Washington Brief: Flynn Resigns From National Security Adviser Post

Washington Brief

  • Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser following revelations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about communications he had with Russian officials. President Donald Trump named Lt. Gen. Joseph K. Kellogg Jr. as acting national security adviser. (The New York Times)
  • By a vote of 53 to 47, the Senate confirmed Steven Mnuchin to be the next treasury secretary (The New York Times). The Senate unanimously confirmed David Shulkin to be secretary of veterans affairs. (The Associated Press)
  • The conservative House Freedom Caucus voted to take a hard line on Obamacare repeal, vowing to support a bill that would remove Medicaid expansion and repeal the individual and employer mandates. (The Huffington Post)
  • Members of the Congressional Hispanic Congress and other Democrats are scheduled to meet this afternoon with Thomas Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to discuss a recent wave of immigration raids. (Politico)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on judicial transparency, ethics 10 a.m.
House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on FEMA 10 a.m.
House Armed Services hearing on counterterrorism strategies 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on self-driving cars 10:15 a.m.
House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on defeating terrorism in Syria 2 p.m.
Heritage event on conservatism and populism 9 a.m.
Senate Foreign Relations hearing on modern slavery 10 a.m.
Sir John Jenkins at CAP event on Muslim Brotherhood 11 a.m.
Confirmation hearing for Andrew Puzder to lead Labor Dept. 10 a.m.
Confirmation hearing for Seema Verma to lead Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 10 a.m.
Confirmation hearing for David Friedman to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel 10 a.m.
No events scheduled



U.N., Trump denounce North Korea, but no sign of any action
Ned Parker and Ju-min Park, Reuters 

The U.N. Security Council denounced North Korea’s weekend missile launch, urging members to “redouble efforts” to enforce sanctions against the reclusive state, but gave no indications of any action it might take. Pyongyang’s test of the intermediate-range ballistic missile on Sunday was its first direct challenge to the international community since U.S. President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20.

Q&A: Tom Perez Makes His Case
Justin Miller, The American Prospect 

As labor secretary, Tom Perez turned the Labor Department from a backwater federal agency into a powerhouse player in advancing President Obama’s second-term agenda. Before that, he took a demoralized Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and brought it back to life.

The only way to get into America is through this 60,000 strong, pro-Trump armed force
Heather Timmons, Quartz

The chaos unleashed by Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order on immigration was swift and widespread, upending the lives of hundreds of travelers and their families, and threatening access to the US for tens of thousands more. It also created nothing less than a constitutional crisis at airports in some of the US’s largest cities.


Michael Flynn Resigns as National Security Adviser
Maggie Haberman et al., The New York Times 

Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, resigned on Monday night after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Mr. Flynn, who served in the job for less than a month, said he had given “incomplete information” regarding a telephone call he had with the ambassador in late December about American sanctions against Russia, weeks before President Trump’s inauguration.

Justice Department warned White House that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, officials say
Adam Entous et al., The Washington Post

The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said. The message, delivered by Sally Q. Yates and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel, was prompted by concerns that ­Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the Russian diplomat, had told Vice President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, the officials said.

Federal judge in Virginia issues strong rebuke of Trump travel ban
Rachel Weiner, The Washington Post 

A federal judge in Alexandria has issued a preliminary injunction against President Trump’s travel ban, dealing another blow to the White House attempt to bar residents of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. The executive order, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema concluded, probably violates the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of religion.

Trump vows to only tweak Canadian NAFTA provisions after Trudeau meeting
Robert Fife and Adrian Morrow, The Globe and Mail 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won personal assurances from President Donald Trump during an Oval Office meeting on Monday that the United States only wants to tweak the North American free-trade provisions that govern commerce with Canada. Mr. Trudeau steered clear of controversial subjects – refusing to criticize Mr. Trump’s ban on Syrian refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries – opting instead to win the President over by convincing him Canada can help his economic agenda.

Commerce Nominee Wilbur Ross Will Keep His Stake in Chinese-Government-Backed Company
Jean Eaglesham and Lisa Schwartz, The Wall Street Journal 

Wilbur Ross Jr. plans to keep millions of dollars invested in offshore entities whose values could be affected by policies that he implements as commerce secretary. Mr. Ross, the 79-year-old private-equity billionaire whom President Donald Trump has nominated to run the Commerce Department, has said that if he is confirmed, he will sell at least 80 business assets and investment funds over the next several months.

Trump turns Mar-A-Lago Club terrace into open-air situation room
David A. Fahrenthold, The Washington Post 

Richard DeAgazio was already seated for dinner, on the Mar-A-Lago Club’s terrace, when President Trump entered with the Prime Minister of Japan on Saturday night. The crowd — mostly paying members of Trump’s private oceanfront club in Palm Beach, Fla. — stood to applaud.


Steven Mnuchin Is Confirmed as Treasury Secretary
Alan Rappeport, The New York Times 

The Senate confirmed Steven T. Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker and Hollywood film financier, to be Treasury secretary on Monday, putting in place a key lieutenant to President Trump who will help drive the administration’s plans to overhaul the tax code, renegotiate trade deals around the world and remake financial regulations. By a vote of 53 to 47, the Senate confirmed Mr. Mnuchin, who was Mr. Trump’s top campaign fund-raiser.

Senate easily confirms Trump pick of Shulkin as VA secretary
Hope Yen, The Associated Press

The Senate on Monday easily confirmed physician David Shulkin to be secretary of Veterans Affairs, charged with delivering on President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to fix long-standing problems at the department. Senators voted 100-0 to approve the former Obama administration official, who was the VA’s top health official since 2015, in a rare show of bipartisanship amid partisan rancor over Trump’s other nominees.

Four key Republicans could vote against Puzder for labor secretary
Jonnelle Marte and Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post 

Andrew Puzder, the fast-food executive whom President Trump nominated to be labor secretary, emerged Monday as Democrats’ last, best hope of defeating one of Trump’s Cabinet choices as four key Republicans are on the fence about his nomination. The unenthusiastic reception from the Republican lawmakers comes after weeks of intense criticism from Democrats and liberal groups over workplace violations at Puzder’s restaurants Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., sexually suggestive ads featuring bikini-clad models eating burgers, and his opposition to wage regulations.

Oprah gives tape with Puzder abuse allegations to Senate
Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine, Politico 

Senators in both parties have viewed an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in which President Donald Trump’s Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder’s former wife leveled allegations of physical abuse against him, according to sources familiar with the matter. The decades-old video, which is not easily found, has been provided by the Oprah Winfrey Network, those sources said.

Senators Are Asking Questions About The Security Of Trump’s Personal Phone
Hamza Shaban, BuzzFeed News 

Is President Trump still using an insecure smartphone? If he’s been given a secure device for his personal use, is he actually using it? And what security measures are in place to protect his personal phone from intruders?

Political pincers tighten on Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake
Dan Nowicki, The Arizona Republic 

The political fusillade aimed at first-term Sen. Jeff Flake is intensifying after his vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as President Donald Trump’s education secretary. But there are also shots coming from other directions.


Conservatives Take A Hard Line On Obamacare Repeal, Putting GOP In A Bind
Matt Fuller, The Huffington Post

Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus voted among themselves Monday night to band together and support only an Obamacare repeal that is at least as aggressive as a bill the House and Senate passed in 2015, putting GOP leaders in a bind with their conference and perhaps even threatening the possibility of passing a repeal. The group of roughly 35 to 40 House conservatives voted to take this official position ― meaning it received the support of at least 80 percent of the members and is therefore supposed to be the position of all lawmakers in the group ― amid some GOP consternation that Republicans ought to focus more on repairing the law rather than repealing it, as well as amid heavy voter pressure in many districts to leave the law intact.

Hispanic lawmakers to meet with ICE official over raids
Heather Caygle, Politico 

Leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are meeting Tuesday with a top federal immigration official after a wave of raids targeting hundreds of undocumented immigrants in several states. Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), members of the caucus executive board and several other Democratic lawmakers will be present at the meeting with Thomas Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Key Republican Brady Won’t Demand to See Trump’s Tax Returns
Sahil Kapur, Bloomberg News

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady rejected a call by some Democrats to use his authority to demand to see President Donald Trump’s tax returns. Brady, a Texas Republican, said he disagreed with efforts led by Representative Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat, to reveal the president’s tax documents — at least in part so they could be reviewed for potential links to foreign nations.

House committee moves to block D.C.’s assisted-suicide law
Peter Jamison and Aaron C. Davis, The Washington Post 

In a rare step, a House committee voted 22 to 14 Monday night to block a law that would make assisted suicide legal in the District, opening a new front in the conflict between congressional Republicans and the overwhelmingly Democratic capital city. It was one of only a handful of times in the four-decade history of D.C. home rule that members of Congress have tried to use their constitutional power to overturn a city law, and the first attempt since the GOP took control of both Congress and the White House in January.

Former S.C. GOP chairman Chad Connelly running for Congress
Andy Shain, The Post and Courier 

Former S.C. GOP Party Chairman Chad Connelly announced Monday that he will run for the congressional seat being vacated by Mick Mulvaney, who is awaiting confirmation as President Donald Trump’s budget chief. “Washington is broken and I want to do my part to try and fix it,” Connelly said in a statement.


Governors of Red, Blue States Urge Trump to Back Wind, Solar
Joe Ryan, Bloomberg News 

A group of governors from both ends of the political spectrum are urging President Donald Trump to support renewable energy, saying the wind and solar industries are crucial economic engines for impoverished rural regions. The Governor’s Wind & Solar Energy Coalition is seeking increased federal funding to modernize local power grids and boost clean energy research, according to a letter submitted to the White House Monday.

A Spike in Overdose Emergency Calls Is Seen in Kentucky
Christine Hunter, The New York Times

The numbers were remarkable even for a city in Kentucky, which is one of the top five states in the nation for overdose deaths. In a span of 32 hours last week, emergency workers in Louisville responded to almost two calls per hour for overdose patients, the highest rate so far this year.

How hollow rhetoric and a broken child welfare system feed Texas’ sex-trafficking underworld
Morgan Smith et al., The Texas Tribune

Texas leaders have publicly battled sex trafficking for more than a decade, but they’ve devoted hardly any resources to helping victims. How the crusade against sex trafficking in Texas has left child victims behind.


The Rise and Fall of a K Street Renegade
Brody Mullins, The Wall Street Journal

Few outside Washington had ever heard of Evan Morris. Yet in the capital of wheeling and dealing, he was one of its most gifted operators.

Union Vote at Boeing Plant Tests Labor’s Sway Under Trump
Noam Scheiber and
Christopher Drew, The New York Times 

Boeing came to South Carolina more than seven years ago to establish a second assembly line for its 787 Dreamliner aircraft. At least part of the attraction, analysts said, was the area’s lightly unionized labor force — giving the company more leverage over the union at its main operations outside Seattle.

Yoga lobby fighting certification for teachers
Reid Wilson, The Hill

Under threat of rigid new restrictions, a coalition of yoga teachers and students is flexing its political muscles in state capitals across the country in hopes of clarifying sometimes opaque laws. In many states, regulators have said current law might require yoga instructors to register and fill out forms in order to receive formal certification.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

The Durbin amendment is a failed policy and a broken promise. The worst part? Consumers have gotten screwed, failing to see billions of dollars in savings as promised. It is time to call out the retailers and repeal this merchant markup. Learn more from the Electronic Payments Coalition.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Andy Puzder’s Grilling
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

President Trump’s early troubles are starting to affect his ability to govern—to wit, Democrats think they have a shot at defeating his nominee for Labor Secretary, Andy Puzder. The White House had better get all hands on deck lest it lose a nominee who knows the damage that the Obama labor agenda did to workers.

The Latest Voter-Fraud Lie
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

In a reality-based world, people bringing wild claims of widespread lawbreaking should carry the burden of proof. With voter fraud, it’s the opposite — fact-averse Republicans have for years been hawking the idea of large-scale voter fraud and then daring others to do the real work of proving them wrong.

A White House where no one is in charge
Michael Gerson, The Washington Post

In early January, House Speaker Paul Ryan met on the issue of tax reform with a delegation from the president-elect. Attending were future chief strategist and senior counselor Stephen K. Bannon, future chief of staff Reince Priebus, future senior adviser Jared Kushner, future counselor Kellyanne Conway and future senior policy adviser Stephen Miller.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

What is the Durbin amendment? Broken promises worth $42 billion to big box retailers. Learn about the merchant markup and how it is hurting consumers from the Electronic Payments Coalition.

Research Reports and Polling

Americans Say Trump Keeps Promises, Is Strong Leader
Frank Newport, Gallup 

Majorities of Americans believe President Donald Trump keeps his promises, is a strong and decisive leader, and can bring about changes the country needs. Trump scores worse on other characteristics and qualities: Less than half of Americans perceive him as honest and trustworthy, able to manage the government effectively, inspiring confidence and caring about the needs of people like themselves.