Today in the Trump Administration
How Trump ordered a covert raid in Yemen against al Qaeda
When President Trump was deciding to order his first known covert raid against al Qaeda in Yemen -- an operation that later resulted in nearly 30 deaths, including suspected terror leaders and the first U.S. military casualty under Mr. Trump -- he had several trusted advisers by his side. Among them: his son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner.
At the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday, President Trump boasted of his television ratings during his time hosting “The Apprentice” reality show and urged attendees to “pray” for his successor, former California governor and Hollywood macho man Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“They hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place,” said Mr. Trump, who still has an executive producer credit on the “Celebrity Apprentice.” “And we know how that turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes.”
Lawmakers respond to reports of Trump’s call with Australian PM
Some members of Congress are trying to defend Australia and the importance of its alliance with the U.S. after President Trump reportedly had a tense phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last weekend.
The Trump administration appeared to loosen U.S. sanctions Thursday that the Obama administration had imposed against Russia in response to its cyberattacks in the 2016 presidential election.
The Treasury Department published a license that authorizes certain transactions between U.S. companies and the FSB, Russia’s security service and for the importation, distribution or use of “certain information technology products in the Russian Federation.” Such transactions had been prohibited under Obama administration sanctions imposed on Russia in late December. At the time, the U.S. sanctioned nine entities and individuals including the FSB and GRU. The Obama administration said that the FSB had assisted and provided material support to the GRU in its efforts to interfere with the U.S. election.
Homeland Security IG will review immigration ban implementation
The Office Inspector General (OIG) for the Homeland Security Department (DHS) announced late Wednesday that it will be reviewing DHS’ rollout of President Trump’s immigration ban executive order, signed by Mr. Trump on Friday.
New guidance for travel ban exempts green card holders
After days of confusion over how President Trump’s controversial immigration order would be applied to legal permanent residents of the United States, the White House says it has issued a new guidance that exempts green card holders from the travel ban.
“They no longer need a waiver because if they are a legal permanent resident, they won’t need it anymore,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at a news briefing Wednesday.
The president meets with Sen. Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and top Democrat Ron Wyden, also with House Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady and ranking member Richard Neal, 11:15 a.m.
He also met with Harley-Davidson executives for lunch.
The nominations of two of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks -- Scott Pruitt for the Environmental Protection Agency and Mick Mulvaney for the Office of Management and Budget -- will advance to a vote by the full Senate after committee votes held Thursday.
A day after delaying its vote because of Senate Democrats’ boycott, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted -- still with no Democrats present -- to send Pruitt’s nomination to the full Senate. Pruitt’s nomination advanced with 11 votes (all Republicans) to zero after GOP members of the committee changed the rules to allow for a vote without Democrats present
And Mulvaney’s nomination will also go to the full Senate, though the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee voted 8-7, along party lines, to send the nomination without a recommendation.
Nominee Neil Gorsuch is expected to meet with more senators on Capitol Hill today.
Commmentary: Schumer has no good options on Neil Gorsuch
Trump’s SCOTUS nominee will be confirmed -- but can the Democratic leader ever make that loss acceptable to the base?
What you missed yesterday
Supreme Court nominee
Now that President Trump has announced the nomination of Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the confirmation fight begins. Gorsuch starts meeting with the senators who will vote on his nomination today -- Vice President Pence took him to meet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this morning.
McConnell said he thought the president had made “an outstanding appointment” with Gorsuch and said he looked forward to getting the confirmation process started. He ignored a shouted question about Democratic opposition to the nomination.
Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who was also at the meeting with McConnell, Pence and Gorsuch, will also be shepherding Gorsuch around the hill to meet senators, especially those on the Judiciary Committee.
If you missed it, this was the live blog and video of Gorsuch’s nomination announcement.
Report: Trump, Australian PM have tense phone call over Muslim refugees
Australia’s prime minister said his country’s relationship with the United States remained “very strong” but refused to comment on a newspaper report on Thursday that an angry President Donald Trump cut short their first telephone call as national leaders.
At the heart of the weekend conversation between Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was a deal struck with the Obama administration that would allow mostly Muslim refugees rejected by Australia to be resettled in the United States.
Flynn puts Iran “on notice”
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn told reporters at the White House briefing today that the Trump administration “condemns such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East that puts American lives at risk.”
His comments came after Iran conducted a ballistic missile test and Iran-backed Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi frigate.
Flynn said, “Iran is now feeling emboldened,” and he criticized the Obama administration for failing “to respond adequately.”
If Gorsuch confirmation is gridlocked, Trump advises McConnell “go nuclear”
The president was asked by a pool reporter if he’d want Mitch McConnell to invoke the “nuclear option” if confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee proves difficult
President Trump says if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unable to muster the 60 votes necessary to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, he should change the Senate rules and allow Gorsuch to be confirmed with a simple majority of senators -- a parliamentary procedure known as the “nuclear option.”
Asked during a meeting with business leaders what he’d say to Democrats who will try to block Gorsuch’s confirmation, Mr. Trump said “I think there’s a certain dishonesty if they go against their vote from not very long ago,” alluding to the fact that Gorsuch’s confirmation to the federal court was supported by a number of Democratic senators. “If we end up with the same gridlock,” Mr. Trump said, “I would say, ‘If you can, Mitch, go nuclear.”
It would be “a shame,” the president added. “It’s up to Mitch, but I would say, ‘Go for it.’”
The Trump cabinet
The full Senate votes on Rex Tillerson’s nomination to be secretary of state, 2 p.m.
Democrats boycotted EPA nominee Scott Pruitt’s vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Wednesday morning, causing his committee vote to be delayed. Democrats have complained that Pruitt, who is the Oklahoma attorney general, has not sufficiently answered their questions.
Sen. Judiciary advanced Jeff Sessions’ nomination to be attorney general, after Democrats ran out the clock on his hearing yesterday, forcing a delay.
Sen. Governmental Affairs to vote on nomination of Mick Mulvaney to be OMB director, 9:40 a.m. The Sen. Budget Committee will also vote on Mulvaney Thursday.
African-American history month
President Trump held an African-American History Month “listening session” where he spent much of the time blasting the media for its “very dishonest” reporting.
“A lot of the media is the opposition party,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday, repeating a line his senior adviser Steve Bannon used in an interview last week. “They’re so biased.”
In a statement meant to praise historical figures, the president also said that abolitionist Frederick Douglass was “someone who has done a terrific job that is being recognized by more and more people.”