The Intelligence Drama Continues for Trump

The Senate Judiciary committee will convene its first day of hearings to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court on Monday. Since President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch to the seat in late January, the federal judge has pretty much sailed through the pre-hearing process, which consists of meeting with senators and being vetted by the media and liberal interest groups. He’s raised no red flags, earned positive coverage, and prompted the tamest (and lamest) of opposition research dumps.

Last week, I asked Kelly Ayotte, the former New Hampshire senator who has been working closely with Gorsuch to prepare for his confirmation, if we should expect a boring hearing this week. “I hope so!” she said. Republicans are almost entirely united in announcing their pre-hearing support for Gorsuch. Meanwhile, there seems to be little appetite among Senate Democrats for filibustering and denying him an up-or-down vote. In the crudest sense, Gorsuch’s ascension to the Court will be an ideological wash—a conservative originalist replacing Antonin Scalia, the original conservative originalist.

So expect everyone to be (mostly) on their best behavior. Democrats may try to cause friction by challenging Gorsuch to answer questions about the current and potential legal challenges to the policies of the president who nominated him. It’s not something the judge is unprepared for.

Trump’s Intel Drama Continues Unabated

Things could be a lot more interesting on the other side of Capitol Hill Monday, where FBI director James Comey and National Security Agency director Mike Rogers will testify before the House Intelligence committee. There’s the potential for real fireworks given the interwoven drama of the Trump administration’s alleged Russian ties and the president’s unproven accusation that President Barack Obama ordered wiretapping or some other kind of surveillance on the Trump campaign.

The drama was heightened late last week when White House press secretary Sean Spicer mentioned an unsubstantiated and outrageous claim by Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano that British intelligence may have been involved in tapping Trump or his campaign on behalf of Obama. The Brits quickly dismissed the claim after Spicer mentioned it from the White House podium, and Fox News clarified they could not verify nor stand behind Napolitano’s claim.

President Trump, however, did no such discounting. “We said nothing,” he said, when asked Friday at a joint press conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel about Spicer’s mentioning the claim. “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox. And so you shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox, okay?”

Meanwhile, On Health Care

All is well, says House speaker Paul Ryan, with the White House-backed Obamacare replacement proposal. Maybe Saturday’s Mar-a-Lago meeting between congressional conservatives like Ted Cruz and Mark Meadows with the president’s health-care team was enough to smooth over concerns about the American Health Care Act, which is expected to get a House floor vote this week.

It’s possible Vice President Mike Pence’s address to the Club for Growth over the weekend was the first step in getting conservatives on board with the plan. The free-market organization has been critical of the current approach to repealing Obamacare. “I know that there have been concerns expressed with the bill as it currently stands,” Pence told Club membersSaturday at their conference in Florida. “And just know that the president and I… and our entire administration are listening. We’re working with members of Congress to improve the bill and to make this bill even better than it already is.”

David McIntosh, the president of the Club and a former Indiana congressman (who was succeeded in the House by Pence), tells me he appreciated the vice president’s attendance. He also says he’s encouraged by some of the amendments to the House bill, particularly bigger proposed reforms to Medicaid. But McIntosh also noted it was “very clear” from Pence’s speech there is still no effort to create conditions for a more competitive health-insurance market.

“We want to get to a yes,” McIntosh said, when asked if he and the Club were closer to supporting the proposal. “We’re pleased with the changes that they’re making. It shows that they’re willing to make changes to the bill. But more needs to be done.”

Another Meeting With Rahm’s Brother

Is this what conservatives like McIntosh had in mind? On Monday Trump will have a meeting on health care at the White House with Pence, Ryan, Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, and a special guest: Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a doctor, Fox News contributor, so-called architect of Obamacare, and former senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress. Oh, and Dr. Emanuel is also the brother of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Monday’s meeting won’t be the first time Trump has spoken with Emanuel about health care. During the transition, Emanuel traveled to Trump Tower to discuss health-care policy. But since Republicans unveiled their repeal plan, he has been critical of the bill. This week on Fox News Sunday, Emanuel called it a “disaster.” Maybe that unconscious echo of Trump’s favorite term for Obamacare prompted the president to seek out Emanuel again for advice.

Song of the Day

“Maybellene,” Chuck Berry.

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard


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