* Lisa Rein and Juliet Eilperin report that the Trump White House is keeping a close eye on the people it has charged with carrying out its agenda:
Most members of President Trump’s Cabinet do not yet have leadership teams in place or even nominees for top deputies. But they do have an influential coterie of senior aides installed by the White House who are charged — above all — with monitoring the secretaries’ loyalty, according to eight officials in and outside the administration.
This shadow government of political appointees with the title of senior White House adviser is embedded at every Cabinet agency, with offices in or just outside the secretary’s suite. The White House has installed at least 16 of the advisers at departments including Energy and Health and Human Services and at some smaller agencies such as NASA, according to records first obtained by ProPublica through a Freedom of Information Act request.
These aides report not to the secretary, but to the Office of Cabinet Affairs, which is overseen by Rick Dearborn, a White House deputy chief of staff, according to administration officials. A top Dearborn aide, John Mashburn, leads a weekly conference call with the advisers, who are in constant contact with the White House.
And as everyone who has ever had a jerk for a boss knows, nothing inspires hard work and dedication like being monitored for loyalty.
* Shane Goldmacher and Matthew Nussbaum report that the White House isn’t too happy about what it heard at today’s Intelligence Committee hearing:
The White House was knocked on the defensive Monday ahead of its biggest week yet on Capitol Hill as FBI Director James Comey confirmed the existence of an active investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, including whether there was any coordination with now-President Donald Trump’s team.
The dramatic revelation, made at a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, dragged the Trump administration yet again back into uncomfortable territory just as it had hoped to highlight the smooth rollout of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who began his confirmation hearings across the Capitol on Monday.
In another blow to Trump, Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers also publicly refuted his unsubstantiated claims on Twitter that President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower phones. The leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had said last week that Trump’s allegations were untrue.
Just wait until Trump tweets that Obama is using Muslim telepathy to make him screw up the job of president, and then we have to have weeks of discussion about whether there’s any “evidence” for that.
* Scott Shane explains that the big news out of today’s hearing is that, yes, the FBI is indeed investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia:
The F.B.I. director noted that the inquiry is technically a counterintelligence investigation, focusing not on criminal conduct but on Russian intelligence activities. But he said F.B.I. agents will conduct “an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”
Something tells us that this last line just might be rattling around in Trump’s head as his finger hovers over the “Tweet” button at five o’clock tomorrow morning. — gs
* This was an important moment from today’s hearing:
Comey and Rogers both predicted that Russian intelligence agencies will continue to seek to meddle with U.S. political campaigns, because they view their work in the 2016 presidential race as successful.
“They’ll be back in 2020. They may be back in 2018,’’ Comey said. “One of the lessons they may draw from this is that they were successful, introducing chaos and discord” into the electoral process.
“It’s possible they’re misreading that as ‘it worked,’ so we’ll come back and hit them again in 2020,” Comey added.
Rogers agreed: “I fully expect they will maintain this level of activity.” And, he said, Moscow is conducting a similar “active measures” campaign in Europe, where France and Germany are holding elections this year.
Republicans who continue to oppose a full, independent probe into Russian meddling in the election need to explain why — in the context of this clear assessment that Russia might do the same thing again next time. — gs
* Norman Eisen and Richard Painter make a compelling and detailed case that the Trump administration is already violating ethics rules on an unprecedented scale.
* At the American Prospect, I argued that while Republicans may pass their awful health care bill, it’ll be judged on standards established by Democrats.