking the topics, enraged that he can't interrupt for two entire minutes at a time—he's going to lose this one, badly, once again hurting his already weak reelection prospects. So which will it be? Back out and have that be the story, or alienate one of the largest audiences of the entire presidential campaign by showing what kind of person he is?