The Hill's 12:30 Report

The Hill's 12:30 Report

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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.

The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pressure builds on Sessions | WH dismisses calls for Sessions recusal | Carson confirmed as housing chief | Interior secretary rides horse to work | Rand PaulRand PaulCurtis wins GOP primary for House seat vacated by Jason Chaffetz Glimmer of hope in bipartisan criminal justice reform effort Trump barrage stuns McConnell and his allies MORE says House keeping ObamaCare plan 'under lock and key'

BREAKING -- CARSON'S CONFIMED: The Senate on Thursday confirmed Ben Carson to be President Trump's secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Final vote: 58-41; he needed a simple majority. Democrats who voted for Carson: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Mark WarnerMark WarnerTrump declares 'racism is evil' after firestorm How the New South became a swing region How to fix Fannie and Freddie to give Americans affordable housing MORE (Va.), Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampTrump's Democratic tax dilemma It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him The real litmus test is whether pro-life democrats vote for pro-life legislation MORE (N.D.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOvernight Finance: House passes spending bill with border wall funds | Ryan drops border tax idea | Russia sanctions bill goes to Trump's desk | Dems grill bank regulator picks Dems grill Trump bank regulator nominees Senate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote MORE (Ohio), Jon TesterJon TesterWhy 'cherry-picking' is the solution to our nation’s flood insurance disaster Trump signs Veterans Affairs bill at New Jersey golf club It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him MORE (Mont.) and Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyTrump's Democratic tax dilemma FEC 'reform' a smokescreen to weaponize government against free speech It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him MORE (Ind.). Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingSen. King: If Trump fires Mueller, Congress would pass veto-proof special prosecutor statute Senate heading for late night ahead of ObamaCare repeal showdown Overnight Healthcare: Four GOP senators threaten to block 'skinny' repeal | Healthcare groups blast skinny repeal | GOP single-payer amendment fails in Senate MORE (Maine) also voted for Carson.

It's Thursday. MLB's opening day is one month from today! Spring is coming. I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to and on Facebook.

TALK OF THE MORNING -- 'I DID NOT COMMUNICATE WITH RUSSIA' IS THE NEW 'I DID NOT HAVE RELATIONS WITH THAT WOMAN': Via The Washington Post's Adam EntousEllen Nakashima and Greg Miller, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) SessionsFBI opens tip line requesting information on Charlottesville rally Sessions rails against Chicago during visit to Miami DOJ warrant of Trump resistance site triggers alarm MORE spoke twice with Russia's ambassador to the United States last year, raising new questions about contact between Trump campaign officials and the Kremlin. Why this is so newsy now: Sessions did not disclose this information during his confirmation hearings, testifying under oath that he "did not have communications with the Russians." Keep in mind: Sessions was still a senator when he communicated with the ambassador, but Sessions was also an early supporter of Trump, stumping for him and introducing him at campaign rallies. Sessions formally joined Trump's campaign in February 2016. Full story:

MUST WATCH -- Actual footage of how Jeff Sessions feels about this news cycle --> ;)

HOW DEMOCRATS REACTED -- OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!: Late last night, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on Sessions to immediately resign. "Now, after lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign." Full statement:

BREAKING -- SCHUMER CHIMES IN: Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerDemocrats urge Trump to condemn Charlottesville violence Melania Trump on Charlottesville protests: 'No good comes from violence' It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign and be investigated by the Department of Justice's inspector general to determine whether he compromised an investigation into Russian influence in the presidential election.

RESPONSE FROM SESSIONS -- LET ME JUST STAY OUT OF THE WAY HERE: Sessions offered to recuse himself from any investigation of Russian involvement in the Trump campaign. Sessions also said he has never discussed "any political campaigns" with Russian officials. "Well, I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaigns," Sessions said. "Those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false. I don't have anything else to say about that." Pelosi then tweeted, "We are far past recusal ... anything less than resignation or removal from office is unacceptable."

HOW REPUBLICANS REACTED -- FEELING ON CAPITOL HILL: "Senate Republicans not rushing to Sessions' defense. Sense is clearly more info may drop, they've already been surprised by this revelation." (From Politico's John Bresnahan)

BUT REACTIONS ARE TRICKLING IN: A number of Republicans say Sessions should recuse himself from any Russia probe, including House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzCurtis wins GOP primary for House seat vacated by Jason Chaffetz Chaffetz named Harvard Institute of Politics fellow Fox's Chaffetz: Rosenstein has 'absolutely zero credibility' on going after leakers MORE (R-Utah). The latest to join that list: Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanCongress should think twice on the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Senators push for possible FCC enforcement over Lifeline fraud The fight to protect the Affordable Care Act isn’t over MORE (R-Ohio) also said this morning that Sessions should recuse himself. But Republicans are not calling for his resignation.

AND GRAHAM: Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamGraham: Trump's Charlottesville rhetoric 'dividing Americans, not healing them' OPINION: Congress should censure Trump for his unfit conduct Supporting 'Dreamers' is our civic and moral duty MORE (R-S.C.) tweeted: "As to Democrat calls for Jeff Sessions resignation – that's crazy ... Sessions needs to explain his contacts with the Russian ambassador during his service as a Senator - that's appropriate."

BUSH'S ETHICS LAWYER EVEN WEIGHED IN: Richard Painter, the former White House ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007, tweeted, "Misleading the Senate in sworn testimony about one own contacts with the Russians is a good way to go to jail."

JUST NOW ‑ HOW THE WHITE HOUSE REACTED: The White House is rejecting calls to for Sessions to recuse himself. "There's nothing to recuse himself," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in an interview with Fox News that aired late Thursday morning. "He was 100 percent straight with the committee and I think that people [who] are choosing to play partisan politics with this should be ashamed of themselves," he added.

Latest updates: The Hill has a blog tracking the latest updates to the Jeff Sessions controversy. 



THIS. IS. WHY. I. LOVE. MY. JOB. SO. MUCH.: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rode a horse to his first day at his new job on Thursday, one day after he was confirmed. Yes, yes, I wouldn't dangle the fruit if there weren't photos -->

END THE MADDNESS. END IT!: Via BuzzFeed's Dominic Holden, 25 senators are asking the Trump administration to respond to an "alarming increase" in hate violence across the country. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the 25 senators said there has been an "alarming increase in bias-motivated violence." "Many members of racial, ethnic and religious minority communities, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, live in very real fear for their safety," the letter said.

SPOTTED -- A LIL WINE, A LITTLE HUMOR: Via The Hill's Judy Kurtz, President Trump is dominating the headlines, but his name was uttered just a handful of times at the Washington Press Club Foundation's Congressional Dinner, as Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike steered clear of the controversial commander in chief. 

Spotted at the dinner: Sens. Ron WydenRon WydenTrump's Democratic tax dilemma Senate Dems push Trump admin to protect nursing home residents' right to sue Overnight Finance: Trump-Russia probe reportedly expands to possible financial crimes | Cruel September looms for GOP | Senate clears financial nominees | Mulvaney reverses on debt ceiling MORE (D-Ore.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Richard BlumenthalRichard (Dick) BlumenthalSenators push FTC to finalize changes to contact lens rule Trump rule change ignites safety debate Blumenthal: ‘No question’ evidence connects Manafort with criminal wrongdoing MORE (D-Conn.), Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowHead of McConnell-backed PAC: We're 'very interested' in Kid Rock Senate campaign Juan Williams: Trump and the new celebrity politics Senate Dems unveil trade agenda MORE (D-Mich.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenTrump quietly putting his stamp on the courts Grassley shouldn't allow Senate Democrats to block judicial nominees Senate Dems push Trump admin to protect nursing home residents' right to sue MORE (D-Minn.), Tom CottonTom CottonImmigration battlefield widens for Trump, GOP The RAISE Act reveals what Trump really thinks about immigrants How Trump's legal immigration cuts could be a blessing to Dreamers MORE (R-Ark.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren: Education Dept lawyer may have violated conflict-of-interest laws Congress should think twice on the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Sanders plans to introduce single-payer bill in September MORE (D-Mass.); Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), John Delaney (D-Md.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Cheri BustosCheri BustosEconomy-focused Dems headlining Iowa fundraiser Dems to unveil ‘better deal’ messaging campaign Monday Lawmakers send well-wishes to Scalise on Twitter MORE (D-Ill.); Omarosa Manigault, the assistant to the president, who attended as a guest of the "PBS NewsHour."

Biggest laugh of the night: Saying it was "awesome" to have MSNBC host Greta Van Susteren as the evening's emcee, Sen. Tim ScottTim ScottRepublican lawmakers criticize Trump response to Charlottesville Trump turns on GOP Congress Reporter drops notebook, hits GOP senator on head during late-night session MORE (R-S.C.) joked, "Greta, now that you're with MSNBC, maybe you can clear something up for me. Anytime anyone in the media reports fake news, does Brian Williams get a royalty?" Scott was referring to the former "NBC Nightly News" anchor who in 2015 was found to have embellished stories about his reporting multiple times.



Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (Ooooh, secrets!)
I have been told that the House ObamaCare bill is under lock & key, in a secure location, & not available for me or the public to view.

Vox's Sarah Kliff: Sen Paul trying to enter room with ACA bill. Being denied entry. Photo:  

The Hill's Peter Sullivan: Paul speaks to press outside "secret room" with Obamacare bill. Photo: 

Update from Kliff: Rep. Kevin BradyKevin BradyGOP chairman: Tax reform could increase deficit GOP thinks it has winning message on taxes GOP planning to release tax framework next month: reports MORE (R) just came out of H-157 too. He also says no bill inside. The great hunt for a GOP replace bill continues.



The House and Senate were in this morning.

This morning: Vice President Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price talked with local businesses and the CEO of Frame USA in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Noon: The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and MoveOn will host a rally outside the Justice Department calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign.

12:30 p.m. EST: Vice President Pence delivers remarks at Frame USA. He then heads back to Washington, D.C.

2:30 p.m. EST: President Trump speaks at the soon-to-be-commissioned USS Gerald R. Ford, an aircraft carrier.

7 p.m. EST: The 2017 Congressional Hockey Challenge at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Details:

Week of March 20: "House aiming to vote on ObamaCare repeal/replace the week of March 20 per Rep Coffman, to give Senate two weeks to deal w it before recess." (From AP's Erica Werner)

Just announced: Vice President Pence will be the commencement speaker at the University of Notre Dame on May 21.



Today is National Banana Cream Pie Day.

I BET IT'S BEEN A WHILE SINCE YOU'VE HAD THE 'GAME OF THRONES' THEME SONG STUCK IN YOUR HEAD: Via Deadline, Major League Baseball is cross-promoting with HBO's "Game of Thrones." Specific promotions will vary by team, but it will generally include "co-branded merchandise, ticket packages, giveaways, theme nights, and social media events." Funniest line: "MLB still has 'no idea' when the new GoT season will begin," says the league's Executive Vice President of Business Noah Garden. You know GoT fans are desperate when they're asking the MLB when the new season is coming out. Lol. 

LIFE ADVICE FROM EMMA WATSON: During an episode of "Derek Does Stuff With a Friend," Derek Blasberg walked around Grand Central Station with Emma Watson on his iPad and a big sign that read "Advice from Emma Watson for $2." It's pretty great:

And because this made me laugh out loud, here's a dog actually singing along to "We Are The Champions" during a road trip with her owner. Don't ever change, Lola:


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