With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA: If you read Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal,” substituting “conservatives" for "contractors," the president’s ultimatum to House Republicans on health care is not at all surprising. “You have to be very rough and very tough with most contractors or they’ll take the shirt right off your back,” Trump wrote in the 1987 business classic.
As a businessman, Trump bragged about his ability to drive a hard bargain to win favorable terms and make lots of money. "I also protect myself by being flexible,” he explained. “I never get too attached to one deal or one approach. … I keep a lot of balls in the air, because most deals fall out, no matter how promising they seem at first."
One theme he kept coming back to is that you’ve got to be willing to walk away or, more precisely, convince the people you’re negotiating with that you are. Trump recalled a 1981 meeting with the attorney general and the head of gaming enforcement for New Jersey in which he threatened to walk away from Atlantic City — despite already making huge investments on the Boardwalk there — if he didn’t get certain concessions.
He described the pitch: “Much as I wanted to build a great casino on the great site I’d assembled, I said, I have a very successful real estate business in New York and I was more than willing to walk away from Atlantic City if the regulatory process proved to be too difficult or too time-consuming. The bottom line, I concluded, was that I didn’t intend to invest any more money — or to begin any construction — until I got a decision one way or the other on my licensing.”
Trump boasted that this ploy worked. A process that normally dragged on for more than 18 months was completed within six.
He clearly hasn’t forgotten the lesson. As he tweeted in 2011:
"Know when to walk away from the table." The Art of the Deal— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2011
-- The stakes are higher, but once again Trump is playing the take-it-or-leave-it game. He sent his chief of staff, chief strategist and the OMB director to the Capitol last night to say that if the House does not pass the repeal-and-replace bill today, as it stands, he is going to leave Obamacare in place as the law of the land and drop the issue. Budget director Mick Mulvaney, who co-founded the Freedom Caucus, told his former colleagues last night: “The president needs this.… If for any reason it [goes] down, we’re just going to move forward with additional parts of his agenda.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer went on Fox News to echo him: “At the end of the day, this is the only train leaving the station that’s going to repeal Obamacare.”
-- Trump, who knows this is a high-risk gamble, is following through on his campaign promise to bring a businessman’s approach to government. Today offers a big test of how that will work out.
-- Rand Paul, who has been highly critical of the House legislation, brought copies of “The Art of the Deal” with him to a meeting with the Freedom Caucus last week. He urged members to brush up on Trump’s tactics. The Kentucky senator even brought a poster with a quote from a chapter on how to “use your leverage.” “The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it,” Trump wrote. “That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you're dead."
-- A lot of members are left wondering this morning: Is Trump bluffing? Is this truly the last chance to get rid of Obamacare? Most elites see Trump’s unpredictability and rashness as character flaws. The president, who embraces “the madman theory” of foreign policy, sees them as secret weapons. And they could work to his advantage this morning. A lot of House members have spent seven years promising to get rid of Obamacare, and they don’t want to get blamed if it doesn’t happen.
Some who have watched Trump very closely over the years warn that he is dissembling. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.), who has known Trump for decades and whose Staten Island district broke heavily for the president in November, left a private meeting of House Republicans last night committed to voting no. “I’ve got to think about the 744,000 people I represent,” he said. Asked about the White House’s message that killing the bill would leave no more chances for repeal, Donovan shook his head. “I don’t believe that," he said.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who chairs the Freedom Caucus and recently read “The Art of the Deal,” also said last night that he’s “still a ‘no’ on the bill,” though he left himself some room to flip. “I think it’s the president leading, and I applaud him for leading,” Meadows said.
Amber Phillips, who is maintaining our running whip count, notes that 32 members of the House are on the record as being against the bill, and leadership can afford only 22 defections. So some people will need to change their minds. Right now, a lot of members are holding their cards close to the vest.
-- While it is foolish to make a prediction when the situation is this fluid, it’s easy to see Trump’s gamble paying off. The vote could stay open for a while tonight. If it looks like it’s going down, a lot of people who are on the fence will break against it. Why walk the plank for nothing? But, if it’s really close, people who are on the sidelines might get behind it. It’s hard, if you want a future in the House, to say “no” to leadership. Ryan wants this badly.
Several lawmakers said that a key moment inside the closed-door meeting of Republicans last night was when Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), a freshman lawmaker who lost both his legs in 2010 while serving as an Army bomb disposal technician in Afghanistan, rose and called on his colleagues to unite behind the bill in the same way he and his comrades fought in battle.
A rowdy group of Republicans burst out of that meeting like explorers on a quest for glory. Paul Kane sends over this vignette: “‘Burn the ships,’ one Republican shouted to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), invoking the command that Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conquistador, gave his men upon landing in Mexico in 1519. The message was clear, to the GOP leaders now and the Spaniards in 1519, there was no turning back. ‘Only way to do it,’ Scalise told a packed elevator of lawmakers.”
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) said it’s all about “back-patting and butt-kicking.” “Democracy’s messy,” he added. (There are lots more quotes like this are in our main news story about the impending vote, with feeds from eight Post reporters working the halls of the Capitol.)
-- The death of earmarks makes it harder to cajole recalcitrant Republicans than it used to be, however. “For some of these lawmakers, the health bill would be a lot easier to digest with a side of pork — some earmarked funding to show they deliver for their district. But earmarks were banished by John Boehner, with Paul Ryan’s support, when Republicans took charge in 2011,” Paul Kane explains. “Additionally, the old promise of political support for casting tough votes doesn’t carry the same weight. One key bloc of voters Ryan needs, the moderates, mostly comes from districts where Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016. These Republicans see political separation from Trump as their path to survival in 2018. Offers from the president to appear in their districts or host fundraisers are virtually worthless. … Ryan and his team are dealing with newcomers who are unswayed by calls for loyalty.”
-- With fewer carrots to offer lawmakers, today’s leaders still have some sticks: Trump threatened to support primary challengers to members who cross him next year during a private meeting with House Republicans earlier this week. But standing up to the president of your own party on principle has historically played well back home, even when the president is popular. If you want to read a good primer on this, check out “ Roosevelt’s Purge” by Susan Dunn, a great exploration of FDR’s disastrous decision to support liberal primary challengers to Democratic senators in the 1938 midterms.
-- As a contingency, the administration has begun preemptively blaming Speaker Ryan for failure. Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman report on the front page of today’s New York Times that Trump has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Ryan’s plan to deal with health-care before tax reform: “Two of his most influential advisers — Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, and Gary D. Cohn, the National Economic Council director, who had a major role in pushing the bill — came to agree. … His son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who is vacationing with his family in Aspen this week, has said for days that the bill was a mistake to support. … Mr. Trump was slow to recognize the high stakes of the fight, or the implications of losing. He approved the agenda putting health care first late last year, almost in passing, in meetings with Mr. Ryan, Mike Pence and Reince Priebus.… Staff members agreed on a hasty rollout strategy during weekend meetings earlier this month — with Mr. Pence suggesting that the president maintain distance from the proposal, urging him to refer to the bill as Mr. Ryan’s creation.”
-- “The difficulties Republicans are confronting are entirely of their own making,” argues Dan Balz, The Post’s chief correspondent. “For seven years, Republican politicians have made one overriding bargain with their conservative constituency, which was that they would repeal Obamacare as their first order of business if they ever had the power to do so. Now that they have the power, they still haven’t found a way to make good on that promise. … Failure to live up to the pledge to, at the very least, significantly scale back Obamacare is obviously the worst of all possible outcomes. Such a defeat would put the lie to the claim that the Republicans, now with full control of the executive and legislative branches, were ready to govern as a conservative party.”
A Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday shows only 17 percent of Americans approve of the GOP bill, compared with 56 percent who disapprove. That’s three-to-one against, far worse than Obamacare at its most unpopular points, before and after passage. “Republicans are now left with unpalatable choices,” Balz concludes. “Fail, and suffer the consequences. Succeed, and hope the public eventually buys in. This is hardly the script that Trump and Republicans imagined when they came to power in January.”
-- A word on the substance: While Trump is driving a hard bargain, that does not necessarily mean it’s a good bargain for the American people. The president wants to cut a deal so he can get this over with. The goodies that keep getting doled out to win votes may make the underlying legislation worse. Counties in Upstate New York will pay less to the state for Medicaid, while Illinois will get more federal Medicaid funding. These concessions brought in a handful of moderates, but geographic giveaways are rarely good public policy. It is the federal government picking winners and losers based solely on where someone lives. Conservatives tend to hate that when they’re out of power.
So much is getting thrown in and dropped out at the 11th hour that most lawmakers really don’t have a good sense of what exactly they’re actually voting on. A new Congressional Budget Office estimate, released last night, revealed that changes made to the legislation earlier this week mean that the government would save half as much as under the original bill while still causing 24 million more Americans to be uninsured. (Amy Goldstein has more on the CBO report. Here’s a breakdown of nine tweaks that have been made to win support.)
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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- British police said they made two “significant” new arrests as part of their ongoing investigation into the London attack. Nine people are now in custody. Police identified the attacker as Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old British citizen who had a criminal record and went by other aliases. His birth name was Adrian Russell Ajao. “Our determination is to find out if either he acted totally alone, inspired by perhaps terrorist propaganda, or if others had encouraged, supported or directed him,” said the acting commissioner of the London police. Two people remain in critical condition following the rampage. One has life threatening injuries. (Karla Adam)
GET SMART FAST:
- Rep. Duncan Hunter is under criminal investigation by the Justice Department over alleged campaign finance violations, the House Ethics Committee announced. “The California Republican spent tens of thousands of dollars' worth of campaign funds on items that appear to be personal in nature during 2015 and 2016 … a potential violation of House rules and federal law,” Politico’s John Bresnahan reports. “The funds were spent on groceries and outdoor equipment, a dentist, a nail salon and a utility company, as well as on a hotel in Italy and at the Arizona Grand Resort."
- Ex-Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.) is accused of stealing nearly $800,000 from two charitable organizations, according to testimony from a former aide, who struck a plea deal with the feds. Stockman, who was arrested last week on campaign fund violations, has been released on $25,000 bail and forced to surrender his passport. (Roll Call)
- The State Department has formally approved the permit needed to proceed with construction of the Keystone pipeline, advancing the project that had been blocked by Barack Obama. (Reuters)
- The Senate voted to kill Obama-era online privacy regulations — moving to allow Internet providers to sell browsing habits and other personal information in order to drum up revenue from third-party advertisers. (AP)
- The FCC proposed new rules that would allow phone companies to target and block robo-calls that come from illegitimate or unassigned phone numbers, moving to crack down on annoying — and illegal — scam calls. (Brian Fung)
- WikiLeaks released a new cache of documents that it says describe hacking tools utilized by the CIA to infect Apple devices. But the nefarious-sounding software described in the files — including names such as “DarkMatter” and “Sonic Screwdriver” — was largely dismissed by security experts, who said the methods have long been known within the community. (WSJ)
- Jewish groups were relieved to learn that authorities arrested a suspect in the wave of threats to schools and community centers — but heartbroken to learn the perp is allegedly a 19-year-old Israeli man. (Mark Berman)
- Utah has formally adopted the toughest drunk driving standard in the country. The measure was signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert (R) and lowers the standard from the current 0.08 blood-alcohol content level — used nationwide — to just 0.05. (Ben Guarino)
- A North Dakota church that was purchased by a neo-Nazi — who planned to rename the property after Trump and give it to members of his white supremacist religious sect — has burned down in a mysterious fire. Officials say it’s unclear who, if anyone, is responsible for the blaze. (Derek Hawkins)
- An Oregon mayor is claiming “police entrapment” after he was arrested and accused of soliciting a 14-year-old girl, who was revealed to be an undercover officer working as part of an online sting operation. The 71-year-old mayor appeared on multiple local TV stations to deny the charges, but then he abruptly resigned hours later. (Lindsey Bever)
- FBI agents posed as documentary filmmakers to talk to militia members during an armed standoff in Nevada and then used the recorded footage against two men who are now on trial in federal court. The effort shows the extent to which authorities attempted to infiltrate Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s network of militias and other groups. (BuzzFeed)
- The Maryland man who drove to New York “with the intent of killing black men,” and who fatally stabbed a 66-year-old with a sword, has been charged with a hate crime. The 28-year-old allegedly told authorities he was using the killing as “practice" and intended to walk to Times Square to kill additional black men. (Mark Berman)
- Officials at a New Jersey elementary school said they are horrified after a substitute teacher allowed white students to “sell” their black classmates in a mock slave auction. It was even recorded on videotape as part of an ongoing colonial history project. Also alarming, educators said, was how lightly the students in the video appeared to treat the topic. “The jovial nature of the video suggests that either there is a lack of understanding about the true barbarity of a slave auction, or a lack of awareness of how treating this topic comically is offensive,” the school said. (Peter Holley)
- Scientists and tech experts have attached infrared methane sensors to the cameras on Google Street View cars — using the vehicles typically dispatched for mapping purposes to also help reveal leaks in urban natural gas pipelines. (Chelsea Harvey)
- More than two-thirds of cancer-causing mutations are the result of random DNA-copying errors that occur during the cell-division process, according to a new study. The research is sure to renew a vigorous debate in the scientific community about how much people can do to prevent cancer — and how much is simply unavoidable. (Laurie McGinley)
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Upping the ante: Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, says he has seen new information that points to possible Trump-Russia collusion, declining to provide specifics but suggesting that "it's the kind of evidence" A GRAND JURY would want to consider. "We continue to get new information that, I think, paints a more complete picture of at least what we know at the outset of our investigation," he told CNN. "I do think that it's appropriate to say that it's the kind of evidence that you would submit to a grand jury at the beginning of an investigation. It's not the kind of evidence that you take to a trial jury when you're trying to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt. But we're at the beginning of an investigation, and given the gravity of the subject matter, I think that the evidence certainly warrants us doing a thorough investigation."
-- Rick Gates, the longtime deputy to Paul Manafort, has stepped down from his role at America First Policies — the nonprofit sanctioned by the president to support his agenda — due to his “longstanding” relationship with the tainted former campaign chairman. (CNN)
-- Ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn did not seek permission from the U.S. government to work as a paid foreign agent, Pentagon officials said, raising the possibility that the Defense Department could dock his retirement pay. A DOD spokesman said the issue is currently under review. (Dan Lamothe)
-- "Trump's Longtime Lawyer Is Defending Russia's Biggest Bank," by BuzzFeed: “One of [the president’s] personal attorneys was just named a lead attorney to defend Russia’s largest state-run bank against claims that it helped a granite-mining company raid and kill off its main competitor in the Russian market. Marc E. Kasowitz is representing OJSC Sberbank of Russia, which is accused in US federal court of conspiring with granite company executives — including Russia’s former minister of economy and trade — in what the plaintiffs say amounts to a ‘textbook case of Russian corporate raiding.’ Kasowitz has served as an attorney for Trump for more than 15 years.”
-- The RNC, under the leadership of Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, paid an intelligence firm run by an ex-CIA agent who worked closely with an ex-Russian spy to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton. When the payments first came to light, the RNC falsely claimed the money related to providing security for the committee's headquarters. Now officials acknowledge they did not tell the truth, Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel and Eli Stokols report: “As the general election was taking shape last summer, the Republican National Committee initiated a series of payments to a low-profile firm started by retired Central Intelligence Agency officers that worked closely with an ex-Russian spy. The payments attracted attention in political and intelligence circles, largely because the Virginia-based firm, Hamilton Trading Group, had particular expertise in Russia, which was emerging as a major campaign issue at the time. RNC officials and the president and co-founder of Hamilton Trading Group, an ex-CIA officer named Ben Wickham, insisted the payments, which eventually totaled $41,500, had nothing to do with Russia. But RNC officials now acknowledge that most of the cash — $34,100 — went towards intelligence-style reports that sought to prove conflicts of interest between [Clinton’s] tenure as Secretary of State and her family’s foundation."
VLADIMIR PUTIN IS ONE BAD HOMBRE:
-- “Days before his death, Putin critic said in interview he knew he was in danger,” by Andrew Roth and Natalie Gryvnyak: “In the plush, crimson-decked lobby bar of Kiev’s five-star Premier Palace Hotel, Denis Voronenkov, a Russian lawmaker who had defected to Ukraine, knew he was in danger. ‘For our personal safety, we can’t let them know where we are,’ he said Monday evening as he sat with his wife for an interview with [The Post]. Less than 72 hours later, he was dead, shot twice in the head in broad daylight outside the same lobby bar. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, just hours later, called the attack an ‘act of state terrorism by Russia.’ [A Putin spokesman] called the accusation a ‘fabrication.’ In the weeks before his death, Voronenkov, a former member of Russia’s pliant Communist Party, had told friends he was being targeted. Hackers had been trying to pry into his Twitter account and his wife’s email. He had received threatening text messages, and the police had recently assigned him a bodyguard. There were rumors he was under surveillance."
-- He is just the latest Kremlin opponent to wind up dead. Our David Filipov made a list of ten outspoken Putin critics who have died in violent or otherwise-suspicious ways.
-- Americans are learning the hard way what Eastern Europeans already knew: Putin has no respect for state sovereignty. To wit:
“Russia Uses Rigged Polls, Fake News to Sway Foreign Elections,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Parkinson and Georgi Kantchev: “In the run-up to presidential elections in Bulgaria last year, the country’s opposition Socialist Party received a secret strategy document proposing a road map to victory at the ballot box.... Among its recommendations: plant fake news and promote exaggerated polling data. The source of the roughly 30-page dossier, intercepted by Bulgaria’s security service, was a think tank connected to the Kremlin, according to the officials. It was delivered by a former Russian spy on a U.S. sanctions list, three of them said. In November, the Socialists’ candidate, Rumen Radev, emerged victorious. Now, the party — which wants to end European Union sanctions against Russia and limit [NATO] operations around the Black Sea — is a front-runner in parliamentary elections to be held Sunday. ‘I’m very worried,’ said Rosen Plevneliev, a Kremlin critic who was Mr. Radev’s predecessor as president. ‘Russian activity across Eastern Europe has gone to a new level.’”
Shortly before Bulgaria, once one of the Soviet Union’s staunchest allies, joined the E.U. in 2007, Russia’s ambassador to the bloc told a local newspaper: “We are hoping that you will be our special partner, a kind of Trojan horse in the EU.” Opponents of Russia tell the Journal that the Kremlin has done everything it can to make that prophecy come true in a country that is also one of the newest members of NATO.
-- French National Front party leader Marine Le Pen visited the Kremlin this morning, a sign of her coziness with the Russians. Reuters reports: Le Pen — whom recent opinion polls have found to be tied nearly neck-and-neck with centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron in France’s upcoming presidential election — is heavily favored by Russia. This is her fourth visit to Moscow since 2011. She also wants to get rid of the E.U. sanctions on Russia over its illegal invasion of Ukraine.
DAMAGE CONTROL BACKFIRES:
-- Devin Nunes apologized to members of the House Intelligence Committee for not consulting with them before going public with his claims that Trump might have been surveilled. He went to the White House and the press with unsubstantiated claims that intelligence information “could have been collected” on Trump and his associates during the transition before consulting his colleagues.The California congressman's apology comes after he was eviscerated by Democrats on the committee, with some accusing him of speaking publicly in an attempt to deflect attention from Monday’s congressional hearing.
“On Thursday, Nunes said it was a ‘judgment call’ to personally brief Trump before speaking with his colleagues, who are actively investigating allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections and suspected links between Trump aides and the Kremlin," Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima report. "When he made his apology, Nunes stressed ‘that he really wanted us to be bipartisan,’ said Rep. Jim Himes (D). … ‘He was contrite. Internally on the committee, he’s a very reasonable guy. But outside, on a number of occasions, he’s acted in the interests of the Trump campaign.’ Himes said Nunes’s actions ‘dramatically increased the pressure for an outside bipartisan commission.’ ... Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the committee ... also used Nunes’s action to highlight the need for an independent commission, because 'the people we have been counting on to be impartial in getting to the bottom of what happened have shown that they cannot be,' he said."
-- Joe Biden also called for the investigation into Russian interference to be taken away from Congress. "[John] McCain is right,” the former vice president said. “Need select committee!” The Arizona senator has called for either a select committee or independent commission. (David Nakamura)
-- The New York Times’s Editorial Board calls Nunes a “lapdog in a watchdog’s role”: “It was predictable that standard congressional committee investigations into the role of Russia and the election would turn into muddled partisan fights. But Mr. Nunes’s conduct stands out for his brazenness and heedlessness."
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST:
-- Fishy? GSA officials tasked with overseeing Trump’s D.C. hotel lease with the federal government announced that the property is in “full compliance,” despite a clause in the agreement that explicitly bars any “elected official of the government of the United States” from deriving “any benefit.” Jonathan O'Connell reports: “In a Thursday letter to Eric Trump … the project’s contracting officer found the company met the terms of the lease because the president had resigned from a formal position with the company and the organization had restructured an internal operating agreement so he received no direct proceeds from the D.C. hotel business while in office.”
The GSA announcement means Trump’s company -- which he still owns! -- will continue benefiting from a contract ultimately overseen by his administration. The situation has been slammed by ethics experts as “unprecedented” and a glaring conflict of interest that prioritizes Trump’s personal finances ahead of taxpayers. Reps. Elijah Cummings and Peter DeFazio sharply criticized the decision, saying the GSA’s decision rendered the lease provision "meaningless." “This decision allows profits to be reinvested back into the hotel so Donald Trump can reap the financial benefits when he leaves the White House,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote. “This is exactly what the lease provision was supposed to prevent.
-- "Wilbur Ross will shepherd Trump's trade policy. Should he also own a shipping firm?" by the Center for Public Integrity’s Carrie Levine and Chris Zubak-Skees: "When private equity billionaire Wilbur Ross Jr. signed on to be commerce secretary, he agreed to divest millions of dollars in assets. But one asset Ross plans to keep is his stake in Diamond S Shipping Group Inc., one of the world's largest owners and operators of medium-range tanker vessels … [An] examination of Diamond S Shipping’s operations found its vessels sail under Chinese flags … The company has ties to a major Chinese investment fund, and one of its ships has traveled to an Iranian port. Diamond S Shipping has also said it has — and may continue in the future to — ‘call on ports located in countries subject to sanctions and embargoes imposed by the U.S. government and countries identified … as state sponsors of terrorism,’ according to its 2014 [SEC filing]. And one of Diamond S Shipping’s main customers recently acquired a stake in a Russian national oil company.”
-- The final day of the hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch ended on a contentious note, with Chuck Schumer vowing a filibuster that could complicate confirmation of Trump’s nominee and upend the traditional process for approving justices. Robert Barnes, Ed O’Keefe, and Ann E. Marimow report: In a speech on the Senate floor, the minority leader said he would vote no, adding that if Gorsuch “cannot earn 60 votes — a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees and George Bush’s last two nominees — the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee.” Still, he stopped short of saying that his entire Democratic caucus would be united in opposition, leaving space for some Democrats to find ways to work with Republicans."
Senior Republicans vowed that Gorsuch will be approved “no matter what” – a veiled threat that they will use the so-called “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules. “If Judge Gorsuch can’t achieve 60 votes in the Senate, could any judge appointed by a Republican president be approved with 60 or more votes in the Senate?” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Lindsey Graham, who has opposed such efforts in the past, indicated he'd be on board.
It is also possible they may not. It is unclear whether Democrats will stick together: "Several, especially those facing 2018 reelection battles in states that Trump won, are facing staunch and well-funded opposition from GOP organizations, who have thrown millions behind efforts to bolster Gorsuch. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) who is seen as the Democrat most likely to support Gorsuch, said he needed to hear more from the nominee. 'I haven’t completely made up my mind. I’m going to go talk to him next week; then I’ll make my decision,' Manchin said. 'But I just think the Senate is on a slippery slope.'"
-- From the chief strategist on George W. Bush's 2004 reelection campaign:
1 can make very logical argument even if you believe Gorsuch is qualified, decision on SC should be delayed till Russia inquiry is finished.— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) March 23, 2017
-- After two days of answering questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gorsuch was not present on Thursday as civil rights leaders, conservative activists, professors, judges and former clerks debated whether he belonged on the high court. From Bob, Ed and Anne: "Opponents expressed concern about Gorsuch’s record on civil liberties, election laws and reproductive rights. ... Human rights advocates raised concerns about Gorsuch’s tenure at the Justice Department during Bush’s presidency, when he worked on cases related to the detention of terrorism suspects. Gorsuch helped draft language designed to support Bush’s claims of executive authority on matters of torture and the treatment of detainees."
The committee heard a highly personal account directly from Jeff Perkins, the father of a child with autism whom Gorsuch ruled against in 2008: "Perkins called the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit 'devastating,' requiring one parent to move to another school district to get his son, Luke, the education he needed. Gorsuch’s 2008 decision came under scrutiny on Wednesday after the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in another case that the standard Gorsuch applied for assessing the educational benefit for students with disabilities was too low." (It raised a lot of eyebrows that John Roberts put out such a repudiation of his party's nominee while he was testifying before the Judiciary Committee.)
-- The most moving testimony of the fourth day came from Sandy Phillips, a self-described Republican gun-owner whose 24-year-old daughter, Jessi, was among those massacred in the 2012 Aurora movie-theater shooting. She sued the dealer who sold the shooter his bullets, but her case was thrown out because of a federal law that protects gun dealers and manufacturers from civil liability. “Her family was forced to pay the ammo dealer hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees,” Slate notes.
Former Gorsuch clerk Jamil Jaffer – testifying on behalf of his former boss – awkwardly put his hand on this mom’s shoulder. “Judge Gorsuch is the kind of judge that Mrs. Phillips and that Jessie would want on the bench,” he declared.
A few minutes later, Phillips got to speak again. She asked Chairman Chuck Grassley “if he would please make note in the record that this gentleman next to me does not speak for me or my dead daughter.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- The Senate confirmed David Friedman as ambassador to Israel on a 52 to 46 vote, making him the first of Trump’s selected foreign emissaries to take his post. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Republican support for Friedman was a sure thing despite a rocky confirmation hearing last month, punctuated not only by protesters critical of his statements opposing a Palestinian state and supporting Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but also by Democratic senators concerned about the harsh rhetoric he has used to attack politicians whose Israel policy differs from his. And following the vote, some Senate Democrats also expressed concern that with Friedman as ambassador, the two-state solution would be in jeopardy.”
-- The Trump administration, meanwhile, expressed “concerns” with settlement construction after talks with senior Israeli officials in D.C. ended on Thursday, with a joint statement showing that the two governments unable to agree on a settlement policy that could pave the way to peace talks resuming. Carol Morello and Anne Gearan report: “As the Israelis left Washington to return home, the White House released a statement saying they had discussed “concrete, near-term measures to improve the overall climate” to improve prospects for peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.” But the most closely watched part of talks concerned settlement activity – which the statement made clear was an issue that remained unresolved: “The U.S. delegation reiterated [Trump’s] concerns regarding settlement activity in the context of moving towards a peace agreement,” it said. “The Israeli delegation made clear that Israel’s intent going forward is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes those concerns into consideration.”
-- Canada’s largest school system has canceled all future trips to the U.S. “until further notice,” citing uncertainty over Trump’s travel ban. “We strongly believe that our students should not be placed into these situations of potentially being turned away at the border,” Toronto District School Board’s Director of Education, John Malloy, said in a statement. (Derek Hawkins)
-- Trump is expected to nominate John J. Sullivan as the State Department’s No. 2 official, moving to tap someone for the role more than one month after rejecting Rex Tillerson’s first pick, Elliott Abrams, to serve as his deputy secretary of state. The Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz and Gordon Lubold report: “Mr. Sullivan, 57, initially was the Trump administration’s pick to be the Pentagon’s general counsel, news the White House announced earlier this month. But in recent days Trump administration officials decided they would instead tap him to be deputy secretary of state, the officials said. Mr. Sullivan most recently was a partner in the Washington office of the law firm Mayer Brown. He served in the George W. Bush administration in senior roles in the Commerce Department and the Pentagon.”
-- “The roar of a vehicle, then screams: How terror overtook a regular day in London,” by Isaac Stanley-Becker: “It was a brisk Wednesday afternoon in London, almost spring-like, when the vehicle began roaring across Westminster Bridge about 2:30 … One person later recalled it zig-zagging. Pedestrians scattered in panic as the careening vehicle jumped the curb, plowing into them. One woman was pinned under a bus that ground to a halt. Another woman toppled off the bridge into the river below. ‘I was just walking across the bridge and suddenly a bus stopped, and everybody started screaming,’ [said] Steve Voake, a children’s book author … He noticed a sneaker by the side of the bridge, ‘and then on the other side of the road there was a body. …’ At least three members of the public who were on the bridge were killed— a 54-year-old musician from Utah, Kurt Cochran, who was celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary; Aysha Frade, 43, a British teacher and mother of two; and a 75-year-old man … Three police officers were struck on their way back from a commendation ceremony. Among the injured were several French teenagers on a school trip to London, as well as numerous other tourists. The vehicle exited the bridge, traveled a short distance and crashed into a railing encircling Parliament.”
-- The New York Times’ Steven Erlanger and Alissa J. Rubin examine how the London attack could affect upcoming elections slated to be held in other European countries this year: “With France, Germany and possibly Italy going to the polls, analysts have long wondered whether an act of terrorism could jolt electoral dynamics and boost the broader ‘Europe in crisis’ narrative that has elevated far-right parties across the Continent,” they write. “This will have an echo in France and in Germany,” said Mark Leonard, the director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. ‘It becomes part of a pattern. It’s another link in the chain.’ But if it is an echo, it may be a muted one. Many European voters, anxious but increasingly inured, have essentially priced in the cost of terrorism — at least when it happens outside their own borders and when the toll is not so high. A relatively limited attack, like the one in London, was considered unlikely to shift the electoral terrain.”
-- Los Angeles Times, “Pete Wilson looks back on Proposition 187 and says, heck yeah, he'd support it all over again,” by Mark Z. Barabak: “At 83, he is waging what amounts to his final campaign — and certainly his most personal — an effort to shape how he’ll best be recollected. By most accounts, Wilson was quite successful during eight years as governor (of California), leaving the state in better shape than he found it … If Wilson is renowned for one thing, however, it is Proposition 187, the controversial ballot measure that sought to stem illegal immigration and address its costs by cutting off state services, including healthcare and public education, to those in the country illegally. Wilson didn’t draft the measure, nor did he place it on the November 1994 ballot. But he became the foremost champion … Wilson will go to his grave steadfastly denying any racist or malign intent, saying his support for Proposition 187 — most of which was ultimately blocked in the courts — had nothing whatever to do with race or ethnicity.”
Key quote: “It wasn’t scapegoating. What it was doing was laying out the facts of what it was costing state taxpayers for federal failure,” Wilson said in his office high above Century City, where he still maintains an active law practice. “I may have my flaws but racism is not, never has been, never will be, one of them. … Do I think there are racists in the world? Of course I do. Do I think there were some in California at that time who were probably pleased with 187? Yeah, I do. But do I think that most of the people in California who voted for it were?” Absolutely not, Wilson insisted.
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts (R) apologized for this comment about mammograms:
I asked Sen. Roberts if he supports scrapping Essential Health Benefits. "I wouldn't want to lose my mammograms," he snarked. #AHCA— Alice Ollstein (@AliceOllstein) March 23, 2017
I deeply regret my comments on a very important topic. Mammograms are essential to women's health & I never intended to indicate otherwise.— Pat Roberts (@SenPatRoberts) March 23, 2017
What people are talking about when they say "essential health benefits":
Here are the essential health benefits that would no longer be required under new GOP amendment pic.twitter.com/nR1rgefVTw— Dan Eggen (@DanEggenWPost) March 24, 2017
Lots of people remarked on, er, the visual disparity in this image of the House Freedom Caucus meeting with Trump at the White House:
The group proposing to cut breast cancer screening, maternity care, and contraceptive coverage. pic.twitter.com/CxsrxZmcqz— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) March 23, 2017
A rare look inside the GOP’s women’s health caucus. https://t.co/SgLmvSpeSM— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) March 23, 2017
The White House replied that Kellyanne Conway was in the room, just not in the shot. That didn't exactly make it better...
The president's flack also offered this defense of the health bill:
Sean Spicer on healthcare: "I think if you're an older man you can generally say that you're not going to need maternity care."— Liam Stack (@liamstack) March 23, 2017
Which prompted this obervation:
His boss had a child at 59. https://t.co/KtyFQr2dzk— Tim Murphy (@timothypmurphy) March 23, 2017
Here's an example our fact checker found of Trump taking credit for something Obama did:
"We just gave a check for a hundred million dollars to Flint," Trump said. The $ is from law signed by Obama in Dec (h/t @GlennKesslerWP )— Dan Eggen (@DanEggenWPost) March 23, 2017
Joe Scarborough continued to troll Trump:
"Please, please Mr. President! There's so much winning that I'm tired of winning!" https://t.co/XCFGfOViEL— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) March 23, 2017
A CNN chryon asks a rhetorical question:
I mean, I've got a guess pic.twitter.com/f4jw6YSVwG— Katherine Miller (@katherinemiller) March 23, 2017
Spicer: "Today is the seventh and we hope the last anniversary of the day Obama signed Obamacare." Wont it always be the anniversary?— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 23, 2017
My wife, not usually snarky, after hearing of AHCA vote delay: "I guess President Tremendous Negotiator can't cut a deal with his own party"— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) March 23, 2017
Ouch, from a former George W. Bush speechwriter:
GOP could sure use a community organizer right about now— David Frum (@davidfrum) March 23, 2017
Paul Ryan was not immune from Twitter snark:
From one Democratic lawmaker:
After 7 years and over 60 votes to repeal...they need more time. It's complicated. Who knew? https://t.co/QKBDSKS1r3— Joe Trippi (@JoeTrippi) March 23, 2017
Politico's health-care writer compared the House GOP moves on health-care to a scene in "Arrested Development:"
1. That time a novice chief executive made a foolhardy promise, his erstwhile allies rushed to get it done—and it all fell apart in the end.— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 24, 2017
2. Of course, I’m talking about ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT’s classic episode, “The One Where They Build a House.” pic.twitter.com/UdWOL7jtvM— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 24, 2017
3. To recap episode— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 24, 2017
· GOB vows to build house, fast
· GOB doesn’t have a plan
· They instead make a *fake* house
· It falls apart—literally
4. Still — for a moment — it looked like they actually could pull it off. pic.twitter.com/j13oRbWwlE— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 24, 2017
5. Until it literally collapsed — and everyone saw that while it looked like a house on the outside, it was actually a cynical, empty shell. pic.twitter.com/X5dQrCFUF2— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 24, 2017
6. Nobody knew that building a house could be so complicated. Especially GOB. pic.twitter.com/gBzm9YVLEs— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 24, 2017
7. The relationship between blustery GOB and wonky Michael reminds me of a power dynamic in D.C., but I can't put my finger on who. pic.twitter.com/RmauSU7nB3— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 24, 2017
8. Of course, the failed house-build was just one in a series of screw-ups that came to define the Bluth family. pic.twitter.com/asroIyhpQo— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 24, 2017
9. Not to spoil the show, but it turned out the Bluths had bigger problems than failed construction projects. pic.twitter.com/Wddwsc61Dv— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 24, 2017
10. To be clear — I’m just talking about ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. The story of a wealthy family who … wasn’t actually that wealthy. pic.twitter.com/CJvm4SIUmu— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 24, 2017
11. The story of a family with a few unsuccessful product lines. pic.twitter.com/9KUnADsRwj— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 24, 2017
Some funny images came out of Trump's photo opp with truckers:
When you want Chick Fil A and it's not Sunday pic.twitter.com/9C7O6HijNM— Emma (@politics_n_prep) March 23, 2017
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“52 Percent of Men Say They Haven’t Personally Benefited From Women Having Access to Birth Control,” from New York Magazine: “Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers were required to cover contraceptives without a copay. But under the American Health Care Act (or Trumpcare or Ryancare, depending on who you ask), conservative Republicans could repeal that mandate as a chip in the political bargaining process. But based on a new survey of registered voters from the nonpartisan firm PerryUndem, the majority of men don’t think contraceptive coverage has much to do with them. According to the survey, more than half of men (52 percent) say they have not personally benefited from a woman in their life having access to affordable birth control. Weirdly, the vast majority of respondents (75 percent) said that, if men were the ones who gave birth, the mandate wouldn’t be up for debate at all.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“College ‘diversity council’ admits to posting fake racist flyers on campus,” from National Review: “The Diversity Leadership Council at Gustavus Adolphus College admits that it — with the help of other social-justice groups — planted fake racist flyers on campus ‘to educate’ people about racism.” The fliers stated: “A NOTICE TO ALL WHITE AMERICANS IT IS YOUR CIVIC DUTY TO REPORT ANY AND ALL ILLEGAL ALIENS TO U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT THEY ARE CRIMINALS. AMERICA IS A WHITE NATION.” Obviously, these flyers caused a huge uproar among the school’s students and alumni — only for Dean of Students Jones VanHecke to later announce that they were “part of a series of educational ‘invisible theater’ events taking place this week that have been planned by I Am We Are theater troupe, the Diversity Leadership Team … to ‘promote, preserve, and protect on-campus diversity.’”
The House votes on health care.
At the White House: Trump will hold a National Economic Council meeting before meeting with Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Later, Trump will have lunch with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, host a Greek Independence Day celebration, and meet with Medal of Honor recipients.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Hey, look, I can't be doing so badly, because I'm president and you're not." -- Donald Trump to Time Magazine
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Finally, a warm weekend – and maybe some cherry blossoms – ahead! But first we may have to deal with a bit of rain. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds may totally cover the sky at times, especially during the morning and into midday. Our mainly dry warm front needs to pass through to usher in some spring. Just a quick shower possible. The best odds are north of town. Into the afternoon, as sun amounts go up, so do the temperatures and probably the wind. Temperatures should max out in the upper 50s well north to mid-60s near D.C. and south or east.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Jimmy Kimmel wants you to know Trump is president and you're not:
Seth Meyers takes a closer look at Russia and health care:
Conan shows Trump calling Obama about Angela Merkel:
Devin Nunes apologized for his handling of intelligence in the Russia probe:
Chuck Schumer explains why he's a "no" on Neil Gorsuch: