The Hill's 12:30 Report

The Hill's 12:30 Report

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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.

The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pressure builds on Sessions | WH dismisses calls for Sessions recusal | Carson confirmed as housing chief | Interior secretary rides horse to work | Rand PaulRand PaulTrump: 'No doubt' we'll make a deal on healthcare Overnight Defense: General says US strike probably led to civilian deaths | Tillerson to push NATO on spending | Trump taps F-35 chief Senate backs Montenegro's NATO membership MORE says House keeping ObamaCare plan 'under lock and key'

BREAKING -- CARSON'S CONFIMED: The Senate on Thursday confirmed Ben Carson to be President Trump's secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Final vote: 58-41; he needed a simple majority. Democrats who voted for Carson: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Mark WarnerMark WarnerTop Senate Intel Dem: Nunes's meeting on WH grounds 'more than suspicious' Sunday shows preview: Aftermath of failed healthcare bill Devin Nunes has jeopardized the oversight role of Congress MORE (Va.), Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampSenate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight NRA launches M Supreme Court ad Centrist Democrat calls for up-or-down vote for Gorsuch MORE (N.D.), Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownPath to 60 narrows for Trump pick Overnight Finance: Trump stock slump | GOP looks to tax bill for lifeline | Trump repeals 'blacklisting rule' | Dem wants ethics probe into Treasury secretary Dems question potential Kushner real estate deal with Chinese firm MORE (Ohio), Jon TesterJon TesterNRA launches M Supreme Court ad Can Trump rebound after failure on healthcare bill? Path to 60 narrows for Trump pick MORE (Mont.) and Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyNRA launches M Supreme Court ad With GOP’s healthcare bill on ice, Dems go on offense Path to 60 narrows for Trump pick MORE (Ind.). Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingOvernight Cybersecurity: First GOP lawmaker calls for Nunes to recuse himself | DHS misses cyber strategy deadline | Dems push for fix to cellphone security flaw Lawmakers call for pilot program to test for energy sector vulnerabilities Path to 60 narrows for Trump pick MORE (Maine) also voted for Carson.

It's Thursday. MLB's opening day is one month from today! Spring is coming. I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to and on Facebook.

TALK OF THE MORNING -- 'I DID NOT COMMUNICATE WITH RUSSIA' IS THE NEW 'I DID NOT HAVE RELATIONS WITH THAT WOMAN': Via The Washington Post's Adam EntousEllen Nakashima and Greg Miller, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsICE chief faces rowdy crowd at Calif. forum Letters: Why is FDA favoring real cigarettes over fake ones? Overnight Cybersecurity: First GOP lawmaker calls for Nunes to recuse himself | DHS misses cyber strategy deadline | Dems push for fix to cellphone security flaw MORE spoke twice with Russia's ambassador to the United States last year, raising new questions about contact between Trump campaign officials and the Kremlin. Why this is so newsy now: Sessions did not disclose this information during his confirmation hearings, testifying under oath that he "did not have communications with the Russians." Keep in mind: Sessions was still a senator when he communicated with the ambassador, but Sessions was also an early supporter of Trump, stumping for him and introducing him at campaign rallies. Sessions formally joined Trump's campaign in February 2016. Full story:

MUST WATCH -- Actual footage of how Jeff Sessions feels about this news cycle --> ;)

HOW DEMOCRATS REACTED -- OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!: Late last night, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on Sessions to immediately resign. "Now, after lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign." Full statement:

BREAKING -- SCHUMER CHIMES IN: Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles SchumerMcConnell: ObamaCare 'status quo' will stay in place moving forward NRA launches M Supreme Court ad Senate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign and be investigated by the Department of Justice's inspector general to determine whether he compromised an investigation into Russian influence in the presidential election.

RESPONSE FROM SESSIONS -- LET ME JUST STAY OUT OF THE WAY HERE: Sessions offered to recuse himself from any investigation of Russian involvement in the Trump campaign. Sessions also said he has never discussed "any political campaigns" with Russian officials. "Well, I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaigns," Sessions said. "Those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false. I don't have anything else to say about that." Pelosi then tweeted, "We are far past recusal ... anything less than resignation or removal from office is unacceptable."

HOW REPUBLICANS REACTED -- FEELING ON CAPITOL HILL: "Senate Republicans not rushing to Sessions' defense. Sense is clearly more info may drop, they've already been surprised by this revelation." (From Politico's John Bresnahan)

BUT REACTIONS ARE TRICKLING IN: A number of Republicans say Sessions should recuse himself from any Russia probe, including House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzOversight chair: 'Ridiculous' to call for investigation into Nunes The Hill's 12:30 Report Secret Service agents set for discipline after fence-jumping incident: report MORE (R-Utah). The latest to join that list: Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanMcCaskill investigating opioid producers Overnight Finance: Senators spar over Wall Street at SEC pick's hearing | New CBO score for ObamaCare bill | Agency signs off on Trump DC hotel lease GOP senators offer bill to require spending cuts with debt-limit hikes MORE (R-Ohio) also said this morning that Sessions should recuse himself. But Republicans are not calling for his resignation.

AND GRAHAM: Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSenate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight Republicans seek to lower odds of a shutdown GOP torn over what to do next MORE (R-S.C.) tweeted: "As to Democrat calls for Jeff Sessions resignation – that's crazy ... Sessions needs to explain his contacts with the Russian ambassador during his service as a Senator - that's appropriate."

BUSH'S ETHICS LAWYER EVEN WEIGHED IN: Richard Painter, the former White House ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007, tweeted, "Misleading the Senate in sworn testimony about one own contacts with the Russians is a good way to go to jail."

JUST NOW ‑ HOW THE WHITE HOUSE REACTED: The White House is rejecting calls to for Sessions to recuse himself. "There's nothing to recuse himself," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in an interview with Fox News that aired late Thursday morning. "He was 100 percent straight with the committee and I think that people [who] are choosing to play partisan politics with this should be ashamed of themselves," he added.

Latest updates: The Hill has a blog tracking the latest updates to the Jeff Sessions controversy. 



THIS. IS. WHY. I. LOVE. MY. JOB. SO. MUCH.: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rode a horse to his first day at his new job on Thursday, one day after he was confirmed. Yes, yes, I wouldn't dangle the fruit if there weren't photos -->

END THE MADDNESS. END IT!: Via BuzzFeed's Dominic Holden, 25 senators are asking the Trump administration to respond to an "alarming increase" in hate violence across the country. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the 25 senators said there has been an "alarming increase in bias-motivated violence." "Many members of racial, ethnic and religious minority communities, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, live in very real fear for their safety," the letter said.

SPOTTED -- A LIL WINE, A LITTLE HUMOR: Via The Hill's Judy Kurtz, President Trump is dominating the headlines, but his name was uttered just a handful of times at the Washington Press Club Foundation's Congressional Dinner, as Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike steered clear of the controversial commander in chief. 

Spotted at the dinner: Sens. Ron WydenRon WydenOvernight Tech: Bill blocking internet privacy rules heads to Trump's desk | Trump taps antitrust chief | Dems push FCC on cellphone cybersecurity Overnight Cybersecurity: First GOP lawmaker calls for Nunes to recuse himself | DHS misses cyber strategy deadline | Dems push for fix to cellphone security flaw Dem lawmakers push for FCC to tackle major cellphone security flaw MORE (D-Ore.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal Gorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings MORE (D-Conn.), Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowSenate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight The Hill’s Whip List: 30 Dems are against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Perdue says he will advocate for agriculture spending MORE (D-Mich.), Al FrankenAl FrankenWe need congressional debate on Yemen The case against Gorsuch: It’s all about precedent The Hill’s Whip List: 30 Dems are against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee MORE (D-Minn.), Tom CottonTom CottonCotton: House 'moved a bit too fast' on healthcare Sunday shows preview: Aftermath of failed healthcare bill Senators introduce new Iran sanctions MORE (R-Ark.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenGovernment Accountability Office will review Mar-a-Lago security procedures Dems debate working with GOP on consumer bureau revamp Overnight Finance: Trump stock slump | GOP looks to tax bill for lifeline | Trump repeals 'blacklisting rule' | Dem wants ethics probe into Treasury secretary MORE (D-Mass.); Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), John Delaney (D-Md.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Cheri BustosCheri BustosDems wonder: Can GOP even pass a budget? Lawmakers press Mattis on Marines nude photo scandal THE MEMO: For Trump, an early test of leadership MORE (D-Ill.); Omarosa Manigault, the assistant to the president, who attended as a guest of the "PBS NewsHour."

Biggest laugh of the night: Saying it was "awesome" to have MSNBC host Greta Van Susteren as the evening's emcee, Sen. Tim ScottTim ScottNew bill does hard job of injecting capital into needy communities A better economic policy Republicans rebuke King for racial remarks MORE (R-S.C.) joked, "Greta, now that you're with MSNBC, maybe you can clear something up for me. Anytime anyone in the media reports fake news, does Brian Williams get a royalty?" Scott was referring to the former "NBC Nightly News" anchor who in 2015 was found to have embellished stories about his reporting multiple times.



Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (Ooooh, secrets!)
I have been told that the House ObamaCare bill is under lock & key, in a secure location, & not available for me or the public to view.

Vox's Sarah Kliff: Sen Paul trying to enter room with ACA bill. Being denied entry. Photo:  

The Hill's Peter Sullivan: Paul speaks to press outside "secret room" with Obamacare bill. Photo: 

Update from Kliff: Rep. Kevin BradyKevin BradyGOP torn over what to do next Republicans vote to block resolutions on Trump's tax returns House GOP insists: We’re not giving up on ObamaCare repeal MORE (R) just came out of H-157 too. He also says no bill inside. The great hunt for a GOP replace bill continues.



The House and Senate were in this morning.

This morning: Vice President Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price talked with local businesses and the CEO of Frame USA in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Noon: The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and MoveOn will host a rally outside the Justice Department calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign.

12:30 p.m. EST: Vice President Pence delivers remarks at Frame USA. He then heads back to Washington, D.C.

2:30 p.m. EST: President Trump speaks at the soon-to-be-commissioned USS Gerald R. Ford, an aircraft carrier.

7 p.m. EST: The 2017 Congressional Hockey Challenge at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Details:

Week of March 20: "House aiming to vote on ObamaCare repeal/replace the week of March 20 per Rep Coffman, to give Senate two weeks to deal w it before recess." (From AP's Erica Werner)

Just announced: Vice President Pence will be the commencement speaker at the University of Notre Dame on May 21.



Today is National Banana Cream Pie Day.

I BET IT'S BEEN A WHILE SINCE YOU'VE HAD THE 'GAME OF THRONES' THEME SONG STUCK IN YOUR HEAD: Via Deadline, Major League Baseball is cross-promoting with HBO's "Game of Thrones." Specific promotions will vary by team, but it will generally include "co-branded merchandise, ticket packages, giveaways, theme nights, and social media events." Funniest line: "MLB still has 'no idea' when the new GoT season will begin," says the league's Executive Vice President of Business Noah Garden. You know GoT fans are desperate when they're asking the MLB when the new season is coming out. Lol. 

LIFE ADVICE FROM EMMA WATSON: During an episode of "Derek Does Stuff With a Friend," Derek Blasberg walked around Grand Central Station with Emma Watson on his iPad and a big sign that read "Advice from Emma Watson for $2." It's pretty great:

And because this made me laugh out loud, here's a dog actually singing along to "We Are The Champions" during a road trip with her owner. Don't ever change, Lola:


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