Day No. 63
THE SLEEPER STORY: He still thinks he’s right, about all of it, and everything. A new interview with Time’s Michael Scherer, conducted Wednesday as new information flowed in affecting the president’s wiretapping claims, provides remarkable insight into the mindset of President Trump. He doesn’t apologize for anything -- not for connecting Ted Cruz’s father to the J.F.K. assassination, not for his false claim of thousands of Muslims’ celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11, not for claiming illegal voters cost him the popular vote (he promises, again, that it will be looked into), and certainly not for claiming President Obama ordered him wiretapped. “That means I’m right,” Trump said, referring to information the House Intelligence chairman was presenting that didn’t actually show that he’s right. And how is he always right?: “I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right.” The president is citing his rally sizes – rallies held as president – as vindication: “The country believes me.” And, of course, there’s the fact that he won, justification in itself: “I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not.”
THE SHINY STORY: Since when does the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee provide updates to the president of the United States on surveillance conducted on his associates? Especially when that committee is investigating contacts involving the president’s associates? Chairman Devin Nunes’ bizarre day left the California Republican looking more like the campaign surrogate and adviser he once was than the independent oversight committee chairman that he now is. It also left – not coincidentally, surely – President Trump’s declaring himself “somewhat” vindicated by the information Nunes chose to deliver to him. “Beyond irregular,” the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said of Nunes’ actions. “This is not how you conduct an investigation.” Indeed, Nunes’ main accomplishment appears likely to be the undermining of the investigation he has been leading. His “new” information about surveillance of Trump associates reveals little new, nothing illegal and nothing that contradicts FBI Director James Comey’s statement that there’s no evidence to support the president’s tweets about wiretapping ordered by President Obama. What else is new? More prominent voices in both parties are now saying only an independent investigator or a special “select” committee can handle this inquiry.
TLDR: The health care vote is still scheduled for today, but the official count is still short with at least 30 Republicans saying they will oppose the legislation, enough to kill the bill.
--ANALYSIS: TRUMP'S DEAL-MAKING REPUTATION AT STAKE IN HEALTH CARE PUSH: President Trump has put it all on the line for Thursday’s health care vote. His position has gone beyond offering support for legislation offered by GOP House leaders. The measure has his stamp of approval, and the full force of his deal-making energy, given the public and private pressure he appears to be exerting. It’s a high-risk, high-reward venture for the author of “The Art of the Deal.” The president even turned to threats -- even if in jest -- to get his caucus on board, write ABC's RICK KLEIN and SHUSHANNAH WALSHE. http://abcn.ws/2o6OTFY
--HOUSE INTEL CHAIR SAYS TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM 'INCIDENTALLY' SURVEILLED, POTUS FEELS 'SOMEWHAT' VINDICATED: Donald Trump said he felt "somewhat" vindicated Wednesday after being briefed by the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-Calif. -- who said he had been given credible intelligence suggesting that the personal communications of members of Trump's transition team had been caught up in foreign intelligence surveillance after the election. “I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition," said Nunes earlier in the day. ABC's JUSTIN FISHEL, MARYALICE PARKS, DEVIN DWYER and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI have more: http://abcn.ws/2nTa1QI
--TOP DEM SAYS EVIDENCE 'MORE' THAN CIRCUMSTANTIAL IN RUSSIA PROBE: Democrats struck back at the revelation Wednesday that information about Trump campaign officials was "incidentally collected" during surveillance, with the party's top intelligence committee member alluding to growing evidence of a connection between the president's associates and Russia, write ABC's JUSTIN FISHEL, MARYALICE PARKS and ADAM KELSEY. “I don't to want go into specifics, but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial, and it is very much worthy of investigation," said Rep. Adam Schiff. "So, that is what we ought to do.” http://abcn.ws/2o6RnUX
SPEED READ with ABC’s ADAM KELSEY
REVIEWING EX-MANAGER PAUL MANAFORT'S RISE AND FALL IN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN. White House press secretary Sean Spicer walked back Wednesday his assertion that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time" during the election cycle, saying he “should have been more precise” in his characterization. "He was involved with the campaign in just under five months. Paul was hired to count delegates, that’s why he was brought in ... he did his job.” ABC's MEGHAN KENEALLY reviews Manafort's time with the campaign: http://abcn.ws/2mum8qu
TRUMP CONTINUES DEFENSE OF 'WIRETAP' CLAIMS THROUGH TWITTER. President Donald Trump continued his defense Wednesday evening of his unsubstantiated claim that he was "wiretapped" by former President Barack Obama in a series of retweets from his @realDonaldTrump account. In back-to-back posts, Trump retweeted conservative radio host Bill Mitchell who earlier tweeted about an assertion by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., that information about Trump associates was “incidentally collected” by the intelligence community. ABC's ADAM KELSEY has more: http://abcn.ws/2nf5BFL
NEIL GORSUCH EMOTIONAL ABOUT RIGHT-TO-DIE QUESTIONS IN CONFIRMATION HEARING. The right-to-die argument took center stage on the third day of Supreme Court confirmation hearings, prompting an emotional response from nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch. In 2006, Gorsuch wrote a book titled "The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia" about the ethical and legal debate surrounding the issues. In the book, Gorsuch said he opposed assisted suicide and euthanasia. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, broached the topic during her line of questioning, writes ABC's MARIAM KHAN. http://abcn.ws/2mV9g8W
CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS SAYS MEETING WITH TRUMP WAS A 'POSITIVE FIRST START.' Members of the Congressional Black Caucus went to the White House Wednesday for their first official meeting with President Donald Trump. The meeting, which comes five weeks after Trump asked a reporter at a press conference to help set up a discussion with the group, was organized primarily to discuss Trump’s new budget proposal, which Chairman Cedric Richmond, D-Louisiana, said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon would be “devastating” for the African-American community, reports ABC's RILEY BEGGIN. http://abcn.ws/2o6LlDI
NEW POLL FINDS DIPPING APPROVAL, HONESTY RATINGS FOR TRUMP. A public opinion poll released by Quinnipiac University Wednesday reported decreasing levels of approval for President Donald Trump in the midst of his battle over the new health care bill, continued insistence he was surveilled and a probe into Russian interference during the presidential election. Trump's approval rating fell slightly to 37 percent in the poll, compared to 41 percent just over two weeks ago when Quinnipiac released its March 7 results. ABC's ADAM KELSEY has more: http://abcn.ws/2nE2qs0
DONALD TRUMP JR. CRITICIZES LONDON MAYOR AFTER TERROR ATTACK. Donald Trump Jr. criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan after a terrorist attack in London Wednesday near the Houses of Parliament, referring to remarks Khan made in 2016. On Twitter, Trump wrote, "You have to be kidding me?!: Terror attacks are part of living in a big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan." Accompanying the tweet was a link to a September story by The Independent, which reprinted a quote from Khan in The Evening Standard, in which he said the threat of attacks is "part and parcel of living in a big city," notes ABC's JULIA JACOBO. http://abcn.ws/2nE2iZw
@DylanByers: TIME: "Is Truth Dead?” Trump interview with @michaelscherer : http://time.com/4710456/donald-trump-time-interview-truth-falsehood/ … Editor’s note: http://time.com/4710615/when-a-president-cant-be-taken-at-his-word/@meridithmcgraw: POTUS in @TIME continues w/ quotation defense: "wiretapping was in quotes. What I’m talking about is surveillance."
@saletan: Without consulting Schiff, Nunes told Trump about surveillance of him. This ends the House Intel committee's ability to investigate credibly
@jwpetersNYT: News: Kochs pledge 7-figure fund to back anyone who votes against AHCA. A direct challenge to Trump threat that dissenters will lose seats.
@realDonaldTrump: Spoke to U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May today to offer condolences on the terrorist attack in London. She is strong and doing very well.