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Trump's Still Breaking Norms at a Dizzying Pace (And Yes, It Still Matters)

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: Donald Trump and Jovita Carranza
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a Hispanic advisory round table meeting in New York on Aug. 20, 2016. At right is Jovita Carranza, former Small Business Administration Deputy Administrator.Gerald Herbert / AP file

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

Trump is still breaking political norms at a dizzying pace (and yes, it matters)

President Trump is still lacking his first major legislative achievement, and he had the rockiest first 100 days in modern times. But Trump has made this one significant change since taking office — he’s shattered more norms that would have shocked past presidents, Democrats or Republicans. Consider what happened on Tuesday:

  • He said Washington needs a “good ‘shutdown’ in September: Battling the perception that congressional Democrats rolled over the White House and GOP in the spending deal, Trump tweeted: “The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We.... either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”
  • He turned honoring Air Force’s football team into a political event: “Coach Calhoun, you and your team had quite a season. Like good Air Force guys, you flew under the radar to victory... This week, our Republican team had its own victory under the radar. That is a very important thing for the men and women of the United States military,” Trump said at the White House, with student-athletes FROM A MILITARY SERVICE ACADEMY in the background. “To top that, we achieved the single largest increase in border security funding in 10 years. So we have more money now for the border than we’ve gotten in 10 years. The Democrats didn’t tell you that.”
  • He said his own FBI director gave Hillary Clinton “a free pass” and that the FBI’s current investigation is “phony”: And in response to Hillary Clinton’s earlier assertion Tuesday that FBI Director Comey and WikiLeaks helped defeat her in November, Trump tweeted, “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds! The phony... Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?”

Now many of Trump supporters voted for him to smash these kinds of political norms. And he’s accomplished that. But imagine any other president, Republican or Democrat, extolling the need for a government shutdown, or using a football team from a service academy as a prop to score political points, or charging that the nation’s FBI director (who just happens to be investigating if Trump’s campaign had contacts with Russian entities) is conducting a “phony” investigation. (How is that not obstruction of justice?) And that was just Tuesday. Yes, Trump is shattering norms. And too many of us are shrugging our shoulders.

Guess who’s back on Capitol Hill? — James Comey

By the way, speaking of Comey, the FBI director just happens to testify today before the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the committee’s oversight of the FBI. And here is what Comey said back in March: "I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," he stated. "And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government -- and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."

Rank-and-file Republicans are contradicting Trump/Ryan on pre-existing conditions

NBC’s Kristen Welker reports that President Trump will meet at the White House with at least two House Republicans who have publicly said they are opposed to the GOP health-care bill: Billy Long of Missouri and Fred Upton of Michigan. And what’s extraordinary about the opposition from Long and Upton is that both men are contradicting the argument from the White House and GOP leadership that the revived effort protects pre-existing conditions. “I have always stated that one of the few good things about ObamaCare is that people with pre-existing conditions would be covered,” Long said. “The MacArthur amendment strips away any guarantee that pre-existing conditions would be covered and affordable.”

And here’s Upton, per the New York Times: “Mr. Upton said the latest version of the health care bill ‘torpedoes’ protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.” Contrast those Long and Upton comments with House Speaker Paul Ryan's tweet from yesterday: "VERIFIED: MacArthur Amendment strengthens AHCA, protects people with pre-existing conditions."

The 21 Republicans who are against the renewed House health-care bill

Note: The GOP can afford only 22 defections (assuming no Democrat votes for the legislation):

  1. Charlie Dent (R-PA)
  2. David Young (R-IA)
  3. Patrick Meehan (R-PA)
  4. Leonard Lance (R-NJ)
  5. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
  6. Barbara Comstock (R-VA)
  7. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
  8. Ryan Costello (R-PA)
  9. Dan Donovan (R-NY)
  10. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)
  11. Chris Smith (R-NJ)
  12. Jeff Denham (R-CA)
  13. Thomas Massie (R-KY)
  14. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
  15. Walter Jones (R-NC)
  16. Billy Long (R-MO)
  17. Mark Amodei (R-NV)
  18. John Katko (R-NY)
  19. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)
  20. Dan Webster (R-FL)
  21. Fred Upton (R-MI)

And the 18 (at the very least) who are undecided:

  1. Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA)
  2. Mario Diaz Balart (R-FLA)
  3. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)
  4. Mike Coffman (R-CO)
  5. Mike Bost (R-IL)
  6. Susan Brooks (R-IN)
  7. John Faso (R-NY)
  8. Rick Crawford (R-AR)
  9. Tom Garrett (R-VA)
  10. Kevin Yoder (R-KS)
  11. Tom Reed (R-NY)
  12. Darrell Issa (R-CA)
  13. David McKinley (R-WV)
  14. Hal Rogers (R-KY)
  15. Louis Gohmert (R-TX)
  16. Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
  17. Justin Amash (R-MI)
  18. Elise Stefanik (R-NY)

What was most striking about Hillary’s remarks was the reaction — including from Democrats who have already moved on

As for Hillary Clinton’s comments on 2016 yesterday, we’re sure they were cathartic for her. But what’s striking is the reaction from many Democrats — so many have already moved on. Indeed, yesterday was akin to QB Matt Ryan discussing the Atlanta Falcons blowing this year’s Super Bowl. Some fans will want to hear the talk; others just want to think about next season.

Republicans advance to runoff in South Carolina special

Finally, here’s what happened in South Carolina last night: Republicans Tommy Pope and Ralph Norman are the two GOP candidates advancing to the May 16 primary runoff in the SC-05 race. The winner will face Democratic nominee Archie Parnell, who easily won Tuesday night’s Democratic primary outright. That general election is June 20.