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 PaulDestructive 'fat cat' tax law a complete flop. It's time to repeal it. Trump must take action in Macedonia to fix damage done by Obama and Clinton We can put America first by preventing public health disasters 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 WarnerOvernight Cybersecurity: DNC hackers also targeted French presidential candidate | Ex-acting AG Yates to testify at Senate Russia hearing Schumer: Senate Russia probe moving too slowly Senate Intel Dem has ‘serious concerns’ on Russia probe MORE (Va.), Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampOvernight Regulation: Senators call for 'cost-effective' regs | FCC chief unveils plans to roll back net neutrality Senators push 'cost-effective' reg reform Battle begins over Wall Street rules MORE (N.D.), Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownDems crowd primaries to challenge GOP reps Battle begins over Wall Street rules Congress nears deal on help for miners MORE (Ohio), Jon TesterJon TesterBattle begins over Wall Street rules Dems hunt for a win in Montana special election Tester raises M for reelection MORE (Mont.) and Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyWhat prospective college students need to know before they go — or owe Battle begins over Wall Street rules GOP rep to potential Senate rival: Don't run MORE (Ind.). Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingSenator: No signs of GOP 'slow-walking' Russia investigation Republican Sen. Collins considering run for Maine governor in 2018 Conway: Dems should listen to their constituents on tax reform 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 SessionsJeff SessionsSuspended Alabama judge running for Senate Trump and Sessions peddle fear instead of solutions to crime Senate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general 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 Charles SchumerCharles SchumerLawmakers push one-week stopgap funding bill Cruz: 'Schumer and the Democrats want a shutdown' GOP fundraiser enters crowded primary for Pa. Senate seat 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 ChaffetzChaffetz to have surgery, will miss several weeks in Washington Overnight Finance: Inside Trump's tax plan | White House mulls order pulling out of NAFTA | New fight over Dodd-Frank begins Oversight Dems want vote on Trump tax return bill MORE (R-Utah). The latest to join that list: Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanTrump tax plan prompts GOP fears about deficit Overnight Regulation: Senators call for 'cost-effective' regs | FCC chief unveils plans to roll back net neutrality Senators push 'cost-effective' reg reform 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 GrahamComey to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee Overnight Defense: US moving missile defense system to South Korea | Dems want justification for Syria strike | Army pick pushes back against critics of LGBT record Graham: There are 'no good choices left' with North Korea 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 goes big on tax reform Trump gets tough with Canada Five things to watch for in Trump’s tax plan MORE (D-Ore.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalFCC head unveils plan to roll back net neutrality Senate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general Hoyer not insisting on ObamaCare subsidies in spending bill MORE (D-Conn.), Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowMedicare’s coverage decisions need more input from physicians Members help package meals at Kraft Heinz charity event in DC Senate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Mich.), Al FrankenAl FrankenSenate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general Twitter jumps on news of O'Reilly's ouster Senate Dems seek review of products linked to tax refunds MORE (D-Minn.), Tom CottonTom CottonOvernight Cybersecurity: White House adviser ditches cyber panel over 'fake news' | Trump cyber order 'close' | GOP senator pushes for clean renewal of foreign intel law Overnight Tech: Dem wants to see FCC chief's net neutrality plans | New agency panel on telecom diversity | Trump calls NASA astronaut GOP senator pushes for clean reauthorization of foreign intel law MORE (R-Ark.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenObama's speech proves hypocrisy of Democrat's anti-Wall Street rhetoric Warren to Trump: The Constitution applies to you, too GOP senator: Trump is 'moving at business pace, not government pace' 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 BustosMembers jam with Wynonna Judd, Keith Urban at Grammys on the Hill Overnight Regulation: Justices won't halt Obama water rule case | Greens, states sue over delayed energy rules Lawmakers ask Sessions to exempt federal prisons from hiring freeze 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 ScottWhat prospective college students need to know before they go — or owe Lobbying World Juan Williams: The complicated story of black conservatism 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 BradyNot too shabby: Trump tax plan nails corporate rate, errs on income Overnight Finance: Inside Trump's tax plan | White House mulls order pulling out of NAFTA | New fight over Dodd-Frank begins GOP leaders, top tax writers: Trump principles will be 'critical guideposts' 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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