The Week on Planet Trump: Healthcare Backlash Continues as the Net Closes in on Russia

Monday: Campaigning in Bombast, Unable to Govern

From Trump on down, many of today’s conservatives tend be much more skilled at campaigning, opposing pretty much everything, riling up their bases with antipathy toward the other side and getting elected (granted, that last bit’s kind of important) than at the qualities that enable governing, like compromise and fact-based analysis. Of course, there are thoughtful conservatives with cogent ideas about health policy, but clearly they’re of little interest to today’s leadership. How do I know that? Because their replacement law - the American Health Care Act - was an incoherent dog’s breakfast of massive tax cuts for the rich and spending cuts for the poor, more a caricature of Republican policy than actual policy. In this regard, credit also goes to the Congressional Budget Office, for quickly and credibly revealing the damage that would be done by the AHCA.

Jared Bernstein, The Washington Post

Tuesday: Liberated from Healthcare, Stuck With Republicans

“Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” the president had said in a now-infamous quote. The health-care legislation was pulled without a vote last week after House Speaker Paul Ryan told the president there were not enough votes from Republicans to pass it.

The implication of Trump’s musings about the difficulty of passing complicated health-care legislation is that he believes the rest of his agenda will be much easier. Tax cuts? Everybody like tax cuts. The legendary border wall. More defense spending. A big, bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Moving on from the American Health Care Act now liberates Trump to pursue the promises he’s truly passionate about, the items that drew the loudest cheers at his campaign rallies last year. Yet Republicans in Congress don’t see it that way, and for good reason: Passage of the health-care legislation was supposed to lay the groundwork and build momentum for a series of even tougher negotiation and votes to come.

Russell Berman, The Atlantic

Wednesday: Morally-Repugnant Budget Attacked

Let’s be absolutely clear. When Mulvaney talks about spending taxpayer money “carefully,” he really means abandoning programs that will help millions of working-class Americans so that the Pentagon can get an $84 billion increase in spending over the next year and a half. According to new analysis released on February 14, 2017, the United States spends as much on its national defense as the next 12 countries combined, many of which are our close allies and strategic partners.  And, according to a recent study, the Pentagon has “buried evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste.”  Moreover, the Pentagon’s $1.44 trillion acquisition portfolio currently suffers from more than $469 billion in contractor cost overruns.

So much for Mulvaney’s promise to spend taxpayer money more carefully.

Far from compassionate, this budget - if enacted - would be one of the cruelest in American history.

Bernie Sanders, USA Today

Thursday: Unpopular, Incompetent and Flailing

What we’re learning, day by day, is there’s no magic to Trump. When he does things people hate, he becomes unpopular. When he backs bad legislation and bad processes, the bills fail. When he doesn’t prioritize staffing his government, his government doesn’t get staffed. When he doesn’t choose aides who know how to manage a presidency, his presidency careens forward unmanaged. When he doesn’t spend time learning about the policies he backs, he’s unable to persuade the American people of their benefits. When he doesn’t build deep relationships with the legislators in his party, he proves unable to corral them.

Trump has not found a shortcut for American politics. To succeed at a hard job, he has to work hard in ways and at tasks that he has, thus far, shown little aptitude for or interest in.

Ezra Klein, Vox

Friday: Flynn Asks for Immunity

“I’ve seen the transcript,” a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee told me recently. “It was explained to us. I don’t know why Flynn did it.” The congressman was talking about a conversation that took place in late December between Michael Flynn, then Trump’s incoming national-security adviser, and the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. He noted that he didn’t know why Flynn had discussed sanctions with Kislyak, and wasn’t sure whether he had crossed any legal or ethical lines.

Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak is now at the center of F.B.I. and congressional investigations into Russian interference in the Presidential election, which are seeking to determine whether there was coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn is seeking immunity from the Justice Department and the House and Senate committees in return for his cooperation and testimony. “Gen. Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, said in a statement.

Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker

Saturday:  Uncovering the Untruths

Evidence of collusion has already surfaced in the House Intelligence Committee’s probe of the 2016 election.

No, not between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, but between Trump’s White House and the chairman of the House committee that’s supposed to be doing the investigating.

Both California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes and the White House initially denied that his newly discovered information purportedly supporting an unfounded Trump “wire tapping” claim had come from the White House. Now, both have decided they’d rather not discuss it.

“It’s not in our interest to talk about the process,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday. “What occurred between Chairman Nunes in coming here was both routine and proper.”

Spicer’s various iterations of “no comment” came as published reports named Nunes’ sources as White House officials from the National Security Council. Indeed, the reports show that the agency ― charged with coordinating U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic efforts around the world ― had employees instead focusing on undoing political damage to Trump from his evidence-free tweet.

S.V. Date, The Huffington Post

Sunday: White House Struggling to Cope

As the disclosures have mounted over communications between Trump campaign aides and Russian officials during the campaign and transition, the White House has sought to distance itself from the conduct of some members of the president’s campaign team.

But the revelations that three senior White House aides, including the top lawyer for the National Security Council, were involved in the handling of the files that were shared with Nunes has raised new questions about the conduct of the president’s staff.

“It’s shocking,” said Michael McFaul, U.S. ambassador to Russia in the Obama administration. “I used to work at the White House. I used to work at the NSC. . . . I never, ever briefed a U.S. congressman on anything in that capacity, and I’m not aware of anyone who did when I was there.”

David Nakamura and Ashley Parker, The Washington Post

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