White House officials are welcoming the media buzz after President Trump personally attacked MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on Twitter early this morning morning. “At least you’re writing [about] this and not that we’re going to kill millions of people,” one White House official said, referencing the coverage of the Senate’s new health-care overhaul bill. Republicans have been under constant fire for the party’s attempts at repealing the Affordable Care Act. The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate bill released this week would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026. Some Republicans have lashed out at Trump for his latest Twitter rant.
Senator Mitch McConnell has allegedly informed President Trump and Republican senators over the past 24 hours that if the current Obamacare repeal fails this week, the GOP may lose all its leverage and be forced to work in cooperation with the Democrats. “If we fail, we’re going to be negotiating with Chuck Schumer,” one Republican staffer told Politico. Voters expect the GOP to deliver on the promise to repeal Obama’s trademark law, McConnell reportedly told the president in a phone call this week. Failing to repeal it, said McConnell, would mean Republicans lose the chance to do a significant rewrite of the measure—including scaling back Obamacare taxes, Medicaid spending, and a number of industry mandates.
Republican Senator Susan Collins disputed top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway’s assertion that the Senate health care bill does not cut Medicaid. “I respectfully disagree with her analysis,” Collins, a moderate, said on ABC’s This Week, adding that she has “serious concerns” about the legislation as written and wants to see the Congressional Budget Office’s official score. The bill would, over time, phase out the extra Medicaid funding that was allocated to states through the Affordable Care Act. “These are not cuts to Medicaid,” Conway said on This Week. “This slows the rate for the future and it allows governors more flexibility with Medicaid dollars because they're closest to the people in need.”
President Trump claimed in a tweet that the Russian leak of DNC documents in 2016 was a “hoax.” He posted: “...Why did Democratic National Committee turn down the DHS offer to protect against hacks (long prior to election). It’s all a big Dem HOAX! ...Why did the DNC REFUSE to turn over its Server to the FBI, and still hasn’t? It’s all a big Dem scam and excuse for losing the election!” DNC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson told CNN today that the Department of Homeland Security didn’t even reach out to the DNC until August of last year, after the hack had already been made public and the security gap fixed. “The DNC has and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement on Russia’s interference in our election,” Watson said. “The DNC has been in regular contact with the FBI for many months and the FBI confirmed the DNC has provided all the information it needed to make its assessment. The DNC was contacted by DHS months after the DNC worked closely with the FBI to remedy the intrusion. The DNC then provided DHS with detailed information about the intrusion.”
Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in the special congressional election runoff yesterday in Georgia. The campaign to replace Tom Price ended up being the most expensive House race in history. With most results in, Handel had 52.6 percent of the vote, compared to Ossoff’s 47.4 percent, according to CNN. Handel’s victory was seen as a major blow for Democrats, some of whom had poured $23 million into Ossoff’s campaign. Georgia’s 6th District has long been a Republican stronghold, but Democrats sought to secure the seat in a show of resistance to President Trump’s agenda. After conceding the election, Ossoff said that while Democrats didn’t get “the outcome any of us had hoped for,” the battle for the seat “is the beginning of something much bigger than us.”
One of President Trump’s lawyers has refuted reports the President is under investigation for obstruction of justice. Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump’s legal team, told NBC’s Meet the Press this morning that “the president is not under investigation by the special counsel.” He was commenting on a Washington Post report from last week that cited anonymous sources as saying special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating Trump for obstruction of justice during the ongoing Russia probe. Sekulow also disputed Trump’s Twitter comments from Friday, in which the president explicitly said, “I’m being investigated.”
In a reversal of his campaign promise and anti-immigrant rhetoric, President Trump will not deport so-called DREAMers, the undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children who were protected by the Obama administration. A statement released earlier today from the Department of Homeland Security indicated that while the Trump administration will not shield their undocumented parents, it will allow those in the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to remain in the country and renew their work permits every two years.
U.S. citizen Otto Warmbier has been released from imprisonment in North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced this morning. The University of Virginia student was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016 for alleged anti-state acts. Last year, he publicly confessed to stealing a North Korean propaganda banner. Tillerson said he secured the student's release at the behest of President Trump and that Warmbier is on his way back to the U.S. to reunite with his family. The State Department is currently in talks with North Korea about the release of three other detained Americans. In a likely unrelated story, Dennis Rodman arrived back in North Korea yesterday.
President Donald Trump has reportedly requested that his state visit to the United Kingdom be pushed back until he has more support among the British people. According to The Guardian, Trump relayed his concerns to Prime Minister Theresa May in a phone call, and the visit is “in effect...on hold for some time.” Trump’s reported request comes as the rift between the two countries has widened over Trump’s taunting of London mayor Sadiq Khan in the aftermath of a terror attack there last weekend. May invited Trump shortly after he was inaugurated in January. A spokeswoman for May pushed back on the report, saying “there is no change to those plans,” while the White House added: “The president has tremendous respect for Prime Minister May. That subject never came up on the call.”
“Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” former FBI Director James Comey said today to the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding conversations he had with the president about an ongoing investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Senator Dianne Feinstein had asked why Comey did not fight back when Trump brought up the investigation. Comey said acknowledged he should have reacted more strongly and that he would have, if he had been “stronger,” but that he was simply too stunned by the conversation itself. “Maybe if I did it again, I would do it better,” Comey said. “I hope I’ll never have another opportunity.” The testimony referenced a tweet Trump sent in May, in which he wrote, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
Earlier today, President Trump seemed to take credit for a feud between Gulf states in which four nations severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, alleging that the small country funds terror organizations. “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!” However, while in Riyadh for his foreign trip last month, Trump met with the emir of Qatar and said they had discussed the sale of “beautiful military equipment” to Qatar. Additionally, implicit in Trump taking credit for the diplomatic crisis is the suggestion that the U.S. now endorses the belief that Qatar is pro-terror—a comment certain to further rile tensions as Qatar is a U.S. ally and hosts the largest American military base in the Middle East.
President Donald Trump will not invoke executive privilege to block former FBI Director James Comey from testifying in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee later this week, the White House said today. “The President's power to assert executive privilege is well-established,” the White House said in a statement. “However, in order to facilitate a swift and thorough examination of the facts sought by the Senate Intelligence Committee, President Trump will not assert executive privilege regarding James Comey's scheduled testimony.” Trump would have been on shaky legal ground if he tried to block Comey from testifying, a committee source told The Daily Beast, in part due to his status as a former government employee as well as his desire to testify. There was no “realistic enforcement mechanism for Trump to take action against Comey offering testimony voluntarily,” the source said.
President Donald Trump today delayed a decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for at least another six months, a senior administration official said. “He doesn’t think the timing is right now,” the official said, explaining Trump’s decision to temporarily waive the law passed by Congress requiring the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, as Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush did before him. “The president’s view is that this is a hopeful time. He thinks peace is possible. The timing of this decision is meant to keep that momentum going,” the official said. “It’s a question on when and not if.” The deadline to renew the waiver was Thursday. Moving the embassy at some point in the future does not mean Trump is endorsing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the official said, speaking anonymously as a condition of briefing reporters. Israel calls Jerusalem its capital, but Palestinians want to make east Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state.