TrumpWatch Daily Update; Week 22, Thursday
Four Republican Senators--Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Mike Lee of Utah—made public their opposition to the Senate version of the health insurance bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. These Senators are concerned that the bill doesn’t go far enough in replacing the ACA. There are at least four other Republican Senators who have voiced concern about the provisions of the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can afford to lose only two votes to get the bill passed, and two defections would require Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote. The 142-page bill severely curtails federal Medicaid funding, eliminates funding for Planned Parenthood for one year, and abolishes two of the ACA's central mandates—that individuals must show proof of insurance when filing their taxes and that firms with 50 workers or more must provide health coverage—while providing less money for moderate and low-income Americans buying insurance on the individual market. The bill also includes a massive tax break for the wealthiest Americans. Several dozen disabled protesters were dragged away from McConnell’s office and arrested by Capitol Police after gathering there and chanting about their opposition to the bill’s proposed Medicaid cuts that will help to finance tax cuts.

More than a month after intimating via Twitter that he might have tape recordings of conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, President Trump admitted that he did not have any such tapes, putting to rest a pointless tempest of his own making. According to Comey’s testimony, Trump’s initial tweet about “tapes” pushed him provide his memos to a friend to give to the press in the hopes that a Special Prosecutor would be appointed, which is what ultimately happened.

The House Intelligence Committee cannot produce a subpoena for the tapes—or anything else related to the Russia probe—without the approval of Chairman Devin Nunes, despite the fact Nunes handed over his chairman’s duties regarding the Russia probe to Representative K. Michael Conaway in early April. Representative Adam Schiff noted that Nunes “is still insisting on the sign-off on our subpoenas,” and that this is improper even though Nunes hasn’t yet turned down any requests.

The White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders conducted today's news briefing off camera and didn’t allow news outlets to air live audio, limiting public access to the session. Embattled Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the purpose of banning cameras from select briefings is to promote “a more substantive discussion about actual issues.” He told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham in an interview Wednesday that going off-camera cuts down on showboating by reporters who “want to become YouTube stars and ask some snarky question that's been asked eight times.” This is the 6th off-camera briefing and the Washington Post, looking at the major news events on those dates, notes that the main reason for the off-camera briefings seems to be to allow the administration to duck the spotlight.

Trump spoke for more than an hour to roughly 6,000 people at a campaign-style rally in Iowa last night, reveling in two special election victories for Republicans and bringing up ideas that were either unclear or outright falsehoods (such as solar panels on the proposed border wall with Mexico or the often-repeated falsehood that the US is one of the world’s highest-taxed countries). In addition to the solar panels—about which he said only that they pay for themselves—Trump also unveiled what he called a new proposal to prevent immigrants from receiving welfare benefits for five years (which existing law already does).