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The Ground Is Beginning to Shift for Capitol Hill Republicans

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Trump speaks during the 36th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service
President Donald Trump speaks during the 36th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the US Capitol in Washington on May 15, 2017.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

The ground begins to shift for Capitol Hill Republicans

The last week of jaw-dropping developments in Donald Trump’s presidency has resulted in a gut-check moment, especially for the Republican Party. Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, whose agency was investigating whether any elements of Trump’s campaign team had ties to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election (obstruction of justice?). Then came the news that Trump, in the Oval Office, appeared to share classified information with top Russian officials (extreme carelessness?). And yesterday afternoon, we learned that Comey wrote a memo saying Trump asked him to shut down an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (obstruction of justice, part 2?). And after those three stories, Republicans — after standing on the sidelines or offering tepid criticism of the president’s actions — appear to be breaking from Trump, at least incrementally.

  • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) “demanded Tuesday that the FBI turn over all documents it has about communications between President Donald Trump and former FBI Director James Comey,” per NBC’s Alex Johnson and Alex Moe.
  • A member of the House GOP leadership, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), has called for Comey to testify on Capitol Hill, NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell writes. "Of course Director Comey should testify. I believe an open, transparent government is most effective for the people we represent.”
  • Ditto Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “I don’t want to read a memo. I want to hear from [Comey].”
  • House Republicans from vulnerable districts are ringing the alarm bell. “If this is true, it is disconcerting, and it opens up a new chapter of scandal and controversy in this country,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) said of the new Comey-related news.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is now calling for an independent commission or special prosecutor to investigate Trump and Russia, per MSNBC’s Shirley Zilberstein. “I think it’s time that we look at an independent commission or a special prosecutor,” he told CNN.
  • And at an award dinner Tuesday night, Sen. John McCain brought up the W-word — Watergate, according to The Daily Beast. “I think we’ve seen this movie before. I think it appears at a point where it’s of Watergate size and scale… the shoes continue to drop, and every couple days there’s a new aspect.” (A McCain spokeswoman later clarified that McCain's comments were meant to convey “that the constant revelations of events surrounding Russia's interference in the 2016 election are reminiscent of past scandals, are not good for America, and require further scrutiny.”)

Of course, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan haven’t gone this far yet (Ryan holds his regular news conference at 10:00 am ET today). And of course, we’ve been here before (remember Access Hollywood?). But the ground right now has certainly shifted on Capitol Hill. We are about to enter The Summer of Comey (congressional testimony, the possibility of more memos, and other developments). And Republicans have a political decision to make: Do they circle the wagons? Or do they run for the hills? It’s still very early, but it looks like Option #2 is much more realistic than it was a day ago.

Trump speaks with Netanyahu

A senior White House official tells NBC’s Peter Alexander that President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu of Israel spoke by phone yesterday. “No readout was provided by this official. However, it follows reporting that Israel was the foreign partner who provided the highly classified information that Mr. Trump shared with the Russian officials last week,” Alexander reports. Our take here: The degree of difficulty for Trump’s upcoming visit to the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, then Israel, then Italy) just increased significantly.

A reminder: House health-care bill is more unpopular than Trump is

Despite all of the controversies that Republicans are now facing, here’s a reminder that the House GOP health-care legislation still seems like a bigger political problem for Republicans than Trump. Consider these numbers inside the recent NBC/WSJ poll, which show that the House GOP plan is much more unpopular than Trump is, including with subgroups where Trump’s job performance is above water (or close to it).

  • Americans on the GOP health plan: 23% good idea, 48% bad idea (-25) TRUMP APPROVAL 39%
  • Republicans: 52% good idea, 15% bad idea (+37) TRUMP APPROVAL 82%
  • Democrats: 4% good idea, 77% bad idea (-73) TRUMP APPROVAL 7%
  • Independents: 18% good idea, 44% bad idea (-26) TRUMP APPROVAL 35%
  • Trump voters: 58% good idea, 8% bad idea (+50) TRUMP APPROVAL 87%
  • Clinton voters: 2% good idea, 84% bad idea (-82) TRUMP APPROVAL 2%
  • Men: 28% good idea, 45% bad idea (-17) TRUMP APPROVAL 45%
  • Women: 19% good idea, 51% bad idea (-32) TRUMP APPROVAL 33%
  • 18-34: 10% good idea, 56% bad idea (-46) TRUMP APPROVAL 26%
  • 35-49: 24% good idea, 55% bad idea (-31) TRUMP APPROVAL 40%
  • 50-64: 33% good idea, 40% bad idea (-7) TRUMP APPROVAL 44%
  • 65+: 29% good idea, 37% bad idea (-8) TRUMP APPROVAL 49%
  • Whites: 29% good idea, 42% bad idea (-13) TRUMP APPROVAL 47%
  • African Americans: 2% good idea, 70% bad idea (-68) TRUMP APPROVAL 12%
  • Latinos: 17% good idea, 59% bad idea (-42) TRUMP APPROVAL 22%
  • Urban residents: 14% good idea, 57% bad idea (-43) TRUMP APPROVAL 27%
  • Suburban residents: 27% good idea, 48% bad idea (-21) TRUMP APPROVAL 42%
  • Rural residents: 31% good idea, 31% bad idea (even) TRUMP APPROVAL 52%
  • Whites with college degrees: 28% good idea, 54% bad idea (-26) TRUMP APPROVAL 37%
  • Whites without college degrees: 30% good idea, 34% bad idea (-4) TRUMP APPROVAL 54%

Study: Under House health-care bill, 6 million with pre-existing conditions could be at risk to pay higher premiums

We’re still waiting on a full analysis of the GOP health care bill from the Congressional Budget Office, but a new review of the legislation by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that it would put an estimated 6.3 million people with pre-existing conditions at risk for higher premiums. That’s about a quarter of the 27.4 million non-elderly adults who had a significant gap in their health insurance coverage in 2015. More, from the Kaiser analysis: “People with pre-existing conditions would likely face large premium surcharges under an AHCA waiver, according to the analysis, as insurers would be unable to decline coverage based on a person’s medical history, a practice that was permitted in nearly all states before it was prohibited by the Affordable Care Act in 2014. An earlier analysis from the Foundation estimated that 27 percent of non-elderly adults have a condition that would have led to a coverage refusal in the pre-ACA market.”

Trump’s Day

At 11:05 am ET, President Trump delivers remarks at the U.S. Coast Guard’s commencement ceremony in Connecticut.