Trump doesn’t carry torches
First -- and second, third, and so on -- he came to praise it:
“After seven horrible years of ObamaCare (skyrocketing premiums & deductibles, bad healthcare), this is finally your chance for a great plan!” President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday.
Mere hours later, he and House Speaker Paul Ryan came to bury it. Now Trump has cut short the mourning-after for a not-so-great plan.
“It’s not just about making deals,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday. “It’s knowing when to walk away from deals and knowing when there’s a bad deal, that’s the only solution.”
“I think he smartly recognized that what was on the table was not in keeping with the vision that he had,” Spicer added, as if trying to spread short-term memory loss by contagion.
Reality: It was about the votes, not the vision. Trump had to be persuaded by Ryan to call off the vote once its doom was certain. The president wanted the bill’s foes on record so he could take names and revenge.
What’s next: While the White House muses about a deal with Democrats, Ryan told GOP donors he’s going to “lay out the path forward” at a retreat later this week, The Washington Post reported.
A new low
Trump dropped to 36% approval — his worst rating so far — in a Gallup daily tracking poll.
Battered by probes of his Russia dealings, Trump cued supporters to turn and face the other way, back toward his Democratic opponent of last fall. Late Monday he tweeted messages that the Clintons had Russian ties that the House Intelligence Committee ought to investigate instead.
As part of the deflection effort, he helped advertise what was expected to be a Trump-friendly "Fox & Friends" segment involving ties between John Podesta, who served as Clinton campaign manager, and Russian business interests.
The take-away: No pall over Ryan
The health care bill defeat may not be as bad for House Speaker Paul Ryan as it initially looked, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
It was a belated wake-up call for Trump -- that the House Republicans, led by Ryan, won’t automatically do his bidding, and the hard-right House Freedom Caucus is tough to tame, even with threats from the White House.
Capitol Hill Cold War
Democrats say they’ve had it with House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) acting as a committee of one in pursuit of still-vague accusations that surveillance of foreign targets resulted in “incidental” collection of communications from the Trump transition team.
The ranking Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), called on Nunes late Monday to recuse himself from its Russia election-interference probe.
Nunes said Monday he had met with a source, described as an intelligence official, on the White House grounds. He later returned to the White House to brief Trump on his findings without clueing in the rest of the committee.
Schiff said Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, should step aside “in the interests of a fair and impartial investigation.”
See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
Kushner’s Russian meeting eyed
Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has agreed to testify before the Senate committee investigating suspected Russian interference in the election.
The development came as a Russian bank under Western economic sanctions over Russia’s incursion into Ukraine disclosed that its executives had met Kushner during the postelection transition. Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak -- a figure in several contacts with Trump’s team that have come under scrutiny -- arranged the sit-down.
Senate investigators want to ask if Kushner discussed ways to secure financing for a Manhattan office tower in his family’s real estate empire, The New York Times reported. He did not, a White House spokeswoman said.
The Trump administration has moved closer to a confrontation with so-called sanctuary cities that don’t fully cooperate with federal efforts to remove immigrants without documentation, Newsday’s Ngo and Laura Figueroa report.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department will “claw back” federal monies from such cities and states, whose officials should “consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio remained defiant, and state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said Trump does not have the constitutional authority to broadly cut off funding from cities “just because they have lawfully acted to protect immigrant families.”
What else is happening
- Trump signed four measures Monday to roll back Obama-era regulations. One now-eliminated Obama order required employers seeking government contracts to disclose labor law violations, including wage theft, unsafe working conditions and hiring discrimination.
- Billionaire investor Carl Icahn, serving as an outside Trump adviser on regulatory matters, would have saved more than $200 million last year if one proposal he is pushing was in place, The New York Times reported.
- The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico said in an editorial that Mexican companies expressing interest in working on Trump’s planned border wall are committing “treason against the homeland.”
- The sale of Trump’s childhood home in Jamaica Estates, Queens, auctioned in January, has closed for $2.14 million. The buyer is a real estate investor, Newsday’s Michael Gavin reports.
- Melania Trump is seldom seen, “a virtual shut-in” at Trump Tower since her husband moved into the White House. The Washington Post has an in-depth look at the current life of the “reclusive and elusive” first lady.
- Capitol Hill Republicans seeking insight into Trump’s strategy during health bill negotiations studied his 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal.” Some misread his posture as a result; others thought Trump went against his own tenets, CNN reported.
- The Trump administration was slow to react to the arrests of hundreds of anti-government demonstrators in Russia, but the State Department eventually issued a statement condemning the crackdown.