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Latest from Jamie Dupree

    In a last minute bid to thread the needle between more conservative and more moderate Republicans, President Donald Trump and GOP leaders in the House are still hoping to bring a health care overhaul bill to a vote today, as they try to find a magic legislative formula that will produce a final agreement acceptable to a bare majority of Republican members. Here’s where things stand. 1. Republicans still seem short on votes. Despite a full day of arm twisting and closed door meetings that stretched late into Wednesday night, the President seemed no closer to a majority in the House – in fact, the numbers seemed to go the wrong way yesterday, as several more moderate Republicans like Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) announced they could not support the bill. “We gave our word that we would repeal and replace it,” said Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) of Obamacare. “This bill does not go far enough.” Yoho – a Freedom Caucus member – though said he was open to a last minute deal, but that remained elusive as the sun came up on Thursday. President Trump is set to meet with Freedom Caucus members just before lunch at the White House. Believe ldrshp lost more votes today (Dent, LoBiondo, David Young, Dan Donovan) than they gained (Steve King, Barletta) – at least publicly — Erica Werner (@ericawerner) March 23, 2017 2. For some the negotiations just don’t matter. As we have seen on major legislation in recent years, there are a small group of Republicans who just aren’t going to get to a “Yes” vote under the current direction of negotiations. “We promised to repeal Obamacare and improve health care for Americans. This bill does neither,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who is a certain “No” vote. Even as members of the House Freedom Caucus met into the night on Wednesday, it was obvious that some in that group, like Amash, would not get on board with the final product – and on their own, they have more than enough votes to sink this GOP bill if they withhold their support. This was a tweet from the group’s spokeswoman. BREAKING: more than 25 Freedom Caucus 'No's' on AHCA — group says 'start over' — Alyssa Farah (@Alyssafarah) March 22, 2017 3. There is no groundswell of support back home. One peculiar situation about the GOP drive on health care is that they are not only taking flak from Democrats, but also from conservative groups who don’t like the direction of the bill – and that combination is bringing a distinct message from back home, as well as groups that watch GOP lawmakers like a hawk. “Unfortunately, even with recently submitted changes, the American Health Care Act has too many ObamaCare-like flaws,” the conservative group Freedom Works said in a statement. Other groups like the Heritage Foundation have been openly working to stop the bill as well – and lawmakers say the folks back home have made quite clear their dislike for the bill. Rep Walter Jones R-NC on calls/emails from his district about GOP health care bill: 4 were in favor, 800 against — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) March 23, 2017 4. What late changes are being considered to the GOP bill? There was a lot of talk on Wednesday night of major alterations to the bill, some of which might not even survive tight Senate rules dealing with budget reconciliation. The work mainly centered on re-writing the definition of “Essential Health Benefits” in the Obama health law, to allow insurance companies to offer more limited – and therefore less expensive for consumers. Here is the EHB list in current law – these can be modified administratively by the Trump Administration and the Secretary of Health and Human Services; but a number of Republican lawmakers want them changed in law. That most likely will take 60 votes in the Senate. 5. Wait – the EHB change takes 60 votes in the Senate? The logical question to ask is – if you can’t change the Essential Health Benefits in a budget reconciliation bill, because it will get knocked out in the Senate, why put that in this House bill? Well, it may be the only way to get the bill out of the House with enough votes, and send it over to the Senate. Republicans were already engaged in public lobbying of the Senate Parliamentarian, who has the job of ruling on specific provisions of reconciliation bills, as they tried to argue in public that she might change her mind on the matter. Behind the scenes, it wasn’t really apparent that anything had changed along these lines, but the GOP hope was that if EHB changes were included in the bill, the provision could get through the House and just be knocked out in the Senate, without destroying the underlying measure. BREAKING: Mike Lee says parliamentarian told him it may be possible to repeal Obamacare regs via reconciliation https://t.co/OqxadhUbAu — Philip Klein (@philipaklein) March 22, 2017 6. Will the vote be Thursday or later? Republicans were ready to give themselves several days of wiggle room on the health care matter, as the House was expected to approve a measure that allows the GOP to quickly bring a final health care deal to the floor for a vote, any time over the next four days – through Monday. So, there could be a showdown vote on health care today, tomorrow, over the weekend, or early next week. Basically, if Republicans and the White House think they’ve got the votes, then they will rush to the House floor to push that through. “We have not cut the deal, yet,” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) acknowledged late on Wednesday night in the House Rules Committee. Republicans have said they will vote Thursday on their plan to overhaul Obamacare, but no vote is scheduled https://t.co/R7KtadKwh3 pic.twitter.com/9H5Ior3DvC — CBS News (@CBSNews) March 23, 2017 7. GOP ready to repeat the Nancy Pelosi 2010 quote. Republicans love to talk up the out-of-context quote from then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2010, when she said the Congress would just have to pass a health care bill in order to see what was in it. If you really research the quote, you see she wasn’t saying that, but that hasn’t stopped the GOP from throwing it in her face for the past seven years. Now, Democrats are delighting in watching the GOP maybe doing the same thing. With major changes being looked at last night, it was not clear as the day began what exactly the Republicans would be voting on – and it was possible that no cost estimate, or insurance coverage estimate details would be ready for when lawmakers did vote in the House. With no CBO score, the full effect of eliminating essential health benefits won't be known to House lawmakers before they vote #votingblind — Noam Levey (@NoamLevey) March 23, 2017 Stay tuned – it could be a very interesting day in the House.
  • Two days after the FBI Director confirmed that an investigation was underway into election meddling by Russia and any ties to the Trump Campaign, the Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced that U.S. Intelligence had legally monitored actions of the Trump transition, and maybe even some communications of Mr. Trump himself. Here is what we know: 1. What is in this new information? House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) said he had been provided with raw intelligence intercepts which showed information related to President-Elect Trump and members of the Trump Transition team. Nunes would not identify who had provided him with the information, which he seemed to indicate came through regular channels, possibly by a whistle blower inside the U.S. Intelligence Community – it just wasn’t clear. But what was clear was that he took the information to President Trump and the White House before telling his committee, and Democratic members on that panel. Whoa. At presser, Nunes just revealed IC collected info about Americans associated w/ the Trump transition team—separate from Russia probe. — Eric Geller (@ericgeller) March 22, 2017 2. Nunes: It has nothing to do with Russia. One puzzling part of the dramatic announcement by Nunes was that the subject matter did not relate to the probe into election meddling by Russia in 2016, or ties between Russia and the Trump Campaign. If that indeed is the case, then the communications monitored by U.S. Intelligence must have been focused on some other foreign intelligence targets which were being monitored by the United States. Was it other nations that are on the radar of U.S. Intelligence? Certain foreigners who are the target of a criminal investigation? It wasn’t clear. Rep. Devin Nunes: The reports I've seen 'did not have anything to do with Russia or the Russia investigation” https://t.co/sCYhWJArgW — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 22, 2017 3. What is incidental collection? Is it legal? This is one of those bureaucratic phrases that sounds complicated, but really isn’t. First, incidental collection of an American during a wiretap of a foreigner is totally legal. In this situation (as described by Nunes), officials of the Trump Transition – or maybe even the President-Elect at the time – could have been in contact with foreign persons who are under surveillance. When that happens, that is known as “incidental collection.” While there are rules on how that is dealt with, just because a U.S. citizen appears on a wiretap involving a foreigner does not mean that U.S. Intelligence suddenly stops listening. Nunes said the intercepts showed that information with no intelligence value was circulated widely inside the Intelligence Community. Rep. Devin Nunes: The reports I've seen 'did not have anything to do with Russia or the Russia investigation” https://t.co/sCYhWJArgW — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 22, 2017 4. Democrats hit the roof. Democrats were outraged by the Nunes move, immediately saying that it raises questions about how Nunes could lead a bipartisan review of the election interference charges against Russia. The Top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (R-CA) expressed his displeasure in a statement, and at his own news conference. “You don’t take information that the committee hasn’t seen and present it orally to the press and the White House, before the committee has a chance to even vet whether it is significant.” Rep. Adam Schiff: “This is not how you conduct an investigation” https://t.co/J6dJQWqV9d https://t.co/IMLTAxmn5p — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 22, 2017 5. New calls for an independent probe on Russia. The dustup over the Nunes announcement opened a new door for Democrats to demand an independent investigation of the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, as Democrats have long been suspicious of Nunes, who was a member of the Trump Transition team. “Unfortunately, I think the actions of today throw great doubt into the ability of both the Chairman and the committee to conduct the investigation the way it ought to be conducted,” Schiff said at his own news conference. Schiff says Nunes needs to decide if he is Chair of independent oversight committee or surrogate for the White House https://t.co/5AaB4kTNjI — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 22, 2017 6. More partisan elbows from both sides. It didn’t take long for both parties to weigh in, for and against Nunes. “The unprecedented comments of Chairman Nunes are an act of diversion and desperation,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who labeled the Nunes brief of President Trump, “highly irregular conduct.” On the other side, the statements were just as pointed. “The Chairman’s statements today detailing the incidental collection and dissemination of the Presidential transition team’s communications is highly concerning,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). I used to deal with FISA SIGINT all the time. That's some seriously compartmented stuff, folks. I am still in shock about Nunes' disclosure. — John Schindler (@20committee) March 22, 2017 7. White House welcomes Nunes information. After taking all sorts of flak for claiming that he had been wiretapped by President Obama, President Trump and his aides found themselves with some new ammunition in their arguments about how U.S. Intelligence has treated Mr. Trump. Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the Nunes information was a “startling revelation.” The President – who has routinely ignored questions about his Twitter wiretap claims – was more than happy to give a quote to the TV cameras, saying it made him feel vindicated. President Trump on if he feels vindicated by Rep. Devin Nunes’ comments: “I somewhat do” https://t.co/5WJCX615rG — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 22, 2017 This could well boil over again next week, when the House Intelligence Committee holds a second public hearing about Russia on Tuesday, March 28.
  • The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee told reporters Wednesday that he has been given evidence from inside the U.S. Intelligence Community, which shows that personal communications of President Trump were collected during the Presidential transition as part of legally approved foreign intelligence surveillance operations. “It looks to me like it was all legally collected, but it was essentially a lot of information on the President-Elect and his transition team and what they were doing,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) told reporters at a news conference in the Capitol. Nunes would not detail how the information was obtained – it is known as “incidental collection,” where an American citizen unknowingly speaks with someone who is under surveillance by U.S. intelligence. “From what I’ve seen, it appears to be incidental collection,” Nunes stressed, meaning that Mr. Trump himself was not the target of the surveillance. Whoa. At presser, Nunes just revealed IC collected info about Americans associated w/ the Trump transition team—separate from Russia probe. — Eric Geller (@ericgeller) March 22, 2017 Nunes made clear that the surveillance had nothing to do with Russia, or any investigation into Russia and the U.S. 2016 elections. It was not immediately apparent why Trump communications were incidentally collected, or who he may have been in touch with that was under intelligence surveillance.
  • U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch vowed to uphold the law if confirmed to the nation’s highest court, not tipping his hand as he sidestepped controversial political subjects, as Gorsuch directly pushed back against President Donald Trump’s criticism of federal judges. “When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening; I find that demoralizing,” Gorsuch said in response to questions from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). “Anyone including the President of the United States?” Blumenthal pressed. “Anyone is anyone,” Gorsuch replied. In a day of testimony that stretched for almost twelve hours, Gorsuch parried most questions from Democrats, who tried in vain to get him to reveal his views on issues like abortion, and items that might come before the Supreme Court, like President Trump’s travel ban. Gorsuch repeatedly refused to take the bait. “I can’t get involved in politics, and I think it would be very imprudent of judges to start commenting on political disputes,” Gorsuch said. Under questioning from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Gorsuch was asked what he had discussed with President Trump on the issue of abortion. “In that interview did he ever ask you to overrule Roe v Wade?” Graham asked. “No, Senator,” Gorsuch replied, adding that if the President had asked that question, “I would have walked out the door.” Gorsuch was pressed about the President in a number of different ways, telling Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that, “nobody is above the law in this country, and that includes the President of the United States.” With Republicans strongly in support of Gorsuch, there was already maneuvering behind the scenes over the expected floor fight in the Senate, as Democrats have made clear they think the GOP should be forced to get 60 votes for his nomination. That has prompted GOP leaders to criticize the threat of a filibuster. “If there aren’t 60 votes for a nominee like Neil Gorsuch it’s appropriate to ask the question is there any nominee any Republican president could make that Democrats would approve,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Gorsuch’s lengthy day of testimony ended on a light note, as Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) suggested to Gorsuch that he have a cocktail before bed. “Just don’t drink vodka,” Kennedy said to chuckles from the audience. Kennedy then drew even more laughter by adding in one more surprise. “You never been to Russia, have you?” “I’ve never been to Russia,” a smiling Gorsuch said.
  • In a closed door meeting with House Republicans at the U.S. Capitol, President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged GOP lawmakers to get on board with a Republican health care overhaul bill that he supports, arguing that if the plan goes down to defeat later this week, it could cost Republicans their majorities in both the House and Senate in the next election. Here is what came out of that meeting: 1. Trump tries to make the final sale. There was laughter and applause inside as the President cajoled reluctant Republicans to get on board. “Look, the guy is very personable,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). “He speaks bluntly.” At one point, Mr. Trump had the leader of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) stand up for some good-natured ribbing. “I’m still a no,” Meadows told reporters after the meeting, saying he was worried about policy matters. But Meadows noted the effectiveness of the Trump message. “You know, if this was a personality thing, we wouldn’t be having these discussions,” Meadows added. In other words – as multiple Republicans told reporters after the meeting – this President is very effective in lobbying lawmakers for their support. 'Oh Mark, I'm gonna come after you,' Trump said to Rep. Mark Meadows this morning. Room laughs. 'I hope Mark will be with us in the end.' — Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) March 21, 2017 2. Trump warns of GOP election losses if health care is defeated. In making his argument for Republicans to back the GOP health plan, the President warned Republican lawmakers that they would suffer at the ballot box in the 2018 mid-term elections. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) said the argument was basically, “politically, it’s the right thing to do.” Jones is still against the bill. “The American people are expecting us to do this,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), as he noted that this was something every Republican vowed to do in the 2016 campaign. “The political repercussions are we might lose the House and the Senate next year,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) about not approving the health bill. President Trump just told House Rs he thinks many will lose their seats in 2018 if don't get this repeal done — Alex Moe (@AlexNBCNews) March 21, 2017 3. Trump arguments don’t sway some Republicans. After the Trump visit, there were still some more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus who weren’t interested in buying the plan that the President was selling. “All I’m concerned about is doing what I told the voters in the Fourth District of Ohio what I was going to do,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who won’t budge on his opposition, as he wants a full repeal of the Obama health law, and nothing less. “The President did a great job with his presentation, but the legislation is still bad; it doesn’t do what we told the voters we were going to do, and I’m still opposed to it,” Jordan told reporters. From Rep. Jim Jordan, Freedom Caucus member: “The president’s great, the bill’s still bad.” Said he doesn't think votes are there for AHCA. — Lissandra Villa (@LissandraVilla) March 21, 2017 4. But other Republicans seemed to move to back the bill. While reporters crowded around GOP lawmakers like Jordan and Meadows – who are still opposed to the health care bill – there were others who seemed like they were coming around on the plan. Some of it was related to Trump the Cajoler, as he urged specific lawmakers in the GOP meeting to get on board. For others, it was the changes in the bill that have been made. “I’m encouraged by the process,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). “He did refer to quite a few of the changes,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), a more moderate Republican who has been on the fence in recent weeks. In the hallways, it seemed like the numbers were going in the right direction for Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House. As some conservatives hold out on health bill, Ryan' vote-counters peel off some key centrists, MacArthur, McSally, McClintock and Aderholt. — Billy House (@HouseInSession) March 21, 2017 5. Republicans defend specific provision on Medicaid in New York. As the GOP unveiled changes to the health care bill on Monday night, one provision on a New York-specific issue quickly attracted the attention of reporters digging through the legislative text. It wasn’t a plan that gives extra money to New York, but rather one that could make the state pay the full cost of Medicare coverage, and not county governments far from Manhattan. “That really brought the New Yorkers on board,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), as he happily defended the addition. What the change would do is stop the state of New York from forcing a number of counties to chip in $2.3 billion in money to add to state Medicaid coverage for low-income residents, mainly in the New York City area. “In my county, that’s 83 percent of our property tax levy,” Collins told reporters. 'It would be like a Buffalo Billion, every single year, in every single community in New York.' On Medicaid shift from counties to NYS — Bob Lonsberry (@BobLonsberry) March 21, 2017 House leaders are still planning a vote on the GOP health care bill on Thursday.
  • Still trying to bring aboard reluctant conservatives, Republicans in the House on Monday night unveiled a series of changes to a GOP health care bill, accelerating a series of tax cuts and providing more money for tax credits to help older Americans buy health insurance, still aiming for a vote in the full House on Thursday. “With the President’s leadership and support for this historic legislation, we are now one step closer to keeping our promise to the American people and ending the Obamacare nightmare,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. The highly technical changes also included language dealing with limits on state Medicaid spending, including a provision designed to win over a group of Republicans from New York, by freeing counties in that state from being forced to contribute money for Medicaid operations. It's like upside-down pork: A few NY reps will only vote for the bill if it cuts Medicaid funding to their state. https://t.co/rVr9CJ5fsM — Margot Sanger-Katz (@sangerkatz) March 21, 2017 States also be able to boost their Medicaid funding by five percent, by instituting work requirements for able-bodied adults who are getting such benefits. The revised plan would also freeze Medicaid expansion under the Obama health law, preventing other states from getting access to billions in extra coverage dollars. In the tax arena, the GOP changes would move to repeal the many tax hikes under the Obama health law now – in 2017 – rather than waiting until 2018. As for a move to provide larger tax credits for older Americans – that was the stated goal of the GOP – but when you look in the text of the revised bill language, it isn’t there. The explanation of the bill says the revised language, “provides budgetary space for the Senate to increase tax credits for older Americans.” In other words, the Senate will have to work out the specifics. Shorter House GOP: We want to increase tax credits by $85B but that would take like a week to figure out, so screw it. Senate your job now https://t.co/F49pppX4Gq — Jon Walker (@JonWalkerDC) March 21, 2017 But even as those changes were released, there were ominous signs from some rank-and-file GOP lawmakers on the House Freedom Caucus, as a number were still refusing to jump on board with the plan, just days before a scheduled Thursday vote. “They haven’t changed the bill’s general framework. They don’t have the votes to pass it,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). NEWS: After @FreedomCaucus meets on health care, Chairman Mark Meadows says: 'Currently there are not enough votes to pass the legislation.' — Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) March 21, 2017 The changes seem certain to further reduce the amount of deficit reduction linked to the bill, which was at $337 billion over ten years – now that figure may drop to under $200 billion. But GOP leaders were ready to deploy their secret weapon on Tuesday morning, as President Trump will speak to Republicans – and presumably urge them to vote for the health overhaul bill – despite their reservations.  
  • The House Intelligence Committee held the first public hearing on questions involving actions taken by Russia to interfere with the 2016 elections in the United States, as both parties used starkly different strategies as they asked questions of the heads of the FBI and National Security Agency about that probe. Here are some of the highlights: 1. FBI confirms Trump-Russia investigation for the first time. Many had long assumed that the FBI was investigating meddling by Russia in the 2016 U.S. elections, but today was the first time that it had been publicly announced by the FBI Director. “Our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations,” Comey said. But the FBI Director said that he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm that the U.S. does have a counter intelligence probe of Russia. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and the Russian Government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” Comey added. Comey testifies on Russia: The FBI is investigating 'the Russian governments efforts to interfere' in the election https://t.co/viHmLboGXY — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 20, 2017 2. FBI and NSA reject Trump “wiretap” tweets. Adding their voices to those of top members in both parties on the House and Senate Intelligence committees, both FBI Director Comey and Admiral Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, said that they had found no evidence to support the March 4 tweets of President Trump, which charged that he had been subjected to wiretaps by President Obama. “I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Director Comey told lawmakers. There was no ambiguity involved. Comey on Trump's allegations that Obama ordered wiretapping: 'I have no information that supports those tweets' https://t.co/aTED00vaUJ — NBC News (@NBCNews) March 20, 2017 3. The White House doesn’t back down on Trump “wiretap” tweets. Just a few hours after the FBI Director bluntly said there was no evidence to back up Mr. Trump’s charge that he was wiretapped during the Obama Administration, the Trump White House refused to back down from the charge. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said there was still time for more information to come out from the investigations of the House and Senate Intelligence committees, so there was no reason to say the President had been wrong in making that claim. .@PressSec to @jonkarl: Pres. Trump not prepared to withdraw wiretap accusation after Comey testified FBI has no information supporting it. pic.twitter.com/vtIQP5i7C8 — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 20, 2017 4. Republicans focus not on Russia but on leaks. Republicans used most of their time in this first public hearing to zero in on who leaked information about top Trump aide Michael Flynn, and his conversations with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) pressed the heads of the NSA and FBI repeatedly on who knew about incidental collection of Flynn’s phone calls, and who might have leaked them, naming a number of Obama Administration officials as possible suspects. The White House then used that hearing exchange to seemingly make the case that former President Obama might even have been the source of the information. It was another new theory from the White House – that did not seem to have any evidence behind it. FBI Director Comey refuses to deny he briefed President Obama on calls made by Michael Flynn to Russia. pic.twitter.com/cUZ5KgBSYP — President Trump (@POTUS) March 20, 2017 5. One Republican drills down into Russia efforts. While many of her colleagues focused on leaks, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) – who did not support President Trump during the election campaign – pushed for examples from the FBI and NSA on what the Russians actually did to upset the U.S. elections, and how it was different from the past. “We never saw in previous Presidential elections information being published on such a massive scale that had been illegally removed,” said the NSA chief. FBI Director Comey said it was almost like the Russians didn’t care if their actions were uncovered. “They were unusually loud,” Comey said, labeling the Russian intrusions, “very noisy.” Comey says the Russians were 'unusually loud' in their involvement in 2016 election. 'Almost like they didn't care or wanted us to find out' — Walt Cronkite (@WCronkite) March 20, 2017 6. Comey admits the FBI kept Congress in the dark. In his testimony, FBI Director Comey said the counter intelligence investigation into Russian election meddling began back in July, but that Congressional leaders were not told of it before the elections – or even immediately after Election Day. “Why was the decision made not to brief senior Congressional leadership until recently,” asked Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY). “Why was that decision made to wait months?” Comey said it was because of the “sensitivity of the matter.” Asked who made that decision, Comey indicated it would have been made by the head of the FBI Counter Intelligence division. Comey: Even though investigation had been going on for months congressional leaders weren’t briefed until recently because of “sensitivity' — Eliza Collins (@elizacollins1) March 20, 2017 7. Republicans grumble about Comey’s “no comments.” Members of both parties tried repeatedly to get Comey to respond to hypothetical questions that might shed some light on the investigation, but didn’t get far. “I’m not going to answer,” Comey said. “I’m not going to comment,” he said when asked about a number of different people that Democrats wanted to talk about. Rebuffed a number of times in a quest for information, Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) bluntly told the FBI chief that his reluctance to discuss the probe was only helping Moscow, by putting a cloud over U.S. democracy. Turner: 'Mr. Comey, by your announcement today, there is now a cloud that undermines our system' — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) March 20, 2017 8. Democrats use the hearing to lay out broader questions. While Democrats did go after the Russia-meddling matter with much more direct gusto, they also had clearly decided to use this hearing to put a number of matters on the table, to make sure they were aired to a broader audience. For example, the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), used a chunk of his opening statement to refer to matters in the ‘Steele Dossier,” which emerged just before the election, a document that some had said was all false. But the fact that it received more attention today made others wonder whether parts of it had been verified along the way. Schiff spent lot of time on Christopher Steele’s dossier. Seems significant. He should know if it had been rejected by US intelligence comm. — Cordelia Lynch (@CordeliaSkyNews) March 20, 2017 9. Not just the Trump tweets, but the British Intel story as well. Not only did today’s witnesses completely reject President Trump’s assertion that he was wiretapped in 2016, but the head of the National Security Agency also ridiculed the story – promoted last week by the White House – that British Intelligence had been used by the Obama Administration to wrongly monitor Trump Tower as well. Asked directly if the NSA had asked the British GCHQ to monitor Trump, Admiral Mike Rogers did not mince words. “No sir,” Rogers said. “Nor would I.” Rogers went on to say that agreed with other assessments that such a plan would be “ridiculous.” Ooof. Adm. Rogers says he agrees with GCHQ that WH promoting suggestion Obama used them to hack Trump is 'utterly ridiculous.' — Alex Mallin (@alex_mallin) March 20, 2017 10. Another finger pointed at Wikileaks. While U.S. Intelligence has never publicly spelled out why it feels that Wikileaks is directly connected to Russia, there was no doubt left today that the FBI Director and others fully believe there is a link. Asked how leaked emails and more were delivered to Wikileaks, FBI Director Comey said there was an intermediary, a “cut-out” as he described it, to send information to the website, which many U.S. officials believe is nothing more than a front for Russian Intelligence. Still, others will rightfully point out that no direct links have been shown – but there is a lot of smoke. 'We assess they used some kind of cut-out' says Comey about how Russian intelligence maintains contact & control with Wikileaks. — John Schindler (@20committee) March 20, 2017
  • In the start of Congressional hearings on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, FBI Director James Comey publicly confirmed for the first time that a federal investigation is underway into any Russian actions, and that the investigation is also looking at possible links to associates of President Donald Trump and his campaign. “I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counter-intelligence mission, is investigating the Russian Government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election,” the FBI Director said. “And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and the Russian Government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” Comey added. Comey testifies on Russia: The FBI is investigating 'the Russian governments efforts to interfere' in the election https://t.co/viHmLboGXY — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 20, 2017 It was the FBI Director’s first public comments about the matter since President Trump tweeted on March 4 that he had been wiretapped, a charge that the White House had never backed up with any evidence. Top lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee began the hearing by once more knocking down that charge from Mr. Trump. “I have been saying this for several weeks, we know there was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower. However, it is still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), leaving open the possibility of a broader investigation related to Russia. “We have also reviewed whether there is any evidence to support President Trump’s claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama in Trump Tower, and finds no evidence to support that slanderous accusation,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (R-CA), the top Democrat on the intelligence panel. As for the President, he began his day with a series of tweets that raised questions about the investigation. James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2017
  • When you talk to Republican lawmakers in the Congress about an overhaul of the Obama health law, one of the most mentioned items by GOP lawmakers is making it possible for insurance companies to sell health coverage policies across state lines, as Republicans argue that will help promote competition, and bring down prices for consumers. “There’s no question about it,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday, “if one plan can sell that was in Maryland – into Virginia – where they could seek additional customers, that competition alone invariably brings down costs.” “Once you allow competition, by itself that will bring down costs, it will bring in choice,” Spicer said, as he told reporters that such a plan would likely be part of a broader health policy bill in Congress, known as “phase 3” of GOP efforts on health care. Spicer: There's bipartisan support for these things. 'Who could be against allowing insurance to be sold over state lines?' — David Smith (@SmithInAmerica) March 14, 2017 But while this is a big Republican selling point in the health care debate, a quick look at current federal law shows that selling health insurance policies across state lines is already allowed – ironically, there is a provision to do that under the Obama health law. Just grab your handy copy of the Affordable Care Act, and there in Section 1333 is where states can agree to “health care choice compacts” that would allow health insurance companies to sell their products across states lines. The fine print from 2010 shows us that the feds were to work with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to develop regulations for that interstate sale of health insurance. But those regulations for “interstate health care choice compacts” between states were never issued – in fact, the Obama Administration never consulted the NAIC at all. “The NAIC was never asked to develop the standards,” the group told me earlier this week. Since those regulations have never been issued, that would seemingly give a big opening to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to administratively make the push for interstate sale of health insurance – since he would now be in charge of setting the ground rules. Under the provisions of the Obama health law, any state compacts to allow for the interstate sale of health insurance would have to include the ten Essential Health Benefits (EHB’s) that govern the minimum coverage standards set out by the Affordable Care Act for insurance sales. It is important to note that those EHB’s are not set in stone in the Obama health law, as section 1302(b) gives the HHS Secretary the power to “define the essential health benefits,” in ten different categories. In other words, Secretary Price could first set the ground rules for the interstate sale of health insurance, and then tweak the minimum standards for what needs to be covered in such a plan, all without any action by lawmakers in the Congress. In fact, in a Friday meeting with GOP lawmakers, Price indicated that he may be ready to issue a new rule on Essential Health Benefits – but there was no mention of a change on selling insurance across state lines. One must point out in this discussion, that while the issue is popular with many Republicans, there are a number of people who see pitfalls in such a move. Selling insurance across state lines has to be one of the least well understood health policy issues, by the public and policymakers alike. https://t.co/MEy78HIBFz — Larry Levitt (@larry_levitt) March 17, 2017 One reason is that individual states regulate insurance sales, setting many of their own rules dealing with coverage. So, while it might sound simple to someone outside the insurance industry, there would actually have to be some uniformity on sales of insurance across state lines – that’s why the Obama health law requires states to set out agreements in advance with each other. For example, if the state of Florida required health plans to cover preexisting conditions – but the state of Georgia did not – would Florida have to allow Georgia insurers to sell in the Sunshine State, even though they have lower coverage standards? Again, all of that could be hammered out administratively right now – but so far, Republicans and the Trump Administration have showed no interest in what’s already in federal law. Selling insurance across states lines – it’s already allowed – in the Obama health law.
  • With President Donald Trump leading the last minute lobbying and deal making with conservative GOP lawmakers, Republican leaders are planning for a showdown vote next Thursday on the House floor, arguing now is the time to move forward with plans to overhaul the Obama health law. “I want everybody to know that I’m a hundred percent behind this,” President Trump said to reporters as he met with a group of conservative lawmakers who were seeking changes to the health bill. Mr. Trump made clear that he had successfully twisted some arms in an effort to get to the 216 votes that will be needed for approval in the House. “Every single person sitting in this room is now a ‘Yes,'” Mr. Trump declared. MOMENTS AGO: Pres. Trump meets with House conservatives, says 'I'm 100% behind' the GOP's health care plan https://t.co/T5uqoA85rO pic.twitter.com/EQpLYx6KF9 — CBS News (@CBSNews) March 17, 2017 Afterwards, there were signs that some conservatives were ready to stand with the President. “We appreciate the opportunity to discuss with the president the best ways forward to repeal and replace Obamacare,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), the head of the Republican Study Committee in the House. The White House meeting was all part of an effort by GOP leaders to push reluctant Republicans to get on board with the health care overhaul measure, which has run into some resistance among both conservatives and moderates in the party. “There are people from the middle and from the right, who have various concerns,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, as he argued to fellow Republicans that it’s the time for action on health care. Among the changes being discussed, were changes in Medicaid, including a work requirement for able-bodied adults. While that deal may have brought on a few more votes, it still seemed like GOP leaders were short of a majority at this point. “We have to have a bill that will pass,” Speaker Ryan added. But there were some Republicans still resisting both the Speaker and the President, arguing the GOP health plan doesn’t go far enough. “It doesn’t repeal Obamacare,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). “It remains a disaster.” There were also ominous signs from a small group of more conservative Tea Party Republicans, in the House Freedom Caucus. The House Freedom Caucus still opposes the GOP replacement bill in its current form. — House Freedom Caucus (@freedomcaucus) March 17, 2017 “I remain firmly committed to repealing Obamacare,” said Rep. Jim Jordan. The GOP bill still hasn’t been finalized; Republicans will try to do that in coming days.
  • Jamie  Dupree

    Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog.A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989. Politics and the Congress are in Jamie’s family, as both of his parents were staffers for members of Congress. He was also a page and intern in the House of Representatives. Jamie has covered 11 national political conventions, with his first being the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta. His political travels have had him on the presidential campaign trail every four years since 1992, chasing candidates throughout the primary calendar.He is heard on Cox Radio stations around the country: WSB-AM Atlanta, WDBO-AM Orlando; WOKV-AM/FM Jacksonville; WHIO-AM/FM Dayton, Ohio; and KRMG-AM Tulsa, Oklahoma.Jamie and his wife Emily live just outside the Beltway with their three children. Some may know Jamie from his other on-air hobby, as he is a licensed amateur radio operator. When not at work or playing with his kids, you can often find him with a golf club in his hands.Follow Jamie on Twitter and Google+

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  • An off-duty Fulton County police officer shot a man after a chase in Atlanta Wednesday morning, the GBI says. The officer, whose name has not been released, was in his personal vehicle about 11 a.m., when he responded to a theft at a T-Mobile store on Mount Zion Parkway in Morrow, GBI spokesman Rich Bahan said.  The officer followed the suspect’s car into the city limits of Atlanta while reporting the incident to 911, Bahan said. At some point near Alyson Court, the two cars collided and when the driver got out of his car the off-duty officer shot him with his service weapon, Bahan said.   MORE:  Sheriff: Man out on bond for murder arrested after fighting victim’s family Ex-NFL player jailed after allegedly attacking woman in front of kids Police: Men brought ‘bag of bullets’ to shootout with alleged gang members Witness Jay Mitchell told Channel 2 Action News he thinks the man was shot in the stomach area after the police officer chased him and tried to pull him over. The suspect kept driving even after he was shot, Bahan said, and Atlanta police stopped him in the 1700 block of Lakewood Avenue. Whether the off-duty Fulton County officer stayed on the scene was not released, but his car was found parked at a store on Cleveland Avenue, Channel 2 reported. The man who was shot was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, Bahan said. The shooting is the fourth in less than a week involving a Georgia officer. A Georgia State Patrol trooper fatally shot a man after a chase early Saturday in Polk County. Jason Dennis Watkins, 36, was taken to Polk County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. RELATED: GSP trooper fatally shoots man after chase Willie Ivy III, 29, of Atlanta, died after a Fulton County police officer and an armed security guard shot him early Saturday in College Park, the GBI said.  RELATED: Man dead in police-involved shooting incident in College Park A Pickens County sheriff’s sergeant on Tuesday shot and critically injured Gary Lee Castle after he “moved aggressively” toward the official “with a large metal pipe in his hand,” the sheriff’s office said. RELATED: Sergeant shoots, critically injures man, Pickens County sheriff says In January and February, the GBI conducted 17 officer-involved shooting investigations, agency spokeswoman Nelly Miles said. RELATED: OVER THE LINE: Police shootings in Georgia The GBI investigated 78 police shootings in the state last year. In other news:
  • A middle school bus driver in the Valdosta area is accused of driving under the influence of alcohol while students were on her bus, according to the Lowndes County sheriff. Amanda Mullinax, 41, registered more than twice the legal limit, Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk said. A school resource officer at Hahira Middle School smelled alcohol on Mullinax, and a student said she had been drinking, the Macon Telegraph reported. The night before, deputies were called to a domestic dispute at Mullinax’s home and found she had been drinking heavily, Paulk said. RELATED: School bus driver charged in accident that injured child She could face multiple counts of child endangerment since there were about 44 students on the bus, the newspaper reported. Read more of the story here. In other news:
  • U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch vowed to uphold the law if confirmed to the nation’s highest court, not tipping his hand as he sidestepped controversial political subjects, as Gorsuch directly pushed back against President Donald Trump’s criticism of federal judges. “When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening; I find that demoralizing,” Gorsuch said in response to questions from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). “Anyone including the President of the United States?” Blumenthal pressed. “Anyone is anyone,” Gorsuch replied. In a day of testimony that stretched for almost twelve hours, Gorsuch parried most questions from Democrats, who tried in vain to get him to reveal his views on issues like abortion, and items that might come before the Supreme Court, like President Trump’s travel ban. Gorsuch repeatedly refused to take the bait. “I can’t get involved in politics, and I think it would be very imprudent of judges to start commenting on political disputes,” Gorsuch said. Under questioning from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Gorsuch was asked what he had discussed with President Trump on the issue of abortion. “In that interview did he ever ask you to overrule Roe v Wade?” Graham asked. “No, Senator,” Gorsuch replied, adding that if the President had asked that question, “I would have walked out the door.” Gorsuch was pressed about the President in a number of different ways, telling Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that, “nobody is above the law in this country, and that includes the President of the United States.” With Republicans strongly in support of Gorsuch, there was already maneuvering behind the scenes over the expected floor fight in the Senate, as Democrats have made clear they think the GOP should be forced to get 60 votes for his nomination. That has prompted GOP leaders to criticize the threat of a filibuster. “If there aren’t 60 votes for a nominee like Neil Gorsuch it’s appropriate to ask the question is there any nominee any Republican president could make that Democrats would approve,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Gorsuch’s lengthy day of testimony ended on a light note, as Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) suggested to Gorsuch that he have a cocktail before bed. “Just don’t drink vodka,” Kennedy said to chuckles from the audience. Kennedy then drew even more laughter by adding in one more surprise. “You never been to Russia, have you?” “I’ve never been to Russia,” a smiling Gorsuch said.
  • Donald Trump Jr. is facing criticism for tweeting in the hours after Wednesday's London attack a months-old comment from London Mayor Sadiq Khan that terror attacks are part of living in a big city. Trump Jr. tweeted : 'You have to be kidding me?!: Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.' The tweet included a link to a Sept. 22 story from Britain's Independent newspaper that includes the quote from Khan, who was asking Londoners to be vigilant following a bombing in New York City. British Member of Parliament Wes Streeting was among numerous Britons who responded to the tweet with criticism. He called Trump Jr. 'a disgrace' and accused him of using a terrorist attack for 'political gain.' When asked about Trump Jr. on Thursday, Khan told CNN: 'I'm not going to respond to a tweet from Donald Trump Jr. I've been doing far more important things over the past 24 hours.' He added that 'terrorists hate the fact' that cities including London, New York and Paris have 'diverse communities living together peacefully.