Day No. 61
TLDR: There were two bombshells out of FBI Director James Comey’s testimony Monday: There is no evidence that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower and there is an ongoing FBI investigation of possible connections between Russia and Trump associates.
--WHITE HOUSE DIGS IN ON TRUMP WIRETAPPING CLAIMS DESPITE COMEY TESTIMONY: The White House did not back down from Trump’s unsubstantiated wiretapping claims in Monday’s press briefing, despite testimony from FBI Director James Comey Monday morning that he has "no information that supports" the President's allegations. "We started a hearing. It is still ongoing," Spicer told reporters, saying "no" the President would not withdraw his the claims in his tweet asserting that former President Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower. ABC's JORDYN PHELPS has more: http://abcn.ws/2mmdme3
--REPUBLICANS PRAISE GORSUCH AS DEMOCRATS CAST DOUBT ON SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: President Trump's nominee to be the next U.S. Supreme Court justice is in the hot seat this morning on the second day of his confirmation hearings before a starkly partisan Senate Judiciary Committee. On Monday, after listening to more than three hours of prepared opening statements and remarks by the committee, Gorsuch testified on a message of unity and respect for the rule of law while paying homage to his mentors including the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom he could replace on the bench. ABC’s MARIAM KHAN has more: http://abcn.ws/2nNzVoS
SPEED READ with ABC’s ADAM KELSEY
TRUMP SIDESTEPS RUSSIA INQUIRY AT KENTUCKY RALLY. FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers testified before the House Intelligence Committee Monday about an issue long dismissed by President Donald Trump as a “ruse” and “fake news” concocted by his political adversaries: Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and alleged connections between Trump associates and the country. But hours after Comey and Rogers confirmed the existence of an investigation, the topic went completely unmentioned during Trump's speech at a campaign-style rally in Kentucky, writes ABC's ADAM KELSEY. http://abcn.ws/2nY5vj0
SECRETARY OF STATE TILLERSON TO SKIP NATO SUMMIT, TRAVEL TO RUSSIA IN APRIL. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will skip a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in April and later in the month travel to Russia for meetings and to a G7 summit in Italy, the U.S. State Dept. has confirmed.A State Dept. spokesperson said in a statement that acting deputy secretary Tom Shannon will attend the NATO meeting in Tillerson's place. The State Dept. also said that Tillerson is scheduled to meet several NATO ministers at a gathering of the Global Counter ISIS Coalition this Wednesday, ABC’s J.J. GALLAGHER and CONOR FINNEGAN write. http://abcn.ws/2mKvR7r
IVANKA TRUMP TO RECEIVE WHITE HOUSE OFFICE, SECURITY CLEARANCE. President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump will receive an office in the West Wing of the White House and a security clearance as she serves, informally, as an adviser to her father, ABC News has confirmed. Ivanka Trump will not be considered a federal employee and will not draw a salary, but will receive a government-issued communications device. Her clearance will allow her to receive classified information, ABC's JOHN SANTUCCI and ADAM KELSEY report. http://abcn.ws/2mOuTrl
NEIL GORSUCH CALLED ON TO REPRESENT ALL AMERICANS IN CONFIRMATION HEARING. Judge Neil Gorsuch testified at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing that while he is acutely aware of his imperfections as a federal judge, he has spent his career presiding over cases with open-mindedness and tolerance for different opinions with respect to the rule of law, ABC's AUDREY TAYLOR and MARIAM KHAN note. "Putting on a robe reminds us that it's time to lose our egos and open our minds," Gorsuch told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. http://abcn.ws/2mLxuSV
HOUSE REPUBLICANS INTRODUCE CHANGES TO HEALTH CARE LEGISLATION. House Republicans introduced a number of changes to their controversial health care legislation -- which has sparked criticism from both conservatives and liberals. The American Health Care Act, designed to repeal and replace Obamacare, featured a series of tax credits and was designed to give access to health care, ABC’s TOM LIDDY notes. According to GOP leadership, the amendment accelerates the repeal of Obamacare taxes, lowering the threshold for deducting medical expenses from taxes and only allowing federal tax credits to be used for health plans that do not cover abortions. It would also prevent new states from opting in to the expansion of Medicaid and increases funding for the disabled and elderly, the GOP leadership said. http://abcn.ws/2mOXHjG
SPICER: FORMER CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN HAD 'VERY LIMITED ROLE.' As the House Intelligence Committee pressed the directors of the FBI and NSA for details about the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was attempting to distance the administration from a former top aide with ties to the region, note ABC's JORDYN PHELPS and ADAM KELSEY. At Monday's press briefing, Spicer downplayed the role of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who directed the strategy behind election efforts for three months last year. http://abcn.ws/2mO6dzb
A LIST OF LAWMAKERS AND INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS QUESTIONING TRUMP'S WIRETAPPING CLAIMS. As of Monday, more than a dozen top lawmakers and intelligence officials have said that there is no evidence to support President Donald Trump's tweets alleging that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him at Trump Tower. The list now includes Monday's comments from FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, who said they'd seen no evidence to support the president's claims during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. ABC's RYAN STRUYK takes a look at what Washington's major players have said about the wiretapping allegations: http://abcn.ws/2nLeYex
WHAT US OPTIONS ARE 'ON THE TABLE' WITH NORTH KOREA? Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has signaled that the U.S. will take a more aggressive approach to North Korea's missile and nuclear program, including possibly through pre-emptive military action, ABC's LUIS MARTINEZ reports. "All options are on the table," particularly if North Korea continues making advances in its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons technologies, Tillerson said last week at a news conference in Seoul. "If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table," he added. http://abcn.ws/2n7S2I0
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX
AMERICAN BRIDGE CALLING FOR SCOTUS PAUSE: After Director James Comey’s testimony yesterday on Capitol Hill, American Bridge chairman David Brock is “calling on the U.S. Senate to hit the pause button on the Supreme Court nomination hearings until such time as the investigation is complete and its results known to the public and any perpetrators are brought to justice.” “We cannot place a justice on the Supreme Court, with so much hanging in the balance, in a cloud of presidential scandal regarding a potentially shocking undermining of our democratic system of government and treason by members of the Trump campaign. If the Judiciary Committee will not halt the hearings, Democrats should walk out and refuse further participation."
@MarisaKendall: Amid wave of scandals, @Uber plays for the hero for some drivers caught up in travel ban: http://bayareane.ws/2nszxyM @mercnews @EastBayTimes
@DavidWright_CNN: Grassley frustrated by Comey questions: "I thought you wanted to talk about the Gorsuch nomination. I'm prepared to talk about that." (CNN)
@Sarah_Boxer: .@morningmika: "Do they want the truth to prevail?" @BenSasse: "I don't understand what the White House is doing right now."
@mikedebonis: BIG: @RepMarkMeadows says @freedomcaucus WON'T take position against #AHCA. Green light for Trump to pick off HFC members.