By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Golden, Colo.

1. Messer cites ‘Rokita hatchet job’

Your final power lunch talking points: Jennifer Messer, wife of U.S. Rep. Luke Messer made $580,000 since 2015 for legal consulting she largely does from the Washington, D.C., area for the city of Fishers, “an unusually large sum even in a state rife with highly paid government contractors,” according to a review by the Associated Press. Mrs. Messer makes $20,000 a month working as a contract attorney for Fishers, according to the AP's review of public documents. Messer defended his wife, calling her the “brains of the Messer outfit” and saying the contract predated his political career.

Messer is blaming a planted story line by his potential 2018 U.S. Senate opponent, U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita. In an email to supporters obtained by Howey Politics Indiana, Messer said, “For what it's worth, the story is a complete hatchet job directly attributable to Rokita. Just about the only element not distorted is the headline. Needless to say, it's rare for campaigns to start by attacking an opponent's spouse. But, I guess we all knew Todd is anything but ordinary. Most importantly, this is completely unfair to my wife. I, of course, ran for office, but she did not.  She has worked sixteen years to build a career.”

This follows a 2016 campaign/media dynamic where the campaign of U.S. Sen. Todd Young repeatedly planted negative stories on U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman (and his family) to Brian Slodysko of the Associated Press. And it worked! Young easily won the primary and Slodysko was named Indiana Journalist of the Year by the Society of Professional Journalists.

2. The White House wheels coming off

The White House is truly resembling the clown car in a Chinese fire drill. President Trump’s interview with NBC’s Lester Holt shredded the original White House version of what now appears to be an impulsive firing of FBI Director James Comey, originally for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe.  “In fact, 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,’” Trump said, contradicting Vice President Pence and his amateur communications staff.

By mid-Friday morning, Trump was in a tweeter fury: “As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at the podium with perfect accuracy! Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future ‘press briefings’ and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???” Trump also suggested he has audio tapes of conversations with Comey, tweeting, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” That last one is stunning. If Trump was surreptitiously taping conversations with the FBI director, that’s something Senate and FBI probers are going to want to get their hands on. A presidential investigation and secret audio tapes. Why does this sound familiar?

3. Comey flunked the Trump loyalty test

The New York Times reported this bombshell of a January dinner between Comey and Trump: ”As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump's rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him. Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not 'reliable' in the conventional political sense." The White House says this account is not correct.

4. Ominous polling for GOP

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough keeps making this point: Congressional Republicans are blindly following a “lifelong Democrat” who was giving money to Sen. Chuck Schumer just a few years ago, who completed a “hostile takeover of the Republican Party” in 2016 and is now leading them into the abyss. A Quinnipiac Poll released on Wednesday has Trump’s job approval at a record low 36%. His approval with independent voters is 29%. Voters disapprove 71 - 22% of the way Republicans in Congress do their job; Voters disapprove 58 - 34% of the way Democrats in Congress are doing their job. By a 54 - 38% margin, American voters want the Democratic Party to win control of the U.S. House. This is the widest margin ever measured for this question in a Quinnipiac University poll, exceeding a 5 percentage point margin for Republicans in 2013.

And that House GOP “Trumpcare” plan? Only 21% of American voters approve of the Republican health care plan passed last week, a slight improvement over the 17% who approved of the first health care plan in March. Overall, the current health plan goes down 56 - 21%. Except for an anemic 48 - 16% support among Republicans, every listed party, gender, educational, age and racial group opposes the plan. These are more than butterfly wings stirring up a tsunami in 2018.

5. Repeating the RFRA blunder

Wednesday’s Oval Office photo op with President Trump, Russian Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak was an optic disaster. The American press was excluded, but the Russian TASS news agency leaked out the photos, coming less than 48 hours after Trump fired FBI Director Comey over what he now acknowledges was about the Russian collusion probe with his 2016 campaign. Hoosiers will remember March 2015 when Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a signing event that excluded the press, with family groups leaking out the “Last Supper” photo, which fueled the backlash that ultimately scuttled Pence’s own presidential ambitions for 2016. Then, as now, we witness historically bad staff work.

Have a great weekend, folks. It’s The Atomic!