WASHINGTON — Just after one Cabinet nominee — Mike Pompeo — cleared an important hurdle in his bid to be secretary of state, another one — Ronny Jackson — looks to be in trouble to be President Trump’s next VA secretary.
“Ronny Jackson’s confirmation hearing to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, was postponed because of unspecified concerns about Jackson's background, two sources told NBC News,” per NBC’s Hallie Jackson, Garrett Haake and Tim Stelloh. “A White House official said the scope of the allegations are not yet clear. An aide to a Republican senator on the committee said members are continuing to dig into Jackson's recent history.”
The Washington Post adds, “In addition to Jackson’s lack of management experience, the former combat surgeon had come under fire for his glowing appraisal of Trump’s health following his annual physical in January. Jackson said then that the president might live to the age of 200 with a healthier diet. In recent days, fresh concerns arose about Jackson’s management of the White House medical office, said the officials, who declined to provide details.”
As we wrote last week, Trump trying to replace ousted cabinet members — remember Rex Tillerson and David Shulkin? — has been A LOT harder than the president probably ever anticipated.
And it’s even harder when there’s little to no vetting going on. “There was no vetting on Ronny Jackson. No formal interview. No process. Now his nomination will be held up amid a probe into his behavior,” the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey tweeted last night.
If the White House isn’t vetting its picks for Cabinet secretary, what else isn’t being vetted?
Senate Foreign Relations Committee clears Pompeo’s nomination after Rand Paul’s reversal
The good cabinet news for the Trump administration yesterday was that Pompeo won approval from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thanks to a reversal from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
“For days, the committee appeared ready to deliver a historic rebuke. Since it began considering nominees in the late 19th century, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has never given a nominee for secretary of state anything but a favorable vote, according to the Senate historian,” the New York Times reports. “But minutes before the committee convened, Mr. Paul, an ardent opponent of interventionist foreign policy, declared his support for Mr. Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, to lead the State Department, securing approval from the committee.”
“‘After calling continuously for weeks for Director Pompeo to support President Trump’s belief that the Iraq war was a mistake, and that it is time to leave Afghanistan, today I received confirmation that Director Pompeo agrees with President Trump,’ Mr. Paul wrote. ‘President Trump believes that Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilized the region and that we must end our involvement with Afghanistan. Having received assurances from President Trump and Director Pompeo that he agrees with the president on these important issues, I have decided to support his nomination.’”
As a candidate, Trump criticized state dinners. Tonight, he’s hosting his first as president
On the campaign trail in 2016, Candidate Trump criticized presidential state dinners. Tonight beginning at 7:00 pm ET, however, he’s hosting his first one as president. NBC’s Vivian Salama:
“He told a Sioux City, Iowa rally crowd that if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the United States, he would get Trump's acceptance — ‘but I wouldn't give him a state dinner like we do for China and all these other people that rip us off when we give them these big state dinners.’”
“‘We give them state dinners like you’ve never seen,’ he said. ‘Forget the state dinners — that cost, by the way, a fortune.’”
“Speaking to an Atlanta crowd ahead of the Republican National Convention that year, he had a more specific cost-saving entertainment concept in mind. ‘We shouldn't have dinners at all,’ he said. "We should be eating a hamburger on a conference table.’”
But on the menu for tonight’s state dinner honoring French President Macron: a rack of lamb, jambalaya, nectarine tart.
By the way, Trump and Macron hold a joint news conference at 11:45 am ET.
It’s Election Day in AZ-8
Today is the special election in AZ-8, where Republican Debbie Lesko faces off against Democrat Hiral Tipirneni in a district that President Trump won by 21 points in 2016. The polls close at 10:00 pm ET.
As we wrote yesterday, a substantial part of the vote is already in, and that vote is disproportionately older and more Republican. But keep an eye on the margin – in the eight major contests of 2017/2018, Democrats have outperformed Hillary Clinton’s margins in these states/districts by, on average, about 12 points. Will that pattern hold in Arizona?
- KS-4 in 2016: Mike Pompeo 61%, Daniel Giroux 30% (R+31)
- KS-4 in 2016 (presidential results): Trump 60%, Clinton 33% (R+27)
- KS-4 in 2017: Ron Estes 53%, James Thompson 46% (R+7)
- GA-6 in 2016: Tom Price 62%, Rodney Stooksbury 38% (R+24)
- GA-6 in 2016 (presidential results): Trump 48%, Clinton 47% (R+1)
- GA-6 in 2017 (initial round): Jon Ossoff 48%, Karen Handel 20%, Bob Gray 11%, Dan Moody 9%, Judson Hill 9%.
- GA-6 in 2017 (runoff): Handel 52%, Ossoff 48% (R+4)
- MT-AL in 2016: Ryan Zinke 56%, Denise Juneau 40% (R+16)
- MT in 2016 (presidential results): Trump 57%, Clinton 36% (R+21)
- MT-AL in 2017: Greg Gianforte 50%, Rob Quist 44% (R+6)
- SC-5 in 2016: Mick Mulvaney 59%, Fran Person 39% (R+20)
- SC-5 in 2016 (presidential results): Trump 57%, Clinton 39% (R+18)
- SC-5 in 2017: Ralph Norman 51%, Archie Parnell 48% (R+3)
- NJ GOV in 2013: Chris Christie 60%, Barbara Buono 38% (R+22)
- NJ GOV in 2016 (presidential results): Clinton 55%, Trump 41% (D+14)
- NJ GOV in 2017: Phil Murphy 56%, Kim Guadagno 42% (D+14)
- VA GOV in 2013: Terry McAuliffe 48%, Ken Cuccinelli 45% (D+3)
- VA in 2016 (presidential results): Clinton 50%, Trump 44% (D+6)
- VA GOV in 2017: Ralph Northam 54%, Ed Gillespie 45% (D+9)
- AL SEN in 2016: Shelby 64%, Crumpton 36% (R+28)
- AL in 2016 (presidential results): Trump 62%, Clinton 34% (R+28)
- AL SEN in 2017: Doug Jones 50%, Roy Moore 48% (D+2)
- PA-18 in 2016: Tim Murphy (R) unopposed
- PA-18 in 2016 (presidential results): Trump 58%, Clinton 38% (R+20)
- PA-18 in 2018: Conor Lamb 49.9%, Rick Saccone 49.5% (D+0.4)
McSally alleges she was sexually abused by a high-school coach
Staying out West in Arizona, there’s also this story: “Rep. Martha McSally said she was sexually abused by a coach when she was in high school, an experience that she said shaped some of the biggest decisions in her life,” the Wall Street Journal writes. “Ms. McSally, a Republican who is running for the Arizona U.S. Senate seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, has spoken before of being sexually harassed during her 26 years in the Air Force, where she became the first female pilot to fly in combat. But she hasn’t previously discussed publicly her high-school track coach’s alleged sexual abuse.”
Californians dreaming — about 2020?
And here’s NBC’s Mike Memoli on all the Californians who are either thinking about a 2020 presidential bid or who are making visits to early presidential states. “On a recent Saturday night in Iowa, two Golden State Democrats, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Bay Area-based Rep. Eric Swalwell, made appearances at the same event in this crucial presidential battleground, the Scott County Democrats’ Red, White and Blue Gala.”
More from Memoli: “Adam Schiff, another California congressman representing parts of Los Angeles County, is due in the Hawkeye State May 1. Tom Steyer, a Silicon Valley billionaire, who’s spent millions of his personal fortune promoting liberal causes, will follow a week later for a visit that includes two town hall meetings as part of his ‘Need To Impeach’ campaign against President Donald Trump.”
And, of course, there’s Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.