-- Trump's first 100 days with SHUSHANNAH WALSHE and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI
Day No. 42
The big story: It’s Russia…again. Last night brought more threads connecting Trump associates and the Kremlin, but it was the bombshell Washington Post report that remains the big one this morning. Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the 2016 campaign when the then-Alabama senator was serving as a close adviser to the campaign. Sessions also did not disclose this information when he was questioned directly about contact with the Russians under oath during his confirmation hearing. At first, the outcry was just that Sessions could not oversee an independent investigation of the Russian influence into the election, but now Democrats are calling on Sessions to resign. Expect those calls to continue today. Sessions said clearly last night in a statement that he "never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” calling the allegation “false.” But again - Sessions met twice with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., a matter he did not disclose during his Senate confirmation hearing for attorney general. This new revelation is the latest Russia-related headache for the young Trump administration. Remember, last weekend, Republican Darrell Issa said it was time for an independent investigation. And today, House Oversight chair Jason Chaffetz tweeted that Sessions should “clarify his testimony and recuse himself. Will more Republicans add their name to the chorus today? How much longer can they resist?
The sleeper story: What’s going on with the plan to “repeal and replace” Obamacare? It was a critical part of the president’s address Tuesday, but there were few details. Yesterday, Senate Republicans were briefed on a current version, but it still seems House and Senate Republicans need to come together on the details. Senate Republicans remained mostly tightlipped leaving that meeting, another sign the sausage is still very much being made. A draft leaked last week was quickly criticized by conservatives. It's clear Republicans don’t want to take that chance again.
The shiny story: The Dow closed up 303 points yesterday, the first time it has hit the 21,000 mark. The president’s address this week may have been short on specifics, but with investors hoping for less regulation and tax cuts, it seems to have impacted this rally. Trump is taking credit for the milestone in a tweet this morning: "Since November 8th, Election Day, the Stock Market has posted $3.2 trillion in GAINS and consumer confidence is at a 15 year high. Jobs!” Despite the difficulties with the beginning of the president’s term, if there is job creation and investor confidence, this is something the president and his team can keep coming back to and rightly brag, even with those other issues—like Russia—continuing to mount.
TLDR: News broke last night that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. twice while he was involved with the Trump campaign, a matter he did not disclose under oath.
Photo of the day: In this photo from Jan. 20, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., questions then-Sen. Jeff Sessions during Sessions’ attorney general confirmation hearing. Franken had asked Sessions what he’ll do if there was evidence the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian governor. “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have – did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it,” Sessions replied. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)
--Sessions twice met with Russian ambassador in 2016 despite denial: Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with Russia's ambassador to the United States during the 2016 presidential election season, the Department of Justice confirmed, at a time when he was a close adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump. Sessions later did not disclose those discussions when questioned under oath during his confirmation hearing. The revelations, first reported by The Washington Post, sparked immediate calls for Sessions' resignation as well as fierce pushback from a White House official, who called them a "attack against the Trump administration by partisan Democrats." ABC’s PIERRE THOMAS and ADAM KELSEY have more. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/sessions-met-russian-ambassador-2016-denial/story?id=45846896
--Democrats calls for Sessions' resignation amid reports of contact with Russians: Some Democratic lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have called for Sessions to resign, while others for saying that he should at least recuse himself from overseeing any investigation as Attorney General into the question of alleged ties between Trump officials and Russians during and after the 2016 election. Pelosi's colleagues Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) have also called for resignation, as has Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). According to ABC’s TOM KUTSCH and KARMA ALLEN, Sessions said in a statement Wednesday night that "I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false." http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/democrats-call-sessions-resignation-amid-reports-contact-russians/story?id=45847098
--White House aides told to keep Russia-related materials: Lawyers for the Trump administration have instructed White House aides to preserve any material that could be connected to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and in other related investigations, ABC’s KATHERINE FAULDERS reports. "The White House is simply taking proactive steps to push back against these false and politically motivated attacks," an administration official told ABC News Wednesday. http://abcn.ws/2lWoNal
--Powerhouse Politics -- Former Democratic senator says across-the-board party opposition to Trump is 'thoughtless': To Democrats calling for a unified party of resistance to Donald Trump, former senator Joe Lieberman says “that is not a good strategy to follow.” Lieberman, who served as a Democratic senator from Connecticut and as a vice presidential candidate alongside Al Gore, said on this week’s episode of the “Powerhouse Politics” podcast that “reflexive resistance” from the party is “thoughtless.” “I hope the Democrats will get over that soon,” Lieberman said. ABC's RILEY BEGGIN has more: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/democratic-senator-board-party-opposition-trump-thoughtless/story?id=45843610
Speed read with ABC’s ADAM KELSEY
New Trump immigration order won't have blanket ban on Iraq, sources say. President Donald Trump’s new executive order on travel and immigration won’t include a blanket ban on citizens from Iraq, White House officials tell ABC News. The newly revised order, made to replace a prior order that limited travel and immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa, was expected Wednesday after a federal court judge temporarily halted the original order in early February. However, Wednesday came and passed without the order's signing, a delay that ABC News has learned was due in part to concerns expressed by members of Trump's own Cabinet. ABC's CECILIA VEGA, KATHERINE FAULDERS, JUSTIN FISHEL and LUIS MARTINEZ have more: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-immigration-order-blanket-ban-iraq-sources/story?id=45843647
House Intelligence Committee sets framework for Russian probe. The House Intelligence Committee formally outlined a framework Wednesday for its probe into Russian tampering in the 2016 election. The investigation will examine alleged communication between Moscow and the campaigns, as well as possible leaks by the intelligence community, according to an unclassified summary released by the committee, report ABC's ERIN DOOLEY and BENJAMIN SIEGEL. In January, then-President-elect Trump conceded that the Russians were likely behind the hacking that attempted to undermine his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton -- a conclusion the intelligence community reached last October. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/house-intelligence-committee-sets-framework-russian-probe/story?id=45846073
Inside the White House as President Trump prepped his speech before a joint session of Congress. President Trump's address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night has drawn praise from pundits and fans on social media being more presidential than other speeches he has given since taking office. There was a stark contrast between his congressional address -- during which he told Americans that the "time for trivial fighting is over" and asked them to "dream big" -- and his inaugural address 40 days earlier -- where he said that "American carnage stops right here" and talked about poverty, crimes, gangs and drugs, writes ABC's MEGHAN KENEALLY. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/inside-white-house-president-trump-prepped-speech-joint/story?id=45830015
Senators with Trump had stuck to honoring fallen Navy SEAL. Senators from both parties said President Trump should not have commented on the success of the January raid on Yemen during his address to Congress -- instead simply honoring the Navy SEAL who died during the mission, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens. During Trump’s Tuesday address to a joint session of Congress, the president said that Defense Secretary James Mattis “reconfirmed” that the operation “generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies," notes ABC's ALI ROGIN. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/senators-trump-stuck-honoring-fallen-navy-seal/story?id=45837608
Trump invited Navy SEAL widow Carryn Owens to joint address during January condolence call. The White House on Wednesday shared more details behind the surprise emotional highlight of President Trump's joint address to Congress -- the attendance of the widow of a fallen Navy SEAL, who died in a controversial January ground mission in Yemen. According to press secretary Sean Spicer, President Trump's decision to invite Carryn Owens and her children to his speech dated back to his call to her relaying his condolences following news her husband, Chief William "Ryan" Owens, was killed during the raid in Yemen. ABC's ALEXANDER MALLIN has more: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-invited-navy-seal-widow-carryn-owens-joint/story?id=45835763
Homeland Security to provide support to Jewish community following threats, vandalism. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it will be assisting law enforcement efforts to support Jewish community centers in the aftermath of threats and instances of vandalism committed against them in recent weeks. The announcement, in a press release from DHS Secretary John Kelly, notes that the department "is working closely with Jewish communities to advise and support on protective measures they can put in place to help keep people in their community safe," notes ABC's ADAM KELSEY. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/homeland-security-provide-support-jewish-community-threats-vandalism/story?id=45845329
White House: Conway 'inadvertently' promoted Ivanka Trump brand on Fox News. The White House has determined that Kellyanne Conway acted "inadvertently" and "without nefarious motive or intent" when she promoted Ivanka Trump's fashion line in an interview with Fox News last month, according to a White House letter to the Office of Government Ethics obtained by ABC News. In the Feb. 28 letter to OGE Director Walter Shaub, White House deputy counsel Stefan Passantino said he met with Conway about the incident and briefed her on federal employee ethics laws, report ABC's BENJAMIN SIEGEL and ALEXANDER MALLIN. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/white-house-conway-inadvertently-promoted-ivanka-trump-brand/story?id=45835702
What slashing the State Department budget by one-third would really mean. When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke to the State Department on his first day on the job, he sought to reassure America’s army of diplomats by praising their dedication and intelligence and asking them to “work as one team.” But he also promised some reforms that would challenge what he called “ineffective traditions,” and now, those changes could be even more dramatic than expected, writes ABC's CONOR FINNEGAN. The White House announced a 10 percent increase in military spending Monday that would add about $54 billion to the Pentagon’s budget -- paid for by historic cuts in non-defense spending. http://abcnews.go.com/International/slashing-state-department-budget/story?id=45841002
Republican congressman Steve King says Trump's base would abandon him for immigration reform. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, says Trump's “base would leave him almost immediately” were he to support immigration reform, as he hinted ahead of his first address to Congress Tuesday night, rather than stick to the tough stance he espoused during the campaign. During a lunch with television network anchors Tuesday, Trump said "the time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides." And a senior administration official said that the president would consider a pathway to citizenship for so-called "DREAMers," writes ABC's RILEY BEGGIN. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/republican-congressman-steve-king-trumps-base-abandon-immigration/story?id=45842582
In the Note's inbox
Anti-Ricketts ad buy: Progressive group Allied Progress is launching an ad push against Trump’s deputy commerce secretary nominee Todd Ricketts. The group has a full-page ad out in Politico and a digital buy. The ad features “a parody of what Ricketts’ LinkedIn profile could look like, lampooning the nominee by ultimately claiming, ‘almost anyone would be better qualified’ for the job.” A look at the ad: https://alliedprogress.org/linkedinricketts/
@JTHVerhovek: Of the 20's Senators on the Senate Armed Services Cmt. Sessions was the only one to meet w/ Russian amb. last year.
@AliABCNews: Team Franken responds to WH accusation that he is the leaker about Sessions allegations: "No he is not."
@MLevineReports: Taking a page from @mattzap: If folks start talking Sessions & perjury, worth noting this story from Clinton files: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/proved-perjury-charges-hillary-clinton/story?id=41451995
@JesseRodriguez: AG @jeffsessions tells @NBCNews this morning: "I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign" @Morning_Joe
@BraddJaffy: GOP House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy tells @Morning_Joe that “it'd be easier” if Jeff Sessions recused himself from Russia investigation
@ryangrim: Marco Rubio on Sessions news, on NPR: "It could call into question...whether there should be an independent counsel."