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On the roster: - Trump makes Dems chase tails on Obama tapping - Sharp lines drawn as Gorsuch gets underway - What could determine Gorsuch’s fate? - Audible: Better wed than red - What about ‘Don’?
TRUMP MAKES DEMS CHASE TAILS ON OBAMA TAPPING
Say what you will about President Trump’s claims that his predecessor was spying on him during the 2016 campaign, they have been a remarkably effective distraction.
Given the chance to publicly interrogate FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers about Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential campaign – a topic that should be an absolute field day for the blue team – Democrats instead devoted much of their questioning to disproving Trump’s apparently baseless claim.
Yes, Democrats coaxed Comey into revealing some potent conclusions, especially the unambiguous declaration that Russian interference was aimed at harming Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and that the Kremlin had a distinct preference for Trump in the election.
But still, the foamy froth over Trump’s tweeted allegations took up an enormous amount of time.
As one senior Republican aide on Capitol Hill put it to Halftime Report about Trump and his distractions: “You never know if the guy is crazy or an absolute genius.”
And, to be fair, it was pretty crazy for Trump as a sitting president to throw out an unsupported accusation against Barack Obama of such magnitude. Reckless, even.
But the genius part was revealed today as Democrats continued to chase the red herring through much of Comey’s and Roger’s testimonies.
Democrats may think it a victory to get Comey to say publicly what everyone already knew: that there was no evidence of illegal Obama-ordered wiretaps of Trump, but that’s pretty small beer.
The bigger takeaway for the day’s work ought to have been Comey’s public confirmation of an ongoing investigation into whether or not anyone associated with Trump’s campaign was colluding with Russian entities during the election. We knew, or at least had reason to suspect as much, before.
But because Comey has publicly declared the existence of an investigation, that means that in the probably near future there will be findings released. Either Trump and his associates will be given a clean bill of health, or criminal charges will be laid. And finally we can have some resolution.
Until that moment, however, it’s all about shaping the precious narrative. And in that game Trump’s either intentional or accidental misinformation about Obama turns out to be very useful to the new president.
Many of Trump’s supporters no doubt readily believe Trump’s claims, despite debunking. Trump’s critics, meanwhile, have been busy chasing their tails trying to disprove the disprovable.
As far as actually governing the nation, it hasn’t been so hot. The resultant spat with Britain over some of the charges was a wasteful embarrassment. But as political theater, it’s been a pretty potent misdirection play.
THE RULEBOOK: CHOICE OF A LIFETIME
“The want of a provision for removing the judges on account of inability has been a subject of complaint. But all considerate men will be sensible that such a provision would either not be practiced upon or would be more liable to abuse than calculated to answer any good purpose.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 79
TIME OUT: FEEL THE BEAT
Legendary artist Chuck Berry, who died Saturday at 90-years-old, was often thought to be the father of rock ‘n’ roll, with unparalleled talent. But his depictions of post-WWII America is what gives his music lasting meaning. Atlantic: “The singer in ‘Promised Land’ is, like the guitar-slinging [Johnny B. Goode], a young man on the make. Starting off from home in Norfolk, Virginia, in a Greyhound, the singer wants to make it to California to make his name. The song is an atlas of America—great cities like New Orleans and Atlanta crop up, but so do smaller ones like Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Like his contemporaries the Beat Poets, the singer is determined to travel, but unlike them he does not have the tendency toward (nor, perhaps, the privilege of) shiftlessness.”
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SHARP LINES DRAWN AS GORSUCH GETS UNDERWAY
Fox News: “The first day of hearings [on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court] in the Senate Judiciary Committee opened with Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley expressing his overarching views on the high court before championing Gorsuch, saying judges ‘play a limited role’ in government and are ‘not free to update the Constitution.’ ‘That’s not their job. That power is retained by the people, acting through their elected representatives,’ the Iowa Republican said before arguing the Obama administration tried rewriting federal laws ‘dozens of times.’”
[Here’s a look at how the current Supreme Court justices made it through their hearings.]
What could determine Gorsuch’s fate? - FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten argues public opinion has a pretty hefty factor for Supreme Court nominees: “Importantly, the public likes Gorsuch. And while the public doesn’t vote on Supreme Court nominees, my analysis of past votes suggests public approval is correlated with how many votes a nominee receives in the Senate once you control for other factors. Public pressure, for example, is part of what helped Clarence Thomas get confirmed. In pretty much every single survey taken so far, more Americans have supported Gorsuch’s confirmation than opposed it. Gorsuch doesn’t have quite the approval5 that many nominees over the past 30 years have had, but he’s not far off.”
Hurt’s so good: Gorsuch and the corpse flower - WashTimes: “Already, Democrats in the Senate have declared that they have no interest in taking Judge Gorsuch or his confirmation hearings seriously. ‘The high burden of proof that Judge Gorsuch has to meet is largely a result of the president who nominated him,’ said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat who was elected to the Senate from the ridiculous state of Connecticut despite repeatedly lying about fighting in the Vietnam War. In other words, according to Mr. Blumenthal, it’s all about politics. Nothing to do with the Constitution. He doesn’t like the president, so he will never vote for Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation.”
Cabinet agencies reportedly crabby over White House minders in their midst - WaPo
AUDIBLE: BETTER WED THAN RED
“You don’t ever send anyone back to the commies.” – American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp recounting to the WaPo his opening gambit in his courtship with his now wife, Mercedes, the daughter of Cuban refugees who began their first debate demanding to know his position on the repatriation of Elian Gonzales.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Do you know or will you find out if the proposed American Health Care Act covers and mandates that [members of Congress], their staff and Federal employees use the system and their existing programs are abolished?” – Frank Bolton, Phoenix
[Ed. note: Good question! One of the requirements under ObamaCare is for members of Congress and their staffs to obtain coverage through the health insurance exchanges set up under the law. They are free to take their employer contribution and buy any coverage available, so it’s something of an empty gesture, but it does at least require lawmakers to experience the annoyances of an additional layer of bureaucracy in obtaining coverage. What we don’t know is whether that requirement will persist if ObamaCare morphs into TrumpCare. With a proposed 3-step process for instituting the new system it may be too soon to say, and as reporters from the Columbus Dispatch found out, there’s not a lot of clarity on the subject. But we will keep watching. Thanks for reading and taking the time to write.]
“I am amazed that you call the President of the US ‘Trump’ in most of you writings. I think I only saw one time ‘President Trump.’ However, you call Pres. Obama, Pres. GW Bush, etc. Time to remind you who ‘Trump’ is? Also you are the only one that calls the new Health care ‘Trumpcare.’” – Euthymia Hibbs, Cleveland
[Ed. note: Ms. Hibbs, there is no disrespect meant by referring to the president by his last name alone on second reference. We do deviate from the Associated Press style in one way, however. AP changed eight years ago to always use the sitting president’s full name on first reference, e.g. “President Barack Obama,” rather than “President Obama.” I find that unnecessary since everyone knows who we’re talking about when we say “President Trump.” But it is certainly not necessary to repeat any office holder’s title on second reference. “Trump” will do just fine. As for the health bill he has helped craft and is currently selling, “TrumpCare” is a helpful disambiguation from “ObamaCare.”]
“In case the panda ribs business doesn’t work out for you, it might be time to revisit Jonathan Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal.’” – Chuck Howard, Tunica, Miss.
[Ed. note: Now, Mr. Howard, unlike Swift and the poor children of Ireland, I am calling for more pandas. Were I to have my way, they would be as common as cows!]
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WHAT ABOUT ‘DON’?
BBC: “An archbishop in Sicily has moved to reclaim the term ‘godfather’ from the mafia - by banning gangsters from taking the role at baptisms. Michele Pennisi, a vocal mafia critic, has his diocese in Monreale, near Palermo. He said he wanted to challenge the idea that crime bosses have a paternal side. ‘The mafia has always taken the term godfather from the Church to give its bosses an air of religious respectability,’ he told AFP. ‘Whereas in fact, the two worlds are completely incompatible.’ Archbishop Pennisi’s diocese includes the notorious village of Corleone, a vendetta-torn enclave made famous by Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.