President Trump nominated term-limited Gov. Sam Brownback (R) to be his ambassador at large for international religious freedom. (release)
“Brownback’s office isn’t saying when he plans to leave office. … Brownback spokeswoman Melika Willoughby said the two-term Republican governor would hold a news conference on Thursday. But Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kelly Arnold said Wednesday he would expect Brownback to resign as governor once he’s confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Arnold said that would likely be in the fall.” (AP)
Should Brownback resign before the end of his term, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) would replace him until January 2019 and could seek a full term in 2018. Colyer had already been considering a bid for governor.
JEFF WHO? “Colyer is preparing to become Kansas’ next governor after nearly a decade helping fellow conservative Republicans shape health care policy and serving as a loyal lieutenant governor and plastic surgeon, who squeezed in medical relief missions to disaster and war zones.” Colyer “was often the administration’s spokesman on health issues and served in the Legislature before first running on Brownback’s ticket in 2010.”
“Colyer was a vocal critic of the 2010 federal health care overhaul championed by former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and still opposes expanding the state’s Medicaid program as contemplated by that law.”
“While Colyer has been influential on health care policy and is personable, he’s not as dynamic a stump speaker as” Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) “and does not have as high a national profile.”
“Colyer may deviate little from Brownback’s policies on fiscal and social issues. In an Associated Press interview in December, Colyer described himself in classic ‘Star Trek’ terms as a first-officer Spock to Brownback as Captain Kirk, saying, ‘We’re working for the same goals.’”
“He also made three $500,000 loans to Brownback’s and his re-election campaign in 2013 and 2014 that were highly unusual for their size and timing; two were paid back within days. Prosecutors ended a grand jury investigation in 2015 without plans for criminal charges.” (AP)
2018 PREVIEW. “Colyer will only be around for one legislative session, unless he runs for election and wins. He has not said yet whether he will run. With a number of Republican candidates already in the race, winning the GOP nomination wouldn’t be assured. Colyer would also have to decide how to approach his proximity to Brownback, who has among the lowest approval rating of any governor in the country.”
“Colyer was also the subject of a federal grand jury investigation into a series of $500,000 loans he made to Brownback’s re-election campaign in 2014. No charges were ever filed. But the issue could resurface in a gubernatorial campaign. … Kobach … has slammed what he calls a ‘culture of corruption’ in Topeka.” (Wichita Eagle)
Kobach on Colyer’s possible ascension: “I don’t think it fundamentally changes the dynamic of the 2018 race regardless.” (New York Times)
House Minority Leader Jim Ward (D) “said his first reaction to the announcement was ‘good riddance.’ ‘He’s left a lot of carnage and destruction, and he’s also put the incoming governor in a tough spot,’ Ward said, noting that Kansas is awaiting a decision by the state’s Supreme Court on the fate of a new school finance formula.” (Kansas City Star)
DGA Communications Director Jared Leopold: “Colyer has been the biggest backer of Brownback’s economics. A vote for him in 2018 would mean 4 more years of Brownback.” (Twitter)
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Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting. In Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg."
"The Justice Department asked its internal watchdog to examine if there was any impropriety in the counterintelligence investigation of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, after the president demanded Sunday that the department investigate the motives behind the inquiry. Earlier Sunday, in one of a series of tweets targeting the probe into whether Trump associates colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump wrote: 'I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!'"