Trump: “Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election”

Developments on Day 103 of the Trump Administration:

Trump Tries to Dismisses Renewed Hearings on Ties with Russia

Donald Trump tries to pre-empt the Congressional hearings on links between his associates and Russian officials, as the inquiry resumes in closed session on Thursday.

FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency head Mike Rogers will return to the House Intelligence Committee, where they testified in the initial hearing on March 20.

Comey confirmed the FBI’s investigation into possible “coordination” between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. However, committee chairman Devin Nunes then effectively suspended the proceedings, and no further hearings were held as he collaborated with the White House on next steps.

Under pressure from fellow committee members and an investigation by the House Ethics Committee, Nunes finally recused himself on April 6, opening the way to a resumption of the inquiry. Comey and Rogers will be followed by former Acting Attorney Sally Yates, who is expected to testify that she warned the White House about National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s connections with Russia.

The Trump Administration initially defended Flynn but then forced him to resign over his five conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak on December 29 — the same day that President Obama stepped up sanctions on Moscow over Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.

The committee has also invited former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to appear.

Trump used Twitter to try and divert attention on Tuesday night:

TOP PHOTO: FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Intelligence Committee, March 20, 2017

Trump Looks Forward to “A Good Shutdown” of Government…in September

After his Administration retreated from a budget showdown last Friday, Donald Trump says he will welcome “a good shutdown” of the Federal Government in September.

Last week Congress agreed emergency funding until the end of the fiscal year this autumn, after the White House pulled back from demands such as an initial $1.5 billion for a 2,200-mile US-Mexican border wall and an end to subsidies under ObamaCare.

Trump made no reference to those concessions on Tuesday, instead declaring that he will end the “super-majority” needed for some Congressional decisions:

White House Facing 3rd Defeat on Repeal of ObamaCare

The White House and Speaker Paul Ryan face a third defeat on initiatives to repeal ObamaCare, with time running out before an 11-day recess and a leading Congressman announced he will no longer support the effort.

Representative Fred Upton of Michigan said on Tuesday that the latest version of the GOP’s health care bill “torpedoes” protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Upton’s defection is significant, as he is the former chairman of one of the House committees that drafted the initial American Health Care Act.

The first ACHA effort was withdrawn hours before a vote in the House of Representatives in March, and another attempt stalled last month. The White House and Ryan have made further concessions to GOP conservatives who objected to the original ACHA, but this is at the risk of losing moderate Republicans who fear the stripping away of medical provisions and the full loss of coverage for an estimated 18 million Americans by 2018.

Congress adjourns on Friday until May 16.

US Restricts Navy Patrols in South China Sea After Trump Shift on Beijing

The US Navy is restricting its patrols in the South China Sea after a shift by Donald Trump on Beijing.

Six weeks ago, the US Pacific Command requested permission from senior American officials for a warship to sail within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal, a disputed reef in the South China Sea that is claimed by the Philippines and China.

Top Pentagon officials turned down the request, meaning that no US Navy vessel has gone within 12 miles of any disputed islands in the area.

During his campaign, Trump chided President Obama for supposed weakness in defending international waters in the South China Sea. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, during his confirmation hearing in January, called for China to be denied access to the artificial islands.

However, amid a possible confrontation with North Korea, Trump has shifted dramatically from criticism to embrace of China and its leader Xi Jinping. Having declared repeatedly that China is “raping” the US economy, Trump has withdrawn any consideration of challenges over trade and currency, and has moved from denunciation of supposed inaction of Beijing over North Korea to praise of Xi’s approach.