TRUMP’S FIRST 100 DAYS with ABC’s RICK KLEIN and SHUSHANNAH WALSHE
Day No. 71
THE BIG STORY: “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it.” That statement by the attorney for President Trump’s former national security adviser raises a host of questions about what that story might be, and who might be affected by it. Flynn’s interest in an immunity deal – echoed, astoundingly, by President Trump on Twitter – could send the investigations by Congress and the FBI in unpredictable new directions. That could include a potential trip up the decision-making ladder – hello again, Mr. President. Flynn’s testimony would refocus scrutiny on the substance of Russia-Trump concerns, as opposed to the feeding frenzy around Rep. Devin Nunes and his secret White House meetings. Trump may be certain that Flynn won’t get immunity, or alternatively the president may find himself in a be-careful-what-you-tweet-for situation. In any event, with Vladimir Putin’s spokesman on “Good Morning America” seeming to acknowledge that Flynn could have talked sanctions with the Russian ambassador, the focus of the investigations that had looked narrow appears to now be quite broad again.
THE SLEEPER STORY: Two Democrats have now declared their intention to vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch to a seat on the Supreme Court. Neither was a huge surprise; Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp are both from deep red states, and are up for re-election next year. But will they be the last? Democrats can afford to lose only five more if they hope to sustain a filibuster, a sequence of events that will play out next week. The fretting about Gorsuch and the consequences of this fight – which appears almost certain to lead Republicans to go nuclear and blow up Senate rules – has some Democrats worried about whether they are on the right path and some Republicans looking for a compromise as well. “I’m very uncomfortable being part of a strategy that’s going to open up the Supreme Court to a complete change,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in leaked audio obtained by the Kansas City Star.
THE SHINY STORY: President Trump is at war – with everybody, it seems. He’s singling out individual members of the House Freedom Caucus for tweet attacks, which means he is going after the most Trumpian cohort of House members. According to Rep. Mark Sanford, the president had his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, personally deliver a threat to him last week: “The president asked me to look you square in the eyes and to say that he hoped that you voted ‘no’ on this bill so he could run [a primary challenger] against you in 2018,” Sanford quoted Mulvaney as telling him, according to the Post & Courier. This is startling stuff. But the adage gaining popularity on Capitol Hill these days is to pay no attention to what the president says and focus only on what he does. That might be the best strategy with his political threats, which seem at the moment not to be rooted in political strategy.
TLDR: Gen. Michael Flynn’s lawyer says his client has a story to tell, and he might yet tell it, if he winds up getting the immunity deal he’s looking for in the Russia investigations.
PHOTO OF THE DAY: This image shows Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking at the international Arctic forum in the Russian city of Arkhangelsk on Thursday. He was asked if Russia tried to meddle in the U.S. election and he called the accusations unfounded, mistakenly attributing to Ronald Reagan the famous “read my lips” quote by George H.W. Bush: “Some time ago, when Reagan was debating tax matters, he told the Americans, 'Read my lips - No',” Putin answered. (Credit: Grigoriy Sisoev/Sputnik via AP)
--ON GMA - KREMLIN SPOKESMAN: RUSSIA-US RELATIONS ‘MAYBE EVEN WORSE’ THAN COLD WAR: Russian President Vladimir Putin's right-hand man said in an interview today on ABC's "Good Morning America" that current relations between Russia and the United States are "maybe even worse" than the Cold War, notes ABC’s MORGAN WINSOR. http://abcn.ws/2nmE8hT WATCH: http://abcn.ws/2ooBMB2
--FLYNN IN TALKS TO TESTIFY BEFORE CONGRESS, SEEKING 'ASSURANCES AGAINST UNFAIR PROSECUTION': Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is in discussions to testify in the congressional investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and is seeking "assurances against unfair prosecution," Flynn's lawyer said in a statement. The news comes as the House and Senate intelligence committees investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and alleged contacts between the Trump campaign and possible Russian officials. "General Flynn has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit," said Flynn's lawyer, Robert Kelner. ABC’s STEPHANIE EBBS and JOHN PARKINSON have more: http://abcn.ws/2nByGJW
--HAPPENING TODAY - TRUMP EXPECTED TO SIGN TWO EXECUTIVE ORDERS ON TRADE: President Donald Trump is expected to sign two executive orders related to trade on Friday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and National Trade Council Peter Navarro said on a call with reporters Thursday night, ABC’s JORDYN PHELPS and STEPHANIE EBBS report. The first executive order will launch a wide-ranging review of the U.S. trade deficit with the purpose of identifying forms of "trade abuse" that have contributed to the deficit. Ross said the investigation will go through U.S. trade relationship country-by-country to look for issues like cheating, lax enforcement or currency misalignment. The second executive order seeks to strengthen anti-dumping rules and enforcement. Navarro called it an action to address the "long-festering problem" of anti-dumping and countervailing. http://abcn.ws/2nQPvCC
--WH INVITES INTEL COMMITTEE LEADERS TO REVIEW NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL DOCUMENTS: The White House has invited the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees to the White House to view documents discovered by National Security Council staff, press secretary Sean Spicer announced at Thursday's press briefing. "What I’m suggesting is that there has been information that has ... come to light and we want to make sure that the people who are conducting the review have the information, have access to it," Spicer said. When asked by ABC’s CECILIA VEGA whether the materials validate President Donald Trump's claim that he and his associates were wiretapped under order from former President Barack Obama, Spicer said he didn't know, ABC’s KATHERINE FAULDERS, JORDYN PHELPS and ALEXANDER MALLIN report: http://abcn.ws/2oigKac
TRUMP'S CAMPAIGN TACTICS, TROLLS STRENGTHENED RUSSIA'S ELECTION MEDDLING, EXPERT SAYS. During the Senate Intelligence Committee's open hearing Thursday, an expert on Russia pointed to President Donald Trump's tactics during the campaign and the widespread emergence of internet "trolls" and "bots" as the reason why Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was effective. "Part of the reason active measures have worked in this U.S. election is because the commander-in-chief has used Russian active measures at times against his opponents," said Clint Watts, a senior fellow for the Foreign Policy Research Institute Program on National Security and former FBI special agent, ABC’s ADAM KELSEY and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI note. http://abcn.ws/2nDE9BL
TRUMP CALLS OUT INDIVIDUALS WITHIN THE FREEDOM CAUCUS ON TWITTER. President Donald Trump took aim at the Freedom Caucus both as a group and by singling out individual members on Twitter Thursday, blaming them for the hold up on health care reform. The latest tweets came yesterday afternoon, when Trump singled out Reps. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho; Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina; and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who are all members of the Freedom Caucus, ABC’s MEGHAN KENEALLY, JOHN PARKINSON and BENJAMIN SIEGEL note. Members of the caucus largely dismissed Trump's thinly veiled threats to challenge their re-election efforts in 2018. "I mean, it's constructive in fifth grade," Rep. Justin Amash, R-Michigan, a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, sarcastically told reporters at the Capitol today when asked if Trump's pressure could reignite negotiations. http://abcn.ws/2nDxDL0
IVANKA TRUMP'S NEW WHITE HOUSE ROLE DOESN'T ELIMINATE ETHICS CONCERNS, EXPERTS SAY. Ivanka Trump made it official, announcing Wednesday that she will serve as an unpaid employee in the White House and will be "subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees," according to a statement from her. Ethics experts greeted the announcement with muted applause, telling ABC News that Trump was already effectively a government employee who should be subject to ethics rules. Formalizing her role is a positive step, they said, but it does not eliminate all ethics concerns. ABC’s LAUREN PEARLE has more: http://abcn.ws/2mTBAN0
TWO DEMOCRATS WILL VOTE TO CONFIRM SUPREME COURT NOMINEE NEIL GORSUCH. Two Democratic Senators announced they will vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the first Democrats who have declared support for his nomination, ABC’s STEPHANIE EBBS reports. Sens. Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota both released statements Thursday announcing their intentions to vote to approve Gorsuch. Few Democrats are expected to support his nomination and some have promised to filibuster when the vote reaches the floor. http://abcn.ws/2noMN4a
POWERHOUSE POLITICS - WH OFFICIAL SAYS TRUMP WILL HOLD CONGRESS 'ACCOUNTABLE' ON HEALTH CARE. Early Thursday morning, President Donald Trump began the day on Twitter, calling for his supporters to fight conservative members of his own party in the midterm elections. Marc Short, Trump’s director of legislative affairs, calls that “accountability,” ABC’s RILEY BEGGIN writes. “The president is going to hold accountable members that he finds stand in the way,” Short told ABC News' Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl on the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. “Whether or not that's people in the Freedom Caucus, or if that's people in the Tuesday Group, or also as you've seen, Democrats." http://abcn.ws/2nl8MIK
DEMOCRATS' STRATEGY ON HEALTH CARE: SHOULD THEY MAKE A DEAL WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP? Twice in the last two days, Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have sent letters to President Donald Trump laying out their terms for negotiating across the aisle on health care. Yesterday, they said they would only come to the table if the Republicans agreed they were no longer seeking to “repeal” President Obama’s signature health care law. Thursday, in a second letter, top Democrats from both the House and the Senate said the president needed to stop, in their opinion, actively work to undermine the current law. ABC’s MARYALICE PARKS has more: http://abcn.ws/2mU4Enp
TRUMP, FLYNN ONCE CRITICIZED CLINTON AIDES FOR SEEKING IMMUNITY. Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn has asked for "assurances against unfair prosecution" in investigations into Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, but both Flynn and Trump previously criticized Hillary Clinton's aides for asking for similar treatment during the campaign. Trump attacked Clinton's aides repeatedly on the campaign trail for seeking immunity in exchange for their testimony in the investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server while she was serving as secretary of state. "The reason they get immunity is because they did something wrong, if they didn’t do anything wrong, they don’t think in terms of immunity," he said at a rally in Wisconsin last September. ABC’s STEPHANIE EBBS has more: http://abcn.ws/2nQWFqG
'BATHROOM BILL' REPLACEMENT NOW GOES TO NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. North Carolina lawmakers approved a measure to repeal the state’s controversial “bathroom bill,” which critics have called the most anti-LGBT bill in the country. Legislators have been eager to roll back the year-old law, which is estimated to have already cost the Tar Heel State millions of dollars in lost business, including from the cancellation of major sports events. But LGBT activists have denounced the new legislation, which they say would still allow discrimination by leaving the state in charge of determining which public bathrooms transgender individuals can access and barring municipalities for several years from passing local laws to protect people from discrimination, ABC’s MORGAN WINSOR reports. http://abcn.ws/2nRWivX
GOP SENATOR CRITICIZES PAUL RYAN'S WARNING TO REPUBLICANS ON HEALTH CARE REFORM. Republican Sen. Bob Corker criticized House Speaker Paul Ryan for warning Republicans that if they don't pass health care reform, President Trump may work with Democrats on the issue. "We have come a long way in our country when the speaker of one party urges a president NOT to work with the other party to solve a problem," the senator from Tennessee tweeted today. Corker appeared to be responding to the speaker's comments in an interview that aired today on "CBS This Morning," in which Ryan said Republicans should support the GOP legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare or risk that the president could work with Democrats. http://abcn.ws/2ofq6DW
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX
CONSERVATIVE GROUP ANNOUNCE $1M BUY. The Judicial Crisis Network announced Thursday a $1 million TV and digital ad campaign, ahead of next week’s votes for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. The national ad features clips of Gorsuch during the hearings and calls for the Senate to give Gorsuch a fair up or down vote. State specific ads will air soon in Missouri, Indiana, Montana and Colorado. WATCH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erBmyCYLumw
@realDonaldTrump: Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!
@mitchellreports: Hearing @StateDept has sent 1st list 25 Ambassador nominations to White House for approval nomination of John Sullivan as DepSec expected
@JenniferJJacobs: NEW: 4 being considered to replace Katie Walsh as deputy chief of staff: Rick Dearborn, Marc Short, Sean Cairncross, Joe Hagin, I'm told.
@gdebenedetti: After two Dems broke for Gorsuch yesterday, Blumenthal this AM "cannot support...will work to block it using every tool at my disposal."
@agearan: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spends his first weeks isolated from an anxious bureaucracy: mine with @CMorelloWP https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/secretary-of-state-rex-tillerson-spends-his-first-weeks-isolated-from-an-anxious-bureaucracy/2017/03/30/bdf8ec86-155f-11e7-ada0-1489b735b3a3_story.html