The Note: Trump in ‘sell mode’ on health care

The health care bill is a huge test for the president.

ByABC News
March 9, 2017, 7:56 AM

— -- Trump's first 100 days with ABC's RICK KLEIN and SHUSHANNAH WALSHE

Day No. 49

The big story: Enter Donald Trump -- charmer, negotiator, dealmaker. He’s been away for a while, obscured in a haze of tweets and rhetorical missiles, wrapped up in a blustery tone that exhibited little interest in legislative blather. But these are his roots, and this will now mark his future as president. The humble start to the sales job on health care reform, with quiet, private meetings where participants are invited to air their concerns, is a break not just from what we’ve seen of Trump, but what we’ve seen from the most recent presidents. It’s a huge test for the current president, and it’s one for which he chose the terms. Will conservatives come along – after their public show of opposition, and urging from the AARP and the American Medical Association to sink the bill? It’s still a risky thing to bet on but a tough thing to bet against, assuming the new White House tone survives the news cycle.

The sleeper story: As Capitol Hill waits on the Congressional Budget Office to “score” the new health care bill, the White House seems to be setting things ignore it. “If you're looking to the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday, citing the CBO’s original Obamacare numbers, which were later adjusted. “When they come out with this score, we need to understand their track record when it comes to health care.” This is the latest signal from the White House that it intends to sideline the CBO, which has operated as the independent arbiter of costs and impact for generations – hard facts, in an era of spin. The “alternative facts” presidency has broader implications than health care or the budget: job numbers, growth statistics, climate data – all affect policy decisions where a common set of facts is valuable, if not critical.

The shiny story: Now introducing President Trump’s pick to become the U.S. ambassador to Russia, the “disloyal” Jon Huntsman who “gave away our country to China!” Wednesday night came dinner with “Lyin’” Ted Cruz, a “very nasty guy” whom “you can’t make deals with,” not to mention what his wife looks like and what his dad may have done. That came after private meetings with “Lil’” Marco Rubio, plus Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham, both of whom have also been called “nasty,” and one of whom (Paul) reminded the president at one point of a “spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain.” All of those descriptions are drawn from debates, interviews and tweets from Trump when he was a candidate – h/t to ABC News’ Chris Donovan for the compilation – and none have been formally disavowed. The game could go on, of course. But does any of it matter? Trump has proven that name-calling matters just about not at all, to either him or those he called awful names. He’s relying on those he insulted, and nobody seems to care.

TLDR: The health care bill is a huge test for the president and it's time to bring out those deal-making and salesman skills we've heard so much about.

Photo of the day: Wednesday was International Women's Day and this statue, "Fearless Girl," popped up on Wall Street this week facing down that famous charging bull sculpture. The statue was installed by investment firm State Street Global Advisors to highlight efforts to get more women on corporate boards.

PHOTO: 'The Fearless Girl' statues stands across from the iconic Wall Street charging bull statue, March 8, 2017, in New York.
'The Fearless Girl' statues stands across from the iconic Wall Street charging bull statue, March 8, 2017, in New York.


--Former top spy chief: 'No evidence' Trump campaign aides recruited by Russia: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told ABC News he did not see anything to suggest that Russia successfully infiltrated Donald Trump’s presidential campaign or recruited any of Trump’s advisers – at least as of Jan. 20, when the retired three-star general left office. "There was no evidence whatsoever, at the time, of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians," Clapper, a career intelligence officer, told ABC News. The Clapper comments came amid a fight between the Trump administration and the FBI over the wiretapping claim the president made in a series of early morning tweets Saturday from his Palm Beach getaway, in which he accused former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. More from ABC’s BRIAN ROSS, JAMES GORDON MEEK and MATTHEW MOSK:

--ANALYSIS: President Trump preps for war with own base: We’ve seen him play the bully before. But how does the bully pulpit work, against his own base? That question now defines the stakes for the Trump presidency. President Trump’s decision to march into the battle over health care alongside House GOP leaders – with no clear path to a bill-signing ceremony – places Republican leadership in an uncomfortable alliance with the White House where their own rank-and-file members are the current enemy, writes ABC's RICK KLEIN.

--FBI investigating source of Wikileaks' purported CIA document dump: The FBI is investigating the source of documents published by WikiLeaks that purport to be from the CIA, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News. WikiLeaks published more than 8,000 pages of documents that it says are classified files from the CIA that purportedly reveal secrets about agency hacking tools used to break into computers, cellphones and smart TVs, ABC's JULIA JACOBO and JACK DATE note. In a statement released earlier Wednesday, the CIA said it had "no comment on the authenticity of the documents."

Speed read with ABC’s ADAM KELSEY

WH says Trump wasn't target of investigation, despite prior claims implying otherwise. The White House on Wednesday said that President Trump was not the target of any investigation, even though five days earlier he claimed in a series of tweets that he had indeed been the target of a wiretap initiated by former President Barack Obama. "There is no reason that we should -- that we have to think that the President is the target of any investigation whatsoever," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during his daily briefing with reporters, ABC’s TOM KUTSCH notes.

Senators seek Trump wiretap evidence from Justice Department, FBI. A pair of senators are working together from across the aisle to get to the bottom of President Donald Trump's explosive allegation that President Obama wiretapped the phones at Trump Tower during the 2016 election season. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., formally requested information from the Department of Justice and FBI Wednesday on any action taken to listen in on calls from Trump's New York home and offices. ABC's ALI ROGIN and ADAM KELSEY have more:

House Speaker Paul Ryan: 'No doubt' Republican health care plan will pass. Facing a conservative revolt within his party over the newly proposed repeal and replace health care plan, House Speaker Paul Ryan predicted today that the House Republicans' American Health Care Act unveiled Monday will pass into law. While it takes only 21 House Republicans to kill the bill or force leadership into changes, the Wisconsin Republican remained confident, write ABC's JOHN PARKINSON and MARY BRUCE. “I have no doubt we'll pass this because we're going to keep our promises,” Ryan said, adding every Republican from Congress to the president “made a promise to the American people."

The math behind repealing and replacing the ACA. Now that Republicans have rolled out their legislative plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican congressional leaders have not only begun to sell the bill, but also build the support required for its passage. ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON has more:

Spicer says 'massive difference' between CIA Wikileaks leak and Podesta email leak. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that even though Donald Trump praised WikiLeaks during the presidential campaign -- when it released troves of damaging emails from a key Hillary Clinton adviser -- he does not necessarily hold the same warm feelings for the anti-secrecy organization in light of the leaks of alleged CIA documents. WikiLeaks released documents early Tuesday that the group claimed were thousands of secret CIA files detailing the agency's arsenal of hacker tools, reports ABC's MEGHAN KENEALLY.

Spicer slams accuracy of nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer cast doubt Wednesday on a pending report from nonpartisan Congressional budget officials tasked with predicting the impact of the House GOP's new healthcare plan, writes ABC's RYAN STRUYK. "If you're looking to the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place," Spicer said, pointing to the Congressional Budget Office's 2010 reports on the Affordable Care Act. "They were way, way off last time in every aspect of how they scored and projected Obamacare."

Trump admin weighing cuts to Coast Guard, TSA to fund border wall. The Trump administration is considering cuts to the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, Secret Service and FEMA -- including cuts to several notable national security and emergency response initiatives -- to help fund the president’s border wall and deportation efforts, according to a draft budget blueprint obtained by ABC News. The proposal from the Office of Management and Budget, which is circulating on Capitol Hill and within the administration, outlines a $1.3 billion overall cut to the Coast Guard’s budget, reports ABC's BENJAMIN SIEGEL.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman accepts nomination of Russia ambassadorship. Former Governor of Utah Jon Huntsman has been offered the nomination of ambassador to Russia and he has accepted, ABC News has confirmed. Huntsman, a moderate Republican who was at times a vocal critic of President Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election, has previous diplomatic experience, having served as ambassador to Singapore in the early 1990s and to China from 2009 to 2011. His term as governor spanned 2005 to 2009. ABC's CECILIA VEGA, JONATHAN KARL and ADAM KELSEY have more:

Hawaii files first challenge to President Trump's revised travel ban. President Donald Trump’s new executive order prohibiting travel to the United States for nationals of six Muslim-majority countries is facing its first court challenge, though it almost certainly won’t be the last. Late on Tuesday, Douglas Chin, the attorney general of Hawaii, filed an amended complaint in the state's lawsuit against the first iteration of the travel ban so that it could challenge the legality of the second. “This second executive order is infected with the same legal problems as the first order,” the court filing states. ABC's JAMES HILL and LAUREN PEARLE have more:

In case you missed it

Hillary Clinton: Women's voices 'have never been more vital.' Hillary Clinton is slowly but surely returning to the spotlight. For the second day in a row, the former Democratic presidential nominee made a public appearance. On Wednesday night, she delivered brief remarks at the Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards in Washington, D.C. She founded the organization while she was first lady, and they honored her on their 20th anniversary) Dressed in red, the official color for International Women's Day, Clinton told the largely female audience that women's voices have "never been more vital" than right now, ABC’s LIZ KREUTZ reports.

In the Note's inbox

‘Save the Wage' campaign: Partnering with state-led efforts, the Fairness Project is launching its #SavetheWage (#STW) campaign to keep intact ballot initiatives passed in November to raise the minimum wage. This launch coincides with Arizona Supreme Court arguments happening today on the minimum wage increase. Efforts are underway in the legislature and courthouses of Maine and Washington State to do the same. More here on the new campaign:

Who's tweeting?

@tedcruz: Our family had dinner w the President & First Lady, who were warm & gracious. Catherine brought Joe--her kindergarten class stuffed giraffe!

@TomCottonAR: 1. House health-care bill can't pass Senate w/o major changes. To my friends in House: pause, start over. Get it right, don't get it fast.

@jdelreal: Scoop: Trump admin has considered $6+ billion in cuts to HUD, perhaps eliminating beloved community develpmt grants

@WaysandMeansGOP: AND THE AYE’S HAVE IT: @WaysandMeansGOP has acted to end Obamacare’s job-killing employer mandate. Again, all W&M Dems voted to keep it...

@Acosta: Trump to conservative leaders: If this plan fails, I'll blame Democrats -

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