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

Site updated:

1/ Betsy DeVos press release celebrates Jim Crow education system as a pioneer of “school choice”, saying the legal segregation of historically black colleges and universities gave black students “more options.” Trump met with the leaders of a number of HBCUs yesterday. DeVos commemorated the meeting in a press release today. (Slate)

Inbox: @BetsyDeVosED statement on today's meeting with HBCU leaders pic.twitter.com/J7SvKFjlcB

— adam harris (@AdamHSays) February 28, 2017

2/ House leaders are split on whether a Russian inquiry is needed. The top Republican and Democrat on the Intelligence Committee gave sharply conflicting views of their investigation into Russian efforts to influence the election, raising questions about whether they will be able to work together. Republican Devin Nunes said that there was no evidence anyone from the Trump campaign had communicated with the government in Moscow. Democrat Adam Schiff said that it was too early to rule out the ties, because the panel had not yet been provided with any evidence collected by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. (New York Times)

UPDATE:

FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored controversial Trump dossier to continue his work. While Trump has derided the dossier as “fake news” compiled by his political opponents, the FBI’s arrangement with the spy shows that bureau investigators considered him credible and found his line of inquiry to be worthy of pursuit. (Washington Post)

3/ Trump goes to Congress to make a sale. Trump is under pressure to show that his White House can be effective in delivering on the sweeping changes he has promised by working with allies on Capitol Hill. Trump’s aides are promising an “optimistic” speech designed to rally Americans toward a hopeful future. Trump will address Congress shortly after 9 p.m EST tonight. (CNN)

4/ Sessions vows to get tough on crime, saying a recent spike in violence in some cities is “driving this sense that we’re in danger.” He’s pledged to commit more federal energy to fighting crime even though crime rates remain far below their 1970s and 1980s levels. Trump is expected to emphasize that the rise in violence in some cities was not “a one-time blip” but rather “the beginning of a trend” during his address to a joint session of Congress tonight. (New York Times)

5/ Trump envisions a compromise bill allowing many immigrants to stay in US where those who aren’t serious or violent criminals could stay in the US legally, hold a job and pay taxes, without having to worry about being deported. A path to citizenship for those in the country illegally would not be part of Trump’s vision for this deal, with the possible exception of “Dreamers” – those brought into the US illegally as children. (CNN)

6/ Trump gave himself an A grade for his presidency, but only a C for communicating. how. great. he. has. been. in a “Fox and Friends” interview today. He also blamed Obama for organizing opposition against him, called the House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi “incompetent,” and criticized his own press secretary for how he has handled leaks. He has called “Fox and Friends” one of his favorite shows. (New York Times)

7/ Trump says Obama is helping organize protests against his presidency. Trump has been dismissing the protests against his presidency and demonstrations at congressional town hall meetings across the country as concocted by his political enemies. “I think that President Obama is behind it because his people certainly are behind it,” Trump said. “In terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. It will probably continue.” (Washington Post)

8/ Trump begins E.P.A. rollback with executive order on clean water rules. The order, which will have almost no immediate legal effect and could take longer than a single presidential term to dismantle, directs E.P.A. chief Scott Pruitt to rewrite the 2015 rule known as the Waters of the United States. The rule gives the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major bodies of water as well as in streams and wetlands that drain into them.

Trump is also expected to sign a similar order instructing Pruitt to begin the process of withdrawing and revising Obama’s 2015 climate-change regulation, aimed at curbing emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants. In his former job as attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt led or took part in 14 lawsuits intended to block the E.P.A.’s major regulations, including the clean water and climate rules that he is now charged with dismantling. (New York Times)

9/ Sen. Lindsey Graham: Trump budget is “dead on arrival.” Trump’s proposing $54 billion in cuts to fund an equivalent boost in defense spending, but lacks key details stoking bipartisan concern. (The Hill)

10/ Trump urges insurers to work together to “save Americans from Obamacare.” Trump met with major health insurers in the midst of political divisions over how to dismantle and replace Obama’s signature health-care law and intensifying public pressure to preserve the policy. He criticized the Affordable Care Act for creating minimal health coverage requirements that restricted the types of plans insurers could sell. (Washington Post)

11/ Trump’s silence on deadly Olathe shooting is disquieting. Nearly a week has passed since two India-born engineers were singled out and shot at an Olathe bar, presumably because they were immigrants, darker in skin tone and possibly viewed by the shooter as unwanted foreigners. (Kansas City Star)

UPDATE:

White House condemns Kansas attack, calling it “racially motivated.” The comments are the most direct the White House has made on the incident. (CNN)

12/ New NSC chief pushed Trump to moderate his language on terrorism, urging him to stop using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” The phrase, however, will be in Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress tonight — even though McMaster reviewed drafts and his staff pressed the president’s speechwriter not to use it. (Politico)

13/ Trump signed off on checking White House staffers’ phones to make certain they weren’t communicating with reporters by text message or through encrypted apps. The decision sent a signal across the administration that Trump is furious at leaks from inside the White House. (CNN)

14/ Trump appears to blame generals for SEAL’s death in Yemen raid. Trump highlighted that the controversial raid in Yemen that left one Navy SEAL dead had been a success, and in the works before he took office. He said “they lost” the SEAL — apparently in reference to the generals who planned the mission. (The Hill)

poll/ Trump is delivering on his campaign promises. 56% of registered voters say that Trump is staying true to his 2016 campaign message. 65% say Trump has accomplished what was expected of him — or more. Overall, half of voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 45% disapprove. (Politico)