05/18/2017 08:06 AM EDT
By Heather Caygle (firstname.lastname@example.org or @heatherscope)
With an assist from Burgess Everett
ROSENSTEIN BRIEFS THE SENATE - Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will be on Capitol Hill today to brief the Senate on the circumstances surrounding FBI Director James Comey's firing last week. President Donald Trump initially cited a memo from Rosenstein as his rationale for firing Comey before shifting stories a couple of days later and saying he'd planned to dismiss the FBI director all along. The closed briefing starts at 2:30 p.m.
Rosenstein is likely to face a much friendlier reception, particularly from Democrats, after he appointed a special prosecutor Wednesday to take over the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Rosenstein tapped Robert Mueller, the former FBI director under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who is well respected on both sides of the aisle.
What this means on Capitol Hill: Both the Senate and House Intel investigations into Russia will continue, GOP leaders said. But for Democrats, many of whom had demanded a special prosecutor after Comey's firing, Mueller's appointment is a major victory. It could also take a little pressure off the confirmation of the next FBI director-some key Democrats had vowed to oppose the nomination until a special prosecutor was appointed.
CNN's Manu Raju sums it up in a tweet: "On Russia probes, Ds wanted Sessions to step aside. He did. They wanted Nunes recusal. He did. They wanted a special counsel. They got that."
Bandwagon fans: "And key Republicans jumped on the special prosecutor bandwagon on Wednesday after the announcement... 'I see it as a positive thing, especially having Bob Mueller involved,' Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said. ...Burr, whose committee is leading its own investigation, had previously opposed the appointment of a special prosecutor." Austin rounds up Capitol Hill reaction: http://politi.co/2pOAweH
Back so soon? Rosenstein will be back on the Hill Friday for an all-members briefing with the House at 10 a.m. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) Monday asking for the meeting.
Do your homework: Burgess dug up this brief CRS explainer on special prosecutors. "These special counsels are appointed by, are answerable to, and may have their prosecutorial or investigative decisions countermanded by the Attorney General." More: http://bit.ly/2pOg0uK
BACK ON TRACK? Mueller's appointment could also bring a little focus back to the GOP's agenda, which has suffered as lawmakers struggled to respond to the stream of Russia-related bombshells coming from the White House lately. But some Republicans still fear "that subpoenas and congressional inquiries will swamp the time they need to pass a health care or tax bill in 2017 - not to mention renegotiate NAFTA, unify behind a $1 trillion infrastructure plan or build that border wall," Nancy Cook and Burgess report this morning.
Republicans "say they're still determined to push through policy wins before the 2018 midterms. ...But the congressional calendar is tight, with long recesses in June and August. Floor time will be consumed by the passage of spending bills and action on the debt-ceiling limit this fall, not to mention the ongoing confirmation of Trump's political appointees. Congress has only so much bandwidth - and now investigations related to Trump's campaign and Russia will be taking up a share." More: http://politi.co/2qzUxmw
THE LONG-TERM IMPACT OF TRUMP'S SCANDALS - "House Republicans facing tough reelection bids are running for cover from Donald Trump - an early sign that they believe the president's deepening scandals could cost them their seats and even put the House in play," Rachael and Kyle report this morning. "More than 10 centrist Republicans over the past 48 hours have criticized Trump ... Many joined Democrats in calling for a special prosecutor ... Others want a select congressional committee to be appointed." Much more: http://politi.co/2qzYkAg
Y'ALL, IT'S THURSDAY. Welcome to May 18 and as always, thanks for reading POLITICO's Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill.
WEDNESDAY'S MOST CLICKED: Rachel's tweet about being flipped off by Rep. Darrell Issa was the winner.
SENATE SCUTTLEBUTT: DEMS OPPOSED TO LIEBERMAN AS FBI DIRECTOR - Many Senate Democrats are strongly opposed to their former colleague Joe Lieberman taking over the helm of the FBI, a little birdie tells Huddle. The reason? Lieberman, the former Democratic-turned-independent senator, is senior counsel at a major law firm that has represented Trump for years, threatening legal action on everything from publication of his tax returns to news stories about the infamous Access Hollywood tape, Newsweek reports . Of course, Republicans can confirm a new FBI director without Democratic help. But the job has traditionally received overwhelming bipartisan buy-in. The White House interviewed Lieberman on Wednesday.
DAMAGE CONTROL? WHO NEEDS IT? The White House has made essentially zero attempts to control the damage on Capitol Hill after the Comey memo was reported. "No talking points have been distributed, and few reassurances have been given to Republicans, leaving frazzled and exhausted lawmakers to freelance their own response," Burgess and Josh Dawsey report.
Quote du jour: "I've not heard that from them. I've heard nothing. I should, shouldn't I? I'm not sure that there's that level of organization," said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), whose job in leadership is essentially to help Republicans form a message and defend their party leader. More: http://politi.co/2qAgxOe
SENATE WANTS COMEY MEMOS - Senate Intel leaders asked the FBI on Wednesday to turn over all memos Comey wrote about conversations he had with the White House and DOJ about the federal investigation into Russia. Separately, top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee put in requests with the FBI and the White House for any documents that detail communications between Comey and Trump. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has also invited Comey to testify. Austin and Seung Min with the deets: http://politi.co/2qzUCq7
Across the Capitol, House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz has invited Comey to testify at a hearing next week. "Officially noticed a hearing for next Wed at 9:30am ET with former FBI Dir Comey. But I still need to speak with him...evidently has a new #," Chaffetz tweeted Wednesday.
What Capitol Hill is reading: Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn stopped a military plan Turkey opposed after being secretly paid to lobby for the country, McClatchy reported. And Trump's team knew Flynn was under federal investigation for his lobbying work before bringing him on as national security adviser, the New York Times reports.
TOP DEMS TRY TO QUELL IMPEACHMENT TALK - More than a dozen House Democrats are now raising the idea that Trump could be impeached. And there's mounting pressure from Democratic activists to force the issue. But party leaders in both the House and Senate aren't ready to go there - and frankly wish the House rank-and-file would stop talking about it so much. Until there's clear proof Trump broke the law, party leaders say, impeachment chatter does little more than distract from the party's broader messaging.
"I've been talking to the base since November the 9th and telling them this is a marathon, it's not a sprint," Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. "We have an orderly process in our government. We're going to follow it." Your Huddle host teams up with Elana for this bicameral collaboration: http://politi.co/2qA0jEL
Handy bookmark: CNN is keeping a running tally of Democrats who are talking impeachment (and what they're saying) here: http://cnn.it/2pUUYqf
GOING BIG IN BIG SKY - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pouring a last-minute $200,000 ad buy into the Montana special election, hoping to give GOP candidate Greg Gianforte a boost ahead of the May 25 election. "It's the first investment the Chamber has made in the race. Over $8 million has been spent on the Montana special, most of it in support of Gianforte. ...Democratic groups, seeing the race for the conservative-leaning seat as a reach, have largely stayed out of the contest," Alex Isenstadt reports. More: http://politi.co/2qA4Jew
FIRST IN HUDDLE: PRO-CHOICE CAUCUS LETTER TO IVANKA - Leaders of the Pro-Choice Caucus are sending a letter to Ivanka Trump today, inviting her to meet with the group to talk about ensuring women still have affordable access to birth control. "Unfortunately, we fear that the administration may take additional steps in the very near future that will further jeopardize women's access to contraception," they write Read the letter: http://bit.ly/2qAeidM
PSA TO HILL REPORTERS - Capitol Hill officials appear to be looking for a reason to crack down on swelling crowds on the Senate side. It's getting so bad that they are now publicly warning that a change in access is coming. Don't give them an excuse! Please listen to the press gallery staff (they're there to help), stop aggressively crowding senators and blocking pathways, and just generally abide by Capitol Hill etiquette. Read the memo: http://politi.co/2rg0t6Q
TILLIS BACK ON THE HILL AFTER COLLAPSE - Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) was back to work in the Capitol Wednesday afternoon after collapsing during a morning charity run. Tillis, who posted a video update from the hospital and another once he made it back to the Hill, said he just got overheated during the three-mile race but has since been given a clean bill of health. "I want to apologize to some of the people, I may have slowed down their lap time if they happened to be behind me," he said.
TODAY IN CONGRESS - The Senate gavels in at 10 a.m. with a roll call vote on the confirmation of Rachel Brand, associate attorney general nominee, at 12 p.m. The Senate will also hold a procedural vote on Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's nomination to serve as ambassador to China. The House meets at 10 a.m. with first votes around 2 p.m. and last votes around 4 p.m. Today's agenda: http://bit.ly/2pOEaFA
** A message from the American Society of Anesthesiologists: When Seconds Count ... Physician Anesthesiologists Save Lives. Physician anesthesiologists are medical specialists with the education and training to make critical decisions that can mean the difference between life and death. Protect patients with safe, high-quality, physician-led care. Learn more at www.asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount. **
AROUND THE HILL - House Budget ranking member John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), House Appropriations ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) hold a 10 a.m. press conference in the House triangle calling on Republicans to raise the fiscal 2018 budget caps.
Speaker Paul Ryan holds his weekly press conference in HVC Studio A at 11:30 a.m. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hold's her weekly press conference at 12:15 p.m. in HVC Studio A.
Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) hold an 11 a.m. press conference on their bill to close ethics loopholes related to the appointment of government officials. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and other House Democrats hold a 12:30 p.m. press conference in HVC Studio B on potential Trump plans to renegotiate NAFTA.
WEDNESDAY'S TRIVIA WINNER - Shay Hancock from Crossroads Strategies correctly guessed that former Sen. Evan Bayh, also the son of a former senator, brought a lawsuit to his state Supreme Court in order to be declared eligible to run for governor.
TODAY'S TRIVIA - Shay is bringing some inside baseball to today's trivia question: The father of this current, high-ranking congressional staffer defeated the longest-lived governor in U.S. history and later became a senator, succeeding the only person to have an Ohio-class submarine named for him/her. Name the staffer and his/her position. The first person to correctly answer gets a shout out in tomorrow's Huddle. And don't forget, send suggestions for trivia questions my way: email@example.com
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** A message from the American Society of Anesthesiologists: When Seconds Count ... Physician Anesthesiologists Save Lives. Every surgery has risks. During her presurgery consultation, teenager Hunter shared information that triggered concerns by her physician anesthesiologist. As a highly trained physician with extensive medical knowledge and expertise in anesthesia - and in the human body and its systems - the physician anesthesiologist suspected Hunter might have an undiagnosed condition that could result in profound surgical complications. The physician anesthesiologist canceled Hunter's surgery and ordered additional tests - and that decision altered Hunter's life. If the original surgery had been performed, Hunter's life could have changed completely. Having a physician anesthesiologist leading Hunter's care saved her from being paralyzed and resulted in a diagnosis and successful treatment of a brain tumor. Protect patients with safe, high-quality, physician-led care. Learn more through the American Society of Anesthesiologist's When Seconds Count initiative at www.asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount. **
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