FISA flap shows Trump is learning from mistakes

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On the roster: FISA flap shows Trump is learning from mistakes - I’ll Tell You What: Speech! Speech! - Senate squad reaches deal on DREAMers - WH, McConnell pick a fight in Ohio Senate primary - His demo was lit


FISA FLAP SHOWS TRUMP IS LEARNING FROM MISTAKES

Life isn’t so much about avoiding mistakes as it is about not repeating them. And if that’s the case, we can say today that President Trump has made some gains in his first year.

It was 10 months ago that the new president memorably tweeted, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” and “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

The White House and the president’s staunchest defenders in Congress would end up spending months and untold political capital truing to true up the president’s morning tweetstorm.

We should point out here that we’re not interested for these purposes whether one thinks that there is truth in Trump’s hyperbolic claims. The verdict of the intervening months has been that making the claims, especially in the way he did, was wasteful and selfish. 

At a moment when his party was scrambling to govern after a surprise victory and rocky transition, Trump loosed this wild hare onto the field. Aside from giving aid to his detractors’ claims that he was a paranoiac, Trump’s eager defenders would go on to burn many resources and considerable credibility trying to explain how the president had a point.

The world learned the word “unmasking” and many, many pixels and minutes of congressional hearings were spent on exploring the practice. Before there was the “dirty dossier,” there was unmasking. 

With a quartet of Trump campaign aides having either pleaded guilty to crimes or facing serious charges, we know that, yes, agents were watching his campaign (and even apparently working one as a confidential informant) but, no, it was not what Trump had claimed.  

Again, even if you think it was really Obama and the Deep State, the Twitter outburst did nothing to help and something to harm the agenda the president and his team say they are fighting so fiercely to implement.

For a couple of hours this morning it looked like history was going to repeat itself.

Trump was live-tweeting his favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends,” as he often does. When the show turned to the topic of a scheduled vote on reauthorizing domestic surveillance power for the National Security Agency, Trump jumped in.

“‘House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.’ This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”

Whether you think Trump is acting guilty and defensive or rightly outraged, we all know that the ongoing investigation into his campaign’s contacts with Russians seeking to influence the 2016 election gets Trump riled up like nothing else. And when he saw that shimmer in the water this morning, he struck hard.

This was particularly unhappy news for the broad bipartisan coalition that had been working for months to reauthorize the always controversial post-9/11 program.

While there are considerable concerns about civil liberties as it relates to giving the government power to collect “bulk data” about the communication of Americans, a durable consensus has formed that, with proper oversight, the program helps prevent attacks.

Today’s House vote on the program had been setting up as something of another legislative victory for the president. Yes, a group of opponents, led by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., have been preparing to try to fight the re-authorization. But things looked pretty good for the home team… Until Trump tweeted.

We have all seen this movie before. Trump, following a period of placidity and positivity, stops his own forward progress by seizing on an ancillary issue in the Russia probe, popular culture or something else.

And, predictably, Trump’s admirers went out to try to bolster his claims as his many adversaries sought to exploit the error to weaken the administration and its agenda.

This looked like a paint-by-numbers covfefe kerfuffle.

But then, it wasn’t. Two hours after his initial tweet Mr. Nice Guy showed back up and in very un-Trumpian terms, reversed himself.

“With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!”

We will reiterate that we are not dealing here with what you think about dossier sources or anything else relating to the investigation, only that Trump started his morning by micturating in his own cornflakes but before lunch, thought better of it.

The House passed the measure as expected, and while Paul will be sure to make sure to set off fireworks when the measure gets to the Senate it seems unlikely that this issue will end up disrupting the rest of the legislative calendar.

If you’re a fan of this administration, that has to count as progress.

THE RULEBOOK: WANTS VS. NEEDS
“…in a short course of time, the wants of the States will naturally reduce themselves within A VERY NARROW COMPASS; and in the interim, the United States will, in all probability, find it convenient to abstain wholly from those objects to which the particular States would be inclined to resort.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34

TIME OUT: FAKE LLOYD WRIGHT?
WSJ: “Perched above San Francisco Bay in the big-money enclave of Belvedere, Calif., a French Provincial manor boasts exquisite views of the Golden Gate Bridge, wood-paneled walls and its own rose garden. Formerly owned by well-known venture capitalist Tom Perkins, the home also boasts one of the Bay Area’s most coveted designations: It was designed by local architect Julia Morgan, the first female architect licensed in California and the designer of iconic properties such as Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif. Or was it? … It’s a problem the art world has dealt with for centuries: Buyers worry about paying for a work by a famous artist, only to learn later that the work may be misattributed or a forgery. In the real-estate world, buyers pay a premium for a famous property only to see their home’s value plunge when its history is debunked. To protect their investment, buyers are increasingly turning to historians, architectural experts and nonprofit foundations to authenticate the provenance of the property.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -22 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.4 points

[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: SPEECH! SPEECH!
We hope you did your homework! This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the first book of their self-proclaimed book club, Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech.” The duo also talks about the fallout from the Michael Wolff book “Fire and Fury” and, as always, trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

SENATE SQUAD REACHES DEAL ON DREAMERS
WaPo: “A bipartisan group of senators working to resolve the status of young undocumented immigrants, border security and restrictions on legal migration programs has offered an opening bid on an immigration agreement and is seeking sign-off from the White House, according to aides familiar with the talks. Aides to Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a longtime GOP broker on immigration policy, said Thursday that a deal has been reached, and other congressional aides familiar with the negotiations confirmed that the group is now consulting with the White House. The breakthrough comes two days after President Trump summoned lawmakers to the White House and said he would support a deal that would resolve the legal status of ‘dreamers,’ or young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, and make other changes in immigration and border security policy. Word of a deal also comes just days before a spending deadline that most Democrats are using as leverage for an immigration agreement.”
 
Little ‘love’ for Trump’s overtures on immigration among House GOP - NYT: “Prominent House Republicans stepped forward on Wednesday with a vision of immigration policy that clashed fiercely with President Trump’s recent overtures of bipartisanship and highlighted how difficult it will be for Congress and the president to reach accord in the coming weeks. The proposal, championed by the chairmen of the House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees, would crack down on illegal immigration and sharply reduce the number of legal immigrants to the United States. Coming one day after Mr. Trump held an extraordinary meeting in which he laid out the parameters for a bipartisan immigration deal, the House proposal highlighted the uncertainty surrounding negotiations that are supposed to coalesce before the government runs out of money on Jan. 19.”

Trump admin to greenlights new ObamaCare expansions -
WaPo: “The Trump administration issued guidance to states early Thursday that will allow them to compel people to work or prepare for jobs in order to receive Medicaid for the first time in the half-century history of this pillar of the nation’s social safety net. The letter to state Medicaid directors opens the door for states to cut off Medicaid benefits to Americans unless they have a job, are in school, are a caregiver, volunteer or participate in other approved forms of ‘community engagement’ — an idea that some states had broached over the past several years but that the Obama administration had consistently rebuffed. The new policy comes as 10 states are already lined up, waiting for federal permission to impose work requirements on able-bodied adults in the program.”

GOP may lose reconciliation tool because of fiscal follies - Politico: “Republican leaders are considering skipping passage of a GOP budget this year — a blow to the party’s weakened fiscal hawks that would squash all 2018 efforts to revamp entitlements or repeal Obamacare. White House and Hill GOP leaders discussed the possibility of forgoing the painful budget process during last weekend’s Camp David legislative summit, according to four sources familiar with the talks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued that he cannot pass controversial deficit-reduction legislation using powerful budget procedures with his new 51-vote majority — and wasn’t even sure he could find the votes for a fiscal blueprint in the first place. Abandoning the budget, however, would be an embarrassment for Republicans, who for years railed against Democrats when they avoided one of the most basic responsibilities of Congress.”

Senators look to save Iran nuclear deal - Politico: “Bipartisan Senate negotiators are making headway on a plan that would stave off an implosion of the U.S.-Iran nuclear pact, even as President Donald Trump nears a pivotal Friday deadline to decide on the future of a deal he has long derided. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, both said Wednesday that they had the broad parameters of a proposal to amend the 2015 legislation that required congressional review of former President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Tehran. But translating the outlines of a new Iran measure into legislation that can overcome conservative resistance and liberal skepticism will pose a significant challenge.”

WH, MCCONNELL PICK A FIGHT IN OHIO SENATE PRIMARY
Cincinnati Enquirer: “U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci plans to run for U.S. Senate after President Donald Trump's political team urged the Republican to do so. That means Renacci will jump out of the Ohio governor's race, according to Republicans with knowledge of the decision. An announcement is expected Thursday morning. White House political staff sat down with Renacci on Wednesday and encouraged him to run for the Senate. They cited Renacci’s support for Trump’s initiatives in Congress and their desire to have another GOP vote in the Senate, a person close to the White House told The Enquirer. Renacci's move comes after a day of intense jockeying in the Ohio race, which unfolded behind closed doors. ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author J.D. Vance met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican who is chairman of the Senate GOP’s campaign committee.”

Missouri governor admits 2015 affair, kinky video - Kansas City Star: “[Missouri] Gov. Eric Greitens has admitted he had an extramarital affair in 2015, during a time when he was exploring a campaign for governor. But he is denying allegations that he tried to blackmail the woman into silence. The admission was inspired by a report by St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOV. The report featured an interview with the ex-husband of Greitens’ mistress, who had secretly recorded his then-wife confessing the affair to him before they divorced in 2016. In the audio recording she says the governor taped her hands to a piece of exercise equipment in the basement of his former home in St. Louis, blindfolded her and took a nude photo in order to blackmail her. She said Greitens later apologized and told her he had deleted the photo.”

Report: Issa might pinch hit if Hunter has to resign House seat - The Hill: “GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, who said Wednesday he is not seeking reelection in California’s 49th district, has been discussing with colleagues the possibility of running in a neighboring San Diego district if embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) resigns, multiple sources told The Hill. Some of these discussions happened as recently as Wednesday, the day Issa announced he would not be running for reelection in his coastal Southern California district after 15 years in the House. Most of Washington took that to mean Issa, the former Oversight Committee chairman and Congress’s wealthiest member, was leaving Capitol Hill for good. But in his statement, Issa never specifically said he was retiring from Congress.”

TRUMP DUCKS QUESTION ON MUELLER INTERVIEW
Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump declined to say Wednesday whether he would agree to a possible interview request from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating Russia meddling in last year’s campaign, even as the president repeated his contention that there wasn’t any collusion with Russia. ‘There has been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians or Trump and Russians,’ Trump said during a press conference at the White House. ‘It has been determined there was no collusion.’ Asked again about a possible Mueller interview, Trump said, ‘I’ll speak with attorneys.’ He added, ‘It seems unlikely you’d even have an interview.’ Trump’s legal team is preparing for a potential interview with Mueller and is in preliminary discussions with his office on the parameters, according to a person familiar with the matter. No administration officials have been questioned by Mueller in about a month, the person said.”

Bannon lawyers up after book claims on Russia - Daily Beast: “Steve Bannon is lawyering up as he gets ready to face investigators looking into the Trump-Russia nexus. The Daily Beast has learned that the former top White House strategist has retained Bill Burck, of the firm Quinn Emanuel. Two sources tell us Burck is helping Bannon prepare for an interview with the House intelligence committee, which is currently scheduled for next week. Sources also said Bannon plans to ‘fully cooperate’ with investigators.’”

THE JUDGE’S RULING: PRIVACY, PLEASE
Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano discusses FISA and the Fourth Amendment: “FISA did not interfere with the standard understanding or use of the Fourth Amendment by the government and the courts. But it did add another way for the government to invade privacy when its wish is to surveil people for national security purposes -- a return to general warrants -- as opposed to solely gathering evidence of crimes.” More here.

AUDIBLE: DUTCH TREAT 
“This is the Netherlands. You have to answer questions.” – A reporter refusing to ask new questions of new U.S. Ambassador Pete Hoekstra after he declined to respond to journalists’ initial inquires at a press conference about the Trump administration.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Just curious on your thoughts on all the Republican Retirements this year going into the 2018 elections. Seems to me there is a lot more than usual. Is there something we should be reading into this?” – Tim Sidden, North Wilkesboro, N.C.

[Ed. note: Great question, Mr. Sidden! It’s a little of both. First, the number of retirements is substantially above what you’d typically see from a majority party at this point in a cycle. We track retirements closely because they reflect what politicians on the ground think about the political climate – tough years generally produce more retirements as older members shy from bruising bouts – but also because retirements tend to make races more competitive. Without the power of incumbency, many districts become competitive. We’ve seen 30 GOP House retirements so far, which is huge. By comparison, it’s almost twice as many as this point in the 2006 cycle when Republicans got walloped. A significant caveat, though: The districts aren’t generally competitive. Only a dozen Republicans in competitive districts have resigned, just a couple more than this point in 2006. Another caveat: Part of the reason for the retirements are House GOP rules that set tight term limits for committee chairmen. Once you’ve been the boss, it’s hard to go to the back of the line and many have opted to just cash out. All that having been said, the raft of retirements suggests a difficult climate for the GOP this year, but, so far, the departures have mostly been from places where Republicans are expected to hold the seats.]   

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HIS DEMO WAS LIT
WREG: “A suspect in an attempted robbery at the Wingstop on Union Avenue (in Memphis, Tenn.) told police he was an aspiring rapper trying to get the attention of restaurant owner and rap mogul Rick Ross, according to general manager Elma Allen. WREG showed surveillance video of the incident Friday night. By Monday, police said they got a tip identifying Cedric Miller, 23, as one of the suspects. A Wingstop employee positively identified Miller in a lineup of six people. … In 2012, rapper Rick Ross held a ribbon cutting for the opening of at least one of the Wingstops in Memphis he owns. ‘That’s a ridiculous way to get someone’s attention. How are you going to get his attention after sitting in jail?’ customer Cameron Blaine said. ‘It could [get his attention] but I don’t know if he is going to get signed if that’s the case. I doubt it,’ customer Huron Wilson said.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. 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.