Fallout continues in NFL, NBA over anthem protests

Some big tech companies will face the music on Capitol Hill. There’s more scrutiny of travel by other members of President Trump’s Cabinet. And all eyes are on the Trump administration’s response to a diplomatic mystery in Cuba.

It’s all part of this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast, where you get a taste of tomorrow’s headlines today.

And because it’s Sunday, we begin with a glimpse at how the President’s standoff with NFL players is being watched by another sports league.

1) NFL feeling the pinch over protests

NFL owners and players are voicing solidarity as their spat with President Trump over National Anthem protests carries into another weekend of games.

But there is a price being paid for the standoff, and it’s safe to say other sports leagues are watching the situation closely.

For starters, even before the President added his voice — and tweets — to the debate, the team owners had research showing the pre-game protests were a contributing factor to a drop in TV ratings. Now an NFL team executive tells CNN that since Trump escalated the issue, teams are facing refund requests from disgruntled ticket holders.

“It’s not overwhelming, but it is a real issue,” said the executive, who communicated on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

And the anthem protest issue could get a new stage in a couple of weeks, when the NBA season begins.

Trump already has annoyed several NBA stars with a recent Twitter attack on Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry, and many NBA players have voiced support for the silent protests carried out in the NFL.

So what will the NBA do?

The league reminded teams this past week of its longstanding policy requiring players to stand and be respectful during the National Anthem, and it made clear it expects the policy to be followed. But there are conversations happening between players and management about alternative ways for teams to show displeasure with the President.

2) More scrutiny over Cabinet travel

The health and human services secretary is out of a job, and top officials at the departments of Interior and State know their use of private jets at taxpayer expense is also under review.

Now, Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg reports that other agencies are also looking to document high-level travel and bracing for additional scrutiny and criticism.

“Some of the departments that haven’t been under the spotlight yet are trying to figure out how to deal with this,” Jacobs said. “The White House did put out some instructions on what to say and what not to say… they know more news is coming and they’re trying to get a handle on it before this scandal metastasizes further.”

3) Executive action on health care?

President Trump now must know he will not be able to keep his promise to repeal Obamacare this year.

The collapse of the latest legislative health care push is increasing pressure on the administration to take executive action to scale back Obamacare’s reach. Perry Bacon of FiveThirtyEight reports that such action could come as early as this week.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has urged the President to issue an order allowing individuals to band together and purchase insurance across state lines.

But it’s not clear whether Trump is prepared to embrace the idea.

“The question will be if this is an executive order that’s kind of like a press release and toothless, like a lot of his orders have been this year,” Bacon said. “Or is it a real executive order that really changes the policy in some meaningful way? We don’t know yet. I think it will be a big question to tell us the future of Obamacare.”

4) Facebook, Twitter and Google to face music on Russia

There was plenty of grumbling from key lawmakers this past week after Twitter executives came to Capitol Hill to share information about the use of Russian linked accounts to spread misinformation during the 2016 presidential election.

The complaints that Twitter wasn’t taking the issue as seriously as it should followed earlier frustrations about the pace at which Facebook responded to congressional inquiries.

Now, those companies, and Google, are preparing for a public congressional hearing. Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post explains how this all fits into the next phase of the investigations.

“You saw Twitter come to Capitol Hill last week. That did not go so well. A lot of lawmakers are really upset with them. Twitter, Facebook, and Google executives have been invited back to appear in public in the next few weeks,” Demirjian reports.

“It’s not even so much for the question of, ‘Is there collusion between the Trump team and the Russian officials?'” she said. Instead, she added, it’s more about whether the US government “is going to actually be able to do something about preventing this sort of situation from happening again, where you have fake Russian accounts manipulating public opinion … heading into an election.”

5) US scaling back Cuba staffing

The State Department is responding to a series of mysterious attacks against American diplomats in Cuba by pulling out family members and nonessential personnel.

It translates into about a 60% reduction in staff. But the Trump administration is being careful not to describe the action as a retaliatory step for the apparent “acoustic” or sonic attacks that have made some 21 diplomats and family members ill in recent months.

It’s no secret the Trump administration doesn’t look kindly on the Obama administration’s decision to expand diplomatic ties with Cuba, but there has not been a full break from that policy. But Julie Pace of the Associated Press shared her reporting about whether the reaction to the attacks might give the administration a chance to change course.

“It’s notable that the Trump administration actually hasn’t blamed the Cuban government, or anyone, really, for being behind these attacks. And when you talk to lawmakers and others who are supportive of the Obama administration’s detente with Cuba, there’s some fear that what the White House is doing is essentially using these attacks as a cover to roll back some of that detente,” Pace said.

“You’re going to see a real push from the Hill, from advocates, to try to get some answers for who’s behind what is really one of the biggest mysteries in diplomatic circles right now.”