TRUMP AGENDA: Historically poor — but stable
One of us(!) reports on the toplines from our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. “President Donald Trump’s approval rating remains historically poor but stable amid months of feuding in Washington over his firing of FBI Director James Comey and the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to a new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal. The new survey finds that Trump’s overall job approval rating stands at 40 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove — numbers that are historically low for a new president but virtually unchanged from the poll’s findings in both May and April.”
Democrats have a significant advantage in the polling when it comes to health care, but the GOP is still dominating on the economy.
And, from one of us(!) earlier yesterday: The House health care bill is very unpopular.
Our Hill team reports on the four members of the Senate who say they can’t support the health care bill yet.
Benjy Sarlin examines what’s in the Senate bill — and what’s not.
The New York Times, on Mitch McConnell’s strategy. “When it comes to managing Republicans’ best interests, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, rarely loses. So it is possible that Mr. McConnell views the potential failure of a hastily written health care bill as an eventual boon.”
And from POLITICO: “McConnell’s strategy has been a slow burn, allowing his members to vent in private party discussions while gradually writing a bill that takes in their considerations over the past six weeks. He’s had more than 30 meetings with his members about taking down the 2010 health law, intended to give his members more input and get them comfortable with the product.”
The Wall Street Journal notes that PhRMA is keeping its powder dry on the Senate bill.
The Washington Post has a deep dive into the Obama administration’s debate about how to punish or deter Russia after their interference in the 2016 election became apparent. “The material was so sensitive that CIA Director John Brennan kept it out of the President’s Daily Brief, concerned that even that restricted report’s distribution was too broad. The CIA package came with instructions that it be returned immediately after it was read. To guard against leaks, subsequent meetings in the Situation Room followed the same protocols as planning sessions for the Osama bin Laden raid. It took time for other parts of the intelligence community to endorse the CIA’s view. Only in the administration’s final weeks in office did it tell the public, in a declassified report, what officials had learned from Brennan in August — that Putin was working to elect Trump. Over that five-month interval, the Obama administration secretly debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could “crater” the Russian economy. But in the end, in late December, Obama approved a modest package combining measures that had been drawn up to punish Russia for other issues — expulsions of 35 diplomats and the closure of two Russian compounds — with economic sanctions so narrowly targeted that even those who helped design them describe their impact as largely symbolic.”
ICYMI: Trump says he didn’t record conversations with James Comey.
The Washington Post: “President Trump has a new morning ritual. Around 6:30 a.m. on many days — before all the network news shows have come on the air — he gets on the phone with a member of his outside legal team to chew over all things Russia. The calls — detailed by three senior White House officials — are part strategy consultation and part presidential venting session, during which Trump’s lawyers and public-relations gurus take turns reviewing the latest headlines with him. They also devise their plan for battling his avowed enemies: the special counsel leading the Russia investigation; the “fake news” media chronicling it; and, in some instances, the president’s own Justice Department overseeing the probe.”
Andrea Mitchell reports that John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign chairman, will answer questions next week from the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating alleged Russian interference in last year's presidential campaign.
And Ken Dilanian reports: “Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told House investigators Thursday that President Trump seemed obsessed with the Russia probe and repeatedly asked him to say publicly there was no evidence of collusion, a U.S. official familiar with the conversation told NBC News.”
The Wall Street Journal: “Christopher Wray has spent the past 12 years building up one of the most successful white-collar defense groups in America. Now, that work could limit his oversight of some major investigations if he is confirmed as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. While Mr. Wray’s confirmation process is expected to focus on the abrupt firing of the last FBI director, James Comey, lawmakers are also likely to raise questions about Mr. Wray’s high-profile defense work.”
Justin Trudeau says of Trump “he actually does listen.
OFF TO THE RACES: Obama to stump for Northam
Don’t miss this, from POLITICO, on Jane Sanders’ legal woes amid investigation into potential bank fraud: “Senator Sanders and his wife are taking the case more seriously. Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ longtime top political adviser who heads Sanders’ political organization, Our Revolution, confirms to Politico Magazine that Bernie and Jane Sanders have lawyered up. The couple has retained Rich Cassidy, a well-connected Burlington attorney and Sanders devotee, and Larry Robbins, the renowned Washington-based defense attorney who has represented I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and disgraced former Rep. Bill Jefferson, to represent Jane Sanders in the matter.”
Amid debate about her possible drag on the party, Nancy Pelosi says “I think I’m worth the trouble.”
Roll Call profiles Jon Ossoff’s campaign manager — and looks at what he’ll do next.
VA-GOV: Ed Gillespie says he’ll review the Senate health care plan’s effects on Virginia.
Obama will stump for Northam in his first campaign effort in 2017.