Washington Brief: Trump Softens Tone in Congressional Speech

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Washington Brief

  • In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Donald Trump called for overhauling immigration laws, and he set parameters for repealing Obamacare (Morning Consult). Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear delivered the Democratic response, which focused squarely on health care. (The New York Times)
  • Trump won’t sign a revised travel ban that was expected today, according to administration officials, who did not say how long the delay would last. (Politico)
  • House Republicans blocked a Democratic effort to obtain information from the Justice Department on possible conflicts of interest or improper ties between Trump and Russia. (Bloomberg News)
  • Former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Trump’s pick to be director of national intelligence, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that Russia’s hacking and election meddling should be investigated. (Morning Consult)
  • Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez and deputy chairman, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, called for party unity and inclusion. After competing for the DNC’s top post, they now want to focus on a mutual enemy: Trump. (Morning Consult)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Brookings Institution event on the future of the European security order 9 a.m.
Former FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel speaks at Center for American Progress event 12 p.m.
No events scheduled
No events scheduled



Health Care Is Front and Center in Democrats’ Response to Trump Address
Jonathan Martin, The New York Times

In responding to President Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday, Democrats had to navigate between the expectations of their angry base in America’s cities and the need to appeal to a broader array of voters in parts of the country where the president is far more popular. The party handed that task to former Gov. Steven L. Beshear of Kentucky, an emblem of the sort of largely rural state that Democrats lost in last year’s presidential election.

Perez and Ellison Unite Against Common Enemy: Trump
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult

When Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, its deputy chairman, showed up on stage in Washington for the first time together since last weekend’s vote to lead the party, the message was abundantly clear: It’s time to unify.

Holder: Obama is ‘ready to roll’
Edward-Isaac Dovere, Politico 

Barack Obama is getting closer to making his public reappearance in politics, his friend and former Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday. Holder said he’s been talking to the former president about ways — including fundraising and interacting with state legislators — that could help the new National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which Obama asked Holder to chair last year.

Meet Donald Trump’s Propagandist
Veit Medick, Der Spiegel

Right-wing radio host Alex Jones is America’s top conspiracy theorist. He has millions of listeners, but his most powerful one happens to be the president of the United States.


In Joint Address, Trump Lays Down Markers for Immigration Talks
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult

President Donald Trump used his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday to pitch lawmakers on immigration reform, listing three main priorities any potential compromise should cover. “I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: To improve jobs and wages for Americans. To strengthen our nation’s security. And to restore respect for our laws,” Trump said.

How Trump’s disciplined speech came together
Josh Dawsey, Politico

President Donald Trump sat in the White House Map Room Tuesday with a coterie of advisers, a black Sharpie, stacks of paper and a teleprompter. Beside him much of the day — the 40th day of his presidency — were Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller. Other aides circled in, from Gary Cohn to Reince Priebus to Kellyanne Conway to Jared Kushner to Sean Spicer to Hope Hicks, suggesting language and offering advice.

Trump delays signing new travel ban order, officials say
Shane Goldmacher and Nahal Toosi, Politico

President Donald Trump won’t sign a revised travel ban on Wednesday as had been anticipated, two senior administration officials confirmed. One of the officials indicated that the delay was due to the busy news cycle, and that when Trump does sign the revised order, he wanted it to get plenty of attention.

Trump’s Trade Retreat Could Hurt Push for Labor Rights Abroad
Neil Gough, The New York Times

Do Thi Minh Hanh, a labor activist, had grown accustomed to being beaten, hospitalized and jailed for her work in a country where independent trade unions are banned. So it gave her hope for a reprieve when Vietnam reached a trade deal with the United States and other countries that called for its members to bolster workers’ rights and protect independent unions.

Is Nikki Haley Ready for War?
Richard Gowan, Politico

When Nikki Haley agreed to be President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, many pundits assumed that she saw a stint in New York as an opportunity to prepare for even higher offices. But if the ambitious former governor of South Carolina hoped that the U.N. would offer a relatively gentle introduction to international affairs, she must be profoundly disappointed.


Coats Questioned on Russia Hacking, Surveillance at Confirmation Hearing
Amir Nasr, Morning Consult

Director of National Intelligence nominee Dan Coats on Tuesday told the Senate Intelligence Committee that if confirmed he will cooperate with the panel’s investigation of Russia’s hacking of U.S. political institutions and the country’s potential ties to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the committee’s top Democrat, said that while he plans to support Coats’ nomination, he wanted a public commitment from Coats that he would “find and follow the truth, no matter where it leads” and that he would present the “unvarnished facts” regardless of whether it comports with the “views of the president.”

GOP hasn’t reached out to centrist Dem senators
Alexander Bolton, The Hill

Senate Republicans were expected at the start of the year to make a major effort to pick off red-state Democrats to support their legislative agenda, but two months into 2017, centrist Democrats say they aren’t being wooed at all. While President Trump has invited centrists such as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) to the White House, Senate Republican leaders have made almost no effort to court them on the president’s top priorities: healthcare and tax reform.

Rubio is asked to leave Tampa office over disruption from weekly protests
Tony Marrero, The Tampa Bay Times 

Vocal crowds of demonstrators making weekly visits to the Tampa office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio have gotten the Miami Republican booted from the building. The owner of Bridgeport Center, a gleaming, nine-story office center at 5201 Kennedy Blvd., has decided not to renew Rubio’s lease.

How the ultimate D.C. insider penetrated Trump’s White House
Burgess Everett and Josh Dawsey, Politico

Donald Trump railed against Establishment Washington in his presidential campaign. But now that he’s in the White House, it’s actually a pretty good time to be a Washington insider. Just ask Sen. Rob Portman.


GOP Blocks Democratic Gambit to Obtain DOJ File on Trump Ethics
Billy House, Bloomberg News

The House Judiciary Committee defeated a Democratic effort Tuesday to obtain any information the Justice Department has on possible conflicts, ethical violations or improper connections to Russia by President Donald Trump and his associates. The committee’s Republican chairman, Bob Goodlatte, opposed the resolution, even as he acknowledged the Justice Department hasn’t acted on his own request for a briefing on alleged Russian interference with the U.S. election and potential ties to the Trump campaign.

Freedom Caucus chief’s wife blasts Ryan on Obamacare repeal
Rachael Bade, Politico

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows’ wife is rallying North Carolina Republicans to sink Speaker Paul Ryan’s Obamacare replacement bill, telling activists in an email that “Ryancare” “will be wrapped around Republican’s necks.” In a Monday afternoon email, a copy of which was obtained by Politico, Debbie Meadows encouraged Republicans to call Ryan’s office and the White House to protest the House plan.

New Ways and Means Ranking Democrat Looks for Bipartisanship in Tax Overhaul
Alan K. Ota, Roll Call

Rep. Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts aims to counter conservative priorities of President Donald Trump, while seeking a few shared trophies as the new top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. An institutionalist who’s finally ascended to his party’s ranking seat on a committee after 28 years in the House, Neal turned 68 earlier this month and is in his 15th term representing Springfield and far western Massachusetts.

Cummings meeting with Trump is back on
Elana Schor, Politico

Rep. Elijah Cummings said Tuesday his meeting with President Donald Trump is on for next week — and will focus on, but not be limited to, the issue of prescription drug pricing. Cummings, the House oversight panel’s top Democrat, said he would “raise whatever [issues] I can” with Trump, “but the main thing will be prescription drugs. That’s what we agreed to talk about.”

Democrats Delight in Delaware Special Election
Nathan L. Gonzales, Roll Call

From the women’s marches to town hall protests, Democrats are starting to feel emboldened about their prospects in the midterms. A recent special election for the state Senate in Delaware only added to Democratic optimism, but the realities surrounding the race are more sobering.

Former U.S. Rep Jack Kingston joins CNN as political commentator
Savannah Morning News

Former Georgia Congressman and Donald Trump campaign surrogate Jack Kingston has officially joined CNN as a part-time political commentator. Kingston appeared regularly as a guest on the news network in the months leading up to and following the November election, defending conservatism and supporting candidate and President Trump.


Tim Ryan won’t run for Ohio governor
Henry J. Gomez, The Plain Dealer

Tim Ryan, whose national profile has risen in recent months, will not be a candidate for Ohio governor in 2018, Democrats who have been informed of his decision told cleveland.com Tuesday. The eight-term congressman wrestled with a run for months, weighing the risk of jumping into a potentially crowded and unpredictable primary against sticking with a safe House seat.

Hickenlooper wants to hear Trump talk jobs in congressional address
Ernest Luning, The Colorado Statesman

Gov. John Hickenlooper said he’s hoping President Donald Trump will focus on job-creation in his address to Congress Tuesday night in a brief interview with the hosts of MSNBC’s early morning talk show Morning Joe. “Most Democratic governors — I think all governors — are really focused on, in our states, good jobs, and how do we get good jobs, how do we make sure that one job will lead to another job and you can have a better career,” he said.


President’s Speech Leaves Executives Optimistic, Wanting More Details
John D. McKinnon, The Wall Street Journal

In the first five weeks of his presidency, Donald Trump has left business leaders with a sense of cautious optimism—they’re optimistic because they like his message on taxes, infrastructure and regulations, but cautious because so many details are left to be filled in. On Tuesday night, optimism appeared to gain ground. Business leaders cheered the positive tone in the president’s speech to a joint session of Congress, even as they acknowledged a continued lack of specificity in many areas, such as taxes.

A Message from the National Black Chamber of Commerce:

Did you know the Durbin Amendment has made big box retailers $42 billion in profit? These corporations promised they would pass on profits made from lower debit transaction fees to consumers. But they have not kept their word and in many cases are charging consumers more.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Trump Strikes a Better Tone. So What?
Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg View

Donald Trump finally gave a first-class nomination acceptance speech. Unfortunately, he’s running about eight months behind what he needs to be doing now.

Trump Makes His Pitch
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

Donald Trump’s challenge Tuesday night was to look like he was up to the Presidency after a rocky start and set a clear direction for Congress. He succeeded more on the former than the latter, and the test now will be whether he can corral a fractious Congress to deliver in particular on tax reform and health care.

Domesticated Trump
Rich Lowry, National Review

I agree with everyone that it was the best Trump speech yet. It’s been mystifying for a while why Trump wouldn’t just do a few simple things to sound a little more unifying and normal, and tonight he did them. He denounced bigotry, struck an optimistic tone, invoked the American story, associated himself with many sympathetic people in the balcony and ended by saying God created us equal.

The Enlightenment Project
David Brooks, The New York Times

Being around a college classroom can really expand your perspective. For example, last week we were finishing off a seminar in grand strategy when one of my Yale colleagues, Charles Hill, drew a diagram on the board that put today’s events in a sweeping historical perspective.

Is Trump Hate-Tweeting You? Find Out if It’s Really a Crisis
Issie Lapowsky, Wired

Big brands studiously seek to avoid politics, but few seem nimble enough to escape the President Trump vortex. The president sank Boeing shares with a single tweet and dissed Nordstrom for dropping his daughter’s brand, inspiring a Nordstrom boycott.

A Message from the National Black Chamber of Commerce:

Enactment of the Durbin Amendment has led to $42 billion in extra profit for giant retailers. These corporations said they would pass on the profits to consumers in the form of lower prices, but they’ve broken that promise, pocketed the money and in many cases are charging consumers even more.

Research Reports and Polling

7 in 10 Speech-Watchers Say Trump Boosted Optimism
Jennifer Agiesta, CNN

President Donald Trump’s first address to Congress received largely positive reviews from viewers, with 57% who tuned in saying they had a very positive reaction to the speech, according to a new CNN/ORC poll of speech-watchers. Nearly 7-in-10 who watched said the President’s proposed policies would move the country in the right direction and almost two-thirds said the president has the right priorities for the country.

How A Weakened Mexican Economy Could Threaten U.S. Security
Andrea Jones-Rooy, FiveThirtyEight 

President Trump has taken an aggressive stance towards Mexico, both during his campaign and in his early days in office. He has threatened to dismantle NAFTA, to build a border wall and to slap hefty tariffs on Mexican imports, all moves that could hobble Mexico’s economy.