March, 2017

Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity

“Mike Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, has told the Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional officials investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia that he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“As an adviser to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, and later one of Mr. Trump’s top aides in the White House, Mr. Flynn was privy to some of the most sensitive foreign policy deliberations of the new administration and was directly involved in discussions about the possible lifting of sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama administration.”

Comey Tried to Reveal Russian Tampering

FBI Director James Comey wanted to write a New York Times op-ed revealing Russia’s campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election back in the summer of 2016 — but then-President Obama stopped it, according to Newsweek.

“Comey pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about the Russian campaign during a meeting in the White House Situation Room in June or July.”

Said one source: “He had a draft of it or an outline. He held up a piece of paper in a meeting and said, ‘I want to go forward.’”

Sanford Says Trump Threatened a Primary Challenge

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) told the Charleston Post & Courier that President Trump threatened to back a primary challenger against him if he didn’t back the GOP health care bill.

The intermediary was Budget Director Mick Mulvaney: “The president asked me to look you square in the eyes and to say that he hoped that you voted ‘no’ on this bill so he could run against you in 2018.”

Said Sanford: “I’ve never had anyone, over my time in politics, put it to me as directly as that.”

Two White House Officials Gave Nunes Intelligence Info

“A pair of White House officials played a role in providing Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies,” the New York Times reports.

“The revelation that White House officials assisted in the disclosure of the intelligence reports — which Mr. Nunes then discussed with President Trump — is likely to fuel criticism that the intelligence chairman has been too eager to do the bidding of the Trump administration while his committee is supposed to be conducting an independent investigation of Russia’s meddling in the last presidential election.”

Trump Moves Top Aide to Outside Group

President Trump “launched his first West Wing shake-up less than three months into his term, sending deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh to bolster the flagging outside groups that were meant to support his agenda,” Politico reports.

“The move caps a rough stretch for Trump, who has seen his young administration dogged by controversy, his travel ban executive order blocked twice in court, and a health care bill he supported go down in flames.”

“Walsh, a close ally of chief of staff Reince Priebus, served as chief of staff at the Republican National Committee when Priebus was chairman, and she was one of a number of RNC staffers he brought with him to the White House, including press secretary Sean Spicer.”

Watch Out If Spicer Says Something Is ‘Phenomenal’

Politico: “The health care debacle, the travel ban setback, difficulties with Mexico, a slew of empty positions across the government — all are symptoms or causes of President Donald Trump’s rocky first few weeks in office. They also have another thing in common: White House press secretary Sean Spicer has used the word ‘phenomenal’ to describe them.”

“To be fair, Spicer has also deployed the term with more auspicious results — including the president’s ability to get his message out, to describe Terry Branstad’s prospects as ambassador to China and to discuss the Governors Ball. But there’s an unmistakable connection between his use of ‘phenomenal’ and issues that seem to be not going so hot for the White House.”

A Team of Amateurs

Matt Bai: “What Trump needs now isn’t the comfort of family. What he needs is to take a look around and realize that his Team of Amateurs (don’t even think about stealing that, Doris Kearns Goodwin) isn’t up to running a White House. He needs to put a few people around him, like maybe his pal Chris Christie, who have some grasp of the tradecraft of politics and know something about governing.”

“It’s time for Trump to put away all that crowd-pleasing contempt and admit that politics is actually just as hard as business, if not harder, and he’s not exactly killing it like Lyndon Johnson.”

“It doesn’t look like he’s ready to do that, though. And if I were one of those accomplished politicians Trump slammed onstage at that first debate and many times after, I’d be tempted to call him now and remind him of an old movie line. Stupid is as stupid does.”

Hunter Insists He Broke No Laws

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) — “under criminal investigation by the Justice Department over alleged campaign violations — insists he did nothing wrong,” Politico reports.

“Hunter won’t say who is responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in campaign charges for personal expenses, but he says it wasn’t him and he’s broken no laws.”

Said Hunter: “I was not involved in any criminal action. Maybe I wasn’t attentive enough to my campaign. That’s not a crime.”

Centrist Group ‘Will Never’ Meet with Freedom Caucus

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) told The Hill that the centrist Tuesday Group affirmed at a meeting that they will not meet with the conservative Freedom Caucus to negotiate changes to an Obamacare replacement bill.

Said Collins: “I am not speaking for the White House, I’m not speaking for the Speaker, but I will speak for the Tuesday Group. We have never negotiated with the Freedom Caucus, there was never a meeting scheduled with the Freedom Caucus, we will never meet with the Freedom Caucus, because it’s not appropriate for a group of ad hoc members.”

Trump Approval Hits New Low In Another Poll

A new Public Policy Polling survey finds President Trump’s approval rate at a new low, 40% to 53%.

“The upshot of last week’s health care debate is that the Affordable Care Act is now the most popular it’s ever been in our polling, with 52% of voters approving of it to only 37% who disapprove. By contrast there is only 23% support for the American Health Care Act, with 56% of voters in opposition to it.”

Can the States Make Trump Release His Tax Returns?

Rick Hasen: “Trump keeps insisting that because his returns are under audit, he can’t possibly release them. And the Republican-led Congress, save a few renegades like South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, evince little interest in compelling the president to disclose them.”

“Now, though, a band of state lawmakers is attempting to succeed where so many others have failed. In at least 24 states, legislators have introduced bills that would force Trump (and all other presidential candidates) to disclose their tax returns in order to qualify for their states’ ballots in 2020.”

“There’s one big obstacle, though: Requiring presidential candidates to release their taxes as a condition of ballot access may not be constitutional. And even if it is, the Democrats sponsoring such legislation run the risk of major retaliatory measures being taken in Republican states.”

Don’t Count on the 25th Amendment

Jeff Greenfield: “The dream burns bright in countless liberal hearts and minds: President Donald Trump embraces one too many fever-swamp conspiracy theories, tweets one too many palpable falsehoods, threatens a nuclear attack on Mexico for not paying for the wall. A terrified Cabinet meets in Vice President Mike Pence’s home at the Naval Observatory, and, in a written declaration to the speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate, that the president ‘is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.’ And just like that, Trump is dispatched to Trump Tower, or Mar-a-Lago, and Pence becomes acting president of the United States. Right? Yes — assuming it’s a movie or a TV series or a Netflix or Amazon offering.”