Politics Roundup: March 20 – 26, 2017

politicsroundup

Welcome to the weekly compilation of the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the comings and goings from the alternate world of reality – politics!

Confield Polls: Whom Do You Trust?

Monday, 3/20/17:

Criminal investigation!

Cloud over presidency!

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a criminal investigation into the possibility of collusion between members of the campaign of President Donald Trump and the Russian government.

Comey acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intel Committee.

FBI Director James Comey confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee today not only the investigation, but also that there was no proof that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower on then candidate Trump.

This was also confirmed by National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers, who also appeared before the committee.

Both Directors further denied that the British spy agency, GCHQ, was in any way involved with surveilling Trump Tower.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said today that following the Directors saying there was no bugging of Trump Tower, the White House has not changed its position and no apology to President Obama will be offered.

Democrats quoted extensively while questioning Comey and Rogers from the dossier prepared by a former British undercover agent.

Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch was grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee today as his confirmation hearing got underway.

We’re here today under very unusual circumstances,” California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein told the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that Gorsuch was nominated only because of the “unprecedented treatment” of US Appeals Judge Merrick Garland, who had been President Obama’s choice to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the court.

Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick J. Leahy called that decision to not give Garland a vote “an extraordinarily blockade” and “one of the greatest stains on the 200-year history of this committee.”

Consider the nominee on the merits – nothing else,” Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn urged his colleagues.

President Trump’s job approval rating fell to a new low of 37% in the latest Gallup tracking poll, which was released on Sunday. Of respondents in the poll, 58% said they disapproved of Trump’s performance.

Former Indiana Senator Dan Coats has been confirmed as Director of National Intelligence.

State Politics: After immigration raids across the country and reports of White House deportation plans, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebration has been canceled.

Global Politics: British Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50, the formal mechanism for starting negotiations for Britain to leave the European Union, on March 29, the Prime Minister’s spokesman has confirmed.

Germany on today dismissed as unacceptable an accusation by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan that Chancellor Angela Merkel is “applying Nazi methods” against Turks and Turkish officials in Germany.

Development of a President

Tuesday, 3/21/17:

A cloud of doubt is growing over the White House.

Can President Donald Trump be trusted to say what is truth and what is lie?

Will the issue of credibility impact the vote on Thursday in the House of Representatives on the American Health Care Act to repeal the Affordable Care Act?

Will the changes made late last night to the AHA sway reluctant lawmakers to vote with the President?

Did the President work the “Art of the Deal” when he went to the Capitol today and spoke with Republicans?

All these questions linger without answers.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey confirmed Monday his agency is investigating whether Russia tried to influence last year’s election, and “whether there was any coordination” between Russia and President Trump’s campaign.

That investigation started back in July, 2016.

Neil Gorsuch was grilled for the second day by the Senate Judiciary Committee as it weighs whether to put him forth for a full Senate vote to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Democrats attempted to nail Gorsuch down on his views and opinions on points of law, which he deflected.

Gorsuch vowed Monday not to forget the “modest station we judges are meant to occupy in a democracy.”

Stressing his independence, Gorsuch said today, “No man is above the law not even the President.”

I have no difficulty ruling against or for any party other than based on what the law and the facts of a particular case require,” Gorsuch told the Senators. “And I’m heartened by the support I have received from people who recognize that there’s no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge – we just have judges in this country.”

My personal views…I leave those at home,” the would-be Supreme Court Justice added later.

When asked by South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham if the President had asked him to vote to overturn Roe V Wade, the abortion legalization ruling, Gorsuch said, “Senator, I would have walked out the door.”

I think you’re a man of the law and I really want to congratulate the President for picking you,” ever-the-jokester, Graham told Gorsuch at his hearing. “Quite frankly, I was worried about who he’d pick. Maybe someone on TV.”

Among the changes made to the AHA were states would be stopped immediately from expanding Medicaid, older Americans would get more tax credits.

Also added was a provision to allow states to require work for Medicaid by able-bodied individuals.

The President told reluctant members of his own party today that if they vote against the AHA, that lawmaker may lose his or her seat in the 2018 congressional election.

The President of the United States came to us and said, ‘We made a promise to the American people and we need to keep our promises,’ ” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “The President was very clear and he laid it on the line for us.”

Ryan said Trump did “what he does best – and that is to close the deal.”

The President just came here and knocked the ball out of the park,” Ryan added.

Last night in Louisville, Kentucky with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by his side, the President told a campaign-style audience of several thousands, “We want a very big tax cut, but cannot do that until we keep our promise to repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare.”

This is our long-awaited chance to finally get rid of ‘Obamacare.’ It’s a long-awaited chance. We’re going to do it,” Trump said.

President Trump has dropped 220 spots on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires in the year since he ran for, and won, the White House.

Forty percent of Donald Trump’s fortune is tied up in Trump Tower and eight buildings within one mile of it,” Forbes said. “Lately, the neighborhood has been struggling (relatively speaking).”

California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters is doubling down on her calls for impeaching President Trump, tweeting today that it’s time to “get ready for impeachment.”

According to Reuters, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip his first meeting of the 28 NATO allies in April in order to stay home for a visit by China’s President and then go to Russia.

If true, the optics would not be good for the Trump Administration, which appears to favor ties with Russia more than its commitment to NATO.

The Prez says fear of his Twitter tweet wrath is sinking the career of footballer Colin Kapernick, which is why he remains an unsigned free agent.

The President today signed into law a bill that adds exploration of Mars as a NASA goal.

TAKE AWAYS from Monday’s House Intelligence Committee open hearing with FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers:

a.There’s no evidence of Trump’s accusation that Obama tapped his phones
b. The FBI is investigating connections between President Trump’s campaign associates and the Russian government
c. But the FBI is going to be VERY tight-lipped about the investigation
d. Democrats seem pretty sure associates with Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia
e. Republicans, meanwhile, want to focus on intelligence leaks to the press
f. Intelligence officials still don’t think there’s any evidence Russia’s meddling directly influenced votes

Get the details: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/03/20/six-big-takeaways-from-congresss-extraordinary-hearing-on-russia-president-trump-and-wiretapping/

First Daughter Ivanka now has an office in the West Wing.

The White House announced today that Ivanka will be taking on a larger advisory role within her father’s Administration but will not have an official position.

The Supreme Court decided today 6-2 to uphold a lower court’s ruling that then-President Barack Obama exceeded his legal authority with his temporary appointment of a National Labor Relations Board General Counsel in 2011.

In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court said that under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, a person cannot serve as the acting head of a federal agency once the President nominates him or her to permanently serve in the role if it is a position that requires Senate confirmation.

Out-of-office, yet once again former President Obama was found to have exceeded his executive authority.

State Politics: Hoping to win support from upstate New York Republicans, House leaders late on Monday added a controversial proposal to their health care bill that would require New York State to absorb Medicaid costs from county governments.

In a 3-0 decision, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by the American Humanist Association, which said the practice by the Birdville Independent School District in Texas violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

The School Board may begin its sessions with prayer.

Global Politics: French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron raised expectations that he would defeat far-right rival Marine Le Pen in a two-round election scheduled for late April and early May during a debate last night.

We are on the threshold of the most important negotiation for this country for a generation,” Brexit Secretary David Davis said about Great Britain invoking Article 50 on March 29. “The government is clear in its aims: a deal that works for every nation and region of the UK and indeed for all of Europe, a new, positive partnership between the UK and our friends and allies in the European Union.”

South Korean prosecutors today began questioning ousted former President Park Geun-hye in connection with the corruption investigation that got her ousted from office this month.

If the businessmen-turned-U.S. authorities thought that they would frighten [North Korea], they would soon know that their method would not work,” the North Korean Foreign Ministry said according to state news agency KCNA.

The regime “has the will and capability to fully respond to any war the U.S. would like to ignite,” Ministry added. “The US should face up to the situation…with its eyes wide open.”

France’s Interior Minister, Bruno Le Roux, has resigned amid an investigation into parliamentary jobs he gave his daughters.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Monday after a meeting at the White House that there are “better ways” for the United States to help beat back the Islamic State than sending combat troops.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sought backing from the Scottish Parliament today for her proposal to hold a new referendum on independence from the United Kingdom, the first formal step in a process resisted by the government in London, England.

The Trump Administration is considering sweeping sanctions aimed at cutting North Korea off from the global financial system as part of a broad review of measures to counter Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile threat, a senior US official told Reuters Monday.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen launched the island’s first ever home-grown submarine project today in the face of what the government says are growing military threats from China.

Wednesday, 3/22/17:

All is quiet in the West Wing.

Quiet that is on the refuted allegation that former President Barack Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower and then candidate, now President, Donald Trump.

Meanwhile down the street, Democrats tried yet again today to shake Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsach to revealing his hand on how he would rule on a number of issues near and dear to the hearts of the left.

Gorsuch remained non-commital and unmoved, revealing nothing.

Respectfully, none of you speaks for me,” Gorsuch said. “I am a judge. I am independent. I make up my own mind.”

You better believe I expect judicial decrees to be obeyed,” Gorsuch said. He quoted an unnamed judge he called “one of his heroes”: “The real test of the rule of law is [whether] the government could lose in its own courts and accept those judgments.”

Tomorrow is the scheduled vote day on the American Health Care Act which would repeal the Affordable Care Act.

But will the vote happen?

Can the President and House Speaker Paul Ryan twist enough arms to get the 216 Republican votes it needs to move the bill to the Senate, where it faces a dubious outcome?

The White House made clear today, “There is no Plan B” if the AHA does not pass the House.

A Ukranian lawmaker released information Tuesday which he says proves that former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort laundered some $750,000 for former Ukranian strongman Viktor Yanukovych, who had to flee to Russia.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer pointed out today that Manafort’s activity was over a decade ago.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has information that incidental collection of communications, having nothing to do with the probe into Russian interference in the recent election, may have been picked up from individuals in Trump Tower before and after the election.

Nunes told reporters that communications of Trump transition officials – possibly including President Donald Trump himself – may have been “monitored” after the election as part of an “incidental collection.”

Nunes said the information on the Trump team was collected in November, December and January, the period after the election in which Trump was holding calls with foreign leaders, interviewing Cabinet Secretaries, and was beginning to sketch out Administration policy.

Nunes said the monitored material was “widely disseminated” in intelligence reports.

Nunes briefed the President on what he learned late this afternoon.

The House Oversight Committee has asked the White House and the FBI for documents regarding former Trump adviser Michael Flynn’s foreign contacts with Russia, Turkey and other sources, its Republican chairman and Democratic counterpart said today.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may be skipping out on his first NATO meeting, but President Trump plans to meet with NATO leaders for a summit in Brussels, Belgium on May 25.

Labor Secretary nominee Alexander Acosta faced his confirmation hearing today with support from Big Labor, suggesting a relatively smooth path ahead.

In prepared remarks, Acosta, who will be the first Hispanic member of Trump’s Cabinet if confirmed, vowed to work with Congress to help Americans get the training they need to get good, safe jobs.

Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue will appear for a confirmation hearing on his nomination to be Secretary of Agriculture tomorrow.

Lieutenant General Jack Weinstein, who oversees the United States’ atomic weapons arsenal, has expressed concern over what he described as “much more aggressive” behavior by Russia in recent years, saying it justifies the need for a strengthened and modernized nuclear deterrent force in this country.

State Politics: Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a sweeping gun rights measure into law today that will allow concealed handguns at state colleges, some bars, government buildings and even the State Capitol.

An Oklahoma State Senator charged with hiring a teenage boy as a prostitute intends to resign as a lawmaker today, the Senator’s lawyer said on Tuesday.

Eighty people including George Soros, Steven Rockefeller and Abigail Disney wrote to lawmakers and New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo saying they and other top earners should pay more to support schools, roads, bridges and programs to help poor and homeless residents of the state.

An former Colorado GOP leader once said only Democrats committed voter fraud. Now he’s charged with voter fraud.

Global Politics: Scotland’s Parliament suspended its debate on authorizing the government to seek a new independence referendum after today’s attack on Britain’s Houses of Parliament which police said they were treating as a terrorist incident.

Mexico’s government on Tuesday warned Mexican companies that it would not be in their best “interests” to participate in the construction of President Trump’s border wall, though there will be no legal restrictions or sanctions to stop them if they tried.

Finding News

Thursday, 3/23/17:

Believer or skeptic?

Credibility is at the forefront.

Whom can you trust?

Who do you trust?

I’m President and you’re not,” is how President Donald Trump summed up the issue of credibility.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes apologized to the committee today for not sharing the information that members of the transition team working for then President Elect Trump were picked up in incidental collection after the election last November.

Democrats on the committee were not fully accepting of Nunes apology.

Nunes said, “It was a judgment call,” on why he spoke to the President before talking to the committee.

At the end of the day, sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you don’t,” Nunes added, noting he could not show the panel information that was given to him by a source.

Whatever information and documents Nunes saw which had him brief the President will be shared with the committee on Friday.

Ranking Member Adam Schiff told the committee and the press he had seen evidence which was more than “circumstantial” that members of the Trump campaign did coordinate with the Russians during the recent election.

If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been,” Schiff said. “The chairman also shared this information with the White House before providing it to the committee, another profound irregularity, given that the matter is currently under investigation. I have expressed my grave concerns with the chairman that a credible investigation cannot be conducted this way.”

Reports are out that there is evidence, found by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, linking members of the Trump campaign with coordinating the release of information harmful to the campaign of Hillary Clinton with Russian operatives.

Officials, cited in the reporting from CNN, said the information included human intelligence, business and phone records, as well as accounts of face-to-face meetings, but that it was not considered to be conclusive.

Democrats are more determined to get an independent commission to investigate the issue of Russian interference and possible Trump campaign collusion in the election.

Questions are swirling where the information is coming from about the surveillance and the evidence of coordination.

Some are saying the White House is the source while others are saying members within the intelligence community.

Up or down – what will it be?

Will the House of Representatives vote on the American Health Care Act to repeal the Affordable Care Act or will it balk?

A conference of the full Republican caucus was postponed this morning as House Speaker Paul Ryan with an assist from President Trump are trying to wrestle the 216 votes needed to pass the ACA.

At this moment all 24 members of the very conservative House Freedom Caucus are not onboard with the legislation. Four other Republicans are on the fence.

But can or will the Freedom Caucus ever be satisfied?

Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows announced after meeting a short time ago with the President in the White House, “No deal.”

Republicans can only afford to lose 21 votes. Democrats are standing united in opposition to the AHA.

The vote is in jeopardy.

With the House of Representatives set to vote on the American Health Care Act today or tonight, I have to say, like with the Affordable Care Act, I am not in favor of this new legislation to repeal the ACA.

This bill also is not beneficial to people like me and the American people in general, in my opinion.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said today that he will lead the filibuster of the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

I have concluded that I cannot support Neil Gorsuch’s nomination,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “My vote will be no and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”

Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey, who faces re-election next year in a state Trump won, also announced his opposition. Casey said he had “serious concerns about Judge Gorsuch’s rigid and restrictive judicial philosophy, manifest in a number of opinions he has written on the 10th Circuit.”

Britons harshly criticized Donald Trump Jr. for tweeting criticism of London’s Mayor in the wake of yesterday’s attack.

You have to be kidding me?!” President Trump’s eldest son tweeted. “Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.”

Trump misrepresented the quote.

Khan did not say that terror attacks were part of city life. He said that supporting police in terrorism preparedness was “part and parcel of living in a great global city.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has directed US diplomatic missions to identify “populations warranting increased scrutiny” and toughen screening for visa applicants in those groups,” according to diplomatic cables seen by Reuters.

Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue faced a confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee considering his nomination as Agriculture Secretary today.

In Georgia, agriculture is one area where Democrats and Republicans consistently reached across the aisle and work together,” Perdue said.

State Politics: An Hawaii lawmaker who says she was pressured to give up her leadership post at the Statehouse after criticizing President Trump resigned Wednesday from the Republican Party.

As a Japanese-American whose grandparents had to destroy all of their Japanese artifacts and items and bury them in the backyard to avoid getting taken and interned, how could I not have said anything?” State Representative Ruth Fukumoto asked. “And how could my party have not said anything?”

Nevada on Wednesday became the first state to approve the Equal Rights Amendment decades after the deadline to enshrine in the Constitution that women and men are equal under the law.

Global Politics: Foreign Ministry Spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu said it had summoned Russia’s top diplomat in Ankara soon after a Turkish soldier on guard duty at a border post in Turkey was shot dead by sniper fire.

Muftuoglu told reporters today that Turkey had summoned the diplomat because Moscow was in charge of monitoring a cease-fire in the border area controlled by the Syrian Kurdish forces.

Turkey considers those Syrian Kurdish forces an extension of outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting Turkey.

French far right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is headed to Moscow for meetings with lawmakers less than a month before the French presidential election.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey warned Europeans on Wednesday that they would no longer be able to walk safely in the street if Western politicians continued with perceived provocations against Turkish leaders.

Friday, 3/24/17:

The battlelines have been drawn.

What traditionally has been the most bipartisan committee in the House of Representatives, the Intelligence Committee has divided into all-out warring factions along party lines.

After Committee Chairman Devin Nunes announced this morning that the next scheduled public hearing before the Intel Committee on Tuesday was cancelled, the Vice Chair or Ranking Member Adam Schiff came out to denounce the cancellation.

Even the announcement that former Campaign Chairman for President Donald Trump’s election Paul Manafort had agreed to speak to the committee was not enough to appease Schiff.

We don’t welcome cutting off the public access to information when we have witnesses who are willing to testify in an open session,” Schiff said.

Long-time friend and adviser to the President, Roger Stone, has now said he too would talk voluntarily to the committee. Stone added that he preferred it be in a public hearing.

A third Trump associate, Carter Page, has now agreed to voluntarily answer questions from the committee.

Republicans want closer scrutiny on leaks and unmasking of Americans.

Democrats want deeper investigation into any collusion there may have been between associates of Trump and Russian officials to interfere in the recent election and deny Hillary Clinton the presidency.

Maybe not the smartest move by the world’s most deliberate body, the Senate on Thursday voted 50-48 in favor of undoing former President Barack Obama Administration rules protecting internet privacy.

The legislation would make it easier for broadband providers to sell their customers’ usage information to other companies for advertising purposes.

Now it is up to the House to agree or reject.

As most of us political junkies expected, the House cancelled a vote last night to take up the American Health Care Act.

The votes were just not there to pass this first major piece of legislation backed by President Trump.

A vote is now scheduled today, but also looks in doubt.

The President tweeted out at very conservative Freedom Caucus members today that a vote against AHA would be a vote to continue providing abortion by Planned Parenthood.

There is a provision in AHA to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.

This is a big threat against conservatives using the abortion issue.

Will it work?

Apparently not.

A poll from Quinnipiac revealed yesterday that 57% of Americans object to the AHA. Only 17% approve of the AHA. The remaining 26% are unsure.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had to make the short trip from the Capitol to the Oval Office shortly after noon today to inform the President that he and his whip team could not twist the arms needed to pass the AHA.

The President demanded a vote by the House today to either approve or reject the AHA.

He warned that a rejection would mean the Affordable Care Act will stay as is in place.

Adding to the woes of the AHA, the latest score from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says that the deficit would only be cut by $150 billion instead of the $350 billion the initial version provided.

The number of people losing health insurance would remain at 24 million over 10 years.

Word a few minutes past 3:30 p.m. today was that the President saw the handwriting on the wall.

President Trump asked Speaker Ryan to pull the AHA from consideration on the House floor.

The Freedom Caucus could not be mollified, no matter the concessions.

With the removal of Essential Health Benefits, Republicans lost their moderates making passage of the AHA impossible.

Will the failure to vote on and pass the AHA doom Ryan as Speaker?

Some in the White House are already blaming Ryan for the failure.

I will not sugarcoat this. This is a disappointing day for us,” Ryan said.

Over and over, Ryan repeated, “These are the growing pains of governing.”

The Speaker in his news conference following pulling the AHA said the House would now move on to tax reform.

The President reiterated his thoughts the best thing for health care was to allow the ACA “to explode.”

Obamacare will explode,” the President said. “This year will be much worse.”

FBI Director James Comey was at the White House today, days after he confirmed his bureau is investigating ties between associates of President Trump and Russia.

The reason for the meet is not known.

President Trump has selected Tennessee businessman Bill Hagerty as his nominee to become the next Ambassador to Japan, the White House announced Thursday.

According to a Quinnipiac University survey released today, 66 percent of those polled favor an independent commission to look into ties between the President’s campaign and Russian officials, and 29 percent do not.

President Trump won an important victory today as a Virginia federal judge refused to block his revised travel ban against six predominantly Muslim countries, even though the directive remains on hold due to federal court orders in two other states.

Within a day of Rex Tillerson’s swearing in as Secretary of State, the State Department’s climate change website began to change.

The changes signal a shift away from leading international climate actions that the former Obama Administration pursued and a pivot toward a more passive role.

The Justice Department is investigating California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter for possible campaign finance violations, an allegation the lawmaker dismisses as inadvertent mistakes. The House Ethics Committee is also investigating Hunter.

State Politics: Trying to put pressure on sanctuary cities, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are targeting their raids to strike in those municipalities who have voice opposition to President Trump’s stand on illegal aliens.

A federal judge in Texas said a raid in Austin was retaliation for a local sheriff’s decision to not work with ICE.

ICE denies that.

Global Politics: Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 88, was freed today from imprisonment, six years after he was ousted from his three-decade reign by Arab Spring protesters.

The Toronto District School Board, which runs Canada’s largest school system, said Thursday it would halt student trips to the US of A to prevent the students “potentially being turned away at the border.” This is in reaction to President Trump’s travel ban, which has been halted by two federal judges.

The United States has imposed sanctions on 30 foreign companies or individuals for transferring sensitive technology to Iran for its missile program or for violating export controls on Iran, North Korea and Syria, the State Department said today.

Russian President Vladimir Putin granted an audience to French far-right party leader Marine Le Pen in the Kremlin today, bestowing a level of international recognition that has so far eluded her in the countdown to France’s presidential election.

China is not militarizing the South China Sea, Premier Li Keqiang said today, although he acknowledged that defense equipment on islands in the disputed waterway had been placed there to maintain “freedom of navigation.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel does not fear that more countries will leave the European Union, she told a German newspaper as the bloc’s leaders prepare to celebrate 60 years of union on Saturday days before Britain files for divorce.

The United States warned South Sudan’s government on Thursday that preventing humanitarian aid workers from reaching parts of the war-torn state that are suffering famine could “amount to deliberate starvation tactics.”

Sunday, 3/26/17:

Who is to blame?

That is the name of the game now reverberating throughout Washington DC and the nation after the spectacular failure of even getting a vote on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Lawmakers are in their home districts this weekend.

Republicans are having to explain why after seven years, the party could not deliver.

President Donald Trump is taking the road of Pontius Pilate and seemingly washing his hands of the colossal failure of “the closer” to wrangle a deal out of his own party’s recalcitrant members.

On to tax reform and other issues, the President and House Speaker Paul Ryan declared on Friday.

But for former Democratic presidential candidate who gave Hillary Clinton a run for her money, Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders is staking claim to now being the time to move full-steam-ahead on universal health care.

We have got to have the guts to take on the insurance companies and the drug companies and move forward toward a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program,” Sanders said on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes Friday night. “And I’ll be introducing legislation shortly to do that.”

Vice President Mike Pence is sounding bullish on America and hoping Americans will follow his lead.

Businesses and consumers haven’t been this confident in years and by some measures more than a decade,” Pence said. “Folks, the era of slow growth is over and a new era of American growth and jobs has already begun.”

Question: Will House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes still be Chairman by April Fool’s Day?

Texas Republican Congressman Ted Poe put in his walking papers Saturday with the Freedom Caucus and resigned.

In order to deliver on the conservative agenda we have promised the American people for eight years, we must come together to find solutions to move this country forward. Saying no is easy, leading is hard, but that is what we were elected to do. Leaving this caucus will allow me to be a more effective Member of Congress and advocate for the people of Texas. It is time to lead,” Poe added.

Time to Govern

Boris Epshteyn, a Trump Administration official who manages several media surrogates for the President and is a high-profile surrogate himself, is expected to resign his post, perhaps for a less prominent role in the White House, multiple reports are suggesting.

Violence broke out at a Make America Great Again rally south of Los Angeles, California, in Huntington Beach on Saturday as supporters of President Trump scuffled with counter-protesters.

OOPs!

Or was it?

Watch @JudgeJeanine on @FoxNews tonight at 9:00 P.M.,” President Trump tweeted Saturday morning.

When the Judge came on, she promptly blasted Speaker Ryan, calling for him to resign.

He failed to deliver the votes on his health-care bill,” Judge Jeanine Pirro said, insisting the de facto demise of the bill “is not on President Trump” because “no one expected a businessman to completely understand the nuances…of Washington.”

The President said Friday he is 100% behind keeping Ryan as Speaker – but was this a backhanded way to cut Ryan?

State Politics: California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown had this warning for President Trump, “We do have something called the ninth and the tenth amendment. The federal government just can’t arbitrarily for political reasons punish the State of California, that’s number one. Number two, California is America. We’re 12 percent. We’re a key part. The export capital going into the Pacific. We’re the innovation capital, high tech, agriculture, 40 to 50 billion dollar industry. You don’t want to mess with California because you’re going to mess with the economy, and that could blow up in your face in a gigantic recession, and roll the Republicans right out of this town.”

Global Politics: Leaders of the 27 European Union nations that will remain in the organization following the United Kingdom’s forthcoming exit met Saturday in Rome on the occasion of the 60-year anniversary of the Treaty of Rome that established the European Economic Community, an EU forerunner.

Hong Kong’s chief executive election today ended with a victory for Carrie Lam, formerly the semiautonomous city’s second-highest official and the favored candidate of Chinese leadership in Beijing.

Lam will be Hong Kong’s first female chief executive.

Hong Kong, our home, is suffering from quite a serious divisiveness,” she said in her victory speech. “My priority will be to heal the divide.”

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Mark

Father, grandfather, political pundit - I am Mark Ivy. I am father to two wonderful sons, Dave and Kev, of whom I am very proud;two terrific daughters-in-law, Anna and Hailey; three beautiful granddaughters: Dylan, Alaina and Amelia. On September 2, 2014, I was diagnosed with disseminated histoplasmosis, a fungal infection, discovered by a biopsy of my larynx. The infection is fatal if left untreated. For 2 1/2 years I lived under a death sentence being misdiagnosed with a non-specific bacterial infection which left my right lung a "dried up sponge" and non-functioning. I was aggressively treated for the infection with antifungals. The treatment ended October of 2015 and fortunately did not take two years. I suffer from chronic Horton's Syndrome. The effects vary widely causing various problems. Statistically, Horton's affects only 0.1% of the population. Major depression also attacks me regularly.

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