These guys sound serious

The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russia’s election meddling is so off the rails — crippled by the Lone Ranger antics of its chairman, Devin Nunes, and the furious Democratic reaction — that the contrast on the other side of Capitol Hill was all the more striking Wednesday.

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee — chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and vice chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) — put on a conspicuous show of a bipartisanship commitment to get at the truth as they discussed the work ahead, Newsday’s Tom Brune reports.

Asked if he could be impartial, Burr, who voted for and supported President Donald Trump, said his role in “one of the biggest investigations” he’s seen in more than 20 years in Congress requires putting his job as a senator above his party.

Said Warner: “I have confidence in Richard Burr that we together, with the members of our committee, are going to get to the bottom of this.”

Warner said the panel will focus on the central issue: “An outside foreign adversary effectively sought to hijack our most critical democratic process — the election of the president.”

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Take it or leave

Nunes (R-Calif.) brushed off Democrats’ demands that he step aside from running the Russian probe, saying “we’re going to do an investigation with or without them.” The panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), said he will meet with Nunes Thursday.

Neither Nunes nor Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer would answer who let him into the White House grounds last week, where he said he saw intelligence that members of the Trump transition team had shown up “incidentally” in surveillance of foreign subjects.

That gap in the story has fueled suspicions that someone on Trump’s side led Nunes to the reports to give cover to Trump’s wiretap claims.

With the House panel’s fractures, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) said, “I think we have to turn our eyes to the Senate.”

Take-away: Mercers to rescue

When the going gets tough, the Mercers write more checks. Bloomberg Politics reports that Making America Great — a nonprofit run by the influential top donor Rebekah Mercer — will launch ads in 10 states to shore up Trump’s position on pushing his agenda.

For the Democrats, small online donations are reportedly flowing even as Republicans hold all the major power centers in Washington. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.

Opioid abuse: A first step

Trump on Wednesday hosted an emotional roundtable discussion with survivors of opioid abuse, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo. Trump was also joined by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who will serve as liaison with local and state officials, medical experts and drug addicts, the president said.

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No other specific actions were announced, and Spicer later said Trump was taking a first step in engaging stakeholders.

Public health advocates have voiced worry about emerging policies that could cut spending for addiction treatment — including coverage that would have been lost under the failed Obamacare repeal — and a bigger emphasis on criminal prosecution by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Politico reported.

Ivanka’s job on the books

Trump’s daughter Ivanka is switching roles, from informal adviser to a government employee working in the White House West Wing.

She won’t be paid, but she will now be legally bound by ethics rules. Previously, she had said she would comply voluntarily.

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“I have been working closely and in good faith with the White House counsel and my personal counsel to address the unprecedented nature of my role,” she said in a statement.

Sliding down the poll

Trump’s approval slipped another point in the Gallup daily tracking poll, to 35%. A CBS News poll had him at a higher but still weak 40%.

But his support from Republicans remained strong, and few blamed him for the failure of the health care bill. The legislation tanked because it “just wasn’t popular,” according to 41% of Republicans and 49% of those surveyed overall.

The CBS poll also showed sharp division over whether the Russians meddled in the election to help Trump. Only 13% of Republicans believed that, while 67% of Democrats did.

‘Hello, Chuck’

It’s been a while since Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) spoke with each other or had anything good to say about each other. But Schumer was with a group of senators at the White House Tuesday night, and Trump acknowledged him.

How warmly? Compare Trump’s “Hello, Chuck” at the two-minute mark of this clip to this compilation of Jerry Seinfeld’s “Hello, Newman.”

What else is happening

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now shoulders much of the task of carrying out a Republican governing agenda, the Washington Post points out.​

  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said the Senate investigation into Russia’s meddling should include a thorough review of any financial ties between Russia and Trump. Wyden cited the “opacity” of Trump’s finances. The president has refused to release his tax returns.

  • Liberal ex-friends and associates have broken off relationships with Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, according to a Business Insider story. Kushner, unmoved, told one during a business-breakup call that campaigning with Trump “allowed him to exfoliate” people he once considered friends.
  • A federal judge in Hawaii extended his order blocking Trump's ban on travel from certain majority-Muslim nations.
  • Negotiations have broken off between the Kushner family’s real estate company, which owns a Manhattan office tower, and a Chinese company that is closely tied to the ruling Communist Party that considered investing billions of dollars in it, The New York Times reported.
  • The Trump Organization is actively seeking to open a second Washington hotel as part of a planned nationwide expansion, The Washington Post reported. It could create a new venue to profit from customers doing business in the nation’s capital.
  • Christie’s visit to the Trump White House came on the same day that two former top aides of the governor, Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, were sentenced to prison terms for their roles in the Bridgegate scandal.
  • The White House Counsel’s office is interviewing lawyers in their late 30s and early 40s for federal judgeships, Politico reported. Because they are lifetime appointments, placing younger candidates on the bench would ensure Trump’s influence on the federal court system for decades.