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Power Up: Cracks show in wall of Republican support for Trump

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On The Hill

"KEEP THEIR POWDER DRY”: That was the White House directive to GOP senators ahead of the vote to reject President Trump's emergency declaration at the U.S.- Mexico border. Scrambling to limit embarrassing defections on a disapproval resolution, Zach Parkinson, the White House deputy director of government communications, cautioned Senate GOP communications aides against their bosses publicly criticizing Trump over the declaration. If they didn't have anything good to say, they should "keep their powder dry," sources told me and my colleague Erica Werner. 

Cracks: The warning came as Senate Republicans seem to have the numbers to defy Trump on his signature campaign issue -- building the wall. The House has sent a resolution disapproving of the president's emergency declaration to the Senate, which is expected to take up the measure next week.

And some don't think the whipping from the White House was helpful. One GOP Senate aide told Power Up that “it was odd for the White House to come to Capitol Hill to tell the senators to be quiet if they oppose the declaration.”  "And you know how much senators love to be told when to talk," another aide grumbled.

But the political imperative to stick with the president — a defining feature of congressional Republicans under Trump — remains. “My boss is worried about arguments made about Democrats coming back to use the emergency declaration. But ... they’ll stand with the president because all hell breaks out when you oppose him — especially in red states,” the GOP Senate aide told us. 

  • The warning came as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said at an event in Louisville “there will be enough votes to pass the resolution of disapproval, which will then be vetoed by the president and then in all likelihood the veto will be upheld in the House.” 
  • McConnell said he argued, "obviously without success, to the president that he not take this route" to secure additional funding for his border wall because of concerns future Democratic presidents will use similar emergency declarations for their own purposes.
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) became the fourth Republican to announce he would support the disapproval resolution, likely sealing its passage next week when the Senate vote is expected to take place.
  • Unlikely: Trump has said he will veto any disapproval resolution that lands on his desk. And 67 senators and 290 House members would have to vote to override Trump's veto, a number that is highly unlikely.

The Paul Principle: Other Republican senators appear to be wavering on the disapproval resolution, and the number of GOPers who could break with Trump could grow. Paul told reporters that “at least 10" more Republicans have similar reservations and could break with Trump on the issue.

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) delivered remarks on the floor last Thursday advocating for the president to obtain money for the wall in an alternative way. He still hasn't announced how he will vote. 
  • Still undecided: Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and more. The Post's Kate Rabinowitz is keeping tabs here. 
  • Sen. Roy Blunt, who's unsure of how he'll vote on the measure told CNN's Phil Mattingly, “We'd still like to see the president rethink this.” 
 

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Outside the Beltway

AN UPDATE FROM THE BORDER: While the debate over the emergency declaration takes place on the Hill, my colleague Nick Miroff reports that in January, “unauthorized migration in fiscal 2019 is on pace to reach its highest level in a decade.”

  • Coming: “Department of Homeland Security officials say they expect the influx to swell in March and April, months that historically see large increases in illegal crossings as U.S. seasonal labor demand rises,” Miroff reports. 
  • Here: “The number of migrants taken into custody last year jumped 39 percent from February to March, and a similar increase this month would push levels to 100,000 detentions or more.” 

As a result of the increase, Homeland Security officials announced that Migrant Protection Protocols, a pilot program in place to send migrants back across the border to Mexican authorities, will expand to El Paso and other locations, Miroff reports. 

  • The key quote: “Mexican officials are cooperating by providing general assistance and job placement for those sent back to wait, but privately they have warned the Americans that their capacity to take parents with children is extremely limited, especially families that need welfare assistance and enrollment in already-crowded public schools,” per Miroff. “Some of the cities where they will wait are among the most dangerous in Mexico.” 

An unexpected Trump ally: Mexican officials working for new President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have called his stance on migrants that breaks "with decades of asylum practice" a strategic decision not to anger President Trump," the New York Times's Azam Ahmed and Kirk Semple reported over the weekend. 

  • "[AMLO] doesn’t believe he can change Mr. Trump’s mind, they contend. Furthermore, the officials say, Mr. López Obrador has not wanted to jeopardize other aspects of the deeply interconnected relationship between the two countries, ranging from elaborate regional trading arrangements to information sharing on border security, transnational crime and terrorism. So he has avoided a bruising and potentially costly public fight over the issue.” 
  • Key sticking point for AMLO: “To many Mexicans, the fate of migrants is secondary to domestic concerns about jobs, security and corruption. Mr. López Obrador retains an 80 percent approval rating, despite his government’s willingness to take back migrants applying for asylum in the United States,” Ahmed and Semple report. 

The People

IT'S NOT JUST REPUBLICANS: Responding to Rep. Ilhan Omar's (D-Minn.) controversial remark about pro-Israel advocates' “allegiance to a foreign country,” top House Democrats drafted a resolution they plan to bring to the House floor today condemning anti-Semitism. 

This would be the second rebuke of the Minnesota freshman on issues related to Israel. “If the House moves ahead with the vote on Wednesday as planned, it would be an unprecedented public rebuke of Omar, who was sworn into office just over 60 days ago. Omar's office declined to comment about the Democratic resolution on Monday,” Politico's Sarah Ferris, Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan report. 

  • The four-page measure does not identify Omar by name but calls out the “myth of dual loyalty” in reference to the idea, slammed by senior Democrats and Jewish lawmakers for reinforcing racial stereotypes, that Jewish lawmakers cannot be loyal to their home countries.
  • The key quote: “The idea that certain members of Congress seemingly believe it is acceptable to use historic anti-Semitic tropes accusing Jews of dual loyalty, despite the broad condemnation of the entire House Democratic leadership, is beyond me,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.)," according to The Post's Mike DeBonis. Gottheimer called Omar’s rhetoric “reminiscent of other hurtful episodes in our history, including when President John F. Kennedy’s loyalty was called into question simply because he was Irish Catholic.”
  • Democrats are debating whether to name check Omar, who herself has been the subject of attacks on her Muslim religion, in the resolution. Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Appropriations head Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) demanded apologies from Omar for employing "offensive, painful stereotypes," as Lowey put it.
  • “Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman!” Omar responded, adding, “I have not mischaracterized our relationship with Israel, I have questioned it and that has been clear from my end.”

The intraparty rift sparked yet another hostile debate about not just Omar's comments but the Democratic Party's relationship with Israel, the Middle East and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobbying group, that Omar has been targeting.  

  • “It is so disingenuous of some of these members of Congress who are lining up to condemn these questioning voices as if they have no campaign finance interest in the outcome,” said Brian Baird, a former Democratic congressman from Washington state and vocal critic of Israel after one of his constituents was killed "by an Israeli Army bulldozer in Gaza while protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes in 2003," told the New York Times's Sheryl Gay Stolberg.If one dares to criticize Israel or dares to criticize AIPAC, one gets branded anti-Semitic...and that’s a danger to a democratic republic.”

  • “But in a recent article in The Nation, M.J. Rosenberg, who worked for Aipac in the 1980s and is now a critic of the organization, described how 'Aipac’s political operation is used precisely as Representative Omar suggested,' including during policy conferences, when members gather 'in side rooms, nominally independent of the main event,' to raise money and 'decide which candidate will get what,'" per Stolberg. 

  • “We just started putting out feelers for [actual] documents about serious conflict of interest with Trump and we’re going to talk about this? Bibi [Netanyahu] just got indicted and we're barely talking about it?," a Hill aide told Power Up. “There is currently no distinction between anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and someone who just critiques the Israeli government in this debate. And anyone who thinks that AIPAC doesn't have huge influence? Come on.” 

Shot: 

 

Chaser: 

 

 

The Investigations

A DELUGE OF REQUESTS & LETTERS: The House Judiciary Committee requested “more than 80 letters” demanding a staggering array of communications on just about everything that has been controversial during the Trump presidency: for documents related to the campaign; the Trump organization; the president's business dealings with Russia; the NRA; Cambridge Analytica; James Comey and more.

The bottom line: “Many of those issues are already being examined by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York — not to mention other committees in the House,” report Rachael Bade, Karoun Demirjian, Ellen Nakashima and Philip Rucker.

  • “The most far-reaching request since Democrats took control of the House underscored lawmakers’ determination to hold Trump and those around him accountable for controversies that have dogged the president during his first two years in office — and perhaps lay the grounds for impeachment proceedings,” my colleagues report.
  • The request by Democrats was coordinated with Mueller's office and SDNY, a House counsel told my colleagues, and staffers said to expect a second round of letters to go out shortly.
  • House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), whose committee would lead impeachment hearings, told CNN's Erin Burnett last night that Ivanka Trump, who was noticeably missing from those whose communications were requested, could “quite conceivably” be pulled into the investigations.
  • Key: “By initiating the wide-ranging demand for documents, the Judiciary Committee signaled it is creating its own insurance policy in the event that all of Mueller’s findings are not made public and it finds the kinds of evidence that would be grounds for removing Trump from office,” Politico's Andrew Desiderio and Darren Samuelsohn report. 

Among those receiving letters demanding documents: Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Jared Kushner, Rhona Graff, Trump Organization's Allen Weisselberg, Hope Hicks, Sean Spicer, Stephen Bannon, Tom Barrack, AMI head David Pecker, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, etc. Recipients have two weeks (until March 18) to comply with Judiciary's requests; otherwise, the documents will be subpoenaed. You can find the full list of individuals served with document requests here. 

  • Will Trump cooperate?: “I cooperate all the time with everybody,” Trump told reporters on Monday. “You know the beautiful thing — no collusion. It’s all a hoax.”
  • Sekulow told Politico that Trump's personal lawyers are “reviewing the request for documents and we will respond at the appropriate time.”

THAT'S NOT THE END OF IT: 

  1. The deadline for the House Oversight Committee's document request for information about the White House security clearance process expired yesterday, per Chairman Elijah Cummings's (D-Md.) March 1 letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone. Cummings reupped his January 23 request after the Times broke the news that Trump ordered career officials to give Jared Kushner a security clearance against their recommendation. 
  2.  Cummings, Foreign Affairs Chair Engel and Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Wash.) released letters to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting documents related to any communications related to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the letter to Mulvaney and Pompeo, the chairmen specifically request "notes pertaining to at least one meeting held with President Putin and directed at least one American interpreter not to discuss the substance of communications with President Putin with other federal officials.” 
  3. And the House Ways and Means Committee is in the process of preparing a request for Trump's tax returns. 

 

In the Media

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