John T. Bennett

Trump Vows Hands-Off Approach to Justice Department — Maybe
President makes it clear he might change his mind

President Donald Trump vowed Thursday to take a hands-off approach to the Justice Department until the special counsel’s Russia probe wraps up — but he also made it clear he could change his mind at any moment.

During a high-octane and wide-ranging phone interview with “Fox & Friends,” Trump said he has decided he will “not be involved with the Justice Department” while special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is still conducting his investigation of Russia’s 2016 election meddling, possible Trump campaign collusion, and whether the president obstructed justice.

Veterans Affairs Nominee Jackson Bows Out Amid Firestorm
Trump says he has another nominee in mind, but declines to identify his second choice

Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, announced Thursday he was stepping aside amid new allegations of abusing alcohol and handing out prescription drugs.

Jackson’s withdrawal comes two days after Trump publicly advised him to bow out and just hours after a report surfaced, citing Senate Democrats’ summary of allegations against him, that he once got intoxicated and crashed a government automobile.

White House: No Red Flags In Multiple Jackson Background Checks
Despite Trump team's efforts, nomination appears stalled

The White House on Wednesday continued defending embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee Ronny Jackson, saying multiple background checks have turned up no red flags. And, for the first time, a senior official said an internal review could happen as his nomination appears stalled.

With his Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee confirmation hearing still on hold amid allegations he over-prescribed medication, was drunk on the job and fostered a hostile work environment, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters he has undergone four federal background checks since becoming a White House doctor.

Macron Denounces Nationalistic Wave That Propelled Trump to White House
Post-WWII order is in jeopardy, French president warns U.S. lawmakers

French President Emmanuel Macron, addressing a joint meeting of Congress, denounced the wave of nationalistic fervor that helped Donald Trump capture the White House and urged U.S. lawmakers to seek a new and broader deal with Iran.

After spending a day and a half with Trump and first lady Melania Trump that included private meals, cheek kisses, hand-holding and backslapping, the French president broke with his political alter ego on several issues.

White House Uses Obama to Try to Salvage Jackson Nomination
Trump opens door to let VA nominee see himself out, Democrats question White House vetting

The White House is trying to salvage Ronny Jackson’s nomination for Veterans’ Affairs secretary by citing former President Barack Obama, even after President Donald Trump publicly advised him to step aside.

Hours after Trump told reporters he would not continue as the nominee if he were in the White House physician’s shoes, a senior official shared information touting Jackson’s record. The information included praise from Obama, including the 44th president’s recommendation that Jackson, a Navy officer, be promoted ahead of his peers.

Macron Expected to Avoid ‘Netanyahu Approach’ in Joint Meeting
French president takes his pitch for revised Iran deal to Capitol Hill

The Iran nuclear deal will be front and center when French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a joint meeting of Congress Wednesday — but he is not expected to strike the same bellicose tone as the last world leader who discussed the pact in the House chamber.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his place in the House chamber on March 3, 2015, and delivered a forceful speech that warned House and Senate members that the then-emerging deal would “inevitably” cause a war.

Macron Calls for New Iran Talks to Build On Deal Trump Loathes
'It won't be so easy for them to restart,' U.S. president warns Tehran

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday proposed a new nuclear accord with Iran, an apparent attempt by the youthful European leader to keep the existing pact in place while assuaging President Donald Trump’s concerns.

Macron made the announcement after several hours of private meetings earlier in the day with the U.S. president at the White House. His call for a new deal came hours after Trump slammed the existing Obama-era pact, calling it “terrible” and “insane” and “ridiculous” while saying it fails to address Iran’s missile program or activities in the region.

Trump Opens Door for Ronny Jackson Exit
Military physician under fire on multiple fronts, from qualifications to misconduct

Updated 6:55 p.m. | President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his Veterans Affairs nominee, Ronny Jackson amid allegations of drinking on the job and creating a hostile work environment even as he opened the door for his White House doctor to withdraw his nomination.

“I’ll always stand behind him,” the president said.

Still No Trump, But This Year’s Correspondents’ Dinner Will Be Different
 

The annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner — or #nerdprom, as it’s called in D.C. — is set for Saturday. Ahead of the event, Roll Call’s John T. Bennett sat down with the association’s president, Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev, about the shifting dynamics of the West Wing press shop and its relationship with the media....
Macron Visit Will Highlight Iran Deal, Trade Differences
‘Iran deal will be atop the list of things Congress is watching,’ expert says

It was all smiles and handshakes Monday afternoon when French President Emmanuel Macron arrived outside the West Wing. But Republican and Democratic lawmakers are expected to intently watch the youthful European leader’s talks with President Donald Trump.

Macron’s polished black limousine pulled into the White House’s West Wing entrance with a spring breeze perfectly pitching the flags of each country affixed to his hood. When the 40-year-old French president greeted his 71-year-old political alter ego, the personal bond they both often laud was on public display.

Trump, French President Macron to Disagree Privately, Official Says
French president visits next week for first state visit of Trump presidency

There will be ample smiles and handshakes for the camera, but don’t expect the U.S. and French heads of state to agree on much behind closed doors when they meet next week in Washington.

A number of contentious issues — from the Iran nuclear deal to U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs to Syria — will be on the agenda next week when President Donald Trump hosts French President Emmanuel Macron for a visit that largely will be symbolic.

Analysis: For Trump, Wins and Losses During Abe Summit
‘The body language on trade was just really startling,’ expert says

White House aides set a low bar for their boss ahead of his two-day summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — and President Donald Trump often cleared it with ease. But experts say there were a few stumbles too.

Trump aides made clear they had no “deliverables” in mind ahead of the Tuesday-Wednesday talks, which touched on everything from a new round of trade talks to dealing with North Korea to their respective golf games. That diplomat-speak refers to agreements or other things the White House wants meetings with world leaders to produce.

Trump Continues Attack on Comey, Again Defends Flynn
President lashes out after leaks of fired FBI director’s memos about him

President Donald Trump on Friday defended former national security adviser Michael Flynn and slammed former FBI Director James B. Comey, implying his own Justice Department should have blocked publication of the latter’s memoir.

The Friday morning tweet followed several from Thursday evening ripping into Comey as the former FBI boss continues a book tour that already has seen him describe the president as a habitual liar who is “morally unfit” for the Oval Office. Comey also has said Russia might have the ability to blackmail Trump, called for the president to be voted out in 2020, and left open the possibility that Trump is guilty of obstructing justice.

Trump, Abe Split on Goal for New Trade Talks
Japanese PM wants U.S. return to TPP; Trump wants ‘one-one-one’ pact

President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe split Wednesday evening on their goals for a new round of trade talks between the longtime allies, exposing a rift in the alliance.

Abe announced the new U.S.-Japanese trade talks during a joint press conference after the first full day of a mini-summit at Trump’s resort in Florida. But Abe broke with Trump by telling reporters he wants those talks to expand the two countries levels of trade and investment in each other’s markets, and the re-entry of the United States in a trade alliance that includes 11 Asian-Pacific countries.

White House Presses Vulnerable Dems on Pompeo Nomination
Sen. Cotton dubs Foreign Relations Democrats ‘two-bit Talleyrands’

The White House circled the wagons Wednesday around CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination to become secretary of State, arguing vulnerable red-state Democrats will feel “consequences” in November if they vote against him.

The Trump administration dispatched Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas to argue Pompeo is highly qualified for the top State Department position and to press Democrats running for re-election in states won by President Donald Trump to vote in favor of his nomination.

Trump Confirms Pompeo Met With North Korea’s Kim Jong Un
Diplomacy better than ‘comparing the size of our nuclear buttons,’ Schiff says

Updated 7:49 a.m. | President Donald Trump confirmed Wednesday that CIA Director Mike Pompeo, his nominee to become secretary of state, met last week with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea,” Trump tweeted.

Podcast: Use of Force vs. Use of Power
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 8

Senators on both sides are pushing to rewrite the law authorizing military force, untouched for 16 years. Even after airstrikes on Syria the debate is likely to fade fast, White House correspondent John Bennett explains, part of a complex modern war-making power dynamic that favors presidents over Congress.

Show Notes

Trump Leaves Open Door to Kim Summit Never Happening
Meeting could happen ‘very soon’ or in ‘early June‘ or not at all, president says

President Donald Trump set wildly opposite expectations in one sentence for his possible summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, including that it could never happen.

He first said his one-on-one meeting with Kim could happen “very soon,” before saying he expects negotiations will allow an “early June” summit to take place. But the president then moved up the possible date to “before that” before backpedaling.

White House Has Tepid Response to Corker-Kaine AUMF
NSC official: ‘Existing authorities are sufficient’

Updated 11:56 a.m. | The Trump administration is taking a tepid line on an authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, measure introduced Monday evening by Republican and Democratic senators, with a National Security Council official saying the president’s existing war powers are “sufficient.”

“Our position hasn’t changed,” the official said Tuesday. The 2001 AUMF, provisions in the U.S. Constitution and the force-authorization measure Congress passed and President George W. Bush made law before the 2003 Iraq war are “sufficient,” the NSC official added.