Health care loss caps a bad week for Trump, with one silver lining

Mark Murray and Carrie Dann
President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 24, 2017.
Carlos Barria | Reuters

After nine full weeks in office, this week was arguably President Donald Trump's most consequential one yet.

When the week began, the events to watch were clear: FBI Director James Comey's was set to testify on Capitol Hill; a high-profile legislative battle over health care was coming to a head and Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch was beginning his Senate confirmation hearing.

So how did the big week shake out for the president?

Simply put, it turned out to be a debacle — with one silver lining — that could outlast the president's tenure in office.

Earlier this week, we posed four questions, and here's the answer we got on each.

1. Does FBI Director Comey Publicly Repudiate Trump's Wiretapping Charge?

Answer: Yes.

"I have no information that supports [President Trump's] tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI," Comey told members of the House Intelligence Committee on Monday. "The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components."

That was in response to a series of tweets the president made about his predecessor:

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Later in the week, Trump declared that he felt "somewhat" vindicated after House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told reporters that he had seen reports from the U.S. intelligence community showing communications from Trump's transition team that had been collected from surveillance efforts.

But even Nunes didn't corroborate Trump's claims about Obama. "There was no wiretapping of Trump Tower. That didn't happen."

2. How Far Does Comey Go On Russia?

Answer: Very far.

"I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," Comey said on Monday. "And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government - and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."

In other words, Trump's 2016 presidential campaign is under investigation for possible contacts with the Russian government - an investigation that might not end for weeks, months, or years.

And the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., added fuel to Comey's fire by saying that he had seen "more than circumstantial evidence" showing that Trump associates had possibly colluded with Russian entities.

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3. Does the Health-Care Effort Survive — or Die?

Answer: It most likely died.

On Friday, House Republicans pulled the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act from the House floor — a failure that complicates any future effort to change the law.

And that failure came despite Trump's work to sell it to Republicans, and despite his self-described abilities as a negotiator.

"He's the closer," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Greg Walden, R-Ore., said of President Trump on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" earlier this week.

But Trump didn't close this deal.

4. Is Gorsuch's Confirmation Still on Track?

Answer: Yes — and that was the best news of the week for President Trump.

Despite all of the other chaos and controversy, Gorsuch's confirmation hearing was, well, pretty typical. And Democrats failed to draw much blood.

Still, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has pledged to filibuster the nomination, which means 60 votes will be needed. But if Gorsuch can't get them, Republicans have the option of "going nuclear" - that is, changing Senate rules to require a simple majority.

It's still not not clear the nuclear option will be needed, since some Democrats — especially those hailing from red states — may not be on board supporting a filibuster.

If Gorsuch ultimately wins confirmation, his lifetime appointment — he's 49 years old — will most likely outlast Trump's time in the White House.