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How Trump is Already Reshaping the GOP

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Ryan and Scalise introduce Stivers, Smith and Messer as new members of the House Republican leadership team on Capitol Hill in Washington
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) introduce Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH), Representative Jason Smith (R-MO) and Representative Luke Messer (R-IN) as new members of the House Republican leadership team after their caucus held leadership elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan ErnstJONATHAN ERNST / Reuters

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

How Trump is already reshaping the GOP

When President Trump meets with congressional Republicans at their retreat in Philadelphia later today, it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t supposed to be this way. With most everyone expecting Trump to lose in November, House Speaker Paul Ryan had his “Better Way” program, which included changing Medicare. Other Republicans were gearing up to pursue comprehensive immigration reform (again). And others still were eager to pounce on all the spending that a President Hillary Clinton was going to propose. But Trump won, and he’s already changing the party seven days into his presidency.

  • Here’s Ryan, who once backed comprehensive immigration reform, on Trump’s proposed border wall: “We’re going to pay for it and front the money up,” he told MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren.
  • Here’s Sen. John Thune (R-SD) saying Congress would cooperate with Trump if he wants to look into voter fraud in the ’16 election (even though Thune said he doesn’t believe there was evidence of it): “If the administration decides to pursue some sort of investigation on that, we will certainly cooperate,” he said yesterday.
  • Here’s earlier reporting that Senate Republicans don’t want to touch Medicare, especially with Trump’s hesitance to tackle entitlements.
  • And then there’s the congressional GOP silence on other matters, like Trump’s threat to send the feds to Chicago if it doesn’t get a handle on its crime (think about how Republicans would have reacted if Obama said that), or his tweets aimed at Corporate America.

All of this said, Trump and congressional Republicans were already on the same page on issues like taxes (“Lower them!”), regulations (“Less, please!”), Obamcare (“Repeal it! – though we’re still not sure how to replace it”), and the Supreme Court vacancy (“Anyone with ties to the Federalist Society!”). But seven days in, Trump is reshaping the GOP more in his image than you might have expected.

“An uncomfortable kickoff”

Still, there is some friction between Trump and GOP congressional members. Per NBC’s Kasie Hunt and Alex Moe, “In an uncomfortable kickoff to the GOP retreat, the Republican conference chairs faced down a series of difficult questions about Donald Trump -- his executive order on torture, his claim of voter fraud, whether Congress would pay for the wall and whether or not there was any coordination between Hill Republicans and the White House. The focus and mood underscores just how uneasy congressional Republicans are with Trump as president. ‘It's a work in progress,’ Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said of the congressional GOP-White House relationship at the conclusion of a session that did not include discussion of any of the congressional GOP's major priorities, including repealing health care and reforming the tax code. Thune and Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) took turns trying to answer the questions. McMorris Rodgers said she would wait to weigh in on the border wall until she saw the proposal. Thune said he believed the question of torture was ‘settled law’ decided by Congress and that using enhanced interrogation techniques would require a vote. Pressed on whether changing the Army Field Manuel could be away around Congress, Thune again said it was settled law.” Here’s more from NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell teeing up today’s Trump meeting with congressional leaders.

Conservative writer contends Republicans should punt on Obamacare

One of the obvious issues that Trump and Republicans will discuss today is Obamacare. But here’s influential conservative writer Matt Lewis, who argues that the GOP should punt on the issue. “The more I talk to conservative-leaning health care policy experts—sources that had previously helped me understand the debacle that would become Obamacare—the more convinced I am that this could all go horribly wrong. ‘The train is rushing down the tracks toward the cliff,’ said one health care policy expert.” More Lewis: “‘It feels like Bush’s Social Security all over again,’ one senior industry official told me. ‘It’s really hard to see how this ends up with as many people being covered at the same or lower costs. It’s a mess.’” And he concludes, “Should Republicans actually kick off a new administration by engaging in a fool’s errand that is almost guaranteed to backfire? Sometimes you have to punt.”

Mexico’s president: We “will not pay for any wall”

“Hours after U.S. President Donald Trump signed executive orders to curb illegal immigration, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto promised Wednesday night to protect Mexicans in the United States,” per NBC News. ‘Where there is a Mexican migrant at risk that requires our support, your country should be there,’ Peña Nieto said in a brief address to his nation, which he said was a response to Trump's actions earlier in the day. ‘Our communities are not alone,’ Peña Nieto said. ‘The Mexican Government will provide them with the legal advice, which guarantees the protection they require.’” More: “Peña Nieto said he ‘regrets and rejects’ Trump's orders Wednesday because ‘Mexico does not believe in walls.’ ‘I have said it over and over again: Mexico will not pay for any wall,’ he stressed.”

Trump Cabinet Watch

  • Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson NOMINATED
  • Attorney General: Jeff Sessions NOMINATED
  • Treasury: Steve Mnuchin NOMINATED
  • Defense: JamesMattis CONFIRMED
  • Homeland: John Kelly CONFIRMED
  • Interior: Ryan Zinke NOMINATED
  • HHS: Tom Price NOMINATED
  • HUD: Ben Carson NOMINATED
  • Education: Betsy DeVos NOMINATED
  • Commerce: Wilbur Ross NOMINATED
  • Transportation: Elaine Chao NOMINATED
  • Labor: Andy Puzder NOMINATED
  • Agriculture: Sonny Perdue NOMINATED
  • Energy: Rick Perry NOMINATED
  • Veterans Affairs: David Shulkin NOMINATED
  • OMB Director: Mick Mulvaney NOMINATED
  • U.S Trade Representative: Robert Lighthizer NOMINATED
  • UN Ambassador: Nikki Haley CONFIRMED
  • Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt NOMINATED
  • Small Business Administration: Linda McMahon NOMINATED
  • CIA Director: Mike Pompeo CONFIRMED

What were other new presidents doing on Day Seven (January 26)?

  • Barack Obama held a meeting on the Mideast peace process, took executive action directing automakers to make more gas-efficient cars and called for quick action on the stimulus package.
  • George W. Bush called for a foreign policy of “strength and authority” during a swearing-in ceremony for Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld; he also met with U.S. governors.
  • Bill Clinton met with congressional leaders to discuss his health care reform plans
  • George H.W. Bush announced his upcoming trip to China
  • Ronald Reagan’s pick for Labor Secretary, Ray Donovan, was cleared by the FBI of accusations of impropriety including soliciting payoffs from union. (Spoiler alert: He was confirmed but quit after being indicted in 1984)
  • Jimmy Carter held a news conference on the natural gas shortage, saying he’s turned the thermostat down in the White House and asking all Americans to do the same