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Tuesday, May 23, 2017
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017 11:10 AM

By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Coats pressed on Trump pressure, terror threat

Get ready for your Tuesday power lunch with these talking points: A day after the Washington Post broke yet another sensational story that President Trump had approached him about pushing back on the FBI’s Russian collusion probe, and an ISIS sanctioned terror attack in Manchester, England, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and was asked about the story. The Post reported: “Trump made separate appeals to … Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election. Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president. “The problem wasn’t so much asking them to issue statements, it was asking them to issue false statements about an ongoing investigation,” a former senior intelligence official told the Post of the request to Coats.

Asked by Armed Services Chairman John McCain this morning if the Post report is accurate, Coats responded, “I need to spend a significant amount of time with the president discussing national security and intelligence. We discuss a number of topics on a regular basis. It’s not appropriate for me to comment publicly on any of that. I don’t feel it’s appropriate to characterize the discussions with the president.” Ranking Democrat U.S. Sen. Jack Reed asked Coats if he was aware of the investigations and if he supported them. Coats responded, “I think these investigations are in place to get us to the right conclusions so we can move on with a known result.” Former CIA Director John Brennan said possible coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign is "well founded."

McCain asked Coats about the gusher of leaks coming out of the White House. Coats responded, “Leaks have become a very significant, negative role relative to our national security. The release of information not only undermines confidence in our allies, but our ability to maintain secure information we share with them. It jeopardizes our sources. Lives are at stake.” Coats noted the U.S. faces a growing cyber threat, similar to the “Wanna Cry” malware that hit dozens of nations earlier this month. Coats said,  “ISIS is seeking to foster interconnectiveness, align their efforts to their strategy and withstand anti-ISIS actions.” He said that ISIS “continues to pose a significant terror threat overseas” and added “homegrown extremists will be the biggest threat in the U.S. They will persist with attacks occurring with little or no warning.”

2. DeVos comes to Indy to discuss vouchers

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos came to Indianapolis on Monday vowing that President Trump will offer “the most ambitious expansion of education choice in our nation’s history.” But there were almost no details. “We must acknowledge that the future is bleak for millions of students if we only continue to tinker around the edges with education reform,” she said. “We stand on the verge of the most significant opportunity we have ever had to drag American education out of the Stone Age and into the future.”
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    INDIANAPOLIS - In the eyes of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the emerging scandal of Russian collusion with Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the sprawling investigations peeling off in its wake are as much of a wakeup call as, perhaps, the Russian Revolution that transpired a century ago. “If there has ever been a clarion call for vigilance and action against a threat to the very foundation of our democratic political system, this episode is it,” Clapper testified before Congress on May 8. In President Trump’s view, the probes are “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” Trump’s outrage at the Russia probe, which challenges the legitimacy of his stunning upset last November, prompted him to impulsively fire FBI Director James Comey last week. Trump told NBC: "When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won'."

    INDIANAPOLIS – What a huge week for the State GOP and especially for original Trump supporters in Indiana. Having a Trump in the state six months to the night of being first on the board to elect Donald J. Trump president, and one year to the week of winning the critical Indiana primary, was a big-league way to cap off a great year. The 20-point general election victory followed but also overshadows Indiana’s primary win when candidate Trump won all nine congressional districts, thus collecting all 57 Indiana delegates and knocking out his last two opponents. Remember the surprise withdrawal by Sen. Ted Cruz that night followed by Gov. Kasich the next day? Back then, Donald Trump Jr. was in the state in April, stumping for his Dad. Having him back was a cool reminder of how important Indiana was for the Trump nomination. That May 3 primary win, at a time when pundits could only focus on what would keep Donald Trump from the nomination, propelled him on a clear path to well over the 1,237 delegates needed without having to worry about any further competition. Don Jr. acknowledged it in his speech before over 1,000 loyalists, saying that it all started in Indiana.
    SOUTH BEND –– The focus of the political stethoscope, for so long examining the poor health of Democrats who voted in Congress for Obamacare, shifts now to measuring the prospects for political health of Republicans who voted for Trumpcare. A health care plan, especially if complicated and pushed through without the public or even supporters in Congress really understanding the effects, can cause terrible health problems for those who vote for it. Democrats learned that. Will Republicans now learn the same lesson? There is no doubt that Trumpcare will be a major issue in the 2018 elections. Polls show it is unpopular, just as Obamacare was when Republicans hammered it and Democrats to win congressional elections. Now, ironically, just as Republicans control Congress and the presidency and can repeal it, provisions of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, have become popular. A Gallup poll shows 53% approval of Obamacare, highest favorability ever, for the first time over 50%. So the GOP is having a difficult time figuring out how to dump it without severe health care and political health woes.
    INDIANAPOLIS – It is a pity no town crier rings our news about the latest data for our nation and state. Last week the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis made public the 2016 GDP figures. Did members of the Indiana General Assembly or the state administration pause to study and reflect on these numbers? I doubt it. Possibly some isolated journalist picked up a news release on the Internet, but I doubt it. And what would that lone soul report? “Indiana ranked 42nd of the 50 states with a growth rate of just 0.8% in GDP during the closing three months of 2016, compared to the national advance of 1.9%.” No s/he didn’t, not if s/he wants to do any interviews with state officials in the rest of this calendar year. S/he would have to dig and find something cheerful to give every Hoosier a warm, fuzzy feeling: “Indiana doubled New York’s economic growth rate in the last quarter of 2016. Details at 11, 10 Central time.” This wouldn’t be exactly true, but close enough to be acceptable.
    BLOOMINGTON – Every few months we have to contemplate the very real possibility that the government might close its doors. Is this really the best we can do? Think about this for a moment. Two days away from a federal shutdown, Congress comes up with a stopgap measure to keep the government operating – for a week. A few days later it arrives at a bipartisan budget deal lasting a bit over four months. This, in turn, moves the president to take to Twitter with the following statement: “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!” With respect to President Trump, this assertion seems more focused on settling political scores than on the good of the country. There is no such thing as a “good” shutdown. The last time it happened, in 2013, it cost the economy $24 billion, according to Standard & Poor’s at the time. National institutions get shuttered, federal workers are out of a job for an indeterminate period, federal loans and support for veterans are frozen, state and local governments – and all the businesses, non-profits and community organizations that depend on them – face cash shortages, and the country’s most economically vulnerable must shift for themselves. All that and more happens during a shutdown.
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  • Vice President Pence cites 'integrity' and 'values' at Notre Dame

    INDIANAPOLIS - Vice President Mike Pence journeyed back home to Indiana on Sunday, preaching “integrity and values” at the Notre Dame commencement from an administration that is already mired in scandal, investigation while running roughshod over truth. Pence told the graduates "to be men and women of integrity and values,” adding, “This university is a vanguard of freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas at a time, sadly, when free speech and civility are waning on campuses across America. While this institution has maintained an atmosphere of civility and open debate, far too many campuses across America have become characterized by speech codes, safe zones, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness — all of which amounts to nothing less than suppression of the freedom of speech,”

  • Atomic: State drug strategy; Trump abroad; Pence under fire
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Indiana’s drug strategy lacks big idea: Your Friday power lunch talking points: Indiana drug czar Jim McClelland released 19 pages of strategy to combat the opiate epidemic that killed 619 Hoosiers in 2016, up from 262 in 2008. Key principles include: Data will inform all systems and programs created for government, individuals, families and providers, evolving as learning increases and as Indiana’s drug crisis changes; Comprehensive and Holistic: Indiana’s approach will be multi-faceted and focused on substance abuse prevention, early intervention, treatment, recovery and enforcement; Collaborative: The state will align and focus the efforts of multiple state agencies that currently provide substance abuse services and resources. Further, Indiana’s approach makes clear that local communities, state officials, and the federal government must all have a stake in helping overcoming the drug crisis.

  • HPI Analysis: Trump controversies swirl by Pence
    INDIANAPOLIS – Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Vice President Mike Pence arduously sticks to highly scripted, time-tested, narrow talking points. And President Trump? Not so much. Sad! This past week, we’ve witnessed a honeymoonless White House  teetering somewhere in a legal and constitutional no man’s land. It shifted into higher gear Wednesday with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s hiring of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel for the Russia/Trump campaign probe. And it has raised the specter of a potential Trump impeachment and a possible Pence presidency. On Wednesday, Pence filed FEC paperwork for the creation of a new leadership PAC.
  • DOJ announces former FBI Director Mueller to head Russia probe
    Howey Politics Indiana

    INDIANAPOLIS - The U.S. Justice Department is appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to take over Russia investigation, according to NBC correspondent Pete Williams. It comes as a growing number of bipartisan members of Congress began calling for a special prosecutor in the wake of a series of bombshell events that included President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, reports that he had pressed Comey for his “loyalty” and asked that the FBI probe of Michael Flynn be dropped. Mueller served 12 years as FBI director, second in tenure only to the legendary J. Edgar Hoover.  Developing . . . .
  • Atomic: IN GOP delegation reacts; Watergate scale; WH chaos
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Indiana delegation reacts to Trump bombshells: The bombshells from the Trump White House are becoming a front line siege, with Hoosier members of the congressional delegation mostly clinging to the pocked GOP ramparts. The most stalwart supporter of President Trump appears to be U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, who said on Tuesday, “Every day Washington liberals throw some new phony attack at the wall to see what sticks. While they play political games, the Middle East is on fire and Iran has been empowered. North Korea is threatening the world. Russia has never been more influential since the fall of the Berlin Wall. All of this is because of the naive, failed foreign policy of the Obama administration and Washington liberals including Joe Donnelly. They've made America less safe. I have confidence that President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, Director Coats and our intelligence and law enforcement agencies will keep America safe."

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  • Speaker Ryan tabs Messer to head task force
    "Indiana has proven time and again that the best government is closest to the people it serves. Our states, cities and counties are the true engine for innovation in government. I'm excited to work on this Task Force to combat federal overreach and return power to states." - U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, who was appointed by House Speaker Paul Ryan to serve on the recently created bipartisan Task Force on Intergovernmental Affairs, which is charged with working to restore the proper balance of power between federal, state and local governments. The Task Force will partner with state and local governments to determine where the federal government has overstepped, and come up with solutions to return control to states and local entities.
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  • The integrity of Director Coats
    That Dan Coats would spurn another attempt by President Trump to shut down the Russian collusion probe with his presidential campaign is not surprising. The Director of National Intelligence is known for his integrity. But Coats, along with other intelligence and White House officials, are now in untenable positions in this presidential viper’s nest. They are being asked to participate in what now appears to be an unprecedented conspiracy to thwart an investigation, with all the trappings of a developing obstruction of justice scenario. What is emerging are the markers of historic scandal that appears poised to bring down this populist presidency. And it is now ensnarling Hoosier public servants like Coats and Vice President Mike Pence. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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