Trump's re-election bid collides with policy problems

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On the roster: Trump’s re-election bid collides with policy problems - Witness: Russians targeted Rubio - Report: Trump aides told Nunes what Nunes told Trump - I’ll Tell You What: Kidding, not kidding - Paging Tara Reid

It’s too soon to say how President Trump’s agenda will fair, but we do know his re-election bid is in trouble.

That may sound preposterous to say in the 10th week of an administration, but here we are.

Trump, who filed for re-election before he took office, is getting a boost from his most important donors, hedge-fund tycoon Robert Mercer and his family. It comes in the form of a $1.3 million ad blitz targeted at swing states as well as states represented by vulnerable Democratic senators.

Trump is doing his part by renewing his war with his fellow Republicans, blasting House conservatives for defeating his health-insurance overhaul last week.

There’s no doubt that Trump whose first months in office have been marked by near-constant controversy, policy setbacks and historically low approval ratings, could use a boost.

Going back to his successful campaign model of Mercer money and dramatic confrontations with other politicians could be a help. His core voters need reassurance and beating up on Cruz-style conservatives has worked before. Just ask Ted Cruz

But Trump will need more than slick ads and scapegoats to win his long, long re-election campaign. He will need policies that work.

To that end, Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan are playing good cop and bad cop with House Republicans in a bid to get lawmakers to fall in line.

Trump keeps talking about wanting to work with Democrats to enact the more liberal parts of his agenda and blaming conservatives for being ideologically hidebound. Ryan, meanwhile, is telling his troops that they better hurry up and take the first deal before the President follows through on his threat.

Some conservatives seem anxious enough that they might go along, but for Trump and Ryan’s routine to be successful it will have to be credible.

So the question that confronts Washington is whether Trump is serious about dropping the effort to replace ObamaCare and instead work with moderate Republicans and Democrats to repair the legislation. And if he is, are Democrats actually interested?

This may just be a game of chicken with conservative lawmakers to force them to accept the original version of TrumpCare. That depends, however, on the idea that Ryan and his counterpart in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, would go along. That seems unlikely.

At present, Ryan is maintaining the House lawsuit against the executive branch undertaken during the Obama administration to block subsidies paid to insurance companies under the existing law. And it’s an open question whether the budget bosses in the upper chamber do not even intend to fund the subsidies in the first place.

Not a lot of repair going on there…

What else is not going on is the promised pivot to Trump’s cherished tax overhaul and stimulus spending package. The Republican leadership seems dug in on the issue of addressing health insurance first. Trump’s focus on badgering and blaming conservatives suggests that he agrees and has gone back to Plan A: jam through some manner of replacement for ObamaCare and then turn to more popular policy provisions.

The president finds himself in something of a snare. He can’t get re-elected if he doesn’t have policy victories. But if the policies he is able to enact are unpopular, he loses anyway.

At some point we may see Trump shift his anger away from right wingers and put it on the congressional leaders who are being sticks in the mud. But for now, Trump is sticking it out with the GOP establishment. That may be because opposition to Trump among Democrats is so uniformly intense other than Trump enthusiast Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the president has not found many friends on the other side of the aisle.

The astonishing brinksmanship over Trump’s well-regarded nominee to the Supreme Court tells us that even when it is against their long-term interests, Democrats are determined to be seen as absolutists in opposing Trump.

If the president wants to get out of his jam between the Republican establishment and conservatives, he is going to need some Democrats to help him make good on his threats. Unfortunately for Trump, many on the left are content to watch and wait.

First, they want to see when and if the GOP will actually cannibalize itself. Second with at least two ongoing investigations into potential ties between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin, there’s lots of incentive for Democrats to just wait and see.

Trump needs them way more than they need him. And without successes of his own, Trump won’t be able to entice any significant number of aisle crossers. And what that means is that before ads or rallies or Twitter fights can keep him in office, Trump will have to successfully sell legislation that he believes in.

Whether it’s on health insurance or taxes or anything else, the president needs to become an evangelist for some specific policy idea around which he can form a new coalition.

“For the absurdity must continually stare us in the face of confiding to a government the direction of the most essential national interests, without daring to trust it to the authorities which are indispensible to their proper and efficient management.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 23

The New Yorker: “… The skill that Ms. Pac-Man demands of its players—making multi-objective, dynamic decisions quickly—turns out to be the same ability that artificial-intelligence researchers wish to program into many of their bots. And according to Silvia Ferrari, the director of Cornell University’s Laboratory for Intelligent Systems and Controls, the game is an especially ideal environment for training autonomous military machines. …While the endeavor may seem flippant, Ferrari, who first played Pac-Man when she was ten years old, believes that it will lead to useful applications. Code tested and trained using Ms. Pac-Man could, she suggested, be integrated into unmanned vehicles, helping them conduct search and surveillance missions under conditions that would be too hazardous for humans—in war zones, disaster areas, or the deep ocean.”

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TPM: “A witness revealed Thursday at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had been targeted by Russian actors attempting to influence U.S. politics. Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute … said that he believes Rubio, as a presidential candidate, was a victim of Russian propaganda aimed at influencing the U.S. presidential election. ‘Russia's overt media outlets and covert trolls sought to sideline opponents on both sides of the political spectrum with adversarial views towards the Kremlin,’ Watts said. ‘They were in full swing during both the Republican and Democratic primary season, and may have helped sink the hopes of candidates more hostile to Russian interests long before the field narrowed. Senator Rubio, in my opinion, you anecdotally suffered through these efforts.’”

Senate Intel committee takes on Russian ‘information warfare’ - Fox News: “Russia is engaged in ‘information warfare’ on American soil, and its interference in the 2016 presidential campaign is just one part of a strategy to undermine Western democracies that continues today, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Thursday. ‘Unfortunately, you will learn…that these efforts by Russia to discredit the United States and weaken the West are not new. These efforts are, in fact, at the heart of Russian – and previously, the Soviet Union – intelligence efforts,’ said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., at the start of a key hearing by his committee.  The focus of the hearing is on how the Kremlin allegedly used technology to spread disinformation in the U.S. and Europe. Vladimir Putin himself on Thursday dismissed what he called ‘endless and groundless’ accusations of Russian meddling.”

Russia paid hackers to push fake news - Reuters: “Warner and Burr both stressed the importance of exposing the activity of Russian hackers, which Warner said included reports of "upwards of 1,000 paid Internet trolls" who spread false negative stories about Clinton.”

Comey tried to go public on Russia before election - Newsweek: “FBI Director James Comey attempted to go public as early as the summer of 2016 with information on Russia’s campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election, but Obama administration officials blocked him from doing so, two sources with knowledge of the matter tell Newsweek. Well before the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence accused the Russian government of tampering with the U.S. election in an October 7 statement, Comey pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about the Russian campaign during a meeting in the White House’s situation room in June or July.”

Fiorina calls for special prosecutor - WashEx: “Carly Fiorina on Monday called for a special prosecutor and an independent commission to handle the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections…’ We’ve got to have either a special prosecutor or an independent commission, and that’s still the right answer,’ Fiorina told the ‘John Fredericks Show.’”

NYT: “A pair of White House officials played a role in providing Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed that President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies. … Several current American officials identified the White House officials as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office and formerly worked on the staff of the House Intelligence Committee. A White House spokesperson declined to comment. … Officials said the reports consisted primarily of ambassadors and other foreign officials talking about how they were trying to develop contacts within Mr. Trump’s family and inner circle in advance of his inauguration.”

[Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Nunes were expected to meet today.]

Politico: “The Senate is careening toward a historic change to its filibuster rules that takes it one step closer to a version of the majority-rule House of Representatives. But no one seems to care enough to save the Senate from itself. Unlike past institutional crises, there’s no bipartisan “gang” stepping up to force a truce between the warring armies led by Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer. …  McConnell is increasingly dug in, rallying his troops to confirm [Judge Neil Gorsuch] by any means necessary.  Schumer has staked his reputation as leader to a successful filibuster of Gorsuch, with major disappointment looming on the left if he fails. … But interviews with the two moderate Republicans most likely to object to a rules change [Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine] reveal that McConnell is likely on solid ground.”


Well, that health care debate went well. Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt break down where President Trump and the Republicans went wrong in their quest to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Is this the beginning of a war with the Freedom Caucus, or are his tweets just…kidding? Plus, Dana gives an update on your favorite diabetic cat. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

Hawaii federal judge decides to maintain refugee ban - Fox News 

Seattle sues over administration threat on sanctuary cities - 
Fox News

Dem congressman to launch bid to unseat Cruz - 
Houston Chronicle

The right-hand woman to Trump’s right-hand man: Julia Hahn WaPo

DHS Secretary John Kelly says families will not be separated at border - The Hill

Trump admin now suggests only modest changes to NAFTA - WSJ

Trump deputy chief of staff leaving for outside pro-Trump PAC - Politico

Mega map: A look at how every precinct in America voted - Decision Desk

“That was some weird s--t.” – Former President George W. Bush reacting to Trump’s inauguration reported by New York Magazine. 

“Enjoy your daily report immensely... keep up the good work! But I've read just about enough of the Gorsuch nomination to the Supreme Court to scream…This is such a biggie that Senator McConnell should have pushed his committee chairman to the brink to get this done and the nominee, should he be confirmed, seated on the bench by now…Senate Democratic leadership has shown more spine…what with delays and provocations. With luck, maybe we'll all live long enough to see some true courage and audacity from Senate Republican leadership. But I'm not holding my breath.” – James W. Herzog, Spartanburg, S.C.

[Ed. note: Patience, Mr. Herzog! There is no danger that Gorsuch will be passed out of committee and, as reported above, Senate Republicans seem more than willing to blow up the rules of the body to put his nomination through next week. Remember like a lot of things in life, the people making the most noise in Congress are seldom the ones in the best position.]

“I have a sailing analogy for you.  It’s the set of the sails and not the gales that determines our direction.  Some wind is required but there is plenty of hot air in Congress. (some of it seems to be flatulence)  We need a Captain to direct the ship and a crew with a common goal. This is one of the times that the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line.  I am sure that the framers of the Constitution understood the concept.  I am equally sure that, except for minor endeavors, they preferred sailors to oarsmen.  Always important to choose the right tool for the job.  I do appreciate the trim of your jib.  Thanks for listening.” – Margy Gangal, Pasco, Washington

[Ed. note: That’s a great way to look at it, Ms. Gangal but your analogy supposes that the admiralty has agreed on a course…]

“We all better stop being so [afraid] of the 6-legged version of the 8-limbed arachnids. Insect Bombs may be our doom!” – Bob Leavitt, North Ferrisburgh, Vt. 

[Ed. note: You are referring, no doubt, Mr. Leavitt to Wednesday’s Time Out about the voracious appetite of the world’s spiders. I confess that I recoil at the sight of the little buggers but have been, I hope, admirably consistent in keeping my pledge to not kill them. They are miraculous organisms and I certainly hate mosquitoes and flies more than an arachnid’s creepy eyes.]

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Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explores the true nature of health care and health insurance amid the debate over ObamaCare’s replacement: “…the federal government cannot create a right that the Constitution does not authorize. It can’t constitutionally transfer wealth from taxpayers or employers to others and then claim that the others have a right to the continued receipt of the transfers.” More here.

NewsHub: “[Residents of Queensland, Australia] are being warned to stay out of the floodwaters after Cyclone Debbie lashed the region, with creatures from the deep washing up. A massive bull shark was one of those to surface, ending up on a road in the town of Ayr. ‘Think it's safe to go back in the water? Think again!’ Queensland Fire and Emergency tweeted with a photo of the monstrous critter. It was towed back to the nearby Burdekin River, but was unable to be revived. The cyclone forced the evacuation of more than 25,000 people and has been declared a catastrophe by the Insurance Council of Australia. Insurance claims for damage after the storm and flooding in are expected to top billions of dollars.”

“I think it is like ‘The Godfather’.  This is not personal.  It's business.  I don't think the personal stuff is really what's at the core here.  They really are significant ideological differences among Republicans.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

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.