Washington Brief: Voters Divided Over Trump’s Firing of Comey

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is supported by more than six in 10 Republicans — twice as many from an April poll that asked if Comey should be dismissed. Overall, voters are split on the issue, according to a new poll. (Morning Consult)
  • Trump contradicted White House explanations for why he fired Comey, saying he had always planned to terminate the now former FBI director. White House officials have said Trump’s decision stemmed from a recommendation by top Justice Department officials, whereas Trump said he was going to dismiss Comey regardless. (The Associated Press)
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that he and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have invited Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to brief all senators on Comey’s firing. Rosenstein has yet to accept the invitation. (Politico)
  • The Senate voted 82-14 to confirm Robert Lighthizer to serve as the next U.S. trade representative. He was the last Cabinet-level nominee to be confirmed for the Trump administration. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Trump signed an executive order that seeks to strengthen digital infrastructure to defend the United States from cyberattacks. (Reuters)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Friday
Tom Perez, Michael S. Steele speak at Aspen Institute event 12 p.m.

 

General

Attorney General Sessions Revives Policy of Tougher Sentences for Drug Offenders
Beth Reinhard, The Wall Street Journal

In a move expected to swell federal prisons, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scuttling an Obama administration policy to avoid charging nonviolent, less-serious drug offenders with long, mandatory-minimum sentences. Mr. Sessions’ new guidelines revive a policy created under President George W. Bush that tasked federal prosecutors with charging “the most serious readily provable offense.”

U.S., China agree to first trade steps under 100-day plan
Ayesha Rascoe and Michael Martina, Reuters

The United States and China have agreed to take action by mid-July to increase access for U.S. financial firms and expand trade in beef and chicken among other steps as part of Washington’s drive to cut its trade deficit with Beijing. The deals are the first results of 100 days of trade talks that began last month, when a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping proved far more friendly than had been expected after last year’s U.S. presidential campaign, but the immediate impact was unclear.

For Trump Supporters, the Real Outrage Is the Left’s Uproar Over Comey
Jeremy W. Peters, The New York Times

The script should be familiar by now. President Trump takes action that stuns the country, eliciting indignation and disbelief from Democrats and leading them to conclude that the vitality of American democracy is under assault. Yet among those who are sympathetic to the president — a minority, to be sure, but somewhere around 40 percent of the country, according to recent polls — the outrage is that Mr. Trump is again being held to an unfair standard set by the very people and institutions that tried to stop his election in the first place: Democrats, resentful Republicans and, perhaps most of all, the news media.

Presidential

Trump contradicts White House on reasons for Comey firing
Julie Pace et al., The Associated Press

Contradicting previous White House explanations, President Donald Trump has declared he had planned to fire FBI Director James Comey all along, regardless of whether top Justice Department officials recommended the stunning step. His assertions came as Comey’s temporary replacement joined in, contradicting other administration statements on the snowballing controversy.

In a Private Dinner, Trump Demanded Loyalty. Comey Demurred.
Michael S. Schmidt, The New York Times

Only seven days after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president, James B. Comey has told associates, the F.B.I. director was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one dinner with the new commander in chief. The conversation that night in January, Mr. Comey now believes, was a harbinger of his downfall this week as head of the F.B.I., according to two people who have heard his account of the dinner.

White House: Removing Comey will help bring Russia investigation to end
Kevin Liptak, CNN 

The White House said Thursday that removing FBI Director James Comey from his post may hasten the agency’s investigation into Russian meddling. “We want this to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity,” said deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders, referring to the FBI’s probe into Moscow’s interference in last year’s election.

Trump signs order aimed at upgrading government cyber defenses
Dustin Volz, Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday to bolster the government’s cyber security and protect critical infrastructure from cyber attacks, marking his first significant action to address what he has called a top priority. The order seeks to improve the often-maligned network security of U.S. government agencies, from which foreign governments and other hackers have pilfered millions of personal records and other forms of sensitive data in recent years.

Trump Will Nominate A Member Of His DOJ Transition Team To Be DC’s US Attorney
Zoe Tillman, BuzzFeed News 

Jessie Liu, a former Justice Department official who served on President Trump’s DOJ transition team, will be the president’s nominee for US attorney in the District of Columbia, multiple sources familiar with the process tell BuzzFeed News. The US attorney’s office in Washington has long played a leading role in national security investigations and corruption cases against public officials and federal employees.

Donald Trump After Hours
Michael Scherer and Zeke J. Miller, Time

In a few minutes, President Donald Trump will release a new set of tweets, flooding social-media accounts with his unique brand of digital smelling salts—words that will jolt his supporters and provoke his adversaries. Nearly a dozen senior aides stand in the Oval Office, crowding behind couches or near door-length windows.

Senate

Rosenstein expected to brief all senators on Comey firing
Burgess Everett, Politico

Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer have invited Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to brief all 100 senators on President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, Schumer announced on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon. While Rosenstein has not yet explicitly agreed to the request, Schumer and congressional aides said they believe the briefing is likely to occur.

Senate Confirms Robert Lighthizer as Trump’s U.S. Trade Representative
Jacob M. Schlesinger and Natalie Andrews, The Wall Street Journal 

The Senate confirmed Robert Lighthizer to serve as U.S. trade representative, paving the way for the Trump administration to launch a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and accelerate more broadly plans to reorient American trade policy. While most of President Donald Trump’s nominees have cleared a divided Congress by narrow margins with mainly Republican support, Mr. Lighthizer on Thursday won significant backing from Democrats as well.

House

Outside money floods House special elections in Georgia and Montana
Fredreka Schouten, USA Today 

Political parties and independent groups have unleashed more than $20 million in federal races so far this year, in an early preview of the massive spending that will buffet the 2018 midterm contests for the House. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., tops the organizations active in early races.

City pays wife of influential Indiana congressman $20K a month for consulting
Brian Slodysko, The Associated Press

A burgeoning Indianapolis suburb has paid the wife of an influential congressman $580,000 since 2015 for legal consulting she largely does from the Washington area, an unusually large sum even in a state rife with highly paid government contractors, according to a review by The Associated Press. Jennifer Messer, the wife of Republican Rep. Luke Messer, makes $20,000 a month working as a contract attorney for Fishers, according to the AP’s review of public documents.

Western North Carolina Notices Meadows’ Newfound Notoriety
Lindsey McPherson, Roll Call

Rep. Mark Meadows has long been a household name in western North Carolina, but his newfound notoriety outside the 11th District has not gone unnoticed by those back home. “If you watch TV at all you know that our congressman is very much a mover and shaker in Washington, D.C.,” South Caldwell High School teacher Tony Crump said, as he introduced Meadows at a masonry competition Thursday for three area high schools.

States

Conservative House members kill more than 100 bills over “petty personal politics”
Morgan Smith, The Texas Tribune

The deep fractures in the Texas House GOP were on full display Thursday evening as lawmakers faced down a midnight deadline to pass bills out of the chamber. The night began with a group of Tea Party-aligned lawmakers announcing plans to use a procedural maneuver to kill more than 100 bills in retribution for what they called the “petty personal politics” of the Republican-controlled chamber.

Deep-dive into Florida gubernatorial candidate’s fundraising efforts
Scott Powers, SaintPetersBlog

The three Democrats and one Republican running so far for the 2018 Florida governor’s race are starting out with war chests built with big checks, from such sources as August A. Busch, George Soros, David King and Wayne Hogan, mainly cut to their independent political committees that have no limits. Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam leads the pack — by far — but had an enormous head start on the others.

Advocacy

Health care industry finds a more receptive Senate
Bob Herman, Axios

The Trump administration and House Republicans mostly ignored hospitals, doctors, some health insurers and other health care industry players in the push to pass the American Health Care Act. But now that the more moderate Senate is handling the potential Affordable Care Act repeal effort, some health care groups are finding a seat back at the table.

FBI raids office of Republican campaign consultant in Annapolis
Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

The FBI raided a Republican campaign consultant’s Annapolis office Thursday, leading Maryland Republican lawmakers to say they won’t work with the firm. Kelley Rogers, president of Strategic Campaign Group, said a half-dozen FBI agents arrived at his Main Street office at about 8:30 a.m. with a warrant to search and seize records.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Debit and credit cards make it far more convenient to buy the things you need and love, yet the Durbin amendment has put red tape on these purchases. Check out EPC’s new video to find out how this impacts you.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Executive Pen May Be Mighty But Congress Has The Sword
Colin Hanna, Morning Consult 

During the first 100 days of his new administration, President Donald Trump issued a host of executive orders, boldly delivering on his promise to roll back many government regulations which hampered businesses and delayed our nation’s economic recovery. The president rightly believes the regulations imposed on a variety of businesses offer no real measure of success.

The Trump-Russia Nexus
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

The acting director of the F.B.I., Andrew McCabe, told Congress on Thursday that President Trump’s firing of James Comey has not derailed the agency’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Which is good news.

Why James Comey Had to Go
Kimberley A. Strassel, The Wall Street Journal

Testifying last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, James Comey recalled a moment that should have held more significance for him than it did. At the height of the presidential campaign, President Obama’s attorney general, Loretta Lynch, had chosen to meet with Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac.

Trump seems to be staging a coverup. So what’s the crime?
Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post

Possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign was once little more than a conspiracy theory, but not anymore. The only way to make sense of this week’s stunning events is to conclude that there is something that President Trump desperately wants to hide.

So Trump Is Arming Kurds…Then What?
Gayle Tzemach, DefenseOne 

An overnight decision months in the making is now official U.S. policy: America will directly arm the Syrian Kurds. NATO ally Turkey may see Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists, but the Pentagon sees them as the most effective local force in the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS. Now they will have the weapons they need to push that fight into Raqqa.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Do you know how the Durbin amendment affects you? Customers haven’t seen lower prices as promised by big box retailers–but that’s not all. The Electronic Payments Coalition has a new video to explain this failed policy. Watch it now.

Research Reports and Polling

Considering the budget resolution in the Senate: Challenges and consequences of reform
Molly E. Reynolds, The Brookings Institution

In recent years, Congress has found it increasingly difficult to complete the first step of the congressional budget process: adopting a budget resolution. Since the creation of the modern budget process in 1974, Congress has failed to adopt a broad blueprint for revenue and spending in the form of a budget resolution ten times

Briefings

Washington Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

President Donald Trump defended his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., after it was revealed that in June 2016 he met with a Russian lawyer who has ties to the Kremlin. The meeting came after he was led to believe the lawyer would provide damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and that the information was part of the Russian government’s effort to assist his father’s presidential campaign. The meeting included a Russian-American lawyer who’s a former Russian intelligence officer

Washington Brief: Trump Says He Didn’t Learn of Son’s Meeting With Russian Lawyer Until This Week

President Donald Trump said he did not hear “until a couple of days ago” about a June 2016 meeting between his son, Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer who might have had damaging information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He also said he spent more than 20 minutes of his two-hour meeting last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin pressing him on election meddling.

Washington Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

The Supreme Court allowed part of President Donald Trump’s travel ban to take effect, while saying the temporary restrictions could not be imposed on people who have a “bona fide relationship” with a person or entity in the United States. Hawaii brought forth a legal challenge that asked a federal judge to clarify whether the Department of Homeland Security violated the Supreme Court’s instructions regarding which family members qualify as having bona fide relationships.

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