What the leading Democrats in the Senate and House think about their inquiries into Russia
With all the talk about health care, the five Congressional investigations into the election and Russia have fallen out of the headlines. The investigations by the Senate and House intelligence committees are considered the most aggressive, with wide-ranging goals to investigate allegations against President Donald Trump and determine the scope of Russian election interference. On Thursday, I spoke with Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrats on the intelligence committees. We talked Trump, Russia and getting to the bottom of explosive allegations against the Kremlin and the White House.
Takeaways from Mark Warner: The moderate Virginia Democrat could not be more passionate in describing what he calls the most important work of his political career: determining how Russians interfered in the 2016 election and whether Trump's campaign played a role. "If the American people, especially young people, don't believe that our elections are on the level or you're getting news that isn't straight, you're going to see even a greater falloff of [younger Americans] participating," Warner, the ranking member on the Senate intelligence committee, told Mic.
The former Virginia governor notably avoided politics during his interview, saying his committee's level of access to information and bipartisan tone make it unique in Congress. "We're the only committee ... that's really trying to do this in a bipartisan way," he said. Read more from Mic's interview with Warner here.
Takeaways from Rep. Adam Schiff: In the House, Schiff expressed concern over the politics at play in his committee and a lack of information provided by the FBI. The House intelligence committee has more members than its Senate counterpart and is not necessarily known for bipartisanship. "[Republicans] all want something from this president," Schiff said. "They want to get whatever they can before they're forced to confront this president."
If he feels the committee is unable to do its work effectively, Schiff said he will be the first to say so publicly. He also laid out the stakes the investigation faces in digging into Russian involvement in the election, noting partisanship is a hurdle to concluding with comprehensive findings. "We have to get back to a core understanding that, no matter which way it cuts, none of us will accept foreign intervention in our elections," Schiff said. Watch Mic's interview with Schiff here.
More on Russia: The Jeff Sessions perjury allegations linger on. The ACLU has filed an ethics complaint against Sessions over "false statements" the attorney general gave during his testimony in confirmation hearings.
This is Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America. Welcome to the political newsletter that has given you two interviews about Russia to watch.
• Today: Mic spoke with the top Democrats in the Senate and House investigating Russia. We give you the highlights.
• More: The Republican health care plan continues its march to the House floor. Behind closed doors, Trump is putting his dealmaking skills to work.
• Even more: The head of the EPA is not sure carbon dioxide plays a role in climate change.
• Yes, more: The economy grew by 235,000 jobs in February. The president took credit.
• Trump's agenda today: Meeting with "key House committee chairmen" to discuss health care. Speaking with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian authority, by phone. Having lunch with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Meeting with newly confirmed Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
The health care blitz
The American Health Care Act passed out of two House committees this week, moving through dozens of hours of debate. Read about the AHCA's impact here, and backlash against it here. The House Budget committee will now consider the final bill, which is expected on the House floor before the end of the month. The nonpartisan analysis of what the AHCA will cost and whether it will cause any Americans to lose insurance is expected Monday — a report Republicans are preemptively dismissing. The right wing of House Republicans are a hurdle to passing the bill, according to Politico interviews with lawmakers, but disorganization and disagreement on what conservatives want in the final bill makes them difficult to please.
The president has turned back to his dealmaker self, going light on the Twitter controversies in recent days to focus on the passage of health care legislation. Trump is holding yet another White House meeting with House leaders Friday to strategize on how to advance the health care bill. But as Mic's Emily Singer points out, the president isn't exactly pushing to give this bill the tag of "Trumpcare." Democrats learned the hard way that embracing health care reform can be politically destructive. It remains to be seen if Republicans will suffer a similar fate or play a more successful strategy.
A little more: If you didn't catch Paul Ryan on TV on Thursday waving at charts, here's our recap.
Trouble at the EPA
Another story overshadowed by health care news: Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt said Thursday that he is not sure carbon dioxide is a primary driver of global warming. The fact that CO2 fuels warmer global temperatures has been a cornerstone of climate change research for decades, and during the Obama administration the EPA publicly backed that position. Also Thursday, the head of the environmental justice program at the EPA resigned and sent Pruitt a letter asking the administrator to not cut critical EPA functions.
The latest on immigration
Afghanis who have worked for the United States have long been eligible for special visas to come to America, but a New York Times report says those requests are no longer being accepted. The applicants for these visas generally receive special status because their cooperation with U.S. interests puts them at risk in their home country. Though Trump's newest immigration order does not target Afghanistan, there is concern it's having a broader effect and indicating even U.S. allies in the Middle East could face heightened suspicion under the new administration.
In New York City on Thursday, immigration activist Ravi Ragbir had to appear for an annual check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and hundreds of people turned out to support him. Mic's Andrew Joyce was there.
In a bid to stave off predicted declines in travel to the U.S., hotel chains and tourism organizations are launching campaigns to portray the country as welcoming and friendly. Changing perceptions of America by people abroad could drive 2 million fewer visitors this year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
News and insight you cannot miss:
• Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange said Thursday that he wants his organization to help technology companies protect themselves from government hacking. (Wired) More from Mic on what the latest leak of CIA documents by Wikileaks means for your personal digital security. (Mic)
• ISIS is turning Mosul into a Mad Max-style battlefield in its last stand in the Iraqi city. (BuzzFeed)
• Congress to Trump: Stop deleting your tweets. It could be illegal. (Mic)
• Refugees can now apply for asylum using Facebook messenger. (Mic)
• The sharing of nude photos of female colleagues in the Marine Corps is reportedly far more widespread than initially believed. (Mic)
• The chances the barricade on the border between the U.S. and Mexico could pass the Senate appear slim, as Trump's budget chief said the White House does not know what material will be used to build the wall. (Politico)