What The Fuck Just Happened Today?

Today's essential newsletter. Logging the daily shock and awe in national politics. Read in moderation.
by @matt_kiser

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Day 41: Tumultuous.

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1/ Sessions met with Russians twice last year, but didn’t disclose the encounters during his confirmation hearing when asked about possible contacts between members of Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow. Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself. (Washington Post)

  • Obama administration officials scrambled to ensure intelligence of connections between the Trump campaign and Russia was preserved. They had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators. (New York Times)
  • Graham and McCain want answers on Sessions-Russia report. If the FBI determines that Trump’s campaign illegally coordinated with Russia, Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from making the decision whether to pursue prosecutions. Graham said a Trump appointee “cannot make this decision.” (CNN)
  • Pelosi calls for Sessions’s resignation, saying “Jeff Sessions lied under oath during his confirmation hearing before the Senate.” (The Hill)

2/ Trump defended his tumultuous presidency and asked Congress to put aside its “trivial fights” to help ordinary Americans in his first speech. Trump reiterated a host of familiar themes from his campaign and called for unity to address a litany of issues that he says are plaguing the country. “The time for small thinking is over,” Trump said. “The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts. The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls. And the confidence to turn those hopes and those dreams into action.” (New York Times)

UPDATE:

Sanders tells supporters after Trump’s speech to “continue the fight” and publicly push back against the administration. “Keep showing up. Keep calling Congress and continue the fight. The Republicans are now on the defensive and we’ve got to continue to push them back,” Sanders said. (The Hill)

  • Trump seeks to parlay post-speech boost into action on contentious agenda. Pence said the reception Trump received gave him “great confidence that the agenda that the president articulated last night is the right agenda for America, it’s resonating with the American people.” (Washington Post)
  • Trump’s softer tone masks hard road ahead with few details on how he’d turn them into reality. (Bloomberg)
  • Speech marks a shift in tone. Trump’s pitched his agenda to voters and Congress with language that was much more presidential and traditional in tone, even as he made no major policy changes. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The 5 main takeaways from Trump’s speech. (New York Times)
  • 6 things we learned from Trump’s address to Congress. (CNN)
  • Key moments from Trump’s speech: Condeming the recent vandalism of Jewish cemeteries; celebrating his own accomplishments; announcing a “historic tax reform”; repeating the line “radical Islamic terrorism”; outlining what he said would be a “better healthcare system”; and referring to illegal immigration as “American carnage.” (Politico)
  • Fact checking Trump’s first address to Congress. (New York Times)
  • The full text of Trump’s speech to Congress. (CNN)
  • The Democratic response to Trump’s address by Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, annotated by NPR journalists. (NPR)

3/ DeVos backpedals on remarks about historically black colleges due to a fierce backlash after she called historically black colleges and universities “real pioneers” of school choice. In a series of tweets, DeVos acknowledged that the schools were not created simply to give African-American students more choices, but because black students across the country were not allowed into segregated white schools. (New York Times)

4/ New Trump order drops Iraq from travel ban list. The decision follows pressure from the Pentagon and State Department, which had urged the White House to reconsider Iraq’s inclusion given its key role in fighting the Islamic State group. (Associated Press)

UPDATE:

Trump called on the Department of Homeland Security to “create an office to serve American victims” of crimes committed by immigrants. The Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) would provide “a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.” He made no explanation as to why the targets of crime perpetrated by immigrants should receive the support of a new federal government agency that apparently excludes the victims of crime committed by U.S. citizens. (CNBC)

  • Trump delays signing new travel ban order. The delay was due to a busy news cycle, and Trump wanted the new execeutive order to get it’s own “moment.” Signing the executive order today, as originally planned, would have undercut the favorable coverage of Trump’s speech. (CNN)
  • Trump seesaws on legal status for undocumented immigrants. (New York Times)

5/ Republican governors divided on Obamacare replacement. States that expanded Medicaid coverage fear they’‘ll be left holding the bag if the federal government doesn’t provide enough money to pay for the entitlement they expanded under the Affordable Care Act. (Washington Post)

UPDATE:

Fundamental disagreements remain between Republican leaders and the party’s most conservative members around the plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, particularly over the details of a proposed tax credit. (New York Times)

  • House Republicans announce only Republicans are allowed to see the new health care plan. Paul Ryan had previous boasted that they were “not hatching some bill in a backroom and plopping it on the American people’s front door.” Oh well… (New York Magazine)

6/ Police chiefs object to Trump’s efforts to involve them in immigrant deportations. A letter from more than 60 law enforcement heads asks to soften push to include police in round-ups, saying it makes their communities less safe. (The Guardian)

7/ Generals may launch new ISIS raids without Trump’s approval. The White House is considering delegating more authority to the Pentagon to greenlight anti-terrorist operations after Trump took heat for a raid in Yemen that killed a SEAL. (The Daily Beast)

8/ Pelosi to Democrats: Treat Trump voters like a friend whose boyfriend is a jerk Pelosi is confident a good portion of Trump’s voters will eventually turn on him – and Democrats just have to wait it out. (CNN)

9/ The State of Trump’s State Department. Anxiety and listless days as a foreign-policy bureaucracy confronts the possibility of radical change. (The Atlantic)

10/ “You People” are doing an amazing job, Trump told HBCU presidents during meeting. Trump repeated the complimentary refrain three times. A White House adviser called the characterization of the meeting false, and said it was “ridiculous spin.” (BuzzFeed News)

11/ White House: Conway acted “without nefarious motive” in Ivanka Trump plug. A letter from the White House to the Office of Government Ethics says a White House lawyer met with Conway to review federal rules prohibiting endorsements by government employees. The letter makes no mention of plans for disciplinary action. (CNN Money)

12/ Rubio asked to leave Tampa office over disruption from weekly protests. The owner of the building notified Rubio on February 1st that they will not be renewing the lease because the rallies have become too disruptive to the other tenants. (Tampa Bay Times)

13/ Sen. Lindsey Graham says he wants all presidential candidates to be required by law to release their tax returns, starting in 2020. The proposal would include Donald Trump if the president seeks reelection. (Politico)

14/ Senate approves Trump’s nominee, Ryan Zinke, for the Department of the Interior. The Republican congressman promised to review Obama-era actions limiting oil and gas drilling in Alaska and said he rejected President Donald Trump’s past comment that climate change is a “hoax.” (CNN)

poll/ Trump’s speech was a hit with viewers in two early polls. A CBS News/YouGov poll found 76% of viewers approved of the speech and 82% found it “presidential.” A CNN/ORC poll found 70% felt more optimistic. (Politico)

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