The extraordinary move laid bare an escalating civil war among Republicans that’s been playing out since the decision by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to pull legislation intended to overhaul the Affordable Care Act.
The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017
Later in the day, Trump was on Twitter again, singling out three Freedom Caucus members and claiming that if they were to get on board with his agenda “we would have both great healthcare and massive tax cuts & reform.”
Many in the Freedom Caucus, which has about 32 members, were defiant in the wake of Trump’s tweets, with some suggesting his embrace of the GOP health-care bill showed Trump was now part of the Washington establishment he had campaigned against.
Ryan, meanwhile, said he understood why Trump is frustrated when it comes to dealing with the House — and said he has no plans to try again with a health-care bill anytime soon.
The refusal of Freedom Caucus members to vote for the health-care bill is a reflection of just part of Trump’s challenges on Capitol Hill, even though his party controls both chambers of Congress. If Trump goes too far in mollifying the conservative bloc, he risks alienating a like number of Republicans who represent districts that were either won or narrowly lost by last year’s Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.
That same dynamic could be in play over the coming month as lawmakers try to craft a spending package to keep the government open. And similar divides could imperil tax reform, another priority shared by Trump and House leaders.
THREE WHITE HOUSE AIDES HELPED NUNES
A new act unfolded Thursday in the drama over who helped House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes gain access to intelligence files at The White House: The Post reported that at least three senior White House officials, including the top lawyer for the National Security Council, were involved.
The White House role in the matter contradicts assertions by Nunes (R-Calif.) and adds to mounting concerns that he is collaborating with the Trump administration regarding his committee’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer continued Thursday to refuse to answer questions about the identities of those involved in unearthing the intelligence reports or arranging for Nunes to review them at the White House complex. Nunes has stayed silent on that subject as well, although at one point he said his source was not on the White House staff.
FLYNN SEEKS IMMUNITY TO TESTIFY ON RUSSIA
In another development related to the Russian meddling investigations, The Post reported that Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has offered to cooperate with congressional investigators in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
“General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, said in a statement Thursday night. “Out of respect for the committees, we will not comment right now on the details of discussions between counsel for General Flynn and the House and Senate intelligence committees, other than to confirm that those discussions have taken place.”
Among other things, both committee are looking into whether any Trump associates coordinated with Russian government in election meddling — a notion the Trump administration has said is “fake news.”
SCHUMER SIGNALS FILIBUSTER OF GORSUCH COMING
With a possible confirmation vote coming next week on Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday said not so fast.
The top Senate Democrat warned Thursday that it is unlikely Democrats and Republicans can reach a deal to avoid a bitter showdown over the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, a 49-year-old judge on the Denver-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit whose nomination has united GOP lawmakers behind Trump as nothing else so far this year.
Without a deal, Democrats are expected to filibuster the nomination. Such a move requires 60 votes to end, and Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate. That means they could turn to the so-called “nuclear option,” changing the Senate rules to allow Gorsuch to go through.