Day 61: Monday was the craziest day of Trump’s presidency by a wide margin (no easy feat)

Donald Trump and the Republican party easily had the wildest day of their first two months in power yesterday. Frankly, it was likely the most volatile day for a president and party this millennium.

Monday was unprecedented in just about every way.

Here’s what happened.

Trump and his campaign team are being investigated by the FBI for conspiring with the Russians

The investigation is open, on-going and classified. The investigation of a sitting U.S. president. And his dealings with a foreign government. Who has been openly hostile to the U.S. Who the FBI knows attempted to hurt the U.S.’s democracy by interfering with elections.

We’ll use the word that nobody else seems to want to use.

The FBI is investigating Trump and his team for crimes up to and including treason.

The news feels somewhat muted since many reports in the last few months have seemed to indicate the FBI was investigating Trump. But to have the FBI director testify before Congress and confirm openly that they are investigating a sitting U.S. president for potentially conspiring with a foreign government is staggering.

FBI Director James Comey all but called Trump a liar.

The FBI director also dealt the president’s credibility a blow when he said he “has no information that supports” Trump’s allegation from two weeks ago that President Obama ordered surveillance of his communications in Trump Tower during the campaign.

Only courts grant permission for electronic surveillance, Comey told lawmakers, and “no individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone.”

Again, at this point, Trump’s allegations have seemed baseless to all but the farthest right-wing conspiracy nuts. But it is not normal for the FBI director to have to refute deranged tweets from the sitting president where he accused a former president of felonies.

Ordinarily, Supreme Court hearings are big news and closely watched. But with Comey and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers testifying before Congress yesterday, Gorsuch’s hearings barely registered a blip.

The tougher questions are likely to follow today, as the Democrats get their chance to ask about Roe v. Wade, Merrick Garland’s treatment, executive power, adherence to precedent, the Commerce Clause, the Establishment Clause, the 1st Amendment, the 10th Amendment and whatever else may make Gorsuch squirm.

Perhaps the fact that Gorsuch is a slam dunk to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate has staved off some interest in these hearings, but the fact is that he will control 1/9 of the highest body in the judicial branch of government for decades. His answers are not only noteworthy, they are hugely important to the future of a number of institutions that people take for granted.

Republicans have screamed “repeal and replace” about Obamacare for years. Now that the dog has caught the car, they’ve hastily drawn up a bill that is hated by Democrats, hardliner Republicans and some moderates alike.

Tens of millions of people will lose insurance coverage, Medicaid is gutted, the rich get tax cuts and insurance executives make out like bandits.

Republicans are having a hard time getting support for the bill that is set to be voted on Thursday. Trump is firmly in support of the bill and has a ton riding on its passage. He’s meeting with and pressuring rank-and-file Republicans to support it.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) changed some of the language in the bill, but some opponents to the bill, such as Justin Amash (R-MI), are still voting against it and think it’s destined to fail (in addition to it being a sham).

This is the biggest piece of legislation to come out of the Republicans in a decade. Many prominent GOPers have a lot riding on its passage and fingers will be pointed and dysfunction will abound if it fails to get out of the House.

As Reuters is reporting, the Trump team is diving further into the Russian waters while blowing off the U.S.’s NATO allies.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip a meeting with NATO foreign ministers next month in order to stay home for a visit by China’s president and will go to Russia later in April, U.S. officials said on Monday, disclosing an itinerary that allies may see as giving Moscow priority over them.

Tillerson intends to miss what would have been his first meeting of the 28 NATO allies on April 5–6 in Brussels so that he can attend President Donald Trump’s expected April 6–7 talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, four current and former U.S. officials said.

Skipping the NATO meeting and visiting Moscow could risk feeding a perception that Trump may be putting U.S. dealings with big powers first, while leaving waiting those smaller nations that depend on Washington for security, two former U.S. officials said.

Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY), the senior Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee, warned, “Donald Trump’s Administration is making a grave error that will shake the confidence of America’s most important alliance and feed the concern that this Administration simply too cozy with (Russian President) Vladimir Putin.”

The irony of the timing wasn’t lost on everyone, including Obama’s former Chief Strategist, David Axelrod.

Again, on any other day this would easily lead the news. Instead, it was largely an afterthought.

As if the Russia stuff was ridiculous enough, Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed that Paul Manafort — you know, the former campaign manager for Trump who has numerous ties to Russia and Eastern Europe (and was likely fired for those ties) — only had limited dealings with the Trump campaign.

For the record, Manafort was actually brought on in March, not June and oversaw the Trump campaign during the Republican National Convention. The attempt by Trump’s staff to distance themselves from someone who was inextricably tied to the campaign is woefully belated at this point and seems suspicious.

Spicer also attempted to distance Trump from campaign aide and fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn:

Asked at Monday’s press briefing if President Donald Trump stands by his earlier comments that he is not aware of any contacts between his campaign associates and Russia, Spicer acknowledged former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s previous relationship with the country, but described him as a “volunteer of the campaign.”

MSNBC pointed out just how delusional Spicer’s responses are.

Manafort was hired last year to help oversee Team Trump’s delegate-count operation, and soon after, Trump promoted him to the role of campaign chairman, the perch from which he effectively ran the entire campaign. (Manafort also reportedly helped out with personnel decisions during the transition.) To say the campaign chairman “played a very limited role” on the campaign is laughable.

The same is true of Flynn, who was obviously far more than just a campaign “volunteer.” The former general was a member of Trump’s inner circle; he played a prominent role at the Republican convention; and soon after the election, he was named White House National Security Advisor, which isn’t a role that goes to some random guy who had an unpaid gig on the campaign.

The other reason to take this seriously is what it tells us about the White House’s perspective. Team Trump wouldn’t argue publicly that Trump’s campaign chairman is an irrelevant, peripheral figure unless it were afraid of where the scandal is headed.

Despite Trump indicating that his daughter would have no formal role in the White House, it appears that just two months in, that isn’t true.

Ivanka will get an office and security clearances, despite the grey areas surrounding White House anti-nepotism laws, conflicts of interest and potential ethical considerations.

If this feels murky and uncomfortable, that’s because it is. There’s little precedent for such an arrangement. She’s unqualified for any such position and yet she’ll be given access to classified information. She’ll apparently have a substantial say in issues that affect American interests domestic and abroad despite her lack of experience.

The dessert at the end of the buffet of a day was in Louisville, Kentucky, where Trump had a rally … for some reason. Reelection, perhaps?

He talked about the health care law, general platitudes about making America great again, and basketball.

Trump flew from Mar-a-Lago in Florida to Washington D.C., only to to turn around and fly to Louisville so he could fly right back to Washington.

With all that’s going on in Washington, is chartering Air Force One around the country the best use of Trump’s time and tax dollars?

Monday, March 20, 2017 was an unprecedented day: The FBI confirmed that they were actively investigating a sitting U.S. president and his campaign team; the FBI openly refuted one of Trump’s conspiracy theories; a controversial SCOTUS nominee began confirmation hearings; a health care bill that is the most important Republican bill in a decade is on the ropes and being rewritten days before a vote; it was reported that the Secretary of State will meet with Russia next month instead of NATO allies; the Trump team distanced themselves from key members of their own team; Ivanka got a seat at the table under mysterious circumstances; and Trump tried to get reelected 46 months before a second term would start.


61 days in, 1401 to go

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