Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called on House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. The request marks a stunning split between the two top investigators, who had worked closely on the House investigation into ties between top Trump campaign aides and Russian officials.
Schiff’s call comes just hours after CNN reported that Nunes visited the White House grounds one day before going to the President with alleged evidence that his transition aides’ communications were picked up in surveillance by US intelligence. Nunes defended his handling of the investigation as well as his relationship to the White House during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, saying Congress had not been given the information he viewed on White House grounds.
James Hohmann on how Trump is actually succeeding: “Despite the chaos and the growing credibility gap, Trump is systematically succeeding in his quest to ‘deconstruct the administrative state,’ as his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon puts it. He’s pursued the most aggressive regulatory rollback since Ronald Reagan, especially on environmental issues, with a series of bills and executive orders. He’s placed devoted ideologues into perches from which they can stop aggressively enforcing laws that conservatives don’t like. By not filling certain posts, he’s ensuring that certain government functions will simply not be performed. His budget proposal spotlighted his desire to make as much of the federal bureaucracy as possible wither on the vine.”
“Trump has been using executive orders to tie the hands of rule makers. He put in place a regulatory freeze during his first hours, mandated that two regulations be repealed for every new one that goes on the books and ordered a top-to-bottom review of the government with an eye toward shrinking it.”
“Any day now, Trump is expected to sign an executive order aimed at undoing Obama’s Clean Power Plan and end a moratorium on federal-land coal mining. This would ensure that the U.S. does not meet its commitments under the Paris climate agreement.”
The latest Gallup daily tracking poll shows President Trump’s approval rate crashing to 36% to 57%.
David Kurtz at TPM: “Perhaps the White House had planned all along for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make an appearance at today’s press briefing to rail against sanctuary cities. But the timing is consistent with what I’ve long feared will be the impulse for the Trump administration: When the going gets rough (failed Obamacare repeal, low poll numbers, etc), it will fall back on appeals to racism and xenophobia to regain political footing.”
The New York Times says with Obama gone, so is GOP unity: “For eight years, those divisions were often masked by Republicans’ shared antipathy toward President Barack Obama. Now, as the party struggles to adjust to the post-Obama political order, it is facing a nagging question: How do you hold together when the man who unified you in opposition is no longer around?”
“Mr. Obama provided conservatives with not just a health law to loathe and a veto pen to blame, but also a visage that allowed their opposition to be more palpable.”
“Republicans also have to contend with an outsider president who never had much of an affinity or loyalty for their party, and who, as a novice politician, has not built the relationships in Washington that are usually needed to get big deals done.”
The New York Times says the Dems are in no mood to help Trump. No shit: “And while his electoral success in states represented by Democrats in Congress had been thought to put such lawmakers in a vise between their party and their president, Mr. Trump demonstrated no ability to pick off centrist Democrats in his first significant legislative push. Democrats — red-state moderates and blue-state liberals alike — formed an unbroken front of opposition to the repeal-and-replace campaign.”
“For Democrats, the task of remaining unified was made easier when Republicans decided to go it alone and hastily draft a bill that turned out to be deeply unpopular. But the health care skirmish was also more broadly instructive for a party still finding its footing now that it has lost both the White House and Congress: Being the ‘party of no,’ it turns out, can pay dividends.”
“There’s no question that there was a very serious effort made by Mr. Putin and his government, his organization, to interfere in major ways with our basic fundamental democratic processes. In some quarters that could be considered an act of war.” — Former Vice President Dick Cheney, quoted by Business Insider, on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Politico: “The fight for the direction of Donald Trump’s presidency between the Goldman Sachs branch of the West Wing and hardcore conservatives is spilling into the Treasury Department, threatening Trump’s next agenda item of overhauling the tax code. Conservatives inside and outside Treasury say the new secretary, former Goldman Sachs banker, movie producer and Democratic donor Steven Mnuchin, is assembling a team that is too liberal and too detached from the core of Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ platform of ripping up trade deals, gutting the Dodd-Frank banking rules and generally rejecting ‘globalism’ in all its forms.”
“The ideological divide has been brewing for weeks inside the White House as a result of appointing a raft of top advisers with radically different worldviews. The battle at Treasury is simply an extension of that brutal fight, according to interviews with over a dozen administration officials, donors, lobbyists and conservative policy experts.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan told Republican donors “that he intends to continue pushing for an overhaul of the nation’s health-care system by working ‘on two tracks’ as he also pursues other elements of President Trump’s agenda,” the Washington Post reports.
Said Ryan: “We are going to keep getting at this thing.”
“Ryan did not disclose details of what the next iteration of health-care reform might look like, but he suggested that a plan was being developed in time to brief the donors at a retreat scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Florida.”
“Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s path to 60 votes is rapidly closing — setting the stage for a nuclear showdown in the Senate as soon as next week,” Politico reports.
“Senior Democratic sources are now increasingly confident that Gorsuch can’t clear a filibuster, saying his ceiling is likely mid- to upper-50s on the key procedural vote. That would mark the first successful filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee since Abe Fortas for chief justice in the 1960s.”
“Despite Republican assurances that North Carolina’s ‘bathroom bill’ isn’t hurting the economy, the law limiting LGBT protections will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years,” according to an Associated Press analysis.
“Over the past year, North Carolina has suffered financial hits ranging from scuttled plans for a PayPal facility that would have added an estimated $2.66 billion to the state’s economy to a canceled Ringo Starr concert that deprived a town’s amphitheater of about $33,000 in revenue. The blows have landed in the state’s biggest cities as well as towns surrounding its flagship university, and from the mountains to the coast.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, quoted in Lisa Rathke’s AP article, “Sanders says he’ll introduce ‘Medicare for all’ bill,” offers this perceptive observation about the Republican health care melt-down: “It wasn’t just we defeated them,” Sanders, an independent, said. “It was how we defeated them,” with rallies around the country, town meetings and people standing up and fighting back.” Many political commentators slighted the nation-wide protests leading up to and continuing after the inauguration, arguing that they meant little, unless they mobilized voters. But the protests did matter, because they educated millions of Americans about the huge rip-off embedded in the Republican ‘repeal and replace’ bill. But, yes it would be even better if the protest campaigns also registered voters.
David Nather: “Trumpcare may be dead, but that doesn’t mean Obamacare is safe. The next thing to watch is whether the law actually does fall apart, not because of the design flaws, but because the Trump administration has no incentive to prevent a collapse.”
“When President Trump tweets that ‘Obamacare will explode,’ and House Speaker Paul Ryan says it can’t be fixed, they’re not sending signals that they’re looking for success. The reality is that insurers will need incentives to stay in the market and not impose another round of rate hikes. Instead, we could get a meltdown followed by an endless round of finger-pointing: Trump and Ryan would blame the Democrats for a poorly designed law, and Democrats would blame them for rooting for failure.”
The New York Times has more on the decisions ahead.