A week after President Trump accused his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, of tapping his phones at Trump Tower during the campaign, then asked Congress to investigate, Congress appears to be getting a bit impatient with the lack of evidence. The heads of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), sent the Justice Department a letter last week giving the Trump administration until Monday to turn over any evidence it has to support the explosive claim, congressional aides told The Associated Press and NBC News over the weekend. FBI Director James Comey, who reportedly asked unsuccessfully that the Justice Department refute Trump's claim, was sent a copy of the letter as well.
Nunes suggested last week that Trump was either just asking questions about wiretapping or being taken too "literally" by the media, saying Trump is a "neophyte in politics." On Sunday, Schiff said he doesn't expect to see any evidence but plans to ask Comey about Trump's claims at a March 20 hearing. "I don't think anyone has any question about this, George," he told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. "The only question is why the president would make up such a thing." House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who receives high-level intelligence briefings, also said on CBS Sunday that he has not seen any evidence to support Trump's wiretapping claim.
On CNN's State of the Union, Jake Tapper reminded Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that nobody in government has really backed up Trump's accusation. "President Trump has to provide the American people, not just the intelligence committee but the American people, with evidence that his predecessor, the former president of the United States, was guilty of breaking the law," McCain said. "The president has one of two choices: Either retract, or provide the information that the American people deserve," he added, noting that this shouldn't be hard for Trump to prove: "All he has to do is pick up the phone, call the director of the CIA, director of national intelligence, and say, 'Okay, what happened?'" Peter Weber
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
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
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":
Trump on Murkowski and Collins voting no on motion to proceed: "Very sad, I think. Very, very sad — for them." pic.twitter.com/7Deiyszzdd
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) July 25, 2017
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
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.
Senate floor erupts in applause as Sen. McCain returns following brain cancer diagnosis and votes "aye" in crucial health care vote. pic.twitter.com/iblTlXIyqS
— ABC News (@ABC) July 25, 2017
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
Sen. McCain after returning to the Senate following brain cancer diagnosis: "My service here is the most important job I've had in my life" pic.twitter.com/eNPcnPZayH
— ABC News (@ABC) July 25, 2017
On Tuesday, the Senate voted in favor of a motion to proceed to debating the House-passed health-care bill. The motion passed 50-50, with Vice President Mike Pence stepping in to break the tie.
Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) were the only Republicans to vote against the measure. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer, returned to Washington to cast his yes vote amid a round of applause. No Democrats voted in favor.
Lawmakers will now move to voting on the Senate's Better Care bill, along with a straight repeal bill favored by conservative Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). A "skinny repeal" plan, which was introduced just hours before Tuesday's vote and would center around eliminating ObamaCare's individual mandate, the employer mandate, and a few of the health-care law's taxes, would come into play as a third option. Becca Stanek
Protesters' shouts cut through the quiet of the Senate floor Tuesday as lawmakers convened to vote on a motion to proceed to debating the House-passed health-care bill. "Kill the bill! Don't kill us!" protesters chanted as senators began to cast their votes.
The gavel was pounded in an attempt to restore order. "Shame! Shame!" the protesters carried on.
WATCH: Protesters chant, "Kill the bill! Don't kill us!" as Congress begins vote to debate GOP health care bill. https://t.co/EPd0rKsmAp
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 25, 2017
If the motion to proceed passes, the Senate will move on to voting on Senate Republicans' Better Care bill, along with a straight repeal bill. A third option would be the "skinny repeal" plan, a pared-down ObamaCare repeal focused specifically on eliminating the individual mandate. Becca Stanek
As the Senate convened Tuesday to vote on a motion to proceed to debating the House-passed health-care bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) fired off a caustic criticism of Senate Republicans' hasty and secretive process. As Sanders underscored in a retweet of Vox's Dylan Scott, the vote Tuesday happened in spite of the fact there was "no final text," " no final CBO score," and "no public hearings."
Sanders deemed the process not just "insulting" — but "undemocratic":
This is a disgrace. It is insulting. And it is undemocratic. https://t.co/eCgmAsvojg
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) July 25, 2017
Just as the vote began Tuesday, several uncertain Republican senators came out in support of the motion to proceed. Becca Stanek