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Today in Trump: March 7, 2017

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Today in the Trump Administration

Rod Rosenstein dep AG says he’s “not in position” to make decision on special prosecutor yet

Ranking Judiciary Committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein told Rosenstein in the hearing that she wanted to see a special prosecutor appointed, arguing that it would be in the public interest.  When she asked him whether he would appoint a special prosecutor, he responded that Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch had been faced with a question on appointing a special prosecutor, and she rejected the request. She had confidence in the career attorneys at the Justice Department to look into the matter, he noted. Rosenstein also pointed out that the acting attorney general in the matter, Dana Boente. “He currently has full authority to appoint one,” and he has not. 

Asked whether that could be taken as a “no,” Rosenstein said that he’s “simply not in a position to make that decision.” He also said, however, that he doesn’t presume that Lynch and Boente are correct in not appointing a special counsel. If he were to determine they’re wrong, “I would overrule them,” he told the panel.

Jeff Sessions updates Senate testimony on Russian contacts

After Attorney General Jeff Sessions came under fire for not disclosing two election-season meetings with the Russian Ambassador -- a move that resulted in his recusal from investigations involving the Trump campaign and Russian contacts -- Sessions on Monday sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee to update his testimony.

As he said during a press conference last week, Sessions defended the answers he gave during his Senate confirmation hearing in January, saying he answered the question correctly, as he’d interpreted it.

What you need to know about appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Trump - q & a

Who’s calling for a special prosecutor, and why?

Congressional Democrats, mostly. And they want one because they don’t think the Trump administration is capable of investigating itself when it comes to President Trump’s ties to Russia.

“We need a special prosecutor totally independent of [Attorney General Jeff Sessions],” Elizabeth Warren tweeted last week, after it was revealed that Sessions had an undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador before the election. “We need a real, bipartisan, transparent investigation into Russia.”

Trump incorrectly claims 122 Gitmo detainees released under Obama returned to battlefield

President Trump incorrectly claimed Tuesday that 122 Guantanamo Bay detainees who were released under the Obama administration have returned to the battlefield.  

Jason Chaffetz says people have to choose between new iPhone and health care

In defending the new Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz suggested in an interview with CNN on Tuesday that lower-income Americans could face a choice between a new iPhone and their health-care insurance

Citing the Kaiser Foundation, host Alisyn Camerota had asked Chaffetz whether it worried him that fewer people would be covered under the Republican bill.

Nancy Pelosi blasts House GOP health plan, discusses wiretapping claim

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday blasted House Republicans’ plan to replace Obamacare that they rolled out Monday evening.

“Just when you’ve seen it all, the Republicans go to a more extreme place. This will make millions of people -- it’s a question of 10, 15, 20 million people off of having health insurance. It will be the biggest transfer of wealth from low-middle income people to wealthy people in our country,” the California Democrat said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.”

The measure would still include coverage for preexisting conditions and allow children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. Pelosi said that in order to cover preexisting conditions, you have to have a pool of people.

Fact-checking Trump linking 2013 Exxon plan to his policies to grow jobs

President Donald Trump is again citing corporate investments planned before he took office as evidence that his policies are growing jobs and business.

“We are already winning again, America!” he tweeted Monday after Exxon Mobil announced the latest details of an expansion initiative that actually began in 2013. “Buy American & hire American are the principals at the core of my agenda, which is: JOBS, JOBS, JOBS,” he said in another tweet thanking Exxon Mobil for the announcement.

It’s the latest in a string of corporate announcements about jobs and investments that date back to plans companies largely made when Barack Obama was president.

National security adviser

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster testifies before Sen. Armed Services Committee for reappointment to his rank, in order to serve as national security adviser, 9:30 a.m.

Supreme Court

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch meets with Sen. Al Franken, 4:30 p.m. Frankin will hold a media availability at 5 p.m.

DNI

Senate Intelligence holds closed meeting to vote on confirmation of former Sen. Dan Coats to be director of National Intelligence, 2 p.m.

Ukraine

Tillerson meets with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin at the State Department, 11:15 a.m.

First State Department briefing

Today marks the first State Department briefing of the Trump administration -- Mark Toner will brief at 2 p.m.

What you missed yesterday

Trump’s new travel ban executive order removes Iraq from list of banned countries

President Trump signed a new executive order Monday that will impose a 90-day ban on the issuance of new visas to people from six predominantly Muslim nations and will suspend the U.S. refugee program for all countries for 120 days, a senior Department of Homeland Security official said Monday.

Unlike the original executive order from Jan. 27 that now sits in legal limbo, Iraq is the one country excluded from the 90-day ban, the official said, because the Iraqi government has made “firm commitments” to the U.S. to work toward increased cooperation in terms of information-sharing.

The revised order will not indefinitely block Syrian refugees from the U.S., as the original ban had directed, and the 120-day halt to the refugee program will apply to all countries. Like the original order, the administration is lowering the previous administration’s cap for refugees admitted to the U.S. from 110,000 to 50,000 for the current fiscal year.

House Republicans unveil plan for health care overhaul

House Republicans have released their long-awaited bill dismantling much of former President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. The measure would roll back the government’s health care role and is expected to result in fewer people having insurance coverage.
       
House committees planned votes on the legislation Wednesday. That will launch perhaps the year’s defining battle in Congress, and GOP success is by no means assured because of internal divisions.

The plan would repeal the law’s fines on people who don’t purchase health insurance. Instead of the statute’s income-based premium subsidies, people would get tax credits based on age. The subsidies would phase out for higher-earning people.

McCain, Graham ask Trump for evidence of wiretapping claims

Republican Senators are asking for evidence of President Trump’s assertion that former President Obama had ordered the wiretapping of Trump tower. “I think the President should tell the American people what evidence he has that indicates his predecessor wiretapped Trump Tower,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told reporters on Monday evening.

“It was a very serious charge and one that needs corroboration,” noted McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“If it’s true it’s earth-shattering,” commented Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). When asked if Mr. Trump’s claims were a distraction, he responded, “it’s not a distraction as much as it is unnerving if it’s true.”

DHS says 300 refugees are being investigated by FBI for terror ties

During the announcement of the new travel ban executive order, Attorney General Jeff Sessions attempted to make the case for the pause in allowing refugees into the U.S. with a statement warning of the potential national security danger they pose.

“[M]ore than 300 people who came here as refugees are under FBI investigation for potential terrorism-related activities,” Sessions said Monday morning. He also said that those who are “seeking to support or commit terrorist attacks here will try to enter through our refugee program.”   

The line also appears in the text of the executive order: “The Attorney General has reported to me that more than 300 persons who entered the United States as refugees are currently the subjects of counterterrorism investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Trump offers to maintain Planned Parenthood funding if it halts abortions

President Donald Trump has offered to maintain federal funding for Planned Parenthood if the group stops providing abortions. Its president spurned the proposal and noted that federal money already is not allowed to be used for abortion. 

Trump confirmed Monday there had been discussions after The New York Times inquired about what it described as an informal proposal. 

In a statement, Mr. Trump said polling shows most Americans oppose public funding for abortion. 

Trump’s new travel ban executive order is unveiled

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions unveiled the new travel ban executive order Monday morning. There are a number of things that are different in this version of the travel ban

Tillerson told reporters that after the signing of the first order, there was an intensive review of Iraq’s vetting policies, and as a result, the two countries would implement “multiple security measures” to help prevent people with “criminal or terroristic intent” from reaching the U.S.

Kelly pointed out that nothing in the new executive order affects “existing, lawful permanent residents or persons with current authorization to enter our homeland.”

FISA expert breaks down Trump’s wiretap accusation against Obama

President Trump on Saturday accused former President Obama of wiretapping his phones at Trump Tower during the election. The unsubstantiated and unprecedented claim is raising eyebrows.

Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), hundreds of warrants are issued each year to allow eavesdropping on a “foreign power or agent of a foreign power.” But according to the Justice Department, the president cannot order a wiretap if the surveillance involves “communication to which a U.S. person is a party.”

Poll: Two-thirds of Americans want special prosecutor for Trump-Russia investigation

Two-thirds of Americans believe a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate potential ties between Trump campaign aides and Russia, according to a new poll out Monday.

In the poll, from CNN/ORC, 65 percent of those surveyed said they thought an independent special prosecutor should handle the investigation, compared with 32 percent who said Congress is capable of looking into the allegations against the president and his top aides.

These numbers come the week after reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, a revelation that resulted in Sessions recusing himself from future investigations involving the Trump campaign.

DOJ asked by FBI to reject Trump’s wiretapping accusation

On Saturday, senior FBI officials called Justice Department officials and asked that they publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that then-President Obama ordered the wiretapping of then-candidate Trump’s phones, CBS News’ Jeff Pegues reported, citing law enforcement sources.

The message to the Justice Department came from FBI Director James Comey, who disputed the claim because it falsely suggests that the FBI broke the law.

AP: Key lawmakers say they’ll investigate Trump’s wiretapping claim

Key members of Congress say they will honor President Donald Trump’s request to investigate his unsubstantiated claim that Barack Obama overstepped his authority as president and had Trump’s telephones tapped during the election campaign. A U.S. official said the FBI has asked the Justice Department to dispute Trump’s allegation, though no such statement has been issued.

Obama’s intelligence director also said no such action was ever carried out.

AP: Fact-checking what Trump has taken credit for

The start of a new administration is never a clean slate, even when parties flip. Day One is just another day for military operations, a budget that is still in place from the old crowd and a vast array of economic, social and law enforcement initiatives left over from the last president.

You would not know this from President Donald Trump.

He proudly takes credit for any positive development that has bloomed since he took office Jan. 20, even when the roots and buds of it were from President Barack Obama’s time. 

Conservative news chief details call with “p---ed off” Trump

Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of the long-running conservative website Newsmax, says he talked to President Trump over the weekend and hasn’t “seen him this p---ed off in a long time.”

“I spoke with the president twice yesterday about the wiretap story. I haven’t seen him this p---ed off in a long time,” Ruddy wrote in a Sunday column.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump claimed, without evidence, that former President Obama had wiretapped his phones before the election.

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