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    Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections vowed at a joint news conference on Wednesday to conduct a thorough and bipartisan probe, clearly setting themselves apart from their House counterparts, who are locked in a bitter, partisan struggle over the course of their review. “The committee will go wherever the intelligence leads us,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “We’re here to assure you – and more importantly the American people who are watching and listening – that we will get to the bottom of this,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on that panel. Without going into much detail on who might be in for questioning when by the committee, Burr and Warner set out the basics of their probe, saying seven full-time staff members are spending weeks going through documents of the Intelligence Community on what Russia did in 2016. Sen. Mark Warner on the Senate intel committee Russia probe: 'We're gonna get it right' https://t.co/unNRqnks5q — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 29, 2017 Burr described the review as, “challenging to say the least,” as both men made clear this was turning out to be maybe their most important duty – ever – in the Congress. “This is one of the biggest investigations that the Hill has seen in my tenure here,” said Burr, who was first elected to the Congress in 1994. Sen. Burr on intel committee's Russia probe: “We weren’t given a free pass to do a witch hunt.' https://t.co/fo3n6WsdDC — NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) March 29, 2017 The cooperation among members on the Senate Intelligence Committee stands in stark contrast to the infighting and finger pointing going on across the Capitol on the House Intelligence Committee. “Our investigation is stalled,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), as he blamed panel chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) for canceling a variety of meetings set for this week. “I think he needs to recuse himself,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) said of Nunes, as Democrats furiously contend that the sprint by Nunes to brief President Trump last week on intelligence – which he still has not shared with his committee – signals something is wrong. On the other side in the House, Republicans don’t see anything wrong with the work of Nunes, and argue Democrats are pushing conspiracy theories that have no evidence behind them. “This is media speculation being fueled by Democrats,” said Rep. Peter King (R-NY). Rep Turner (R-OH) a Republican on the House Intel Cmte asked on @MSNBC if Chairman Nunes should recuse himself: 'absolutely not' — Alex Moe (@AlexNBCNews) March 28, 2017 But over on the Senate side of the Capitol, some fellow Republicans have made clear their displeasure with the actions of Nunes over the last week – and at today’s news conference – Burr and Warner made clear they were running a different operation. “We’re not asking the House to play any role in our investigation, and we don’t plan to play any role in their investigation,” Burr told reporters. Thursday will bring a public hearing for the Senate Intelligence Committee that will focus on what Russia has been up to on the internet, using the opportunity to warn European nations what they may face when they hold elections in coming months. “I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections,” Burr said, giving one example.
  • At the request of four Democrats in the Congress, the Government Accountability Office has agreed to formally review how much money the feds spend, and what security precautions are taken, when President Donald Trump takes a weekend away at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida. The request for a GAO review came from three Democratic Senators and one House member – the GAO says it will “review security and site-related travel expenses related to the President’s stays outside the White House at Mar-a-Lago. The lawmakers who made the request were Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). On 2/16, @RepCummings @SenWarren @SenWhitehouse & I wrote @USGAO & asked they review Mar-a-Lago security procedures & taxpayer funded travel — Tom Udall (@SenatorTomUdall) March 28, 2017 This is not new territory for the GAO, which from time to time is asked by one party or the other to review the costs of travel. When the White House was under the control of Democrats, Republicans a few years ago were the ones asking about costs – as they had the GAO look at a February 15-18, 2013 trip made by President Barack Obama. In that review, the GAO estimated that an official speech in Illinois, followed by a golf weekend in Florida, cost about $3.6 million. This GAO report will look at more than just the cost of the weekend trips to Trump’s resort in Mar-a-Lago, as it will also review security matters there. (CBSMiami/AP) — A government watchdog will investigate the taxpayer-funded travel costs of President Donald Trump’s trips to Mar-a-lago. — Liz Quirantes (@lizquirantes) March 28, 2017 Democrats raised those concerns during a trip that Mr. Trump took with the Japanese Prime Minister, when the two men were seen with aides in a public dining area, speaking about a developing national security issue with regards to North Korea. One question from the four Democrats centers on whether those who are at the Trump club have gone through normal security and clearance procedures, including any foreign nationals who might be there. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has downplayed the costs of the Mar-a-Lago visits, saying that’s ‘part of being President.’ “That is a vast reach,” Spicer told one reporter, who cast the question of the cost of the Mar-a-Lago visits, versus proposed cuts in the federal budget. Before he became President, Mr. Trump often criticized his predecessor for taking weekend golf trips to Florida and other parts of the country. While our wonderful president was out playing golf all day, the TSA is falling apart, just like our government! Airports a total disaster! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 21, 2016 The GAO will now be in charge of determining how much Mr. Trump’s own weekend getaways are costing taxpayers.
  • Still smarting from last week’s meltdown on a bill to overhaul the Obama health law, House Republicans used a closed door “family meeting” in the U.S. Capitol to both clear the air, and see if there was a way to push forward again on a plan to make major changes to Obamacare. “We had a very constructive meeting with our members,” said Speaker Paul Ryan about the focus on a GOP measure on health care reform. “I’m not going to put a timeline on it.” “I think there’s a good healthy discussion going on in there,” said Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), one Republican who has been publicly critical of the more conservative group of lawmakers known as the Freedom Caucus. “We need to not quit until the moment that we find the right solutions,” said Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL). Various GOP lawmakers described the meeting as a “soul searching” moment; one said it was a “family feud of sorts.” “It was really about trying the best we can to come together,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), a prime ally of President Donald Trump in the House. While Collins said the GOP should avoid recriminations, he still managed to throw some verbal elbows at the Freedom Caucus, at one point labeling them as a group of “perfectionists on our far right.” As for the Freedom Caucus, the leader of that group again said they are willing to reach a deal on health care, as Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) urged lawmakers to postpone a scheduled Easter break if needed to forge a deal. Freedom Caucus Chair Meadows say he doesn't think members should go home for recess until they pass healthcare bill, wants to get to 'yes' — Deirdre Walsh (@deirdrewalshcnn) March 28, 2017 Others in the Freedom Caucus though were ready to support only one thing first, and that is repeal of the Obama health law – and then move on to figure out what’s next. “We will find out who is truly for repealing Obamacare, and who is not,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who says he will use a process known as a “discharge petition” to try to force action on his bill to just repeal the Obama health law. In the end, while there was a lot of positive talk about moving forward, there was no concrete sign that somehow differences had been bridged among more moderate and conservative lawmakers in the GOP on health care. GOP SUMMARY: Republicans cannot agree on whether to agree to disagree. — Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) March 28, 2017 After the meeting, Speaker Paul Ryan echoed the assessments of his rank and file. “This discussion was an honest and very constructive step forward,” he told reporters. But there was no immediate breakthrough on an overhaul of the Obama health law.
  • Three days after a GOP health care bill melted down in the U.S. House before a vote, the White House said President Trump is not giving up on his desire to overhaul the Obama health law, as Republicans in the Congress also urged the President to keep pushing ahead on major health insurance changes. “I don’t think it’s dead,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said of the failed GOP health bill, which foundered even after repeated efforts by the President to twist the arms of reluctant Republican lawmakers. “We’re at the beginning of a process. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of health care,” Spicer added, labeling the Obama health law, “an abysmal failure.” Spicer said the White House is currently going through a post-mortem on what went right and what wrong in their effort, as he said members of both parties in Congress had already reached out to both the White House and Mr. Trump about finding some common ground on health care policy. Spicer: Trump has received calls from Republicans and Democrats offering to work with him to improve health care https://t.co/ZQHMnWGI3O — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 27, 2017 On Capitol Hill, both parties were still sifting through the embers of the GOP health care bill, which was yanked off the House floor on Friday afternoon before a final vote, clearly short on support, as it divided Republicans along several fault lines. For many GOP lawmakers, the idea of giving up after just 18 days of work on health care changes, was not an option. “We cannot walk away now, without even a vote,” said Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), a junior member of the House GOP leadership, said on the House floor. “I will continue to fight for a conservative bill to repeal Obamacare and rebuild a people-first health care system,” said Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC). But there was no immediate signal on whether the White House or GOP leaders in Congress would look to tinker with the failed health bill of last week, or maybe start to develop a new plan.
  • Democrats used rules on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday to force a one week delay in a vote on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court, as Democratic opponents sent mixed signals on whether or not they would lead an all-out filibuster against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. The delay by Democrats – which they can do only once before the Judiciary Committee – also included two other top nominations by President Trump to the Justice Department. All three of those nominees are expected to gain committee approval next week. BREAKING: Democrats force one-week delay in committee vote on Supreme Court nominee, choice still on track with GOP support. — AP Politics (@AP_Politics) March 27, 2017
  • Democrats used rules on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday to force a one week delay in a vote on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court, as Democratic opponents sent mixed signals on whether or not they would lead an all-out filibuster against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. The delay by Democrats – which they can do only once before the Judiciary Committee – also included two other top nominations by President Trump to the Justice Department. All three of those nominees are expected to gain committee approval next week – from there, it is on to the Senate floor. BREAKING: Democrats force one-week delay in committee vote on Supreme Court nominee, choice still on track with GOP support. — AP Politics (@AP_Politics) March 27, 2017 For now, a number of Democrats are making clear that they will try to block the Gorsuch nomination, once it reaches the U.S. Senate floor – but it’s not clear if all Democrats will join that move. “As of now I do not believe I can support Judge Gorsuch,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary panel. But Leahy left himself some wiggle room on a filibuster. I am never inclined to filibuster a SCOTUS nom. But I need to see how Judge Gorsuch answers my written Qs, under oath, before deciding. — Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) March 27, 2017 Democrats are still angry about Republicans blocking action last year on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court. If they stick together, they could deny the GOP 60 votes on the floor of the Senate, and bottle up the Gorsuch nomination. Some in the GOP have threatened to “go nuclear” and change the Senate rules to get rid of the 60 vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees, as has been done for all other Presidential nominees.
  • After a Republican push in Congress on a GOP health care overhaul bill melted down last Friday, there are not many opportunities for President Donald Trump to turn things around on Capitol Hill right now, as with little of his agenda in the pipeline, it is possible that the President may have to waits months for a significant legislative achievement to make it through the Congress. Here is where things stand on Capitol Hill for the Trump Administration. 1. Lots of campaign promises, but little ready for action. With the GOP health care bill seemingly now off the agenda in the Congress, where does President Trump go for a much-needed legislative victory? The answer reminds me of what I said about health care and Republicans for the last six years – they have lots of ideas, but there is no GOP consensus on what to do, or how to get it through the House and Senate. That description could apply to a number of big issues, like tax reform, budget cuts, entitlement reform, balancing the budget, building new roads and bridges, and many other issues. For a variety of reasons, there are no bills ready for action on anything major at this point on the Trump Agenda, as Mr. Trump is definitely behind where things stood eight years ago legislatively. Laws signed by Obama, at this point in 2009 · Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act· SCHIP reauthorization· DTV Delay Act· Stimulus bill· Omnibus — Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 26, 2017 2. The one bright spot for Trump – Neil Gorsuch. Let’s not ignore the one possible victory in the short term for the President, his choice for U.S. Supreme Court. Neil Gorsuch was untouched in last week’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but his final approval is not a slam dunk, as Democrats are threatening to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination. Still, it’s not clear that all Democrats will go along with that, and Gorsuch may get approved after an Easter break on Capitol Hill. That would certainly be a big victory for Mr. Trump and Republicans – but it may be about the only major item they will celebrate on any time soon in the halls of Congress. 'Neal Gorsuch. Neal Gorsuch. Neal Gorsuch.' My closing comment on @MeetThePress 30 years from now, God willing, Justice Gorsuch will still b — Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) March 26, 2017 3. Tax reform unlikely to produce a quick victory for Trump. While the President has made clear he wants to move on from the GOP health care debacle to tax reform, that is not an item that will fly through Congress. If you think health care reform is tricky, just wait until you get every corporate lobbyist imaginable in Washington, D.C. involved in a major tax reform effort. The last time the Congress approved a tax reform bill, it took a little over a year to get it through the House and Senate and to the President’s desk – that was the Tax Reform Act of 1986. There is a reason they call the lobby outside of the House Ways and Means Committee, “Gucci Gulch” – it will be packed with very well paid lobbyists of all stripes. Attention members of Gucci Gulch https://t.co/Oy3RQKTxjp — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) March 24, 2017 4. A U.S.-Mexican border wall is no slam dunk. President Trump has asked the Congress to approve $3.1 billion so his administration can jump start work on a wall along the Mexican border, but that’s no gimme on Capitol Hill. Mr. Trump wants some of that money approved as part of budget plan for the rest of the current fiscal year; a temporary budget runs out on April 28. While that is just over a month from now, the Congress will soon be gone on a two week Easter break, and there are some fears a mini-budget showdown next month could even lead to a government shutdown. One thing that may rile up some Republicans is the need to use eminent domain to get the land along the border to build the wall. Trump likes eminent domain – many in the GOP do not. Report: Texans on Mexico border receive letters threatening eminent domain for Trump's wall. https://t.co/g0Aw80wqH7 — Houston Chronicle (@HoustonChron) March 17, 2017 5. What about the Trump Infrastructure plan? Through the campaign, there was a lot of talk by the President about a $1 trillion package for infrastructure spending – not all from the government, but a public-private partnership to deliver construction jobs on news roads, bridges and more. But over two months into his administration, the White House has not yet delivered a plan, and Congress is not ready with any bill as of yet. The odd part of this issue is obvious, as Republicans spent the last eight years resisting much smaller infrastructure plans offered by President Obama, mainly on the grounds of the cost. This is another major issue that’s not ready for a vote in either the House or Senate. Which committees/members of Congress are working on or drafting infrastructure legislation? — Sydney (@Sydney843) March 26, 2017 6. Trump budget likely to bring even more Capitol Hill intrigue. If you enjoyed the ebb and flow of the internal Republican troubles over health care, just wait until we get to the budget presented by President Trump. That plan is asking for $54 billion more in defense spending next year, offset by $54 billion in budget cuts from non-defense programs. Just as the GOP was divided into different camps on health care, the same is true on the budget. Some Republican lawmakers are aghast at the lack of effort by the White House to deal with the budget deficit. Others want much more in defense spending. There are many ready to resist various cuts put forward by the White House as well. Some of the specific Trump cuts that would be felt in local communities are already drawing fire, with little push back from the White House. Here’s a perfect example of budget concern coming from a red state: Trump’s budget cuts could affect Topeka, Billard airport operationshttps://t.co/hueNlp384X — CJOnline (@CJOnline) March 26, 2017 7. GOP finger pointing won’t help produce legislative wins. President Trump on Sunday used Twitter to lash out at conservative Republicans in Congress and outside conservative groups that were opposed to the health care reform bill that ran aground last week, as he singled out the Freedom Caucus for criticism. “Mark Meadows betrayed Trump and America and supported Pelosi and Democrats to protect Obamacare,” said Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), again going after the head of the House Freedom Caucus. Not only is the country divided politically, but so too is the Republican Party in Congress, and that was very obvious in the last week. If the majority party isn’t united in Washington, that makes life difficult when it comes to legislating. This tweet shows you some Republicans aren’t scared of crossing the President one bit. I take it GOP leadership still hasn't told Trump the PP provision was a 1yr bait and switch? See page 23 of CBO https://t.co/O9cGKQeqzb https://t.co/yKVPG1UvHe — Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 26, 2017 8. It’s not just the Freedom Caucus that Trump is mad at. As more stories leak out about the President’s lobbying efforts on health care, it’s becoming apparent that he gave an earful to some Republican moderates as well. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) acknowledged that he had been on the receiving end of one Trump jab, as the President reportedly told Dent that he and other opponents of the health care bill were “destroying America,” as the New York Times reported that Trump told Dent his position would endanger future efforts in Congress at tax reform. One had Trump wondering aloud, “Why am I even talking to you?” when Dent said he would be a “No” vote. 9. Whither the Freedom Caucus? Whether they’ve been called the Freedom Caucus or Tea Party Republicans, those more conservative Republicans elected in the GOP since the 2010 elections have been very straightforward in the amount of change that they want to see in Congress and in the federal government – a lot. But the problem is, they’ve done little more than just be the block of votes that says, “No” – they have not been a group that’s bubbling over with legislative ideas, they have not been on the floor leading the charge on budget cuts and other government reform proposals. This latest battle over health care prompted one Republican to quit the Freedom Caucus on Sunday – Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) made clear that he wants to see legislative achievements in the future. Thx for your leadership @realDonaldTrump @SpeakerRyan Some only want to be the party of 'no' & would've voted against the 10 commandments — Ted Poe (@JudgeTedPoe) March 24, 2017 10. So, where does that leave Trump? Don’t buy into the stories that say everything is collapsing for President Trump. But don’t go whistling by the graveyard either. I wrote five weeks ago that the GOP Congress had nothing really in the legislative pipeline for Trump to sign, other than some bills that repealed individual rules from the Obama Administration. While those certainly fit into what Trump promised during the campaign, most of that is not tip-of-the-tongue kind of stuff for politicians back home. But it’s all that Republicans have right now in terms of action in Congress. Trump seemed to understand that, as he made it part of his pitch to reluctant Republicans on health care. And for now, there seem to be few opportunities for legislative success in the near term for Mr. Trump. Momentum is important in sports. And it is important in politics as well. 'Trump didn't offer any arguments for why they should support the legislation other than to give him his first legislative victory' — DennisM (@newsagg) March 25, 2017
  • After the collapse of health care reform legislation in the House on Friday, Republicans in the Congress and President Donald Trump now must decide what’s next on their respective agendas, as the GOP tries to pick up the pieces from a very public legislative failure over an issue that had been their central political focus for the last seven years. Here’s the look from Capitol Hill. 1. The first big setback for the Trump agenda. You can try to downplay what happened, but there was little positive to take from this health care debacle in the House. “I will not sugarcoat this; this is a disappointing day for us,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan after the vote was canceled. President Trump tried to blame Democrats, but that rang hollow since the White House had done no serious outreach to the other party. With this setback, it’s even more apparent how little has been done so far by the GOP Congress with respect to the Trump Agenda. Other than approving a series of plans to reverse specific regulations of the Obama Administration, no bills of any import have been passed. Infrastructure, jobs bills, tax cuts, cutting government – all of that sounds good – but so far, no action. And Trump wrote 'The Art of the Deal' — Bill Mitchell (@JerseyGuy_Bill) March 25, 2017 2. Trump allies turn their sights on Speaker Ryan. It wasn’t hard to hear the low rumbling of some supporters of President Trump, as they used the Friday health care debacle to immediately try to make Speaker Ryan the scapegoat. Ann Coulter bluntly said, “Ryan is not on Trump’s side.” Pro-Trump websites like InfoWars and Breitbart immediately attacked Ryan as well, with some conservatives urging the House Freedom Caucus to help dump Ryan, arguing that he is the perfect illustration of the Republican Establishment that needs to be excised from Swamp of Washington, D.C. Paul Ryan is not on @POTUS' side – https://t.co/QVOHBDIKiT #KilledTheBill #FunFactFriday — Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) March 24, 2017 3. Full repeal of Obamacare needs 60 votes in the Senate. If Republicans couldn’t muster a majority in the House – how are they going to get 60 votes in the Senate to really change the bulk of the Obama health law? The answer – they’re not going to do that any time soon. But full repeal was still the mantra from a number of Republicans as the House GOP health care bill went down the tubes on Friday. “I remain committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with conservative reforms,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN). “Congress should take its time and pass a good bill that actually repeals ObamaCare,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). But the truth is, unless Republicans get 60 votes in the 2018 elections, an Obama health law repeal bill faces a difficult road in the Congress. I applaud House conservatives for keeping their word to the American people. I look forward to passing full repeal https://t.co/ftyj6sCw0v — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 24, 2017 4. This fight on health care is already over? It seems hard to believe that Republicans are just going to drop the issue of health care reform, especially after making it such a central part of their political message in recent years. But President Trump seemed to send the signal that he is going to focus his political capital on other issues, like tax reform. “That one is going to be fun,” the President said earlier this week, as his Treasury Secretary predicted a final tax bill would on the President’s desk by early August. The last time Congress approved major tax reform was 1986. There’s a reason it hasn’t happened in over 30 years. It is not easy. And the lobbyists of Gucci Gulch will be ready. President Trump says tax reform is the next item on his agenda https://t.co/dLNduSPgl6 — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 24, 2017 5. This wasn’t really much of an effort. The White House said the President “left everything on the field” to get a health care bill. But it doesn’t look like that at all. Go back eight years, and Democrats were just launching their 13 month effort to forge what would become known as Obamacare. It went through the spring, summer, fall, winter, and then into the next spring of 2010, before being achieved. By contrast, the GOP introduced its health care bill on March 6 and gave up on March 24. Back in 2009 and 2010, Democrats struggled to keep their side together, but managed to get 60 votes for their package in the Senate. The GOP couldn’t even get a majority in the House. There is still time to go back to the drawing board. But it takes more than 18 days of work. Remember when Republicans promised they would try to fiddle with Obamacare for a few weeks and then give up? — Ramesh Ponnuru (@RameshPonnuru) March 24, 2017 6. Let the Republican finger pointing begin. One of the biggest immediate targets was the Freedom Caucus, the group of more conservative lawmakers which for years has been very good at holding out against the GOP leadership, but has done almost nothing in the way of substantive legislating. Some of that ire was aimed at Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the head of the Freedom Caucus. “Mark Meadows is more interested in being on the TV than solving problems,” fumed Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), who then aimed some more barbs at Meadows and pointedly made sure to tell a reporter – “You can quote me on that.” Exactly right. GOP & Trump own this,but @freedomcaucus & @Heritage_Action & others caused it. They are the pie-in-the-sky caucus. https://t.co/9tMcfk45ox — Brit Hume (@brithume) March 24, 2017 7. Don’t downplay the importance of this setback. Yes, it’s just one bill. Yes, it’s not the end of the world. But this failure was a big deal. Republicans have been talking for years about how they would repeal and replace the Obama health law. Donald Trump said he would do it right away. But for years, I have been reporting – and taking flak for saying – that while the GOP had lots of ideas, they didn’t have consensus on any plan. And that was obvious as they desperately tried to stitch together deals at the last minute to keep the bill moving. It’s pretty easy to lob verbal grenades at the other party – it’s a little different to offer substantive legislation and pass it. Humiliating defeat for GOP after years to prepare. Real blow to their argument that they could govern if only given the chance. — carl hulse (@hillhulse) March 24, 2017 8. This was not a good week for President Trump. It started Monday with the FBI Director publicly confirming that not only was there an investigation of how Russia meddled in last year’s election, but also a probe of any links between the Trump Campaign and Moscow. The FBI chief also made clear there was no evidence to back up Trump’s claim that he had been wiretapped in 2016. And the NSA shot down talk that British Intelligence had helped with surveillance on Trump Tower. Meanwhile, the Trump travel and refugee ban stayed on hold the courts, despite Mr. Trump’s declaration that judges were overstepping their authority. Then the week ended with a health care thud. Tomorrow's cover: Trump forced to cancel health care vote in stunning blow https://t.co/53Po4iXVbM pic.twitter.com/lEQe5Qc22g — New York Post (@nypost) March 24, 2017
  • Unable to convince GOP lawmakers to get on board with a plan to overhaul the Obama health law, Republicans in the House decided not to even force a vote on the measure, a major setback for both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. “This bill is dead,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who played a central role in cobbling together this plan. 'This bill is dead,' House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Walden says — Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) March 24, 2017 The bill never even came to a vote, as it became obvious that Republicans had nowhere near a majority of lawmakers ready to vote for it. Democrats were more than happy to pile on the GOP legislative debacle. #ObamaCare 1 – #Trumpcare 0. — Rep. Hank Johnson (@RepHankJohnson) March 24, 2017
  • After hours of negotiations that featured personal intervention by President Donald Trump, Republican leaders in the Congress were forced to back off a planned vote on a GOP health care bill, unable to find enough votes approve it and send it on to the Senate for further work. While House leaders said votes were possible on Friday, there was no final agreement to vote on, as more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus refused to get on board with a deal offered by the White House. “We have not gotten enough of our members to get to yes,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the chair of the Freedom Caucus. “I am still a no at this time,” Meadows told a crush of reporters. “I am desperately trying to get to yes.” Rep. Mark Meadows: “I am still a no at this time. I am desperately trying to get to yes” https://t.co/cQi0OGdJGY — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 23, 2017 Other Freedom Caucus members said very little as they exited a Congressional hearing room after a two hour meeting on the health bill, leaving Meadows to get out the message. “No comment,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). “Mark’s got everything,” referring to Meadows. “You know I’m not going express the substance of anything that we talked about in there,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) said as reporters trailed him down the hall. Earlier at the White House, there had been optimism after a meeting between Freedom Caucus members and the President. Lengthy standing ovation from the Freedom Caucus when @POTUS walked into the Cabinet Room just now. Big momentum toward #RepealAndReplace. pic.twitter.com/N1FLGAVFMN — Cliff Sims (@CSims45) March 23, 2017 But, there was no deal.

News

  • Pickens County deputies are searching for an armed fugitive.  Authorities are looking for Nicholas Bishop in the area of Priest Circle in Talking Rock.  Bishop is believed to be armed with a handgun and on foot after he abandoned a stolen vehicle around 2 p.m.  If you see him, call 911 immediately. Officials say do not attempt to approach him. - Please return for updates.
  • One more time, Doris Payne, the 86-year-old infamous international jewel thief, has pleaded guilty to the usual crime. She admitted Wednesday to stealing a necklace from Von Maur at Perimeter Mall last year, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office said. Payne, who recently said she’s been dealing with a possibly cancerous tumor, was sentenced to 120 days of house arrest and three years of probation.  She was also banned from all Von Maur locations and every mall in DeKalb County. Payne, who’d been free on bond, was arrested last month for missing a court date. Shortly after the would-be appearance, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she wasn’t medically able to attend. “I ain’t runnin’,” she said in a phone interview. “I’ve never in my life been late for court. Last month, Payne was deemed too ill to stand trial by the judge presiding over a Fulton County case stemming from a missing set of earrings at Phipps Plaza. Payne has been open about her habits of theft, which she detailed in a documentary called, “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne.” RELATED: Huge DeKalb center with (at least) 8 popular chains is opening soon RELATED: Cop helps elderly woman who got kicked out of dentist office in DeKalb RELATED: A DeKalb family’s tale of two dead bodies and a crying baby girl Like DeKalb County News Now on Facebook | Follow on Twitter and Instagram
  • A drunken driver destroyed a row of headstones at a historic Carrollton cemetery, causing tens of thousands of dollars' worth of damage, police said. According to police, the driver was coming down Martin Luther King Street on March 19, ran a stop sign, jumped a curb and crashed into the city-owned cemetery. The broken headstones range in date from the late 1800s to 1950. 'And what we discussed is, if one is damaged beyond repair, we'll put something back that's respectful. It's hard to replace it with the exact same item. The families aren't around anymore, so the city will take on the responsibility,' city manager Tim Grizzard said. TRENDING STORIES: Thousands of Georgians could lose food stamps next week 16-year-old in custody after hoax call about school gunman Food prices at SunTrust Park vs. Mercedes-Benz Stadium: What's the difference? The 35-year-old driver, Ray Antonio Baker, was arrested and charged with DUI. City officials said they will ask his insurance carrier to pay for the damage. 'Our plan is to go after the individual's insurance to pay for repairs. If that doesn't pay for everything, the city will certainly pick up the tab,' Grizzard said. Officials said this isn't the first time a driver has damaged headstones, but it's not a big enough problem to put up a wall. 'It's not something that has happened often enough that we need to put up a barrier. If it was a recurrent spot, we would do something,' Grizzard said. City officials said it could take weeks to repair the damage.
  • President Donald Trump faces one last hurdle to ending nearly seven years of lawsuits over his now-defunct Trump University when a judge decides Thursday whether to approve a $25 million settlement with former customers. When attorneys reached a deal 10 days after Trump's election, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel said he hoped it would be part of 'a healing process that this country very sorely needs.' A month later, he granted preliminary approval of the deal. Last week, attorneys for former customers said their clients will get at least 80 percent of their money back, based on the roughly 3,730 claims submitted. Trump has paid $25 million into escrow to settle two federal class-action lawsuits before Curiel and a civil lawsuit by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. He admitted no wrongdoing. The lawsuits allege that Trump University gave nationwide seminars that were like infomercials, constantly pressuring people to spend more and, in the end, failing to deliver on its promises. Two customers have objected to the settlement. Sherri Simpson, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, attorney, says she wasn't given enough opportunity to opt out of the lawsuit and should have the right to sue the president. Simpson and a partner paid $35,000 in 2010 to enroll in Trump University's 'Gold Elite' program to be paired with a mentor who would teach them Trump's secret real estate investment strategies. Simpson, who appeared in two anti-Trump campaign ads, said they got little for their money — the videos were 5 years old, the materials covered information that could be found free on the internet and her mentor didn't return calls or emails. 'I would like an admission that he was wrong, an admission that, 'Oops, maybe I didn't handle it as well as I should have, I didn't set it up as well as I should have, that I didn't maintain it or oversee it as well as I should have,'' Simpson told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Attorneys for Trump and those suing him say the deadline to opt out was in November 2015 and Simpson missed her chance. Thirteen people opted out before that date, none of whom have shown any desire to sue the president. Another customer, Harold Doe, objected to the settlement because he wants more money, according to court filings by attorneys for Trump and the plaintiffs. Trump University dogged the Republican businessman throughout the campaign as rivals used Trump's depositions and extensive documents filed in the lawsuits to portray him as dishonest and deceitful. Trump brought more attention by repeatedly assailing Curiel, insinuating that the Indiana-born judge's Mexican heritage exposed a bias. The settlement was reached 10 days before a trial was set to begin, sparing Trump what would have been a major distraction. The trial would have been pinned on whether a jury believed Trump misled customers by calling the business a university when it wasn't an accredited school and by falsely advertising that he hand-picked instructors. Trump vowed never to settle but said after the election that he didn't have time for a trial, even though he believed he would have prevailed. ___ Associated Press writer Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, contributed to this report.