POLITICS
03/22/2017 06:15 pm ET Updated Mar 22, 2017

HUFFPOST HILL - Trump Eager To Move Past Health Care And Focus On Rampant Treason

Carlos Barria / Reuters

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We’re getting to the point where the question isn’t whether Paul Manafort has a go-bag, but how many foreign passports he’s hiding in his spare pair of Berluti loafers. If you see a defeated Devin Nunes chucking a cork board, a bunch of thumbtacks and a spool of red string into a trashcan outside the White House, just leave the dude be. And the AHCA will pass the House tomorrow… or it might not… or it might! You know what? Why don’t we focus on TRADE DEALS? This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017:

MANAFORT LOBBIED DIRECTLY FOR PUTIN ALLY - That sound you don’t hear is Jason Chaffetz doing anything about this flagrant FARA violation. Jeff Horowitz and Chad Day: “President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, The Associated Press has learned. The White House on Wednesday acknowledged the AP’s revelations had ‘started to catch a lot of buzz’ but brushed them aside, though some members of Congress expressed alarm. Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse…. White House spokesman Sean Spicer indicated Wednesday that President Trump had not been aware of Manafort’s work on behalf of Deripaska.” [AP]

FREEDOM CAUCUS NOT BUYING AHCA - It looks like it’s willing to bite its lip and think of Ronald Reagan while 20-plus million people are still insured for the time being. Matt Fuller: “After most members of the House Freedom Caucus met with Vice President Mike Pence in his office on Wednesday ― and a smaller group of them met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office ― conservatives in the hard-right group reassembled on Capitol Hill and promised to vote down the GOP’s health care bill, should it come up for a vote. ‘They don’t have the votes to pass this tomorrow,’ House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told reporters on Wednesday. ‘We believe that they need to start over and do a bill that actually reduces premiums.’ … The White House believes adding the provisions the Freedom Caucus wants could undermine the privileged status of the reconciliation bill in the Senate and subject the whole bill to 60 votes, rather than the 50-vote reconciliation process Republicans are hoping for, members reported.” [HuffPost]

MODERATES PRETTY IFFY, TOO - Meanwhile, the, like, 0.7 remaining Blue Dog Democrats are just hoping that the good people at Holland & Knight are keeping them in mind. Laura Barron-Lopez: “There are roughly 54 Republicans in the moderate conference dubbed the Tuesday Group, led by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), and many of them appear to be doing their own thing. Dent doesn’t know (or isn’t telling) how members in the group plan to vote…. Dent wouldn’t say if his reservations were enough to vote against the bill, but he said he gave Trump a letter four Republican governors sent to House Republicans, opposing the plan for its lack of flexibility and resources for states that expanded Medicaid. Dent also said efforts to defund the family planning provider Planned Parenthood should be dealt with separately, and expressed concern that the House bill doesn’t make tax credits more generous for older and low-income people to offset increased insurance premiums.” [HuffPost]

Congratulations to Paul Ryan: “Forty-five percent of those polled name health care as among the two issues most important to them, with 39 percent naming the economy, the survey finds. Immigration, at 25 percent, takes a relatively distant third.” [HuffPost’s Ariel Edwards-Levy]

WE’RE ALL EXCITED TO HEAR DEVIN NUNES’ SECRET PLAN TO FIGHT INFLATION AND ALSO HIS PROOF OF OBAMA’S WIRETAP(P)S - We live in such stupid times. Jessica Schulberg, Nick Baumann and Ryan Grim: “[O]n Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)...went to the White House to talk to the president. U.S. intelligence agencies had intercepted Trump associates’ communications ― and perhaps those of Trump himself ― in the final three months of the Obama administration, Nunes said he told Trump. Nunes...said the intercepted communications didn’t mention Russia and were therefore unrelated to his investigation…. Nunes’ objective appeared political: Deflect attention from Trump and his associates’ ties to Russia, and back up Trump’s claim that he is a victim of ‘deep state’ loyal to former President Barack Obama. Nunes’ gambit failed. In attempting to put out the Trump-Russia fire, he made much of it worse: In two press conferences on Wednesday, he confirmed that Trump’s surrogates ― and maybe the president himself ― were subjects of legal surveillance, implied that they may have had suspicious contact with agents from a country other than Russia, and potentially disclosed classified information. [HuffPost]

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OVERSIGHT LOOKING INTO MICHAEL FLYNN’S FOREIGN DEALINGS - Meanwhile, Flynn’s son was tweeting out racist bile today. Paul Blumenthal: “Leaders of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee on Wednesday asked the Trump administration to turn over all information it has related to payments that former national security adviser Michael Flynn received from foreign governments or other foreign entities. Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) asked for the information in a letter sent to the White House, the FBI, the Department of Defense and the director of national intelligence…. The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee leaders have asked for several documents pertaining to this clearance process, including Flynn’s answers to the questionnaire any communications or records of payment Flynn may have disclosed.” [HuffPost]

BREITBART, OTHERS TARGETING BUREAUCRATS - All these people ever wanted to do was make sure your Superfund site was being administered correctly but nooooooooooo. Nahal Toosi and Andrew Restuccia: “Conservative news outlets, including one with links to a top White House official, are singling out individual career government employees for criticism, suggesting in articles that certain staffers will not be sufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump by virtue of their work under former President Barack Obama. The articles — which have appeared in Breitbart News, the Conservative Review and other outlets — have alarmed veteran officials in both parties as well as current executive branch staffers. They say the stories are adding to tensions between career staffers and political appointees as they begin to implement Trump’s agenda, and they worry that the stories could inspire Trump to try purging federal agencies of perceived enemies.” [Politico]

LAWMAKERS MISREPRESENTING ACA IN LETTERS TO CONSTITUENTS - Maw dearest Irma, the fightin’ is hard, and the death panels are rampant, but with God as my ally, and your love as maw shield, I shall fight this here socialism. Charles Ornstein: “As the debate to repeal the law heats up in Congress, constituents are flooding their representatives with notes of support or concern, and the lawmakers are responding, sometimes with form letters that are misleading. A review of more than 200 such letters...found dozens of errors and mischaracterizations about the ACA and its proposed replacement. The legislators have cited wrong statistics, conflated health care terms and made statements that don’t stand up to verification. It’s not clear if this is intentional or if the lawmakers and their staffs don’t understand the current law or the proposals to alter it. Either way, the issue of what is wrong — and right — about the current system has become critical as the House prepares to vote on the GOP’s replacement bill Thursday.” [ProPublica]

Even the liberal Wall Street Journal editorial page…. “If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods…. [T]he President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims.” [WSJ]

CONGRATULATIONS ON THE SECOND JOB YOU SOON WON’T HAVE TIME FOR - Dave Jamieson: “One of the biggest questions hanging over the confirmation hearing of Alexander Acosta on Wednesday was where President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Labor Department stands on the issue of overtime pay. Acosta gave some surprisingly revealing answers to that question ― and they don’t bode well for the monumental overtime reforms made by former President Barack Obama, which are now tied up in court…. He added that he was concerned about the ‘stress’ Obama’s reform could place on nonprofits and employers in low-wage areas.” [HuffPost]

FORTY PERCENT OF THE NEA’S BUDGET SO MELANIA CAN HAVE EASY ACCESS TO THE EDWYNN HOUK GALLERY - That’s why she’s up in New York, right? Drew Harwell and Amy Brittain: “The U.S. Secret Service requested $60 million in additional funding for the next year, offering the most precise estimate yet of the escalating costs for travel and protection resulting from the unusually complicated lifestyle of the Trump family, according to internal agency documents reviewed by The Washington Post. Nearly half of the additional money, $26.8 million, would pay to protect President Trump’s family and private home in New York’s Trump Tower, the documents show, while $33 million would be spent on travel costs incurred by ‘the president, vice president and other visiting heads of state.’” [WaPo]

KIND OF LIKE WHEN THE PHARAOH WISHED THE JEWS A HAPPY PASSOVER - This controversy is a golden opportunity for our children’s book, “Time for Spring! Adventures With Norton The Nowruz Narwhal” to finally start selling. Sam Levine: “President Donald Trump released a statement Wednesday celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, and praising Iranian immigrants ― one of the groups he is working to block from entering the United States. ‘For many years, I have greatly enjoyed wonderful friendships with Iranian-Americans, one of the most successful immigrant groups in our country’s contemporary history,’ Trump’s statement read. ‘They come from diverse religious backgrounds ― including Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian, and Baha’i ― but all share an affection for their ancestral heritage.’ But Iran is one of six countries from which Trump seeks to ban immigration to the U.S., under an executive order released earlier this month.” [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here are a bunch of hummingbirds.

TRUMP A BOON FOR THE ARTS AND CRAFTS INDUSTRY - Now tell us about whiskey sales. Christopher Mele: “The week before the Women’s March on Jan. 21 in cities across the United States, protesters who were making signs helped fuel increased sales of poster boards by 33 percent and foam boards by 42 percent compared with the same week last year, the consumer research group NPD reported recently. Poster and foam board sales from Jan. 15 to 21 totaled $4.1 million. More than 6.5 million poster boards were sold in January, with nearly one-third sold during the week of the march. Sales of easel pads and flip charts grew by 28 percent, Leen Nsouli, an office supplies industry analyst at NPD, said in a blog post.” [NYT]

COMFORT FOOD

- Life as Fox News’ resident liberal.

- Using engineering to create the world’s greatest/worst dartboard.

TWITTERAMA

@nickpwing: To be honest, my only reason to believe the Trump administration is guilty of something is that THIS IS NOT HOW INNOCENT PEOPLE ACT.

@elisefoley: The “I’m [whoever] and I approve this message” thing is very useful when trying to figure out how politicians pronounce their names.

@daveweigel: I feel like Trump’s habit of saying whatever his audience wants to hear then not following through carries some political risks.

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