Despite the fact that Trump told reporters he has had the best first 13 weeks of any president, Week 11 was …
The week began with Sean Spicer doubling down–quadrupling down?–on Trump’s wiretapping claim: “But I think more and more the substance that continues to come out on the record by individuals continues to point to exactly what the president was talking about that day.”
The Devin Nunes chapter of this saga may have reached its climax and conclusion this week. We learned that the National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, was conducting a review of ‘unmasking’ identities in intelligence reports that happened during the final months of the Obama Administration. He found out that Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice requested some names unmasked. APPARENTLY, this was the bombshell that Coehn-Watnick passed on to Nunes, the evidence that made Nunes jump out of his Uber and go to the White House, and then the following day pretend to brief the President on evidence already in his possession, which then allowed Trump to say his wiretapping claim was “partially vindicated.” While unmaking names in intelligence is routine, Rice denied compiling and leaking the names of Trump officials.
Then on Thursday, the House Ethics Committee said that Nunes’s stunt “may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information.” He promptly recused himself from the Russia investigation.
We also learned this week that the CIA had evidence of Russia aiding Trump earlier than previously understood. This in an important piece of the tic-tock that is being assembled to paint the full picture of what happened during the 2016 election.
The Washington Post paints an interesting picture of an increasingly lonely, isolated Trump who lacks true allies in Washington.
Trump donated some of his annual salary to the US Park Service, although not by enough to make up for the millions his budget cuts out from the same organization. The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump has revised the terms of his blind trust that allows him to withdraw money whenever he lives and without telling the public, which ethics experts say may pose conflicts of interest going forward.
Trump, at the request of National Security Advisor McMaster, removed Stephen Bannon from the National Security Council. Apparently he will still be allowed to attend meetings, which is still unprecedented for a political aide.
WaPo has a report on Bannon’s internecine office warfare with other White House staff, namely Kushner and Gary Cohn, whom he calls “Democrats.” While the first half of these 11 weeks have been marked by Bannon’s ascendence, by the end of Week 11 rumors were thick that he was about the be fired.
Health Care & Congress
There was a last minute shuffle on the American Health Care act this week (apparently requested by Preibus, who wanted even a symbolic win on health care before the Congress goes home for a two week recess). Politico reported that the push by Mike Pence failed because it was perceived by the GOP moderates and the Freedom Caucus that the White House was making different, even oppositional promises to the different groups.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House is taking the lead on tax reform legislation, not wanting to repeat the congressional bungling of health care. However, they do not have a consensus yet on how to proceed.
On Thursday, Mitch McConnel broke the Democrats filibuster of Gorsuch by abolishing the filibuster rule for Supreme Court judges. Here is a good op-ed by E.J. Dionne that explains why Democrats chose to filibuster Gorsuch.
The Trump administration’s views on Syria went on a roller coaster ride this week. Warning: Reading these three articles in order may cause whiplash.
Saturday (4/1): White House Accepts ‘Political Reality’ of Assad’s Grip on Power
Thursday (4/6): Trump ordered one of Assad’s airfield hit with tomahawk missiles.