On the Prowl
With the triumphant declaration, “The bear is loose,” President Obama recently has twice escaped the White House bubble and strolled off campus. First, it was a leisurely walk along the Ellipse to the Interior Department on May 21. This week, it was Monday’s hike up Pennsylvania Avenue to a Starbucks. But on both occasions, the liberated president made it clear he wants some people to stay in their cage — the reporters who cover him. Both times, Obama showed clear pique that those pesky reporters were ruining his jaunts. All recent presidents have allowed at least one print reporter close enough to monitor their interactions. But this president doesn’t like that precedent. “C’mon, guys,” he complained to reporters en route to Interior. “You’re not going to follow me the whole way?” Only the official White House photographer and a government videographer stayed close. On Monday, the White House broke from the long-accepted norm and did not alert the protective press pool in time for reporters to accompany the president. When they caught up, Obama complained to his aides, ordering them to herd the press away. The White House Correspondents’ Association has since protested. But insiders are decidedly bearish about the chances of restoring the traditional coverage rules.
George E. Condon Jr.
An Unfamiliar Spot
The Jeb Bush 2016 boomlet suddenly has taken a new twist — Jeb for veep. The former Florida governor has kept rigorously quiet about his options. Even brother George remains in the dark about his sibling’s leanings. But the big-time opposition of Jeb’s wife, Columba, to a presidential run leads many Republican elders to assume he won’t be a candidate. That’s why some of these same GOP leaders have begun touting Jeb as the natural choice for the second spot. “He’s the perfect No. 2 for any Republican ticket,” a top GOP consultant told National Journal. “It makes a world of sense.” Bush is an unabashed conservative, the theory goes, but a kinder, gentler version who can appeal to mainstream Republicans, conservative Democrats, and independents. He would even pass muster with conservative red-hots who think he’s too establishment, especially because he speaks fluent Spanish and is popular with Hispanic voters otherwise turned off by the GOP’s hard line on immigration reform. And if Jeb has to campaign for only three months as a VP nominee, instead of more than two years as a presidential candidate, a senior Bush family source predicts his wife would sign off.
He’s Back Sen. John Boozman, the Arkansas Republican who’s been out of commission since undergoing heart surgery in April, returned to the Capitol this week. “I’m feeling good,” he said. “It’s kind of sad — people saying I look better now than before I left.” Boozman, who is serving his first term since defeating Blanche Lincoln, said his outlook appears positive. “This disease is a strange deal. If you get through it — very few people do — then you have the chance of a full recovery. I’ve done very, very well and hopefully look forward to a full recovery.” If Boozman had had to retire for health reasons, his seat might have switched parties, with Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe tasked with appointing an interim successor.
College Try Rep. Peter Welch seems like he could have been Rep. Trey Gowdy’s old college professor. Welch, at 67, is liberal and cerebral and doesn’t try to hide his half-bald head. Gowdy, at 49, is a conservative rabble-rouser from South Carolina with a blond punk hairdo. Who knew they would get along? They met through a common staffer who worked for Welch when he was Vermont’s Senate president. The aide then moved to South Carolina to work for Gowdy. And it turns out they had more in common than that. They agree that college costs too much, and they cosponsored legislation to curb higher-education regulations and permit alternate pathways to college degrees. Of Gowdy, Welch says, “He’s got a weird haircut, but he’s a good guy.”
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"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate."
Sen. Susan Collins, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, "said on Wednesday she's open to using a subpoena to investigate President Donald Trump's tax returns for potential connections to Russia." She said the committee is also open to subpoenaing Trump himself. "This is a counter-intelligence operation in many ways," she said of Russia's interference. "That's what our committee specializes in. We are used to probing in depth in this area."
"Top lawyers who helped the Obama White House craft and hold to rules of conduct believe President Donald Trump and his staff will break ethics norms meant to guard against politicization of the government — and they’ve formed a new group to prepare, and fight. United to Protect Democracy, which draws its name from a line in President Barack Obama’s farewell address that urged his supporters to pick up where he was leaving off, has already raised a $1.5 million operating budget, hired five staffers and has plans to double that in the coming months." Meanwhile, NPR has launched a "Trump Ethics Monitor" to track the resolution of ten ethics-related promises that the president has made.