It’s been a head-spinning week for the nation, which watched the twin Donald Trumps compete in public. Tuesday night’s speech marked the apex of what the president’s rhetoric could achieve. Days later he found a new nadir, as he charged former President Obama with wiretapping his communications during the presidential campaign. “I can be so presidential,” Trump would often say on the stump, as if the cloak of respectability was a disposable trifle. Tuesday night proved he still has that capacity. Saturday showed he remains unwilling to suppress the other parts of himself. In Trump’s mind, there’s nothing wrong with the contradiction. It keeps everyone else unsettled—which has always been his goal.
The charge against his predecessor was seemingly an echo of unsubstantiated conservative news reports raising allegations of Obama administration efforts to investigate ties to Russia that may have included a wiretap. Most White House aides were blindsided by the allegations against Obama, and lawyers and communications staff spent hours huddling over the proper response. They settled on encouraging Congress to investigate the allegations leveled by the president at his predecessor, as part of its broader investigation into Russia. In a sense, the White House just blessed the investigation it has spent weeks discrediting and trying to end.
The Trump Administration is taking a second try at its controversial travel ban Monday after weeks of “will they, won’t they” speculation. The new executive order removes some of the most controversial aspects of the initial ban and takes steps to try to avoid the legal potholes that halted the first order in its tracks. Iraq will no longer be included on the list of Muslim-majority countries subject to the 90-day visa ban—which is a notable victory for the Iraqi government, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and other top aides who vigorously pushed back on the White House’s efforts to keep Iraq on the list. The specific restriction on Syrian refugees will also be removed from the new order, and all refugee entry will be banned for 120 days.It will also make clear exceptions for legal permanent residents, dual passport holders, and those who have already been granted asylum or refugee status. The new order will take effect on March 16, in an important concession from the White House that—despite its protestations to the contrary—the implementation of the prior order was haphazard and chaotic. Critics of the new order are already plotting legal challenge, though Administration aides say they are confident the new order will withstand scrutiny.
Pence’s emails aren’t the same as Clinton’s. Conservative groups jeopardize the GOP’s Obamacare plans. And the Trump sons’ expansion plans.
Here are your must reads:
The Two Contradictory Faces of Donald Trump: President and Provocateur
What we learned about the president last week [TIME]
Leashes Come Off Wall Street, Gun Sellers, Polluters and More
The unwinding of the regulatory state [New York Times]
Trump Hotel May Be Political Capital of the Nation’s Capital
Cabinet secretaries and a top aide make it their weekday home [Associated Press]
A Conspiracy Theory’s Journey From Talk Radio to Trump’s Twitter
Behind the tweets [New York Times]
7 Reasons Why the Mike Pence and Hillary Clinton Email Stories Are Not the Same
TIME’s Philip Elliott breaks it down
Conservative Groups Jeopardize GOP Plan to Repeal Affordable Care Act
Conservative groups pushing back against Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan [Wall Street Journal]
“The president firmly believes that the Obama administration may have tapped into the phones at Trump Tower” — White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders Monday morning
“I guess it was good for my image, though. Now America knows I’m not stuck in the 1950s – just the 1990s.” — Vice President Mike Pence at the Gridiron Dinner on his use of a private AOL account while governor of Indiana
Bits and Bites
Ruddy: Trump and Democratic Smokescreens [Newsmax]