Trump government slowly filling with neocons

Former Bush administration officials are slowly finding themselves in power positions at the State Department, illustrating that neo-conservatism is alive and well in the Trump administration.

The Daily Caller confirmed last week that Brian Hook, a harsh critic of Trump’s foreign policy proposals during the campaign season, has been named director of policy planning at State. The senior position places Hook in a position to oversee State planning efforts and shape the department’s overall messaging strategy.

Hook formerly held several key positions in the Bush White House and co-founded a foreign policy strategy outfit, the John Hay Initiative, that provided neocon talking points to many of Trump’s primary opponents. He was also the foreign policy brains for Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 presidential bid.

In other words, he represents a good portion of the hawkish brand of foreign policy that the president rejected on the campaign trail.

Huge majority: Cuts, not taxes

Trump’s feelings of regret were revealed in a piece published Thursday by The New York Times, after the new president got caught in the middle of GOP disagreements on how to best unravel Obamacare.

The president, according to the report, blames House Speaker Paul Ryan for pushing him to instead pursue Obamacare repeal efforts.

From the report:

Mr. Trump has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plan to push a health care overhaul before unveiling a tax cut proposal more politically palatable to Republicans.

He said ruefully this week that he should have done tax reform first when it became clear that the quick-hit health care victory he had hoped for was not going to materialize on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the act’s passage, when the legislation was scheduled for a vote.

Reason editor: Trump’s AG can’t kill marijuana reform

President Donald Trump’s appointment of Alabama conservative Jeff Sessions to head the Justice Department had many drug reform advocates worried. But the editor of a top Libertarian magazine says Sessions has, at best, the ability to slow the trend toward national marijuana legalization.

“The Trump administration can slow down marijuana legalization, but they can’t stop it,” Reason senior editor Jacob Sullum says in a video recently produced by the outlet.

The issue, Sullum contends, is a lack of federal power to force “legal” states to reintroduce harsh marijuana laws.

But Sessions does have some options if he is interested in using federal power to trump individual and state rights because he believes prohibition policies work.

“He could indeed crack down on a lot of businesses in the states where marijuana is legal,” according to Sullum. “That would obviously have a very disrupting effect on the industry.”

Trump’s Washington sees the establishment turn on conservative voters

Remember how conservative Republicans lost it when Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi said of Obamacare, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” Well, here we are again…

Representative Chris Collins, a Republican from New York, was working overtime Thursday to urge passage of the American Health Care Act when he offered viewers this gem during an interview with MSNBC’s Brian Williams.

“In my district, right now there’s a lot of misunderstanding as to what it is we’re doing,” he said. “And once we get it done, and then we can have the chance to really explain it.”

Did you catch that?

The Republican healthcare bill, which the GOP leadership tried desperately to keep under wraps to the dismay of conservatives like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, is more of the same bureaucracy-laden garbage that Republicans have purported to loathe since Pelosi’s absurd 2010 utterance.

This insane search warrant illustrates a new era of surveillance

In a small town just outside of Minneapolis, a judge granted police a court order demanding that Google hand over the identity of anyone who searched for the name of a financial fraud victim.

The warrant granted to the Edina Police Department to solve a wire-fraud crime worth less than $30,000 is likely to be one of the broadest and most Orwellian attempts by a smaller law enforcement agency to demand internet user information, according to ArsTechnica.

From the tech website:

Investigators are focusing their probe on an online photo of someone with the same name of a local financial fraud victim. The image turned up on a fake passport used to trick a credit union to fraudulently transfer $28,500 out of an Edina man’s account, police said. The bogus passport was faxed to the credit union using a spoofed phone number to mimic the victim’s phone, according to the warrant application. (To protect the victim’s privacy, Ars is not publishing his name that was listed throughout the warrant signed February 1 by Hennepin County Senior Judge Gary Larson.)

Bob Woodward predicts criminal charges for Obama officials

In what is growing into a political scandal with increasingly explosive potential consequences, legendary Watergate reporter Bob Woodward wagers some Obama officials could be headed for criminal charges if they used surveillance information to unmask Trump transition operatives.

Woodward, who has spent nearly a half century reporting on DC insiders at The Washington Post, told Fox News that Obama administration use of foreign surveillance documents to spy on Trump and his team would constitute “a gross violation.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes reported earlier this week that Trump transition team members likely had their identities revealed by surveillance officials via “unmasking,” wherein their names were included in intelligence reports.

Woodward noted that it’s common practice for the names of Americans swept up in foreign intelligence documents remain hidden.

Is Trumpcare dead in the water?

House Republicans postponed a planned vote on the Ryan/Trump Obamacare replacement package Thursday, signaling that the president has yet to win over conservatives.

Trump has met with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus over the past two days in an effort to win support for the plan—but as of Thursday afternoon there were still too many no-voters in the room.

That’s because many conservatives consider the plan a betrayal of election promises of a full repeal and replacement.

According to reports, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadow’s said there were “30 to 40” potential Republican votes against the measure at the time the decision was made to postpone a voter until Friday or Monday.

The GOP establishment can afford to lose no more than 21 House Republicans if they hope to pass the bill, as there is currently no reason to believe that a single Democrat would vote in favor of the plan.