TRUMP AGENDA: Trump announces new FBI pick
Today’s big event: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is among the intelligence officials testifying before Congress just one day after the Washington Post reported that Coats told associates that President Trump asked him to intervene with FBI Director Comey to back off his investigation of Michael Flynn.
More, from the Wall Street Journal: “Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers and Federal Bureau of Investigation Acting Director Andrew McCabe are scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The hearing sets the stage for a much-anticipated appearance by Mr. Comey before the same committee a day later. It also comes as the committee is deep into an investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the presidential election and any potential contacts between those efforts and Mr. Trump’s campaign.”
And from the New York Times: “The day after President Trump asked James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, to end an investigation into his former national security adviser, Mr. Comey confronted Attorney General Jeff Sessions and said he did not want to be left alone again with the president, according to current and former law enforcement officials. Mr. Comey believed Mr. Sessions should protect the F.B.I. from White House influence, the officials said, and pulled him aside after a meeting in February to tell him that private interactions between the F.B.I. director and the president were inappropriate. But Mr. Sessions could not guarantee that the president would not try to talk to Mr. Comey alone again, the officials said.”
And ABC News reported that Sessions at one point even offered to resign.
Here’s the Washington Post on Trump’s strategy to push back on Comey’s testimony: “Alone in the White House in recent days, President Trump — frustrated and defiant — has been spoiling for a fight, according to his confidants and associates. Glued even more than usual to the cable news shows that blare from the televisions in his private living quarters, or from the 60-inch flat screen he had installed in his cramped study off the Oval Office, he has fumed about “fake news.” Trump has seethed as his agenda has stalled in Congress and the courts. He has chafed against the pleas for caution from his lawyers and political advisers, tweeting whatever he wants, whenever he wants… Trump is keen to be a participant rather than just another viewer, two senior White House officials said, including the possibility of taking to Twitter to offer acerbic commentary during the hearing.”
Eric Trump, on his father’s critics: “I’ve never seen hatred like this. To me, they’re not even people. It’s so, so sad. Morality’s just gone, morals have flown out the window and we deserve so much better than this as a country."
From CNN: “US investigators believe Russian hackers breached Qatar's state news agency and planted a fake news report that contributed to a crisis among the US' closest Gulf allies, according to US officials briefed on the investigation. The FBI recently sent a team of investigators to Doha to help the Qatari government investigate the alleged hacking incident, Qatari and US government officials say.”
The New York Times looks at Trump’s move to weigh in on the Qatar drama.
Breaking overnight: “Gunmen stormed Iran's Parliament building on Wednesday while a near-simultaneous suicide attack targeted a shrine to the Islamic republic's founder, according to witnesses and local media,” NBC reports. “If confirmed, they would be the first terrorist attacks in Tehran in more than a decade.”
First Amendment lawyers say Trump’s Twitter account shouldn’t block users.
Leigh Ann Caldwell has the latest on the Senate’s attempts to reach a health care compromise.
And the Washington Post notes that insurers are looking for help stabilizing the health care marketplace: “Since the day he was inaugurated, President Trump has taken steps to erode the ACA, from instructing his deputies to ease up on ACA regulations to curtailing consumer outreach during the final days of 2017 health plan enrollment… But behind the scenes, the increasing fragility of the law’s insurance marketplaces has created an increasingly difficult dilemma for the president’s top advisers… For the moment, the administration has defaulted to a position of doing little to try to soothe the health insurance industry even as many insurers warn that federal actions — or inaction — could aggravate the situation. Some suggest the White House’s relentless naysaying is not reflecting marketplace problems as much as driving them.”
Trump suggested the idea of a “solar” border wall. “Trump floated the idea during a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House, a congressional source said on condition of anonymity. According to the source, Trump said he'd like Congress to discuss the idea — but only if lawmakers give him the credit for it. The president's suggestion was first reported by the political news website Axios, an NBC News media partner.”
OFF TO THE RACES: Ossoff, Handle tangle over national issues
GA-6: Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel debated for the first time on TV last night. The AJC’s take: “National issues dominated Tuesday evening in the first head-to-head debate between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel in the closely-watched contest for Georgia’s 6th District congressional seat. The duo tangled over many of the same big-ticket policy items that defined last year’s presidential contest, from terrorism to health care to campaign finance. And as much as the candidates sought to carve out their own space, President Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were never far from the foreground during the hour-long debate, which aired live on WSB-TV.”
The New York Times summarizes the debate, calling it largely a rehash of the candidates’ previous statements.
POLITICO notes that Handel weighed in on Trump’s Twitter habits and both candidates tangled over national security.
NJ-GOV: We have nominees in the gubernatorial general election! From NJ.com: “Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who has spent the last eight years as Gov. Chris Christie's second-in-command and now vows to slash the state's notoriously high property taxes, easily defeated four opponents Tuesday to secure the Republican nomination to succeed Christie as New Jersey's governor. The Associated Press called it for Guadagno about an hour and 20 minutes after the polls closed. Now, Guadagno, a 58-year-old Monmouth Beach resident, will battle former U.S. ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy in the Nov. 7 general election. Murphy bested five rivals to emerge the winner of Tuesday's Democratic primary.”
VA-GOV: A deep dive from the New York Times: “The closely contested primary, which will be decided on June 13, has emerged as the most significant intraparty Democratic contest yet in the Trump era. Mr. Perriello, a one-term House member who was turned out in 2010, is testing whether party activists in a tradition-bound state that typically rewards political moderation will respond to Mr. Trump’s presidency by rallying to the candidate mounting the most unapologetically liberal and Trump-focused campaign. The race has assumed importance beyond Virginia’s borders because it will offer broader insights into the nature of politics today: How much, or how little, do traditional markers of strength, like endorsements, résumés and fund-raising, even matter in statewide elections?”