After more than 40 days, President Donald Trump finally confirmed what everyone suspected: that he had no secret tapes of former FBI Director James Comey. Furthermore, he suggested to Fox & Friends Friday morning that he raised the prospect of the same in an effort to influence Comey's testimony on Capitol Hill. “Well, it wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that," he told the friendly outlet—the sort of admission that states the obvious but only makes his current position all the more precarious. The entire episode has been a series of unforced-errors on the part of the president, whose actions invited the special counsel probe into potential obstruction of justice. That's besides the fact that he also sparked and then continued to fan a media firestorm over the supposed "tapes," distracting from the president's priorities of healthcare, tax reform and infrastructure.
Speaking of healthcare, the Senate bill draft has attracted broad criticism from Democrats and healthcare groups, and there are enough Republicans currently against the bill to require significant changes. Conservatives have been outspoken in calling for a bill that goes even further in trying to undo Obamacare, while moderates in the GOP caucus have remained silent—but are skeptical of the current bill as it stands. Put simply, the odds for a successful vote next week are very long.
Obama's Russia trouble. Pelosi's defense. And a vetting fail by Trump's team.
Here are your must reads:
“I feel like we sort of choked," a former Obama aide says [Washington Post]
Facing scrutiny, Pelosi touts her credentials in the opposition [New York Times]
TIME's Philip Elliott on the ideological and political hurdles ahead
Conservatives are loudly pushing for changes, while moderates skeptically hold their tongue [Associated Press]
The president has taken out his frustration with the expanding Russia probe on lawyer Don McGahn, one of Trump’s earliest campaign supporters [Politico]
"I don’t believe that the President has specifically weighed in that it’s right to cut Medicaid." —White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, even though Trump has touted GOP healthcare bills that cut Medicaid.
"He was asked if he had tapes, and he was answering that question." —Sanders explaining why Trump tweeted that he had no tapes—except he was the one who raised the question in the first place.
Bits and Bites
Trump is struggling to stay calm on Russia, one morning call at a time [Washington Post]