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Washington Brief: Senate Intel Panel Subpoenas Flynn in Russia Probe

Washington Brief

  • Former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey had requested more resources for the FBI’s Russian investigation shortly before President Donald Trump fired him. Congressional probes have been relying, in part, on the FBI’s efforts, and the Senate Intelligence Committee stepped up its pace on Wednesday by issuing its first subpoena, to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. (The New York Times)
  • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked the Justice Department’s inspector general to expand its probe of the FBI’s pre-election actions to include Comey’s firing. (Politico)
  • GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) said they will vote against Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s nominee for U.S. trade representative, citing his “advocacy for protectionist shifts in our trade policies.” Lighthizer is still expected to be confirmed, with a Senate vote likely next week. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Two Texas Republicans – House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn – are working with the Trump administration to craft an immigration and border security bill. (CNN)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Thursday
Senate Intelligence Committee hearing with FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe 10 a.m.
Former Secretary of State Rice speaks at Brookings Institution 5:30 p.m.
Friday
Tom Perez, Michael S. Steele speak at Aspen Institute event 12 p.m.

 

General

Texas lawmakers working with Trump admin on immigration bill
Tal Kopan, CNN

Two top Republican lawmakers from Texas are quietly working on an immigration and border security bill, sources say, in what could be the first credible effort to deliver a legislative win on immigration policy under President Donald Trump. House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn have been working with input from GOP leadership and the Trump administration to craft the bill, according to multiple sources familiar with the work who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of ongoing discussions.

Comey’s Firing May Imperil Republicans’ Legislative Agenda
Carl Hulse, The New York Times 

President Trump’s stunning firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, injected another volatile ingredient into the partisanship already engulfing the capital and threatened to overwhelm Republican efforts to turn their government control into legislative success. The decision to replace Mr. Comey also increased the prospect of another contentious confirmation fight in the Senate as Mr. Trump promised to move quickly to replace the director, who had overseen the inquiry into Russian meddling in the election.

After Comey, Republicans worry about 2018 ‘wipeout’
Katie Glueck, McClatchy DC 

Former FBI Director James Comey has his share of Republican detractors, but senior GOP officials called his unceremonious firing by President Donald Trump nothing short of an optics disaster with potentially dramatic implications for the 2018 congressional contests. Comey has been leading the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties to Trump’s campaign, and he was abruptly fired on Tuesday.

Aetna Is Latest Health Insurer to Quit Obamacare Markets
Zachary Tracer, Bloomberg News

Aetna Inc. will leave the few remaining states where it had been selling Obamacare plans next year, making it the latest health insurer to pull out of the health law as Republicans attack the program as failing and work to dismantle it. While the move is likely to attract outsize political attention, the decision affects just Delaware and Nebraska.

Presidential

Days Before Firing, Comey Asked for More Resources for Russia Inquiry
Matthew Rosenberg and Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times 

Days before he was fired as F.B.I. director, James B. Comey asked the Justice Department for more prosecutors and other personnel to accelerate the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election. It was the first clear-cut evidence that Mr. Comey believed the bureau needed more resources to handle a sprawling and highly politicized counterintelligence investigation.

Comey’s Firing Came as Investigators Stepped Up Russia Probe
Shane Harris and Carol E. Lee, The Wall Street Journal 

In the weeks before President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, a federal investigation into potential collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government was heating up, as Mr. Comey became increasingly occupied with the probe. Mr. Comey started receiving daily instead of weekly updates on the investigation, beginning at least three weeks ago, according to people with knowledge of the matter and the progress of the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe.

How Trump’s anger and impatience prompted him to fire the FBI director
Philip Rucker et al., The Washington Post 

Every time FBI Director James B. Comey appeared in public, an ever-watchful President Trump grew increasingly agitated that the topic was the one that he was most desperate to avoid: Russia. Trump had long questioned Comey’s loyalty and judgment, and was infuriated by what he viewed as the director’s lack of action in recent weeks on leaks from within the federal government.

With Awkward Timing, Trump Meets Top Russian Official
David E. Sanger and Neil MacFarquhar, The New York Times 

What a day for President Trump’s first face-to-face meeting with a top Russian official. Only hours after dismissing James B. Comey as director of the F.B.I., amid an investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials, the president met with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, at the White House.

Senate

Comey Invited to Testify on Tuesday
Eric Garcia, Roll Call 

Former FBI Director James B. Comey has been invited to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee next Tuesday, a person familiar with the invitation confirmed. It wasn’t immediately clear whether it would be an open or closed session.

Senate Russia investigators ask Treasury for Trump team financial information
Tom LoBianco, CNN 

Senate Russia investigators have sent a request to the Treasury Department’s criminal investigation division for any information related to President Donald Trump, his top officials and his campaign aides, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee told CNN Tuesday. “We’ve made a request, to FinCEN in the Treasury Department, to make sure, not just for example vis-a-vis the President, but just overall our effort to try to follow the intel no matter where it leads,” Sen. Mark Warner told CNN.

Senate Work Slows Amid Comey Firing Fallout
Joe Williams, Roll Call 

Work in the Senate came to a slowdown on Wednesday in the fallout of the surprise firing of FBI Director James B. Comey. Senate Democrats invoked a two-hour rule that restricts the time and duration of committee meetings.

McCain, Sasse to Vote Against Trump Trade Nominee
Jacob M. Schlesinger, The Wall Street Journal 

President Donald Trump is facing the first open dissent from Republican lawmakers over his attempt to scrap the party’s longstanding free-trade policy, with two GOP senators announcing Wednesday they will vote against the confirmation of Mr. Trump’s trade representative. Arizona’s John McCain and Nebraska’s Ben Sasse released a joint letter saying they would oppose Robert Lighthizer when the Senate votes on his nomination for U.S. Trade Representative, likely next week.

Senate rejects repeal of Obama drilling rule
Timothy Cama and Devin Henry, The Hill 

Three Republicans joined Senate Democrats on Wednesday to reject an effort to overturn an Obama administration rule limiting methane emissions from oil and natural gas drilling. Only 49 senators voted to move forward with debate on legislation to undo the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule, short of the 51 votes needed.

House

Chaffetz requests DOJ IG expands probe to include Comey firing
Bianca Padró Ocasio, Politico 

Rep. Jason Chaffetz said Wednesday he’s asked a Department of Justice inspector general looking into the FBI’s behavior in the run-up to the 2016 election to expand its scope and include the firing of FBI Director James Comey. “I request that you expand the scope of your office’s ongoing review of allegations regarding certain actions by the Department of Justice and the FBI in advance of the 2016 election to include the facts and circumstances surrounding the removal of Director Comey,” Chaffetz wrote in a letter to Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Paul Ryan Calls Comey Firing A Presidential Decision
Rema Rahman, Roll Call 

After a day of saying nothing publicly about it, Speaker Paul D. Ryan is defending President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James B. Comey, saying it was entirely within the president’s authority. Ryan spent the first 24 hours after Comey’s termination keeping quiet on the matter despite several House and Senate Republicans expressing concern over the decision and its timing.

Georgia Sixth: Handel says Comey’s firing was ‘probably overdue’
Greg Bluestein, Atlanta Journal-Constitution  

Republican Karen Handel applauded President Donald Trump’s decision to abruptly fire the director of the FBI amid a criminal probe into whether his campaign colluded with the Russian government, saying in a statement Wednesday that James Comey’s ouster was “probably overdue.” Her support for the president’s stunning move to fire Comey came a day after her opponent in the 6th District runoff, Democrat Jon Ossoff, called for a special prosecutor to “investigate Russian interference” in last year’s vote.

At raucous town hall, Rep. Dave Brat struggles to speak above the jeers
Laura Vozzella, The Washington Post 

Hundreds of people booed, shouted and laughed derisively at Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) at his first town hall meeting since he voted with other House Republicans to dismantle parts of the Affordable Care Act. “Everybody asks for town halls so we can have civil discourse,” a frustrated Brat told more than 700 people at a suburban Richmond church on Tuesday night.

MacArthur faces angry crowds at town hall in Willingboro
David Levinsky, Burlington County Times 

Congressman Tom MacArthur defended the Republican health care bill he is credited with helping to revive and advance Wednesday night during a raucous town hall meeting that featured almost continuous booing and shouting from angry constituents. Standing in the center of a packed John F. Kennedy Center, MacArthur, R-3rd of Toms River, attempted to answer questions on the health care legislation, as well as President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI director James Comey and the status of the congressional investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.

States

Maine governor won’t run for Angus King’s Senate seat in 2018
Anna Giaritelli, Washington Examiner 

Gov. Paul LePage, R-Maine, will not run for the Senate seat of Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, in the 2018 election. An adviser revealed this in a statement released Wednesday evening.

Echoing Trump’s populist message, Jeff Johnson enters race for governor
Rachael E. Stassen-berger, Twin Cities Pioneer Press 

Republican Jeff Johnson is vying again for the seat Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton kept him from winning in 2014. The Hennepin County commissioner — who won 45 percent of the vote to Dayton’s 50 percent last time — hit a populist message announcing Wednesday morning that he will run for governor again in 2018.

Philip Murphy Leads Fund-Raising in New Jersey Governor’s Race
Nick Corasaniti, The New York Times 

As he muscled his way into the pole position in the New Jersey governor’s race, Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, has consumed a hefty part of his campaign’s considerable war chest, spending more than $18 million, $16.6 million more than his nearest competitor, according to financial disclosure reports released on Wednesday. Mr. Murphy’s latest report cemented his status as the fund-raising leader in the race.

Adam Putnam touts Florida exceptionalism as he starts his campaign for governor
Mitch Perry, SaintPetersBlog

With a setting out of a Norman Rockwell painting, Florida Agriculture Commissioner and fifth generation Floridian Adam Putnam formally announced his candidacy for governor on Wednesday morning before hundreds of adoring friends and supporters in his home town of Bartow in Polk County. Harkening back to an earlier era, Putnam said “some people say that this doesn’t happen anymore – flags flying, high school bands playing, prayer on the court house steps, World War II veterans and children shoulder to shoulder, generations coming together in common cause, people from all backgrounds in every corner of this place, united behind this movement.”

Laxalt dodges questions after affidavit alleging he attempted to persuade gaming regulator to assist Adelson
Michelle Rindels et al., The Nevada Independent 

Attorney General Adam Laxalt is dodging questions after an affidavit revealed urgent requests he made to the state’s top gaming regulator to intervene in a court case on behalf of his biggest campaign donor, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Laxalt, an unannounced Republican candidate for governor, did not answer questions from a Nevada Independent reporter as he left a meeting of the Governor’s Committee on Energy Choice in Las Vegas on Wednesday morning.

Advocacy

Goldman Sachs hires Trump campaign official as lobbyist
Josh Bowden, The Hill 

Global investment banking firm Goldman Sachs has hired a top official from President Trump’s winning 2016 campaign as a lobbyist for the Trump administration, according to a Politico report. David Urban, a longtime Republican operative, joined the campaign in April 2016 to help run operations in Pennsylvania, where Trump narrowly won.

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Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

An Open Letter to the Deputy Attorney General
The Editorial Board, The New York Times 

It’s rare that any single person has to bear as much responsibility for safeguarding American democracy as you find yourself carrying now. Even before President Trump’s shocking decision on Tuesday to fire the F.B.I. director, James Comey, a dark cloud of suspicion surrounded this president, and the very integrity of the electoral process that put him in office.

Rod Rosenstein’s Justice
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal 

Nixon. Watergate. Tuesday night massacre. Coup. Dictator. Impeachment. Those are the words political elites are throwing around after President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, and that’s in the news stories.

After Comey, Justice Must Be Served
Michael R. Bloomberg, Bloomberg View 

If President Donald Trump thinks he can fire his way out of the FBI’s investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, he is sorely mistaken — and attempting to do so makes him look weak and fearful, undermines the rule of law, and diminishes what little prospects there were for bipartisan legislation. Given Democrats’ frequent attacks on Trump and FBI Director James Comey, only Republicans have the credibility needed to contain the damage and save Trump from himself. Now they must show they have the backbone to do it.

Why did Trump really fire Comey? Only a special counsel can tell us.
Adam B. Schiff, The Washington Post 

In the wake of President Trump’s brazen interference with the independence of the FBI and the Justice Department, the country faces a crisis of confidence in the administration of justice not seen in more than four decades, and disturbing questions that demand immediate answers. The firing of FBI Director James B. Comey offers Trump the ability to appoint a new director more beholden to him and perhaps more malleable than Comey, especially as it pertains to the investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

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Research Reports and Polling

U.S. Voters Send Trump Approval To Near Record Low
Quinnipiac University 

American voters, who gave President Donald Trump a slight approval bump after the missile strike in Syria, today give him a near-record negative 36 – 58 percent job approval rating, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll. Critical are big losses among white voters with no college degree, white men and independent voters.