Liveblogging the Trump presidency, one catastrophe at a time.
Okay, here we go, kids. We’ve got tense meetings with angry Russians, Obamacare back on the chopping block so Trump can get his tax cuts, Trump/Russia news and more happening today.
NEWS: Russian President Putin said yesterday that “Russia had information that the United States was planning to launch new missile strikes on Syria, and that there were plans to fake chemicals weapons attacks there.” (Reuters) This is Russia pushing their conspiracy theories about Syria to mess with people.
- NEWS: Meanwhile, in Russia, Putin and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson actually did meet today – there was some question about whether Putin would agree to even see Tillerson. Things had gotten pretty tense and unpleasant, with accusations flying back and forth over each country’s actions in and intentions towards the Syrian civil war/ISIS situation. Things are still tense and unpleasant and today’s meeting doesn’t seem to have smoothed any ruffled feathers. (New York Times, BBC, Politico)
- NEWS: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley blasted Russia for their support of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. (Politico)
- NEWS: “Russia blocked a Western effort at the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to condemn last week’s deadly gas attack in Syria and push Moscow’s ally President Bashar al-Assad to cooperate with international inquiries into the incident. It was the eighth time during Syria’s six-year-old civil war that Moscow has used its veto power on the Security Council to shield Assad’s government.” (Reuters)
- ANALYSIS: Syria is making life difficult for Putin. After Syria’s chemical attack and our reaction, and with Putin insisting on Assad’s innocence, it’s going to be pretty hard for the US and Russia to get along. (AP)
- ANALYSIS: “There’s something a bit funny going on today. The White House is simultaneously claiming that news of the Carter Page FISA warrant vindicates their claims about Obama administration surveillance while also insisting Page had virtually nothing to do with the campaign.” (TPM EdBlog)
- NEWS: Also, Paul Manafort’s firm in the US appears to have accepted 1.2 million in payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. This would be confirmation of the accusations leveled by a Ukrainian politician a month or so back, saying that Manafort had been paid to work against Ukrainian interests and get a Russia-friendly president elected there. (AP)
- NEWS: Democratic and Republican senators have gone over the intelligence Rep. Devin Nunes looked at, that kicked off his whole “mishandled intelligence” debacle a couple of weeks ago, and determined that Nunes and the Trump administration were wrong. The Obama administration wasn’t illegally wiretapping Trump prior to the campaign, as Trump has claimed. Susan Rice also doesn’t appear to have done anything wrong or illegal. (CNN)
- NEWS: Paul Manafort is (somewhat belatedly, I think) registering as a foreign agent with the US government, which is a standard sort of “Hey, I’m doing some work for foreign governments,” thing that should have been in place ages ago for him. The Podesta Group, run by Jim Podesta’s brother, is also registering as a foreign agent belatedly, since they worked for a think tank connected to the same bunch Manafort worked for when he was busy destabilizing the Ukrainian government on Putin’s behalf. The Podesta Group claims they didn’t know that the think tank they worked for was connected to the pro-Russian Ukrainian group. (AP, Politico) Reminder: Jim Podesta was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, and you’re going to hear a whole lot about this from the alt-righties as they scream that Hillary was working for the Russians, not Trump.
- NEWS: Trump did an interview with Fox Business Network this morning where he said he still had confidence in him, but that it wasn’t too late to fire him. (Washington Post, Politico) Trump firing Comey at this point would basically be him admitting he’d done something seriously illegal he didn’t want found out.
- NEWS: Roger Stone’s back, crazy as always, and claiming that Obama had a FISA wiretap on him, too. I mean, it’s not impossible, but Stone doesn’t have any evidence for it, and it’s been awhile since his name was in the news, so he might be getting antsy. (Politico)
NEWS: “A Jewish community center and a church within a mile of one another in Fairfax County were vandalized with swastikas and derogatory language, authorities said Tuesday.” (Washington Post)
NEWS: The Dept. of Education manages student loans, and they outsource collections calls and payment plan processing. During Obama’s presidency, he responded to an avalanche of complaints about the crap quality of the outsourced collections guys by instituting some rules and protections against the contractors’ crappy service, requiring them to stay up to a certain standard of communication and so forth. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos just rolled back those protections. (Washington Post)
ANALYSIS: “A federal court in Texas has again ruled the state’s 2011 voter identification law intentionally discriminated against minorities. It’s the latest loss in the case for Texas — which has spent years unsuccessfully defending the law. But it also has implications for the Trump administration.” (ProPublica)
EXPLAINER: Still confused about the whole House GOP lawsuit/Obamacare subsidies issue that making health insurers so nervous? Vox has explanations. Read them here.
NEWS: “As a top aide to Florida’s attorney general, Carlos G. Muniz helped defend the office’s decision to sit out legal action against Trump University. Now the president is naming him to be the top lawyer in the U.S. Education Department.” This Carlos Muniz guy is a real winner. He helped Pam Bondi get away with being bribed to keep Trump U out of court for fraud in Florida and protected Florida University from a lawsuit by a student who was sexually assaulted, where the school failed to investigate the assault. (Reuters)
OPINION/ANALYSIS: “Of all the reactions to President Donald Trump’s cruise missile strike on Thursday, the least convincing was the impulse by supporters such as Sen. Marco Rubio and John Bolton to label this a ‘decisive’ act. Hardly. In fact, Trump’s strike was reminiscent of the kind of low-risk cruise missile attacks that Bill Clinton favored against Sudan, Iraq, and Afghanistan — and that Republicans mocked for their symbolic, ineffectual nature. After 9/11, you’ll recall, President George W. Bush vowed, in a swipe at his predecessor, ‘When I take action, I’m not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It’s going to be decisive.'” (CFR/ForeignPolicy.com)
- ANALYSIS: “During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump summed up his approach to foreign policy this way: ‘We must as a nation be more unpredictable.’ But now that he is commander in chief, anxious allies say that unpredictability might be better described as incoherence — a dangerous tendency at a moment of high tension with Russia and Syria, and with U.S. warships heading toward the Korean Peninsula.” (Washington Post)
BACKGROUND: Trump wants to cut a big ol’ chunk out of our foreign aid budget (which is pretty tiny to start with). The Council on Foreign Relations explains what foreign aid is, how much we spend on it, and what we get for our money. Read it here.
NEWS: “The campaign in Syria to defeat the Islamic State is unchanged by the U.S. missile strikes against the Assad regime, which should not be seen as a prelude to U.S. participation in the Syrian civil war, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Tuesday.” (Politico) We’ve still got 3-4 different stories about our purpose in sending the missile strikes floating around out there. The Trump administration seems no closer to nailing down a foreign strategy yet.
NEWS: “A former ‘Apprentice’ contestant who is suing President Donald Trump for denying her claims that he kissed and groped her is disputing Trump’s assertion that he is immune from her defamation lawsuit while serving as president.” (Politico)
NEWS: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is calling for Sean Spicer to be fired after his escalating verbal clusterf*ck of a press conference yesterday. Pardon the French – I really am at a loss for how else to describe whatever it was Sean did to himself there. (TPM)
- EXPLAINER: After Spicer’s gawdawful performance yesterday, Vox has the background on the White House’s habit of Holocaust denial. Read it here.
NEWS: “Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) in a letter released Tuesday asked the Office of Special Counsel to review whether a senior White House staffer violated the Hatch Act by threatening on Twitter to primary a Republican congressman.” (TPM) The tweet in question:
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@DanScavino) April 1, 2017
ANALYSIS: There is one thing Trump’s good for: Democratic fundraising. Dems are making big money for their campaigns, and it appears as though they’re getting a lot of it from smaller individual donations instead of big corporate donations. (Washington Post)
QUOTE: “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.” – Donald Trump, yesterday, when asked if he still had confidence in Steve Bannon. (New York Post, Also: Politico, NPR)
NEWS: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has been making a lot of noise about ending net neutrality. Google, Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies sent their lobbying group in to have a word with him on that. (Recode)
NEWS: Trump has nominated John Sullivan, a former Justice Dept., Defense Dept. and Commerce Dept. official, for deputy Secretary of State. (AP)
NEWS: Trump’s working hard to get his promised nation-wide deportation force up and running. They’ve scrounged up more room in detention centers (a lot more room), are working on getting police departments to work with them on deportation enforcement, and are getting to work on building the border wall. Now they’re trying to speed up the hiring process for border patrol agents, including maybe getting rid of the physical fitness tests and polygraph testing. The only thing holding them back is the bill. Congress is getting grumpy about paying for all this stuff. (Washington Post)
NEWS: “Civil liberties groups on Wednesday said they were filing a series of lawsuits against the U.S. government seeking details on how federal agencies enforced President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.” (Reuters)
NEWS: “Almost 1,500 economists have addressed a letter to President Donald Trump and top congressional leaders stressing the importance of immigrants for economic growth.” (AP)
NEWS: “President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that his administration will not label China a currency manipulator, backing away from a vocal campaign promise, even as he said the dollar was “getting too strong” and would eventually hurt the U.S. economy.” (Reuters)
NEWS: The Trump administration is making noise about privatizing Medicare and/or Social Security again: “Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney—previously a House GOPer known for being a budget hawk—kept the door open for President Donald Trump approving of some kind of overhaul of Medicare or Social Security.” (TPM)
NEWS: Things are about to get very bad in the Justice Department. Back when Bush II was in office there was a big scandal in the Justice Department concerning the voting section in the Civil Rights act and politicized hiring and things got so bad career employees were quitting and ringing alarm bells and all sorts of terrible crap. Obama cleaned all that garbage up. And Trump’s about to start doing it all again. (TPM EdBlog, TPM, TPM 2007)
NEWS: Yesterday we found out that Betsy DeVos has a weird (and large and expensive) security detail. Well, Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, is getting the same thing. (TPM, TPM EdBlog) What the hell, people. Nobody threatens the EPA Administrator or the Education Secretary.
POLL: 66% of polled voters support last week’s Syrian air strikes. 63% of Americans say we should be doing more in Syria, but the only “further action” suggested that had wide support in the poll was tighter sanctions. (Politico)
NEWS: Trump hosted secretary general of NATO Jens Stoltenberg today. (NPR)
Looking for old Trumpster Fires? Look here.