The Note: Divisions Down Under

Trump’s First 100 Days with ABC’s RICK KLEIN and SHUSHANNAH WALSHE

Day No. 14

THE BIG STORY: The wild first dozen days of the Trump administration didn’t have world affairs and national-security crises to complicate them any further from their messy reality. That has changed now, with a series of diplomatic challenges – some self-inflicted, others ongoing – making themselves known almost all at once. Reports of a threatening phone call with the president of Mexico, an abruptly ended one with the prime minister of Australia – it’s all part of President Trump’s day. But it’s Iran that’s the real story, amid signs that Tehran is testing the Trump administration. Iran is now “on notice,” according to the ominous words of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. In a foreign policy that includes “taking names,” it’s either very easy or very, very hard to imagine what that means.

THE SLEEPER STORY: It’s covered, rightly, as a Trump nominee in trouble. But the confirmation woes facing Betsy DeVos, the president’s pick for education secretary, has bigger stakes and implications for governance in the Trump era. Two Republican senators – Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – came out against DeVos, leaving her with a zero-vote margin for error from here. The reasons are shockingly traditional, in the age of Trump. DeVos had a halting committee appearance, where she struggled to outline controversial views on public education and charter schools. Interest groups and the people of Maine and Alaska contacted their senators. The senators announced their decisions. Isn’t this how the system supposed to work? As for what’s next, how does the president react if and when members of his own party stop him from getting his way?

THE SHINY STORY: The kind of nukes President Trump controls don’t matter for Senate rules. Yes, it matters when the president calls on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to “go nuclear” if Democrats try to block Judge Neil Gorsuch’s selection for the Supreme Court. But Trump’s bluster is unlikely to change Senate dynamics. If Democrats do filibuster, McConnell will go there – of that there’s little doubt. And Schumer and his fellow Democrats may get boxed in on this front by their own base. That may be where Trump’s bluster matters most – threaten enough, and Senate Democrats will feel like they have no choice but to do what they can to block Gorsuch. Does that put everyone in Washington “on notice”?

TLDR: It was always going to be the number one issue, but now national security and foreign affairs are dominating the Trump administration, some self-inflicted challenges as reports of threatening and abrupt phone calls with Mexico and Australia come to light. And now Iran is "on notice" says the administration, thanks to signs they are testing the new POTUS.

PHOTO OF THE DAY: This photo from Saturday now requires another look. After reports that the president's phone call with the Australian prime minister--one of our closest allies--was badgering and abrupt, this image is of the two talking. (Al Drago/The New York Times/Redux)

The Note: Divisions Down Under

THIS MORNING'S TRUMP TWEETS: 6:13 AM: Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the U.S. came along and gave it a life-line in the form of the Iran Deal: $150 billion 6:18 AM Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them! 6:25 AM Attending Chief Ryan Owens' Dignified Transfer yesterday with my daughter Ivanka was my great honor. To a great and brave man - thank you! 6:34 AM Congratulations to Rex Tillerson on being sworn in as our new Secretary of State. He will be a star! 6:39 AM If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?


--TRUMP SLAMS 'DUMB' REFUGEE DEAL WITH AUSTRALIA. President Donald Trump took to Twitter Wednesday night to slam a deal the U.S. forged with Australia during the Obama administration last year to resettle refugees in the U.S. from two remote Pacific islands. The president tweeted, "Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!" The deal -- which involves resettling an undisclosed number of asylum seekers held in Australian processing centers on a pair of remote islands -- was a topic of conversation between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during their 25-minute phone call on Saturday, according to Turnbull, reports ABC's DAVID CAPLAN.

--TRUMP TO ATTEND NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST. Partaking in a tradition that dates back over half a century to the tenure of Dwight Eisenhower, President Donald Trump will attend the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday. The event, which brings together politicians with members of the business and religious community, began in 1953 and is organized by The Fellowship Foundation and hosted by a committee of members of Congress. Over 3,000 people attend the breakfast annually, according to The Fellowship Foundation, where they hear from a variety of speakers including the current president.

--TRUMP EDUCATION PICK BETSY DEVOS CONFIRMATION TEETERING AFTER TWO GOP DEFECTIONS. Two Republican senators announced they will vote against President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of education, casting serious doubt on whether she has the support to be confirmed. Democrats had already spoken out against Betsy DeVos, and Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski said Wednesday they will also vote against her. Sen. Jeff Sessions would vote in favor of DeVos if the vote comes before his confirmation as Attorney General, a source told ABC News. ABC's STEPHANIE EBBS has more.

--TRUMP TO GOP: 'GO NUCLEAR' IF FACED WITH SCOTUS NOMINEE GRIDLOCK. President Trump said yesterday that he would encourage Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to push Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch through the confirmation process by using the nuclear option. "If we end up with a gridlock, I will say it if you can, Mitch, go nuclear," Trump said at the White House. "That would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was caught up in the web," Trump said of Gorsuch. "I would say it's up to Mitch, but I would say go for it." The nuclear option is a procedural move to overwrite a Senate rule with 51 votes, essentially eliminating any efforts of the minority party to filibuster. For now, Supreme Court nominees are still subject to the 60-vote threshold, but that could change if McConnell follows Trump's advice. ABC's VERONICA STRACQUALURSI has more.

--THE PRESIDENT’S SCHEDULE: President Trump attends the national prayer breakfast this morning. He has closed-door meetings for most of the afternoon -- huddling with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, congressional leads and a legislative affairs strategy session. He'll have lunch with Harley Davidson executives in the Roosevelt Room. And Sean Spicer briefs the press at noon.


DHS INSPECTOR TO PROBE IMPLEMENTATION OF TRUMP IMMIGRATION BAN. The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General on Wednesday announced that it is reviewing the DHS' implementation of President Trump's controversial executive order issued last week that bans immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations and puts a halt to admitting refugees, according to ABC's TOM KUTSCH. In a statement released late Wednesday night, the Inspector's General's office said the review of how the executive order was rolled out is in response to "congressional request and whistleblower and hotline complaints."

MELANIA TRUMP HIRES CHIEF OF STAFF, WILL MOVE TO DC THIS SUMMER. An aide to Melania Trump on Wednesday confirmed that the First Lady will move to the White House starting at the beginning of the summer, ABC's LISSETTE RODRIGUEZ reports. "Mrs. Trump will be moving to D.C. and settling into the White House at the end of the school year, splitting her time between New York and D.C. in the meantime," Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, senior adviser to the First Lady told ABC News. "Mrs. Trump is honored to serve this country and is taking the role and responsibilities of the First Lady very seriously."

TRUMP EXECUTIVE ORDER DRAFT COULD CURTAIL LGBT RIGHTS. A draft of an executive order on "religious freedom" is circulating inside the Trump administration, outlining a potential weakening of protections designed to shield LGBT individuals from discrimination, according to a copy of the proposed order obtained by ABC News. The order –- which may never become administration policy, depending on internal deliberations -- would also free some private companies from being forced to provide contraceptive coverage as part of the health plans they offer employees, reports ABC's RICK KLEIN.

DEMOCRATS DIVIDED ON A PLAN OVER SCOTUS NOMINEE NEIL GORSUCH. How exactly to proceed with Gorsuch’s nomination, has in many ways, become a microcosm of the larger debate Democrats are having about how best to move forward as a party. Several Democrats have promised to meet with Gorsuch and are urging their colleagues to hear him out. They believe the party should, at least, grant him hearings that Republicans denied President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland. Others, however, argue that Democrats should take a page from Republicans' playbook and obstruct Trump and his party at every turn. ABC's MARYALICE PARKS and BENJAMIN SIEGEL have more.

THE NUCLEAR OPTION: HOW THE GOP CAN CONFIRM GORSUCH WITHOUT DEMOCRATS. President Donald Trump announced his nominee to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court Tuesday night: 51-year-old Colorado federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch. Less than 24 hours later, Trump sent a direct message to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about using a political maneuver called the nuclear option to streamline Gorsuch's approval of without needing 60 votes. "If we end up with that gridlock, I would say if you can, Mitch, go nuclear," Trump said. "Because that would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was caught in the web." ABC's LISSETTE RODRIGUEZ and ALI ROGIN explain how the maneuver would work:

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SECRETARY OF STATE REX TILLERSON. Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson was confirmed yesterday as the new secretary of state by a vote of 56 to 43 in the Senate. Four Democrats and all Republican senators voted in favor of President Donald Trump’s pick to be the nation’s top diplomat. Tillerson has ample experience in international negotiations. However, he also has a history of close ties to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, which came up during his confirmation hearings. Here's everything you need to know about this administration's secretary of state via ABC's ALANA ABRAMSON.

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER MICHAEL FLYNN PUTS IRAN 'ON NOTICE.' Making an appearance at Wednesday’s White House press briefing, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn delivered a stern warning to Iran for recent weapon testing and actions by state-supported militants, saying that the United States is putting the country “on notice.” "The Trump administration condemns such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity, and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East and place American lives at risk," said Flynn. "As of today we are officially putting Iran on notice." ABC's ADAM KELSEY has more.

DONALD TRUMP ATTENDS DIGNIFIED TRANSFER OF US NAVY SEAL KILLED IN YEMEN RAID. Accompanied by his daughter Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump landed at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware yesterday for the return of the remains of a Navy SEAL killed in Yemen. Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens, 36, died early Sunday "of wounds sustained in a raid against al-Qaeda" in Yemen, according to a Pentagon statement released Monday. Officials told ABC News that the raid on the al-Qaeda compound in southern Yemen was carried out by SEAL Team Six, the elite Navy special operations unit involved in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Three more Navy SEALS were injured during the raid, reports ABC's JORDYN PHELPS.


@AP_Politics: BREAKING: US official says Trump remark about having military deal with 'hombres' in Mexico was 'lighthearted,' part of security talks

@jorgeramosnews: Did @realDonaldTrump threaten to send U.S. troops to Mexico? @EPN can't remain quiet.

@jmartNYT: "Dr. Bornstein said he also took finasteride and credited it for helping maintain his own shoulder-length hair and Mr. Trump’s hair"

@LMartinezABC: Mystery Solved: Military Convoy Flying Trump Flag Belonged to SEAL Unit - @ABC News

@mkraju: That time @SenJohnMcCain heckled me during my live shot.

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