- The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court on a 11–9 party line vote. Senate Democrats have the votes they need to filibuster the nomination, which will provoke the nuclear option. That is strategically stupid, since it will give the Trump administration leave to nominate a more ideologically-driven candidate next time.
Ten years later, when similar tactics worked against them, the Democrats changed the Senate rules in 2013 to eliminate the 60-vote procedural threshold on lower court judges. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the man who once argued that weakening the Senate filibuster would “destroy the very checks and balances our Founding Fathers put in place to prevent absolute power by any one branch of government,” was upset that Republicans had adopted the Democrats’ playbook.
It’s worth remembering that when Reid broke the filibuster, he claimed the GOP could have avoided the nuclear option if they’d simply confirmed the seven appointees they’d been blocking. According to Politico, McConnell conceded to those demands to save the filibuster. At the last moment, Reid insisted that Republicans surrender the threat of filibustering any Obama’s appointments in the future. Which is as good as killing it.
- Eli Lake writes that it was Susan Rice who asked intelligence agencies to unmask the names of Trump campaign and transition team members in intelligence reports:
The pattern of Rice’s requests was discovered in a National Security Council review of the government’s policy on “unmasking” the identities of individuals in the U.S. who are not targets of electronic eavesdropping, but whose communications are collected incidentally. Normally those names are redacted from summaries of monitored conversations and appear in reports as something like “U.S. Person One.”
The intelligence reports were summaries of monitored conversations – primarily between foreign officials discussing the Trump transition, but also in some cases direct contact between members of the Trump team and monitored foreign officials. One U.S. official familiar with the reports said they contained valuable political information on the Trump transition such as whom the Trump team was meeting, the views of Trump associates on foreign policy matters and plans for the incoming administration.
How this ties to Congressman Devin Nunes:
The news about Rice also sheds light on the strange behavior of Nunes in the last two weeks. It emerged last week that he traveled to the White House last month, the night before he made an explosive allegation about Trump transition officials caught up in incidental surveillance. At the time he said he needed to go to the White House because the reports were only on a database for the executive branch. It now appears that he needed to view computer systems within the National Security Council that would include the logs of Rice’s requests to unmask U.S. persons.
A suicide bomber struck the subway in St. Petersburg, Russia, killing 11 people and wounding 45. The attacker placed another bomb at a subway station that was discovered and defused.
Lithuania’s intelligence service believes Russia is prepared to launch an attack on the Baltic states with 24 hours’ notice.
The U.S. has carried out another 20 strikes against al Qaeda in Yemen since the middle of last week.
The Syrian government conducted air strikes in rebel-held areas east of Damascus, killing at least 22 people.
At least 262 Turkish diplomats and army personnel have asked for asylum in Germany since last year’s attempted coup.
Left-wing candidate Lenín Moreno was declared the winner of Ecuador’s presidential election, but there are credible reports of election fraud. The losing conservative candidate, Guillermo Lasso, plans to challenge the results.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court rescinded its takeover of the National Assembly’s powers, but it left intact a ruling that enables President Nicolas Maduro to cut deals on behalf of the national oil company without congressional approval.