The Russia investigation that has broken down — and the one to watch

In Washington, nothing is more valuable than your credibility. It's the currency that convinces Americans to take you seriously, and it's one that the House Intelligence Committee has run out of. Committee chairman Devin Nunes has been mocked by Sen. Lindsey Graham, a fellow Republican. Nunes' Democratic counterpart has called for the chairman's recusal, while Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said Nunes should be removed. After days of pressure on the committee's chairman, canceled hearings and Democratic statements that the committee is ineffective, confidence in the House's ability to fairly investigate Russian influence in the 2016 election appears completely shot.

A little more than a week after FBI Director James Comey's testimony to the House committee that the FBI is investigating alleged ties between President Donald Trump and Russia, the committee's high-profile role is waning. Now, another congressional group has stepped into the spotlight. The Senate Intelligence Committee has been concurrently conducting a quieter, bipartisan investigation into Russia. But senators have access to more intelligence information and staff time than the House; weeks ago, the ranking Democrat on the committee told Mic his investigation was the one to watch, saying, "We're the only committee at this point that's trying to do this in a bipartisan way."

On Wednesday, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Warner (D-Va.) said they have identified 20 people (so far) to interview in their Russia investigation. Burr and Warner vowed a bipartisan investigation that would be driven solely by intelligence findings, with no interaction with the House inquiry. The committee's first public hearings on Russian actions since the inauguration are taking place on Thursday.

Why you need to watch these developments: The collapse of the House committee's ability to investigate Russia and the president without bias is troubling for democracy. Because Republicans control Congress, there has been constant fear partisanship will supersede a search for the truth. In the House, that appears to be what has happened, with the GOP rallying around Intelligence Nunes and Democrats attacking leadership daily.

What else do I need to know about Russia? Comey reportedly wanted you to know about Russia's role in the 2016 election last summer. Comey suggested writing an editorial in June or July about what American intelligence agencies knew about Russian interference in the election. Barack Obama's administration shot down the idea. Read more on Mic.

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Highlights:

•  Today: The House investigation into Russia has hopelessly collapsed. Eyes turn to the Senate today.

•  More: A government shutdown over Planned Parenthood and border wall funding may be imminent.

•  Even more: The president's travel ban has been halted indefinitely.

•  Yes, more: The U.S. Department of Energy is no longer allowed to use the phrase "climate change" — a phenomenon that the vast majority of scientists internationally agree is fueled by human activity.

•  An upcoming detente: Chinese president Xi Jinping will meet with Trump next week at Mar-a-Lago. It will be the first meeting between the two leaders. 

•  Trump's agenda today: Meeting with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Discussing drug and opioid abuse. Hosting the prime minister of Denmark.

The government could shut down in less than a month

Republicans are warning that Trump's demands for funding for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, along with $30 billion in new defense spending, could lead to an impasse with Democrats and conservatives that leads to a government shutdown. The GOP could also push to defund Planned Parenthood in a resolution to keep the government running. That would alienate Democrats and some Republicans, especially in the Senate. The federal government has enough money to keep running through April 28. 

The president's travel ban is blocked indefinitely

The Hawaii judge who blocked the president's second executive order on immigration two weeks ago has extended that nationwide ban indefinitely. Trump's order would have blocked travel to the U.S. from six majority-Muslim countries while instituting a temporary ban on all refugee immigration. The Justice Department can appeal this ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the California federal court that struck down Trump's first travel ban. If the president loses there, the case would head to the Supreme Court. Read more about the judge's order on Mic.

The Senate may soon become the House

The Senate has long given powers, principally the filibuster, to the minority to keep the majority in check. The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch may bring all that to an end. Politico reports that with Republican and Democratic senators likely to break along partisan lines on whether to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee, it looks increasingly like Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will invoke the nuclear option to confirm the judge. That means that instead of needing 60 votes, McConnell could call a simple majority vote for confirmation. That has never happened for a Supreme Court justice, though Democrats first used the tactic in 2013 to confirm lower-level Obama judicial appointments. "The Senate has changed," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Politico. "There's too much ill will."

News and insight you cannot miss:

•  The president declared war on the House Freedom Caucus on Twitter. "We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!" Trump tweeted. The president's message comes after intense frustration over the Freedom Caucus' role in stymying the GOP health care bill last week. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Freedom Caucus Vice Chairman Jim Jordan both said in the last day that the president needs to continue working with Republicans — and no Democrats.

•  Republican lawmakers in North Carolina say they have reached an agreement to repeal HB2, the state law that said people must use public restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate, not their gender identity. (Mic)

•  Seattle is suing the president over his executive order that threatens to remove funding for "sanctuary cities," cities that do not deport or assist federal authorities in removing undocumented immigrants. (Mic)

•  Hold the line, or back down? The Freedom Caucus is trying to determine its next steps. (Politico)

•  The Department of Homeland Security will not separate families at the U.S. border with Mexico, the department's chief said Wednesday. That walks back an earlier statement that separation could be a deterrent to immigrating illegally. (CNN)

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Will Drabold

Will Drabold is a policy writer at Mic. He writes Navigating Trump's America, Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America. He is based in Washington, D.C., and can be reached at wdrabold@mic.com

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