With three months to go until the midterm elections, Republicans maintain a slight edge in their quest to retake the Senate for the first time since 2006, according to FiveThirtyEight prognosticator Nate Silver.
In his latest look at the races, Silver estimates Republicans are likely to pick up the six seats necessary to flip the Senate. Though voters don't really like the GOP, they also don't care much for President Obama — whose approval ratings have slumped back to the low 40s — nor Democrats in general. Plus Democrats have more territory to defend this year, some of it in states that leaned toward Romney in 2012, giving the GOP a built-in advantage.
"This may not be a 'wave' election as 2010 was, but Republicans don't need a wave to take over the Senate," Silver writes.
Though no evidence has been offered to back President Trump's baseless claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones at Trump Tower during the presidential election, an overwhelming majority of Republicans think it's likely. A CBS News poll released Wednesday found that 74 percent of Republicans believe it's "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that Trump's offices were wiretapped. Just 21 percent of Democrats think it's a possibility, while 49 percent of independents deemed it likely.
When Trump leveled the allegation on Twitter weeks ago, he offered no supporting evidence, and he has yet to come forward with any as he's continued to defend the claim. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, the Justice Department, and FBI Director James Comey have all said they have not uncovered any evidence whatsoever that backs Trump's allegation. Comey even noted during a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee earlier this month that it's impossible for a president to "unilaterally" order a wiretap, as Trump has claimed Obama did.
President Trump spoke six words to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) on Tuesday night, marking the first verbalization between the pair in over two months, Politico reports. "Chuck? I see Chuck. Hello, Chuck," Trump called out at a White House reception for the Senate.
While Trump once raved about his "good relationship" with Schumer — and on a private phone call, said he liked his home-state senator better than Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — the president has now turned to slamming Schumer for being the "head clown."
"By the time we got to inauguration, any hope that Schumer wanted to actually work together to find any common ground was clearly gone," an administration official explained to Politico. Schumer's speech at the inauguration and his ongoing defiance over confirming Trump's Cabinet and Supreme Court nominee are also cited as reasons for the split.
"[Trump] moved. He, not me," said Schumer. "He moved so far over to the right that it's virtually impossible to work with him." The pair last spoke on Jan. 24, according to Schumer.
President Trump has suggested working with Democrats on health care going forward, but Politico writes "lawmakers and strategists wonder whether Trump missed his best shot at a productive relationship."
And when it comes to speaking with Trump, Schumer only has nine words: "Right now there's not much to talk about, okay?" Jeva Lange
Italian state police have arrested 34 members of a Sardinian crime organization for attempting to steal the corpse of famous automaker Enzo Ferrari in order to blackmail his family, CNN reports. The gangsters' plot was extraordinarily complicated and their capture involved helicopters and parachute regiment officers.
Ferrari died in 1988 at the age of 90. His body is entombed above-ground in the San Cataldo cemetery in Modena, in central Italy, where it rests behind an iron gate. His legacy lives on, as his company continues to build some of the world's fastest and most expensive cars.
Hillary Clinton vows 'I will never stop speaking out' in first major political speech since the election
Hillary Clinton promised she will "never stop speaking out" during her first major political speech since losing the election to President Trump, delivered Tuesday night. "The last few months haven't been exactly what I envisioned, although I do know what I'm fighting for," Clinton told the crowd at the Professional Business Women of California's annual conference in San Francisco. "I'm fighting for a fairer, big-hearted, inclusive America. And the unfinished business of the 21st century can't wait any longer."
Forgoing her usual pantsuit in exchange for a leather jacket, Clinton lashed out at White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer for scolding reporter April Ryan and similarly criticized Fox News host Bill O'Reilly for making a "racist joke about [California Rep. Maxine Waters'] hair."
"Too many women, especially women of color, have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kinds of indignities in stride," Clinton said.
Clinton did not mention Trump by name but she warned that anti-refugee rhetoric and voter suppression are "bad policies that will hurt people and take our country in the wrong direction."
"Resist, insist, persist, enlist," Clinton urged. Jeva Lange
VIDEO: Hillary Clinton Gives First Post-Election Speech pic.twitter.com/9ln8mAdFIv
— azcentral (@azcentral) March 29, 2017
"Morning" Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski used to be friends with President Trump, they told Seth Meyers on Tuesday's Late Night, but that all changed after he became president. They shrugged off Trump's decision earlier this month to unfollow them on Twitter, with Scarborough calling that the "highlight of the month" and Brzezinski saying "it shows we got in his head."
What finally killed Trump's love for the MSNBC morning show and drove him into the loving arms of Fox & Friends, Scarborough said, wasn't "all the horrible things" he and Mika said about Trump during the campaign — calling him a racist, a bigot, a potential instigator of World War III — and since. "It all rolled off his back," he said. But "the second we said Chris Christie and Bernie Sanders out-rated him, that was the end." Scarborough explained that when he first made his throwaway comment about Christie and Sanders drawing higher ratings than Trump, Trump "went crazy. He sent me a letter, had a spreadsheet, talked about how his ratings were higher than ours."
Meyers asked for their general impression of Trump's first 60 days in office — if it was what they expected, better, or worse? — and they laughed. "It's far worse," Brzezinski said. "It's almost at the point of no return." Scarborough quoted Ghostbusters: "It's dogs and cats living together, it's as bad as it gets." Watch below. Peter Weber
Voters have less confidence in President Trump's ability to do his job following the Republican Party's failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act last week. In a Politico/Morning Consult survey taken entirely after the GOP withdrew their bill, just 26 percent of voters felt "very confident" in Trump's ability to serve as commander-in-chief, compared with 36 percent who are not confident "at all."
Trump's declining approval rating was steeper with Republicans and independents than Democrats. In particular, the support of self-identified Trump voters shrank from 90 percent last week to 84 percent this week. Overall, 38 percent of voters strongly disapprove of Trump, compared with 23 percent who strongly approve.
"President Trump's approval ratings are at their lowest point since he took office, according to the weekly Politico/Morning Consult surveys," said Morning Consult co-founder Kyle Dropp. "However, as this week's results represent a relatively sharp departure from the recent trendline, we will keep a close watch in subsequent weeks before drawing major conclusions."
Republicans don't seem eager to go to the mat to finance President Trump's border wall with Mexico, at least in the stopgap spending bill that must pass by April 28 to avoid a government shutdown. Still, on Tuesday, the White House sent Congress a request for an immediate cut of $18 billion from domestic programs to pay for the wall, The Associated Press reports, citing a Capitol Hill aide who described the unreleased documents.
The requested cuts reportedly include $1.2 billion from National Institutes of Health medical grants, $1.5 billion from community development grants, $500 million from a transportation grant program, $434 million to eliminate a program to encourage community service among senior citizens, and $372 million from heating subsidies for the poor.
As with Trump's 2018 budget plan, Congress will probably ignore Trump's requests, though building the wall is a high priority for Trump and the White House hasn't yet joined the 2017 spending negotiations. Democrats pounced anyway. "The administration is asking the American taxpayer to cover the cost of a wall — unneeded, ineffective, absurdly expensive — that Mexico was supposed to pay for, and he is cutting programs vital to the middle class to get that done," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y). "Build the wall or repair or build a bridge or tunnel or road in your community? What's the choice?"
How much the wall would cost is an open question. Republicans estimate a price tag of $12 billion to $15 billion, a Homeland Security Department report put the cost at $21.6 billion, and on Tuesday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) suggested the final number could hit $66.9 billion. McCaskill, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said she based her estimate on a briefing for committee staff in which the administration explained that its 2018 budget request of $2.6 billion for the wall would go toward constructing 75 miles of new wall. She did the math for the 1,827 viable miles of border, conceding that this wasn't a perfect way to get an accurate estimate.
"It is concerning that the cost of construction could also be significantly higher, as the cost of acquiring land currently owned by private individuals was not included in the estimate," McCaskill wrote to the acting head of U.S. Customs and Border protection. "Regardless, the $36.6 million per mile figure is the only information, and the closest to a cost estimate that the Committee has obtained from DHS." Peter Weber