The First Read says Trump is teetering on the brink: “Just 10 weeks on the job, President Trump’s approval rating is stuck in the 30s and 40s. His health-care effort failed. The travel ban is tied up in courts. Congress and the FBI are investigating his campaign’s possible links to Russia. He’s calling out fellow Republicans for failing to help him on health care. His White House tried to cover up (for a while at least) his aides providing information to House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes. And now his ousted national security adviser says he’ll cooperate with the FBI and Congress in exchange for immunity.”
“Any one of these stories would ensnare a presidency in a crisis. But you add up these seven storylines above — we’re sure we’re leaving others out — and it’s unsustainable. Conservative commentators are already hitting the panic button… This is a presidency on the brink of a free-fall, and it has to start repairing the damage on all of these fronts — popularity, the agenda, congressional relations, Russia, Flynn.”
“The 12 Democrats who represent House districts won by Donald Trump were supposed to be easy marks for the deal-making new president. Instead, they’re giving him the stiff-arm,” Politico reports.
“After last week’s collapse of the GOP effort to scrap Obamacare — fueled partly by resistance from conservative House hard-liners — Trump and his allies have hinted that outreach to Democrats may soon be on the way. But Trump’s polarizing agenda and early stumbles have stiffened the resolve of moderate Democrats once spooked by his success in their districts.”
Dan Drezner: “Less than a hundred days into the Trump administration, there are two, actually three, competing narratives about how the government is being run. The first narrative is the Trump administration’s claim that things are running so, so smoothly. A brief glance at the poll numbers suggests that not many people are buying this, so we can discard it quickly.”
“The second narrative, made by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board among many others, is that America’s system of checks and balances turns out to be working pretty well. President Trump’s more egregious moves have been checked by federal courts, and even by the court of public opinion at times. A historically unpopular and costly health-care bill did not pass the House of Representatives, which seems like the right outcome. Irresponsible foreign policy statements made by the president during the transition have been walked back. Efforts by the Trump White House to deny or scuttle investigations into foreign meddling into the election have resulted in congressional investigations, pushback by the intelligence community and recusals by Trump appointees. The administration successfully managed to pick a Supreme Court nominee who is not a laughingstock.”
“There’s a lot to this argument. But if I may, I’d like to proffer just a sampling of the news stories that have broken in the past 24 hours to suggest a third and more troubling narrative: the president and his acolytes are beclowning the American state.”
Ryan Lizza talked to a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee:
I asked the Republican congressman if he believed that Flynn did anything illegal in the phone call, in which Flynn discussed actions taken the same day by the Obama Administration. A rarely enforced eighteenth-century law known as the Logan Act makes it illegal to “influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government” or “defeat the measures of the United States” in disputes with an adversary. “That’s open to question,” the Republican congressman told me.
Rick Wilson: “It’s not just the White House that’s in crisis. It’s increasingly obvious that the House of Representatives is also in trouble. Thursday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearings were serious, probing, informative, and bipartisan; a marked contrast to the alternate reality Nunes and his allies tried to cast in their first hearings. For the House, Nunes has almost singlehandedly wrecked the credibility of its intelligence committee, raising the specter of either a Senate committee that dominates the investigation or a select committee with sweeping powers that will terrify this White House.”
“At this very moment, Speaker Ryan is desperately trying to cobble together a governing majority in the body from its disparate camps of Freedom Caucus firebreathers, mainline Republicans, the Trump Cheer Squad, and the 20 or so members in swing seats. Ryan can’t afford more embarrassments, and Nunes may have put him in an untenable position. This is particularly painful for Ryan because just two days ago he vigorously defended Nunes’s performance as head of the House Intelligence Committee and because Nunes claims he informed Ryan what he was up to before going to the president.”
“Most organizations and individuals in a political or media crisis share one characteristic: They don’t know they’re in a crisis until the smell of smoke and the sound of sirens is almost deafening.”
Dan Rather has observed other failed presidencies. Here’s what he sees now:
Both Johnson and Nixon were seasoned politicians and they were surrounded by Washington insiders who knew how the game was played. Both men had pulled off remarkable achievements to their agendas. And there were long stretches of stability in their administrations. We are just over two months into President Trump’s term and already there is civil war in his own party in the wake of the health care debacle. His Muslim travel ban is suspended indefinitely, and then there is always the Russian shadow, which continues to become more serious, now with new allegations of White House interference. We have record low approval ratings and a White House that is understaffed and those who are there do not seem up to the task of governing…
We have seen no evidence to suggest that this Administration can stabilize itself. There seems to be no ballast of seriousness or sober mindedness to right the ship.
Ariel Edwards-Levy reports on polling data regarding the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court at HuffPo, and finds: “Americans say by a 17-percentage-point margin, 40 percent to 23 percent, that Gorsuch, the federal appeals judge nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia, should be confirmed. An additional 37 percent aren’t sure.
Voters who supported Trump are overwhelmingly aligned in favor of Gorsuch: 87 percent think the Senate should confirm him, and just 3 percent say that it shouldn’t. In contrast, while most Clinton voters oppose the nomination, they do so less strongly. Fifty-four percent don’t want the Senate to vote to confirm Gorsuch, but 17 percent say that it should, and 29 percent say that they aren’t sure.
Less than half of the public reports following the confirmation hearings even somewhat closely, with just 14 percent saying they’ve followed the proceedings very closely.” It looks like public disinterest in Supreme Court nominations is all out of proportion to the importance of who will be the next swing vote on the high court. Arguments about the slippery Gorsuch appear to be mostly framed in terms of his anti-worker, pro-corporate views, along with his unsavory eagerness to personally benefit from the GOP’s outrageous refusal to grant Merrick Garland a fair hearing. Call it at least tacit collaboration with grossly-partisan suppression of open debate – a cornerstone principle of democracy. The question is how to make this concern more of an issue of public concern.”
At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore has “9 Big Questions About GOP Tax Reform” including, “(2) How about Democrats? Will they be consulted? As with health-care legislation, tax-reform legislation will be pursued through special budget procedures so that it can be enacted by simple majorities in both houses without the possibility of a Senate filibuster. That means congressional Democrats will be pure bystanders unless something big goes wrong, at which point the whole exercise may be scaled back if not abandoned. The flip side of that situation is that Democrats will be free to take pot shots at the legislation as simply representing a bonanza for the rich and powerful and an implicit betrayal of the working-class people who voted for Trump.”
Obama administration officials “were so concerned about what would happen to key classified documents related to the Russia probe once President Trump took office that they created a list of document serial numbers to give to senior members of the Senate Intelligence Committee,” a former Obama official told NBC News.
“The official said that after the list of documents related to the probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election was created in early January, he hand-carried it to the committee members. The numbers themselves were not classified.”
The purpose, said the official, was to make it “harder to bury” the information, “to share it with those on the Hill who could lawfully see the documents,” and to make sure it could reside in an Intelligence committee safe, “not just at Langley.”
Alex Byers reports at Politico on another issue that may spell disaster for Republicans: “Congressional Republicans drew blood this week by voting to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s Obama-era broadband privacy rules. The GOP’s next target is likely to be the Obama administration’s top technology legacy: net neutrality rules that essentially require internet providers to treat all Web traffic equally, a policy championed by Silicon Valley.,,Even in a Capitol often dominated by fights over defense or health care, the GOP’s technology offensive has handed a potential political weapon to Democrats and consumer groups, who are eager to use it. Democrats followed Tuesday’s privacy vote by launching broadsides against GOP Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada, supporters of the privacy repeal who face reelection in 2018 — denouncing the GOP work as “creepy” and “indefensible.”…“Voters across party lines understand the importance of personal privacy and are not going to be happy as they find out that Republican senators and Senate candidates used a party-line vote to put data including health and financial information for sale to the highest bidder,” said Ben Ray, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee…”We think the Open Internet Order has been good for the public, good for consumers, and we think it’s tremendously popular with people, too,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.). “While they have the power and authority to do it, I just think they’re going to pay a heavy price if they keep moving in the direction they’re moving.”
Daily Caller: “According to the source in the room, White House staffers told attendees that Trump doesn’t see much downside to a shutdown and believes congressional Democrats will bear full responsibility if one does occur. A White House official speaking on background confirmed that the issue of whether the president is unafraid of a shutdown was raised at the meeting, and confirmed that staffers communicated the president’s commitment to funding the border wall – a major point of contention in avoiding a government shutdown – but denied that any answer in the affirmative was given by White House staffers.”
Kathleen Parker at The Washington Post writes—Republicans would rather have a king than a president:
Monarchical tendencies abound in the person of The Don, and the willing hordes find his splashy displays of ego and overabundance not just tolerable but, apparently, admirable. Desire for drama and pageantry — the commission paid to peasants for their complicity in the master-servant duet — is on full display, whether The Don is entertaining world leaders at his Mar-a-Lago palace or working deals over golf at one of his eponymous resorts.
Meanwhile, the king installs his family in the people’s palace, rationing offices for commerce, diplomacy and foreign policy. Blood runs thick in royal clans. Daughter Ivanka, the ravishing offspring of Wife No. 1, is the only one Trump seems to really trust. He keeps her and husband Jared Kushner (the favored son?) close, while sending the eldest Trump boys on quests for fresh greens to conquer.
Never mind that the little people are paying millions for the protection of all these Trumplings as they cross continents or sidewalks. The king’s Secret Service begged an extra $27 million for next year — to protect Trump Tower and keep Melania’s tresses from public reach — plus $33 million for various travel expenses for Trump and others.
A new McClatchy-Marist poll finds President Trump’s approval rate at 38% to 51%.
A third of voters surveyed gave Trump an “F” grade on his time in office.
Said pollster Lee Miringoff: “There’s no honeymoon. He’s spending political capital that he didn’t acquire on Election Day. And he hasn’t done anything to cultivate it.”