The Note: Comey drops a bombshell
WATCH: James Comey testified before Congress that neither the FBI nor the Justice Department had any evidence to support Trump’s claim that former President Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower.
TRUMP’S FIRST 100 DAYS with ABC’s RICK KLEIN and SHUSHANNAH WALSHE
Day No. 61
THE BIG STORY: It’s hard to pick the bigger headline out of FBI Director James Comey’s day on Capitol Hill. Yes, he stated clearly that President Trump issued a baseless and scurrilous accusation involving his predecessor. But confirmation of an active FBI investigation of possible connections between Trump associates and the Russian government? That sets up months of work that can consume a presidency – “a big gray cloud,” per House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, who, nonetheless, did what he could to use the hearing to tell the Trump administration’s side of the story. To suggest, as White House press secretary Sean Spicer immediately did, that “nothing has changed” ignores the way an active FBI inquiry has the potential to change Washington power dynamics. Almost as an afterthought, the president’s credibility has now been directly questioned by the director of the FBI. “They’ll be back in 2020,” Comey said of alleged Russian efforts to influence U.S. politics. But the investigation will churn on, maybe until then. Then there’s the oddity of now knowing that both major candidates were under FBI investigation during the last campaign. The only one to pay a price was the one who was formally exonerated – not once, but twice. We may be a long, long way from Trump’s getting the all-clear.
THE SLEEPER STORY: Talk about your team of rivals. The partnership of President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., just might be working, overcoming the mutual mistrust and personal disconnect to get a health care bill that has a decent shot of passing the House. Nobody was talking about the health care bill for a few moments in Washington, though that changed with the modifications announced Monday night and the president’s trip to Capitol Hill Tuesday. It might just have gotten the break from the spotlight it needed because compromises (including one special deal, for the New York delegation, that seems destined to get a nickname in the tradition of the Cornhusker Kickback) have a way of generating their own momentum. There are no guarantees in the House, much less the Senate. But the Trump-Ryan teamwork, uniting the warring wings of the GOP and the conservative movement, is a formidable reality when it comes to governance.
THE SHINY STORY: The announcement of Ivanka Trump’s new White House office space and new, formalized role came casually and on one of the busier news days of recent memory. She won’t be a government employee but that actually makes things more complicated when it comes to ethics enforcement, not less. Key in her announcement is her vow to “voluntarily follow all of the ethics rules placed on government employees.” That sounds nice, but it also sounds like wiggle room, based as it is on an assumption that such rules don’t automatically apply to her. She’ll have security clearances and even a government-issued phone – and, of course, a direct line to her father, the president, with no guarantees that they will steer clear of matters of personal business. This could get messy, and the White House seems only marginally interested in making it any cleaner.
TLDR: There were two bombshells out of FBI Director James Comey’s testimony Monday: There is no evidence that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower and there is an ongoing FBI investigation of possible connections between Russia and Trump associates.
PHOTO OF THE DAY: They may not have always been the best of friends but President Trump and Mitch McConnell were buddies Monday night, sharing a stage together at a campaign-style event in Louisville. This is an image of the Senate majority leader, a Kentucky Republican, giving the president a thumbs up as he speaks. (Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, gives thumbs up to President Donald Trump as he speaks at a rally at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., March 20, 2017.
–FBI HEAD HAS ‘NO INFORMATION’ BACKING WIRETAP CLAIMS, CONFIRMS PROBE OF POSSIBLE RUSSIA-TRUMP ASSOCIATE LINKS: FBI Director James Comey said Monday that he has “no information” supporting President Trump’s explosive allegations that the Obama administration wiretapped the Trump presidential campaign last year. During the five-hour hearing, Comey also confirmed an investigation of possible links between Trump associates and Russia, a story line that the president has decried alternately as a “ruse” and “fake news,” writes ABC’s MIKE LEVINE. http://abcn.ws/2n6FKQ9 KEY MOMENTS FROM THE HEARING. ABC’s RYAN STRUYK and MIKE LEVINE have the top moments from the testimony: http://abcn.ws/