Trump White House Puts Senate Dems, Iran ‘On Notice’

President on filibuster: ‘If you can, Mitch, go nuclear’

Judge Neil Gorsuch, center, came calling on Capitol Hill with Vice President Mike Pence, right, seen here shaking hands with McConnell. (Al Drago/Pool/New York Times)
Judge Neil Gorsuch, center, came calling on Capitol Hill with Vice President Mike Pence, right, seen here shaking hands with McConnell. (Al Drago/Pool/New York Times)
Posted February 1, 2017 at 5:23pm

The White House, perhaps feeling momentum from its Supreme Court nominee roll out, putting all kinds of foes “on notice” Wednesday.

First up: Senate Democrats, some of whom are vowing to block President Donald Trump’s high court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

“We want to watch him go through an elegant process as opposed to a demeaning process,” Trump said during a meeting with conservative groups about the nomination.

“They’re very demeaning on the other side,” Trump said of Democrats. “They want to make him look as bad as possible. … I really think he’s a very dignified man, and I would like to see him go through a dignified process. I think he deserves that. And hopefully it will go quickly. And we will see what happens.”

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Moments later, Trump dropped the hammer, telling reporters — and he could have declined to comment — that he would be fine with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell using the “nuclear option,” Washington-speak for removing a 60-vote threshold for high court nominees.

McConnell Leaves Door Open to Nuclear Option

“If we end up with that gridlock I would say, ‘If you can, Mitch, go nuclear,’” Because that would would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was put up to that neglect. I would say it’s up to Mitch, but I would say, ‘Go for it.’”

War Drums?

A few hours later, Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, a retired three-star general who was fired by the Obama administration, delivered a hawkish statement from the White House briefing room.

Flynn pointed to Iranian support for Houthi forces that over the last six months have, with Iranian arming and training, struck Emirati and Saudi ships, as well as recent Iranian ballistic missile tests he says violate a UN Security Council resolution.

“In these and other similar activities, Iran continues to threaten U.S. friends and allies in the region,” Flynn said. “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.”

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Later, three senior administration officials who briefed reporters at the White House on condition of anonymity would not put U.S. military force on the table. But they didn’t rule it out, either.

The Trump administration has concluded it has “a large number of options” but stressed “we are considering things from a different perspective” than did the Obama administration, one of the officials said.

It was clear the White House, on just its 13th day in office, was threatening Iran to change its behavior or else — but just what that “else” is is unclear as the officials told reporters multiple times they are only beginning to review a range of Middle East issues, including Iran’s behavior.