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On the roster: Processed Meat: Trump’s election tactics fail at governance - Reporter says Nunes misled him on sources - Two down, six to go: Manchin, Heitkamp to back Gorsuch - Putting the play back in ‘Power Play’ - Bros unyielding
PROCESSED MEAT: TRUMP’S ELECTION TACTICS FAIL AT GOVERNANCE
President Trump today did something that should have been very popular with his supporters, and even some of those who voted against him.
Ahead of a high-stakes summit with his Chinese counterpart next week, Trump took executive action to crack down on unfair trade practices by other nations. It’s a big deal and potentially part of a high-stakes gambit by the new administration to remake the American economy.
And in Bizarro World that story, pro and con, is being hotly debated by the public, the press and elected officials.
Back here on Earth, though, you know exactly what we’re talking about today – and it sure as shootin’ ain’t steel dumping.
Just seven times in the 70 days of the still-young Trump administration has this political note lead with news or analysis about the investigation and counter-investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Needless to say, other news sources have taken a somewhat different approach. Nearly every day of the Trump Era thus far has featured some kind of Russia story, and often for days at a time it has been the dominant story.
We haven’t devoted that much time to the discussion ourselves, however, because it is mostly a waste of time.
Either investigators from Congress and the FBI will reveal inappropriate relations between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin; or those same investigators will find that members of the intelligence community were essentially framing Team Trump to take the rap.
There may be some shades of gray in there, but it pretty well has to be closer to one of those things or the other.
Until we know which it is, the fevered, frothy shouting about the subject is mostly pointless. Washington loves processed stories almost as much as it loves cloak-and-dagger intrigue with secret sources. So, this story has it all.
Add in the fact that the subject matter delegitimizes a president hated by many in this city, and you have an irresistible storyline.
The topic being discussed today other than Trump’s popular policies on trade is another outburst from the president’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Flynn, who had been mostly quiet since Trump fired him for lying about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., remerged on Thursday with a request for immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.
Apparently unable to resist stoking the fires further, Trump announced that Flynn was right to seek immunity to avoid what the president called a “witch hunt.” Now the problem there, is that Trump’s government is the one hunting witches in his telling.
Folks generally frown on the president trying to discredit criminal investigations while they are taking place.
Only Flynn and a handful of folks know whether he has any substance or interest to say. He may be looking for attention or for a way to get some leverage against either investigators or, perhaps, the president who fired him. It at least got the president to denounce the investigation.
But again, process not substance dominates the news.
During the campaign, Trump successfully exploited what we then dubbed “controversy kiting.” When the charges for a controversy would come due, Trump would write another draft on the bank of media outrage.
Just at the moment when it looked like the press pack had finally closed in on the Republican frontrunner-cum-nominee, Trump would kick up an even more outrageous and irresistible controversy and the hounds would have to follow their noses.
What works in a campaign often fails in governance, and boy howdy is that the case now.
By almost all accounts, Trump’s White House is a hot mess, riven by palace intrigues and turf wars. And that may help explain why the administration failed to do what it promised and move swiftly on from the TrumpCare bust of a week ago.
But how is an administration supposed to find its footing if the boss is courting new controversies almost every day?
The major agonies of this week – the excruciating explanation of House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’ sources as well as Flynn’s sudden and somewhat baffling re-emergence – are both to some degree, Trump’s fault.
Nunes, and now we know, White House staffers were at least partly trying to back up Trump’s claims of “wiretapping” by former President Barack Obama. Trump issued his accusations in an apparent fit of pique following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation.
And on Flynn, Trump was warned by people around him about the retired general from the very beginning of their relationship. And certainly those within Trump’s inner circle gave stark warnings about Flynn before Trump tapped him to be national security adviser. He was certainly warned.
But Trump plowed ahead anyway. And at the end of week 10, has nothing but heartache to show for it.
THE RULEBOOK: A REPUBLIC, NOT A DEMOCRACY
“In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger…” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 51
TIME OUT: THESE (TINY) ARMS TO HOLD YOU
The Guardian: “It made its name by terrorising Earth at the end of the Late Cretaceous, but Tyrannosaurus rex had a sensitive side too, researchers have found. The fearsome carnivore, which stood 20 feet tall and ripped its prey to shreds with dagger-like teeth, had a snout as sensitive to touch as human fingertips, say scientists. T rex and other tyrannosaurs would have used their tactile noses to explore their surroundings, build nests, and carefully pick up fragile eggs and baby offspring. But the snout is thought to have served another purpose. Experts believe that males and females rubbed their sensitive faces together in a prehistoric form of foreplay.”
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REPORT: SENATE INTEL DECLINES FLYNN IMMUNITY OFFER
The Hill: “The Senate Intelligence Committee has turned down former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s request for immunity in exchange for his testimony in the panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election — at least for now. The committee is not receptive to the offer “at this time,” according to NBC's Kasie Hunt. The panel's investigation into Russian interference in the election is ongoing, and the decision does not necessarily rule out such a deal in the future. Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) earlier in the week strongly implied that Flynn would be a potential witness before the committee — telling reporters that ‘you would think less of us’ if the committee had not talked with him. Flynn, a former intelligence official, was ousted in February after the revelation that he misled Vice President Pence about conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.”
REPORTER: NUNES MISLED HIM ON SOURCES
Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake explains how Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif, misled Lake on where Nunes got his sourcing on Trump Intel case. Bloomberg: “Last week, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Devin Nunes, announced dozens of intelligence reports that inappropriately included details on President Donald Trump's transition. This week, he told me that his source for that information was an intelligence official, not a White House staffer. It turns out, he misled me. The New York Times reported Thursday that Nunes had two sources, and both worked for the White House…The chairman told me Thursday that elements of the Times story were inaccurate. But he acknowledged: ‘I did use the White House to help to confirm what I already knew from other sources.’ This is a body blow for Nunes, who presented his findings last week as if they were surprising to the White House.”
TWO DOWN, SIX TO GO: MANCHIN, HEITKAMP TO BACK GORSUCH
Fox News: “Sens. Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp on Thursday became the first Senate Democrats to announce their support for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch – breaking with their colleagues who have blasted President Trump’s pick … Manchin, of West Virginia, said in a statement Thursday. ‘I will vote to confirm him to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court.’ Shortly afterward, Heitkamp released a statement announcing her support. ‘He has a record as a balanced, meticulous, and well respected jurist who understands the rule of law,’ the North Dakota senator said. She added that her vote ‘does not diminish how disturbed I am by what Republicans did to Judge Garland,’ former President Barack Obama’s nominee who was blocked by the GOP-led Senate.”
PUTTING THE PLAY BACK IN ‘POWER PLAY’
The Fox News Channel brings you the insights and perspectives of some of the brightest minds in politics and journalism on a daily basis. So how would you like to see them get their comeuppance?
This week kicks off a whole new look for “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt.” Courageous guests try their hand at tough and sometimes silly questions about the week’s news, current events and a little historical trivia. And wait until you see “Fill-In the Trump.”
Test your prowess against Charles Hurt and Eliana Johnson and see if you would have won this week’s grand prize. WATCH HERE
Trump appeals judge’s ruling blocking refugee ban - Time
Trump to meet next week at Mar-a-Lago with Chinese President Xi Jinping - CBS News
Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., says White House warned Trump would back primary challenge over TrumpCare vote - The [Charleston, S.C.] Post and Courier
Trump to pay $25 million to settle fraud claims from students of Trump University - AP
Sessions claims border crossings down 60 percent due to Trump leadership - Fox News
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Fox News Sunday - The Senate is at the brink of a nuclear show down over the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell joins Mr. Sunday to discuss his threat to blow up Senate procedural rules, and to break a Democratic filibuster. The Trump administration is yanking out its predecessors anti-carbon agenda. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt talks Trump’s changing climate policies. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
“If somebody can get to the right of me in the primary, God bless him.” – Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., to Roll Call on Trump’s threats to back primary challenges against House Freedom Caucus members.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Alas, I am doomed to be the high executioner of spiders in the life of my wife, a wonderful woman the loudness of whose scream indicates the overblown size of the spider, and dictates the speed of my response and my choice of weapons which range from laughter (VERY seldom), to fly swatter to rolled up magazine to 12 gauge (very, very rarely since we live in the city). Carry on your good work, fearless supporter of my sworn enemies!” – Hans Nohr, Huntersville, N.C.
[Ed. note: Wednesday’s Time Out has certainly generated a lot of response! Mr. Nohr, you have highlighted a valuable exception to the rule. No spider, no matter how voracious its appetite for insects, should be allowed to come between a knight errant and his lady fair. Carry on, my chivalric friend.]
“Since March is almost over, I thought that I’d better get in my ‘March Madness’ predictions for 2018 and 2020: If things continue to go the way they have been going for President Trump and the Republican Party since Trump’s inauguration, I predict that the Republicans will lose the Senate in 2018, even with more vulnerable Democratic seats in play than Republican seats. Again, if things continue to go the way they have been going, with a Democratic Senate or razor-thin Republican Senate with Republican ‘moderates’ voting against Trump and the Republican Party leadership beyond 2018, I predict that in 2020 Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be elected the first woman president. I know, it’s completely MAD, isn’t it?” – Warren Malach, Sacramento, Calif.
[Ed. note: Not even Nate Silver would be so bold as to forecast so far in the future! We have said before it would be the beginning of April before we knew what kind of president Donald Trump would be. As we discussed above, so far the word “tumultuous” comes to mind. But we still can’t be sure whether he will succeed in his larger aims. I’m withholding judgment until I see how things go with Trump’s budget and tax plan. But if you prove to be right I promise you will be duly lauded in this space!]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
WFAA: “Drivers in northeast Houston were doing double takes … when they spotted some poor guy duct-taped to a yield sign. Somebody called the cops and they pulled up just in time to see a guy with a knife approach the man. ‘Drop the knife or I’ll Tase you,’ one officer shouted. Turns out the guy with the knife was there to cut his friend down from the sign. They explained to the officers that Miguel Chavez was taped to the sign after losing a bet on the Rockets/Warriors game. The cops helped get Chavez down and even gave him a ride home.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons and Brianna McClelland 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.