Eye on 45

CN&R’s biweekly rundown of news out of the Trump White House and Congress

The White House broke security protocol by announcing Jared Kushner’s trip to Baghdad before he’d landed in Iraq.

The White House broke security protocol by announcing Jared Kushner’s trip to Baghdad before he’d landed in Iraq.

Perhaps the biggest news out of Washington in recent weeks is FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee that the organization he leads is indeed investigating the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia—specifically whether POTUS’ team colluded with the Kremlin in its efforts to help elect the billionaire real estate mogul.

That revelation on a Monday (March 20) runs counter to the president’s oft-repeated claim that “Russia is fake news.” Since that time, the bipartisan panel’s independent investigation has been wracked with problems. Most notably, the next day, a rogue California congressman named Devin Nunes, who is chairman of that House committee, secretly met on the White House grounds with members of Trump’s team to view documents allegedly confirming the president’s claim he’d been wiretapped by the Obama administration during the presidential campaign—a narrative that has been debunked by U.S. intelligence officials, including Comey.

Here are the highlights from the last couple of weeks:

March 20: The Washington Post reports that Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka, will move into her own office in the West Wing at the end of the month to take on an unofficial role as an adviser to the president. There, she’ll join husband Jared Kushner, a real estate heir who’s serving as the president’s senior adviser. She pledged to “voluntarily” follow ethics rules for official government employees.

March 22: The Associated Press reports that former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort made millions of dollars a year working in secret with a Russian billionaire to influence American policy to the benefit of Putin in the mid-2000s and just a few years ago worked in clandestine efforts as a lobbyist for Ukraine’s pro-Russian faction. Manafort did not report such lobbying work, which is a felony under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

March 23: CNN reports that the negotiations on the so-called American Health Care Act—meant to replace the Affordable Care Act—have come to a close. That news comes by way of high-level White House officials who headed to Capitol Hill to meet with GOP lawmakers with an ultimatum from Trump: Pass the bill the next day or America is “stuck” with Obamacare.

March 24: House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders pull the AHCA from the House floor—a move that comes as a result of a lack of Republican support, both from ultra conservatives who called the law “Obamacare Lite” and moderates who were under increasing pressure from their constituency to leave the existing law in place.

March 26: The Washington Post reports that, just nine weeks into his presidency, Trump has visited, on average, one of his properties every three days.

March 27: The New York Times reports that Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Kushner will be questioned by Senate Intelligence Committee investigators regarding meetings he had set up with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.

Kislyak is the same Russian with whom Trump’s now-disgraced former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, met during the transition. Flynn was forced out of that post after it was revealed he’d lied to Vice President Mike Pence about such contact.

In an interview with CNN, embattled Congressman Nunes justifies his clandestine meeting on White House property to view allegedly sensitive documents on the basis that he needed a secure place in which to do so. Rep. Adam Schiff, also from California and the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called for Nunes to recuse himself from the Russia probe.

Pollster Gallup releases a survey showing Trump’s approval rating has dropped to 36 percent—a new low.

March 28: Congressman Walter Jones becomes the first Republican to call for Nunes’ recusal from the Russia-Trump investigation.

The New York Times reports that the Trump administration attempted to keep Sally Yates, former attorney general of the United States, from testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on the potential Trump-Russia connection.

Trump signs an executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era effort to curb climate change.

March 29: The New York Times reports a change of plans for Ivanka Trump’s affiliation to the White House. She’ll take on a formal role as an official employee.

March 30: The attorney for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn says his client is willing to testify in the House and Senate’s Russia-Trump probes in exchange for immunity.

April 3: Kushner accompanied Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. on a trip to Baghdad, Iraq, to meet with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and discuss efforts to defeat ISIS.