Trump hits pause between a tough week and a critically important one

Story highlights

  • Trump faces controversy over his wiretapping claims and problems for his travel ban and the GOP health care bill
  • The President will return Sunday to one of the most consequential weeks of his early presidency

West Palm Beach, Florida (CNN)President Donald Trump escaped more than the chilly Washington weather when he decamped to the warm and welcoming confines of his private Florida club for the weekend.

Touching down just as the orange sun was setting, Trump was effectively pushing the pause button on what had been a tough week in the White House, where he was beset by complications for his travel ban and the Republican health care plan and controversy over his unfounded claims that his predecessor, Barack Obama, wiretapped his phones during the presidential campaign.
    But the pause won't last long. Trump will return Sunday to one of the most consequential weeks of his early presidency, with his Supreme Court pick and FBI director making appearances before Congress and the GOP health care proposal coming up for a vote.
    Trump's unfounded claim that Obama wiretapped his phones during the 2016 campaign was rebuffed by Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill last week, his health care law teetered in Congress, and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, sparked an international incident when he read the unconfirmed musings of a Fox News commentator from the White House briefing room that alleged British intelligence helped surveil Trump during the campaign.
    Spicer's comments Thursday were decried by both British and American intelligence officials, with NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett saying in an interview with BBC that the allegations were "arrant nonsense" that showed "a complete lack of understanding in how the relationship works" between the two countries' spy agencies.
    Fox News said Friday that legal analyst Andrew Napolitano "stands by his report," but top news anchor Shephard Smith said the network "cannot confirm Judge Napolitano's commentary."
    The continuing wiretapping narrative colored German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to the White House on Friday, where, during an afternoon news conference, Trump joked that he and the German leader have something in common because her cell phone was once tapped by the National Security Agency.
    "As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps," Trump said.
    Merkel, who appeared to take several seconds to process what Trump said, simply turned to look at him. She did not smile.
    On Saturday morning, the chancellor's visit was still on the President's mind.
    "Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel," Trump tweeted in two messages. "Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany."
    Trump hit the golf course on Saturday. Joined by a cadre of Secret Service agents and a few other unidentified players, CNN saw the President driving his golf cart up the 12th hole fairway at Trump International Golf Club.
    For Trump -- and many presidents before him -- golf is a distraction from the rigors of the job. And the past week has been particularly rigorous for Trump.
    Multiple judges ruled against his second attempt at a travel ban, which would bar refugees from entering the United States and stop immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, effectively halting the ban just days before it was scheduled to go into effect.
    Late Friday, the Trump administration filed a notice to appeal another ruling in a Maryland court.
    The setback was clearly frustrating for Trump, who vented during an event in Nashville on Wednesday.
    "A judge has just blocked our executive order on travel and refugees coming into our country from certain countries," Trump said. "This is the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach."
    All of this looms over the coming week, where Trump's nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court -- a highlight of his first term -- will meet the reality of Congress when the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals judge appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.
    Trump was praised by Republicans and Washington veterans for his prime-time roll-out of Gorsuch's nomination. But getting it through an acrimonious Congress after Republicans blocked Obama's Supreme Court pick will be no small accomplishment.
    To date, Democrats -- with a target-rich environment of Trump controversies -- have failed to focus much on Gorsuch. But Monday's hearing will allow them the opportunity not only to question the prospective Supreme Court justice, but also to slam the President on national television.
    In the wild world of Trump's Washington, however, a Supreme Court confirmation hearing might not be the biggest story of the day: That honor could go to the House Intelligence Committee hearing featuring FBI Director James Comey.
    Comey, who will testify alongside Adm. Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, will be pressed by both parties on any connections between Trump and Russia and his allegation that Obama wiretapped him, an accusation that the leaders of the House committee have already said lacks any evidence.
    Comey, who rarely makes public comments, may be eager to say something too: The FBI director was "incredulous" when Trump made his allegation against Obama, a person familiar with the matter told CNN earlier this month.
    The source said Comey was concerned that the allegation would make the FBI look bad, and that concern was part of what prompted the FBI director to have his staff reach out to staff at the Justice Department to ask them to knock down the allegation.
    This comes as Trump's health care bill -- his first concerted legislative push -- is suffering attacks from both the right and left just days before it could get a House vote.
    Democrats have trashed the bill since House Republicans proposed it, arguing that it would prevent millions from obtaining health care and dramatically slash Medicaid funding, something Trump promised not to do during the 2016 campaign.
    On the right, Trump is facing revolt from conservative members of his own party. These Republicans, led by members of the House Freedom Caucus, argue that the plan doesn't go far enough to repeal Obamacare and allows Medicaid expansion -- something 16 states run by Republican governors opted to implement -- to be in place too long.
    Republican leaders, hoping Trump will be able to help sell the deal to skeptical GOP lawmakers, plan a vote Thursday to repeal and replace much of Obamacare, multiple House Republican sources told CNN.
    Republicans on Capitol Hill are continuously counting their votes as the bill morphs through a series of proposed amendments.
    But the process has been messy and complicated, clearly frustrating the President.
    "I want to cut the hell out of taxes. ... I would have loved to have put it first. I'll be honest," Trump said in Nashville, conceding later in the speech that health care had to come first.
    Trump has a great deal on the line with health care, too.
    Failure to pass the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, a talking point Republicans ran on since 2010, would make it harder to usher through future legislation given the amount of political capital the President is expending on the issue.