House of Representatives

White House Tried to Block Sally Yates from Testifying

“The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in the House investigation of links between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Washington Post has learned, a position that is likely to further anger Democrats who have accused Republicans of trying to damage the inquiry.”

“Yates and other former intelligence officials had been asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this week, a hearing that was abruptly canceled by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).”

White House Lawyer Leaked to Nunes?

Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) call for House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) to recuse himself from the Russia investigation “came as panel staffers speculated on the possible identity of Nunes’ White House source, focusing on Michael Ellis, a lawyer who worked for Nunes on the intelligence panel and who was recently hired to work on national security matters at the White House counsel’s office,” Yahoo News reports.

“A White House official and spokesman for Nunes declined to comment on whether Ellis was involved in providing information to Nunes, as did a spokesman for Schiff.”

House Intelligence Committee Cancels All Meetings

“The House Intelligence Committee has scrapped all meetings this week amid growing partisan rancor now threatening to derail its investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign,” CNN reports.

“The full committee meetings were canceled amid an increasingly tense back-and-forth that intensified over Chairman Devin Nunes’ decision to cancel a public hearing set for Tuesday.”

Storm Builds Around Nunes After Secret Visit

“The storm around House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) intensified after it was revealed that he secretly visited the White House grounds the day before announcing incidental surveillance of President Trump’s transition team,” The Hill reports.

“Nunes struggled to provide an explanation for the unusual trip on Monday even as Democrats demanded that he step aside as leader of the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election.”

“The visit raised questions about whether the White House itself was the source of the mysterious intelligence that Nunes, but no one else on Capitol Hill, has seen.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the committee, called on Nunes to recuse himself.

Voters Never Gave Ryan a Mandate for His Bill

Nate Silver: “Republicans have been running on repealing and replacing Obamacare for seven years, and they’ve won a lot of elections in that period. You can argue that they have a mandate on the issue, even if they don’t have one overall. But Ryan and Trump pretty much ignored where public opinion stands on health care. Medicaid, which the AHCA would have rolled back, is extremely popular, for instance. About two-thirds of voters support government funding for Planned Parenthood; the AHCA would have cut it. But the bill didn’t do much to address the problems voters were actually concerned about, such as rising premiums.”

“Furthermore, Ryan and Trump advanced this bill despite receiving a warning shot from the public: Obamacare had almost immediately become more popular after Trump won the election. I don’t recall a lot of other times when public opinion shifted so quickly on a bill in response to an election result. It was as though voters were throwing up a big yield sign to congressional Republicans — we didn’t expect Trump to win the election; instead, we elected you to serve as a check on Hillary Clinton, so proceed with caution. Ryan barreled right on through it.”

Poe Quits House Freedom Caucus

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) announced he has resigned from the conservative House Freedom Caucus over its opposition to the Republican health care plan, CNN reports.

Said Poe: “In order to deliver on the conservative agenda we have promised the American people for eight years, we must come together to find solutions to move this country forward. Saying no is easy, leading is hard, but that is what we were elected to do. Leaving this caucus will allow me to be a more effective member of Congress and advocate for the people of Texas. It is time to lead.”

How the Freedom Caucus Held Firm

Politico: “In a conference room in the Rayburn House Office Building, the group met that evening and made a secret pact. No member would commit his vote before consulting with the entire group — not even if Trump himself called to ask for an on-the-spot commitment. The idea, hatched by Freedom Caucus Vice Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), was to bind them together in negotiations and ensure the White House or House leaders could not peel them off one by one.”

“Twenty-eight of the group’s roughly three dozen members took the plunge.”

Trump Mostly Angry with Freedom Caucus

Playbook: “Trump administration officials have told us that the president is increasingly frustrated with the conservative Freedom Caucus, led by North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). They say the group did not negotiate in good faith — a claim the HFC vehemently denies. Here’s the problem for Trump: the Freedom Caucus has 30 or so members, which is more than enough to stop any and all of his legislative priorities. So, unless Trump moves to the left and starts working with Democrats, he cannot pass bills without the Freedom Caucus. Or, Trump — with the assistance of Hill leaders — can try to split the group apart on an issue-by-issue basis.”

Trump on Twitter this morning: “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”

Ryan Emerges Badly Damaged

New York Times: “Less than 18 months after being elected speaker, Mr. Ryan has emerged from the defeat of the health care bill badly damaged, retaining a grip on the job but left to confront the realities of his failure — imperiling the odd-couple partnership that was supposed to sustain a new era of conservative government under unified Republican rule.”

“So far, to the surprise of some close to Mr. Trump, the president has remained upbeat on Mr. Ryan, a frequent punching bag during the 2016 campaign and an ideological mismatch whose instincts informed the molding and selling of the health bill far more than the president’s own.”

“But after a humiliating defeat, which many Trump advisers are eager to pin on the speaker, Mr. Ryan is now tasked with defending not just his leadership abilities but his very brand of conservatism in a party fitfully searching for a coherent policy identity that can deliver tangible victories.”

GOP Leadership Hit from Both Sides

Washington Post: “Some parts of these botched negotiations looked a lot like the recent past. Franks and his House Freedom Caucus cronies played the role of obstructionists who will buck party leaders no matter if it’s John Boehner, Ryan’s predecessor, or now Trump. These ideologues gobbled up tons of attention, resulting in much care from Trump, Vice President Pence and top West Wing advisers.”

“Other parts of the negotiation, however, were new and quite different from the previous six years of Republican control of the House. Nothing capped this off more than the stunning announcement Friday morning from Frelinghuysen, just three months into his hold on the coveted Appropriations Committee gavel, that bucked leadership.”

“A 22-year veteran whose family traces its establishment lineage to the Continental Congress, Frelinghuysen won his chairmanship uncontested with the blessing of Ryan and the leadership team. He’s not someone who rocks the boat — he supported impeachment articles against Bill Clinton — but his pronouncement Friday sent a jolt through the Capitol.”

Ryan Is Still Safe In His Job

Politico: “No one is prepared to challenge Ryan for his job, said GOP lawmakers from across the Republican Conference. While some right-wing media and outside groups are agitating to replace the speaker, and his antagonists on the White House staff needle him anonymously in the press, there is no way he will be ousted. President Donald Trump hasn’t turned on him, either – at least not yet. And Ryan remains popular with his rank-and-file members, who genuinely like him. Critically, Ryan is not a liability for them back home, the ultimate litmus test for any congressional leader.”