The Note: Fire peers out from Trump-Russia smoke

PHOTO: President Donald Trump waves as he walks from Marine One to board Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport, in Morristown, N.J., July 3, 2017, en route to Washington from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. PlayCarolyn Kaster/AP
WATCH The Note: The seemingly never-ending Russia connection

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  • A drip-drip that triggers a siren: Donald Trump Jr. admits meeting with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton's campaign. Trump Jr. said his father knew nothing of it and that nothing became of it, though Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort were also at the meeting.
  • Post-action reports: Russia and Trump agree that the big Trump-Putin meeting was a success. Where the two countries don't agree, apparently: whether Trump accepts Putin's denials that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
  • "It's time to move forward," Trump said after his meeting with Putin, tweeting that he and the Russian leader discussed creating "an impenetrable Cyber Security unit." Then, amid blowback, a reversal: "The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen. It can't-but a ceasefire can,& did!"
  • Tick, tick. Senate Republicans have 15 work days to hammer out the details of their health care bill before the August recess but momentum looks to be taking things in the opposite direction.
  • THE TAKE with ABC News' Rick Klein

    Once again, it's what President Trump and his top aides and family members are doing to themselves concerning Russia that is keeping things tangled, far more than anything Russia is doing to them. Now confronting the White House: Another undisclosed contact with a Russian operative, plus another set of misleading statements about that meeting. (Just what's being admitted to now – that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian source with the expectation of receiving damaging information about the Clinton campaign – is stunning.) Also for the president to sort out: Contradictions out of his meeting last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin about whether sanctions were discussed, how hard and to what end he pressed election meddling, and a bizarre presidential about-face concerning a cybersecurity task force the president himself proposed and disposed of on the same calendar day. White House aides want to compartmentalize Russia, to put the past behind them. But time and again, it's not just history. It's continued actions by the president, his children and members of his inner circle that confound and complicate. It's when inexplicable things happen that more people are intent on looking for explanations.

    THE 15-DAY HUSTLE TO GET HEALTH CARE DONE

    It's true that nothing motivates lawmakers like a deadline. But passing Obamacare repeal before the August recess is a dizzying, steep challenge and, with the current Republican bill increasingly unpopular, it is politically perilous, too. Starting today, Republicans have just 15 available workdays before the scheduled August break, and health care is not the only legislative item on their plate. Before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, Congress will try to debate and pass a 2018 budget resolution and raise the national debt ceiling to avoid a credit default. Republicans' public stance is that they'll keep plugging away at a comprehensive repeal-and-replace bill but last week's town halls, sit-ins and protests didn't help the bill's prospects. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's "yes" votes seem to be dropping every few days. One additional Senate Republican – the usually reliably red John Hoeven, R- N.D., – came out against the bill during recess. Existing no-votes like Susan Collins and Jerry Moran were cheered for their opposition. Even McConnell acknowledged the possibility of Plan B: working with Democrats on smaller legislation to reassure insurers and shore up existing Obamacare marketplaces. Meanwhile, the opposition remains in overdrive. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont held a rally in McConnell's home state of Kentucky this weekend and another group today, "Save My Care," is launching a seven-figure TV ad buy that will run in four targeted states urging moderate Republicans to continue to resist the bill, ABC News' MaryAlice Parks and Ali Rogin write.

    NEED TO READ

    Trump "absolutely did not believe" Putin's denial of election meddling, official says. President Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, pushed back against a narrative by Russia that Trump accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin's denial of having interfered in the U.S. presidential election. Priebus' assertion came on the same morning that Trump tweeted that it is time to work "constructively with Russia." "It doesn't mean they're off the hook," Priebus said. "What it means is we're not going to forego progress simply because we have a disagreement in regard to this meddling in the United States election." http://abcn.ws/2t1mgMD

    Sen. Ted Cruz on GOP health care overhaul: "I believe we can get it done." The Texas senator opposes the GOP Senate leadership's current health care bill and recently put forward a proposed amendment for insurance companies to offer potentially cheaper plans in the individual insurance market that may not cover all of the "essential" benefits now required under the Affordable Care Act, such as coverage for maternity care and mental health services. http://abcn.ws/2uFz9xX

    Trump "handled it brilliantly" with Putin, Mnuchin says. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on ABC News' "This Week" Sunday that Trump "fully addressed" the issue of Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. election during his meeting with Putin Friday at the G-20 summit. Asked whether the president accepted Putin's denial of having meddled in the U.S. election, Mnuchin replied, "Why would President Trump broadcast exactly what he said in the meeting? Strategically, that makes no sense." http://abcn.ws/2uEQtD3

    WHO'S TWEETING?

    @marcorubio: Partnering with Putin on a "Cyber Security Unit" is akin to partnering with Assad on a "Chemical Weapons Unit". 2/3

    @PostRoz: Manager for Russian pop star whose family brought Miss Universe to Moscow, confirms he set up Trump Jr. meeting. http://wapo.st/2sVZTwI

    @JoshuaGreen: New excerpt from my book just posted at @NYMag about what Bannon really does for Trump: http://nym.ag/2t3H1qZ

    @jessieopie: .@SpeakerRyan says no public town halls bc concerns w/ protesters bused in frm out of district. Does tele town halls, office hours, biz mtgs

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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