"I think it's an overstatement to say we're at the brink of war," Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said Monday on CNN's New Day of President Trump's late-night Twitter threat against Iran. But, Himes added, there is real cause for concern.
"If you look back at a bunch of Trump's tweets before he was president," the representative said, "he criticized several times Barack Obama and said, 'You just wait, he's going to start a war with Iran if it feels like he's on the political ropes.' And so that's in his head; that's what worries me."
After reviewing a few of the Trump tweets in question, Himes argued that we "need to be sensitive to the fact that this president, who doesn't have a very sophisticated sense of international relations, regards a war as a way to solve political problems — and that's a scary thought." Watch Himes' comments and see the tweets for yourself below. Bonnie Kristian
"I think it's an overstatement to say we're at the brink of war," says Rep. @JAHimes in response to President Trump tweeting an explosive threat to Iran. "I think that's probably not true." https://t.co/wUA3om4Wll pic.twitter.com/JdiJ5uwJax
— New Day (@NewDay) July 23, 2018
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was so incensed by President Trump's press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday that he called Republican lawmakers and gave them permission to speak out against Trump's comments, three people familiar with the matter told Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman.
Kelly warned Trump that by saying he had no reason to believe Russia would want to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, it made things infinitely worse for him with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Sherman reports, and he also urged him to take back the remarks, which he kind of attempted to do on Tuesday.
Trump himself was surprised by the public's negative reaction to the press conference, but by the time he returned to the United States he was enraged that few people were defending him. "This was the nightmare scenario," one Republican close to the White House told Sherman. Catherine Garcia
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has decided not to run for re-election, Axios reported Wednesday. The speaker has apparently told "confidants" that he will announce his decision to retire "soon."
Ryan represents Wisconsin's 1st District, where he's an extremely strong candidate. He won re-election in 2016 with 65 percent of the vote — but perhaps more troubling for the GOP, he won the Republican primary with a whopping 84 percent of the vote, defeating hard-right candidate Paul Nehlen, a person with views so far on the fringe that the Wisconsin Republican Party disavowed him earlier this year.
The filing deadline in Wisconsin is June 1, so should Ryan confirm his retirement plans, the state party would have a bit of time to find a suitable alternative candidate to Nehlen. But even still, Cook Political Report's David Wasserman notes, while Wisconsin's 1st may have been a lock for the GOP under Ryan, that's not so much the case without him:
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) April 11, 2018
Rumors that Ryan had reached his limit with the speakership — a job he very publicly didn't want — have swirled for months now, as he has struggled to maintain his reputation as the GOP's moral leader while balancing a relationship with President Trump. But if he indeed walks away from the House, it's a sign of trouble for the GOP: "This is a Titanic, tectonic shift," one Republican insider told Axios. "This is going to make every Republican donor believe the House can't be held."
On Saturday morning, President Trump tweeted a response to Friday's news that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI:
I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2017
The Washington Post later reported, citing unnamed sources, that the tweet was written by Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd. While Dowd told NBC News the post "simply paraphrases what [White House lawyer] Ty Cobb said" about Flynn's guilty plea, critics argue it says much more.
The timeline here is crucial: When Trump fired Flynn on Feb. 13, he only mentioned lies to Vice President Pence, ostensibly learning of the lies to the FBI three days later, on Feb. 16. If Trump knew about the FBI lies when Flynn was fired, his alleged Feb. 14 request that then-FBI Director James Comey let the Flynn investigation go could be obstruction of justice. Bonnie Kristian
Public Policy Polling released the first survey on the Graham-Cassidy bill on Thursday, and the results don't bode well for Republicans' last-ditch effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare. The poll revealed that a majority of voters — 54 percent — approve of the Affordable Care Act. A whopping 63 percent said they want to keep the parts of ObamaCare that work and fix the parts that don't.
Just 32 percent are interested in the prospect of totally starting over with a new health-care law, and a mere 24 percent approve of the Graham-Cassidy bill. Fifty percent disapprove of the bill sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), while 27 percent said they were unsure.
Meanwhile, Republicans are rallying to get 51 votes before Sept. 30, the deadline for passing an ObamaCare repeal with a simple majority vote. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has announced he's a definite 'no,' and other GOP senators are wavering. Three 'no' votes would kill the bill.
The Public Policy Polling survey was taken Sept. 20-21 among 638 registered voters. Becca Stanek
The combination of President Trump's frequent travel, numerous properties, and large family is gobbling up the Secret Service's funds at an unprecedented rate. USA Today revealed Monday that roughly a third of America's Secret Service agents have "already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year," forcing Secret Service Director Randolph "Tex" Alles to turn to Congress for additional funding.
Alles is pushing to raise the salary and overtime cap for agents to ameliorate the situation. But even if that were to happen, 130 agents would still not be "fully compensated for hundreds of hours already amassed," USA Today reported.
With the rate of attrition already high and the demanding workload expected to continue, Democrats and Republicans are concerned. "We cannot expect the Secret Service to be able to recruit and keep the best of the best if they are not being paid for these increases [in overtime hours]," a spokeswoman for Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said.
The European Union may suspend Poland's voting rights because of its ruling right-wing Law and Justice party's recent reform efforts. The party is attempting to gain parliamentary approval to effectively "abolish" the judicial system's independence by giving politicians "power over the appointment of judges and members of the country's supreme court," The Guardian reported.
Protests have erupted in response to the Polish government's effort, and now the EU is considering taking action, as European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said it would "greatly amplify the threat to the rule of law." Timmermans said the EU is "very close" to triggering Article 7 — the provision that allows for voting rights to be suspended as punishment for breaches of EU obligations — against Poland, which has never been done before. Becca Stanek
A day away from June, the White House has nominated just 117 people for the 559 "most important Senate-confirmed positions," Politico reports. Adding to the woes, the staff in charge of the hiring is running into an unanticipated roadblock: Potential staffers are choosing to stay away from an administration embroiled in an investigation into possible collusion with Russia.
"It's an additional factor that makes what was an already complicated process of staffing the government even harder," said one of Trump's transportation hiring advisers, Max Stier.
At least three potential hires in the past two weeks told one lawyer working for the administration that they are no longer interested due to the ongoing, and mounting, investigation into ties to Russia. "You're going to have a situation where [the Trump administration is] going to have trouble getting A-list or even B-list people to sign up," said the lawyer. The White House disputed such claims, with a spokeswoman saying the president is still getting people "of the highest quality" to join the administration.
In addition to the search for a new FBI director, there are vacancies in second-to-the-top spots at the departments of Agriculture, Education, Veterans Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, and nominees for Commerce and Treasury deputy secretaries have both withdrawn. At this same point in Barack Obama and George W. Bush's first terms, both leaders had nominated approximately twice as many people as Trump has now.
"There's no doubt in my mind that people are being very cautious, to put it mildly," the lawyer said. Jeva Lange