Under the radar
“SEE YOU IN COURT,” President Donald Trump tweet-shouted on Feb. 9 after the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals refused to reinstate his first travel ban.
But legal minds persuaded Trump to pirouette away from a Supreme Court showdown and go back to the drawing board to come up with a narrowed plan with a better shot of withstanding constitutional scrutiny.
The attorneys general of at least six states say it still goes too far and will see the Trump administration’s lawyers in court.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office is asking a federal judge in Seattle to rule that an existing injunction against Trump’s earlier ban order applies to parallel portions of the president’s new directive, which he signed Monday. New York, Minnesota, Oregon, Massachusetts joined Ferguson’s effort, and Hawaii has filed its own suit.
“President Trump’s latest executive order is a Muslim ban by another name,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
The ban opponents are asking the courts to weigh in before it would take effect March 16.
That pause in implementation has averted the chaos that became the backdrop to the legal fight after the first ban was rushed through. Trump, who railed against the courts and a “so-called judge” during the first round, is so far keeping a lower profile while this one plays out.
Climate clash heats up
Scott Pruitt, the new EPA chief, challenged anew the extent of a human role in global warming. "Measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact," Pruitt said on CNBC Thursday. "So no, I would not agree it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see."
Which isn't to suggest that Trump & Co. are unconcerned about all that is green. With Trump in the White House, his golf courses are going great guns, report his sons.
Bullish on Obamacare repeal
Trump projected optimism Thursday about the prospects for passage of his bill to replace Obamacare, vowing a “beautiful picture” and downplaying pushback from the conservative wing of his party, Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports.
“Despite what you hear in the press, healthcare is coming along great. We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture!” Trump tweeted.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not say how drastically the president would be willing to alter the legislation to appease GOP critics.
“He believes that this bill encompasses the best of ideas and the best way forward,” Spicer said.
Democrats’ new role: Party of No
Capitol Hill Democrats said they have no inclination to help Republicans and Trump get the House GOP’s Obamacare repeal-and-replacement plan over the finish line, reports Newsday’s Tom Brune.
Democrats may be needed to offset Republican defections, and parts of the broader GOP health effort will require 60 votes in the Senate — eight more than the Republicans have.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said that if the measures reach the Senate, “At this point, I don’t see where there are enough amendments to fix this.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “This is really a tax cut for the rich, not a health care program,” Schumer said.
The take-away: No kidding
Trump’s insult-hurling during the campaign served him well — or didn’t hurt him enough to lose — but he is now trying to woo many of those he trashed to get his agenda through Congress, Newsday’s Dan Janison writes.
Among those he’s had over to the White House are former Republican primary opponents, Sens. Lindsay Graham (“stiff”) and (“Lyin’ ”) Ted Cruz. Will they forgive, forget and help Trump get what he wants?
Trickle-down at the border
The flow of illegal immigration from Mexico declined by 40 percent in February as measured by arrests and apprehensions at the border, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Though it’s too soon to draw sweeping conclusions, DHS Secretary John Kelly said Trump’s tougher enforcement policies — some yet to be implemented — appeared to be having a deterrent effect.
The slowing flow hasn’t changed Trump’s call for a wall, with cost estimates of $14 billion or more. Politico asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday if believes Mexico will cave to Trump’s demand to pay for it.
“Uh, no,” he replied.
Spicer as the Riddler
Spicer said on Wednesday that there is “no reason to believe” Trump is the subject of a Justice Department investigation. On Thursday, he added — and subtracted — clarity on that statement, acknowledging the White House had not actually heard that from Justice.
“The assurance I gave you ... was that I’m not aware, and that is 100 percent accurate,” he told a reporter at the daily briefing. “I don’t know how much clearer we can be on this,” he added.
A Justice official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The New York Times that the Justice Department has given the White House no such assurance.
What else is happening:
- Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said he hopes to invite Trump to Brentwood to see the impact of gang violence after MS-13 members were indicted in three killings there, Newsday’s David M. Schwartz reports.
- FBI Director James Comey met with senior lawmakers on Capitol Hill amid pressure on the Justice Department to either substantiate or debunk Trump’s claim that the Obama administration tapped his phones during the campaign, The Washington Post said.
- Trump isn’t alone in floating evidence-free charges. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) claimed as “absolutely true” an unverified story that the Russians had a tape of Trump with prostitutes in Moscow. She later walked it back.
- Vice President Mike Pence, in a Fox News interview, said new revelations that former Gen. Mike Flynn lobbied for Turkish interests while advising Trump’s campaign are an “affirmation” of the decision to oust him as national security adviser. Spicer said he doesn’t believe Trump knew about the lobbying.
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday that he sees “no legal problem whatsoever” with bringing new enemy combatants to Guantánamo. “There’s plenty of space,” he told radio host Hugh Hewitt.
- The Office of Government Ethics said the White House was undermining ethics standards by not disciplining Kellyanne Conway for plugging Ivanka Trump’s clothing line during an appearance on Fox News.
- Former President Bill Clinton said in a Brookings Institution speech: "People who claim to want the nation-state are actually trying to have a pan-national movement to institutionalize separatism and division within borders all over the world,”
- Trump appears ready to support a quicker rollback of Medicaid expansion than Obamacare called for.