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February 13, 2017

On Friday evening, Newsmax Media CEO Christopher Ruddy spent half an hour drinking with President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe retired to bed, Ruddy said on Twitter (Trump had Diet Coke, he noted). On Sunday, Ruddy — a member of Mar-a-Lago and a longtime friend of Trump's — went on CNN to share his impressions of President Trump's first few weeks in office. "I think he is a little sensitive to the press criticism," Ruddy told Brian Stelter, adding that Trump is "battle-tested" after facing down the New York media for decades. The real problem, Ruddy argued, is White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

"There's a lot of weakness coming out of the chief of staff," he said. "I think Reince Priebus, good guy, well-intentioned, but he clearly doesn't know how the federal agencies work. He doesn't have a really good system. He doesn't know how the communications flow." Ruddy said he thinks White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is doing a good job under tough circumstances, but "the president is not getting the backup he needs in the operation of the White House, and sometimes the pushback that he needs, which you would have with... a stronger White House chief of staff."

After his CNN appearance, Ruddy elaborated to The Washington Post, stating that personally, "it's my view that Reince is the problem. I think on paper Reince looked good as the chief of staff — and Donald trusted him — but it's pretty clear the guy is in way over his head." He specifically blamed Priebus for botching "this whole immigration rollout," and said he's actually "hearing from a lot of people on the inside" that Priebus isn't pushing back like Trump needs him too. "He just doesn't have the gravitas that Donald would respect at the end of the day."

By the end of Sunday, Ruddy was softening his critique a bit, tweeting: "Reince just briefed me on new WH plans. Impressive! CNN today my personal view. Told him I have 'open mind' based on his results." He also said Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, "tells me COS Reince is doing 'amazing job.' Disagrees with me!" Peter Weber

10:39 p.m. ET
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The Senate on Tuesday night rejected a modified version of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Nine Republicans joined the Democrats in voting against the bill, and with a final total of 43 in favor and 57 against, the measure did not receive the 60 votes necessary to pass. Earlier in the day, the Senate split 50-50 on voting to begin debate on a health-care bill, and Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie, with the motion passing.

On Wednesday, the Senate is set to vote on an amendment similar to a 2015 bill passed by the Senate to repeal ObamaCare, which was ultimately vetoed by former President Barack Obama; this proposal is expected to fail. Catherine Garcia

9:46 p.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump's daily reminders to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he is a disappointment aren't enough to get Sessions to step down from his position, The Washington Post reports.

Trump has been slamming Sessions in interviews — like telling The New York Times if he had known Sessions was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, he never would have picked him to be attorney general — and on Twitter, and even told reporters on Tuesday "time will tell" whether he fires Sessions. Despite Trump's digs, Sessions' chief of staff, Jody Hunt, told Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff, that the attorney general has no intention of resigning, and in fact, "plans to move forward with his agenda in the department," one person familiar with the exchange told the Post.

Priebus did not say that Trump is set on firing Session if he doesn't leave on his own, the person said, but the Post notes Trump could be holding back because he hasn't settled on a possible replacement (if Trump fired Sessions without having a temporary replacement waiting in the wings, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would move into the position). There's still hope that Trump and Sessions will sit down and talk things through — one Republican told the Post that's what new communications director Anthony Scaramucci would like to see — but Trump hasn't warmed to the idea. Catherine Garcia

8:46 p.m. ET

It's "real easy" to act presidential, President Trump told a crowd in Youngstown, Ohio, on Tuesday, but not when you want to get things done.

When people say Trump doesn't act presidential, he responds by declaring he went to "great schools" and is a "smart guy," and while it's "so easy" to act magnanimously, "that's not gonna get it done," he told supporters. "It's much easier, by the way, to act presidential than what we're doing here tonight." With the exception of "the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office, that I can tell you," he added.

To get things done, you have to "move a little faster," Trump said, and that's hard to do when you're acting presidential. Trump vowed to "never be beholden to the lobbyists or the special interests" and said he wants to "protect America, and I want to protect the citizens of America. Your hopes are my hopes, your dreams are my dreams." He touted his prowess as a businessman, saying he had a "great, successful career," but "this is the only thing that matters." Catherine Garcia

7:48 p.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the House voted 419 to 3 to pass a bill that strengthens sanctions against Russia in response to its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The sanctions primarily target Russian oil and gas projects with companies based in the United States and a handful of other countries, and will be difficult for President Trump to lift because he will need approval from Congress. It now heads to the Senate for a vote, and could be sent to Trump to sign into law before August, when Congress begins its recess.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the sanctions would be "harmful" to U.S.-Russian relations. The package also includes sanctions against Iran and North Korea, due to their weapons programs. Catherine Garcia

6:43 p.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Senate Judiciary Committee has dropped its subpoena for Paul Manafort, President Trump's onetime campaign chairman, to publicly testify Wednesday during a hearing on Russian meddling in the election because he has agreed to meet with committee investigators, a person with knowledge of the situation told Politico Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, the committee's chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), confirmed that a subpoena had been issued for Manafort after they had been "unable to reach an agreement for a voluntary, transcribed interview with the Judiciary Committee."

Both Manafort and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, met with the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday in a closed-door session that lasted several hours, detailing the meeting they attended in June 2016 with a Kremlin-linked attorney. Catherine Garcia

5:04 p.m. ET

Senate Republicans narrowly approved a motion to proceed to debate on health-care legislation Tuesday. The motion passed 51-50, with Vice President Mike Pence stepping in to break the tie after Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) joined all 48 members of the Democratic caucus in voting no.

While the vote was taking place, President Trump was at the White House meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. By the time Trump emerged for his joint press conference with Hariri at the Rose Garden, Pence had already cast the tie-breaking vote. When asked about the razor-thin margin, Trump said Collins and Murkowski's votes were "very sad — for them":

The Senate will now move on to 20 hours of debate on several Republican proposals, including the Senate's Better Care bill and a plan favored by conservative Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would constitute a straight repeal of ObamaCare. A "skinny repeal" plan, which was introduced just hours before Tuesday's vote and would center around eliminating ObamaCare's individual mandate, employer mandate, and select taxes, could also come into play.

No single proposal is thought to have the 50 votes necessary to pass. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) returned to Washington on Tuesday afternoon for the first time since being diagnosed with cancer to cast a crucial vote in favor of the motion to proceed, but he may leave the capital by the end of the week. Perhaps not coincidentally, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) told reporters that party leadership informed him the goal is to pass a health-care plan by Friday — especially wise, given Trump's baiting of Collins and Murkowski may not be effective in spurring them to support the president's agenda. Kimberly Alters

3:42 p.m. ET

On Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) returned to the Senate floor for the first time since he was diagnosed with brain cancer, and he was greeted by a bipartisan standing ovation. McCain came back to Washington just in time to to cast his yes vote on Senate Republicans' motion to proceed on debating the House-passed health-care bill.

Though Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on the health-care issue — no Democrats voted in favor of the motion to proceed, while all but two Republicans supported it — Politico's Dan Diamond reported that a "parade" of Democrats went over to hug McCain.

After the voting wrapped up and the motion to proceed passed, however, McCain took the floor for a general speech that betrayed his simple "aye" vote on the bill. Though McCain voted in favor of the motion to proceed, he made clear that he would "not vote for the bill as it is today." "It's a shell of a bill right now, we all know that," McCain said, adding that it "seems likely" that "this process ends in failure." He scolded his party for "getting nothing done" because "we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle."

McCain's critical speech also extended to President Trump. "Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the president's subordinates," McCain said. "We are his equal." Catch a snippet of McCain's speech below, and read it in full here. Becca Stanek

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