GAMARD’S BELTWAY BEAT: From Raids & Airstrikes To Sanctions & ‘Slimeballs’

Former FBI Director James Comey’s reemergence may accrue the same headline-making exposure he achieved last summer. This time around he’s back in the news for his new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” which comes out today. It criticizes the president in ways that his previous tell-alls of private interactions with his then-superior did not.

Comey, in a preliminary interview with ABC News, claimed the president was a liar who “stains” his cohorts and treats women “like they’re pieces of meat.” That prompted the president to retaliate with descriptions like “slippery” and “slimeball” in a tweet-storm over his new publicity threat.

Trump maintains that the allegations are fiction. Adding stress for the president to all things fiction and non-fiction was yesterday’s ruling to reject his request to review materials seized by the FBI from his personal lawyer’s apartment and office.

Then there’s the administration's decision to send airstrikes to three sites in Syria. The administration claims they were aimed at the heart of a chemical weapons program, possibly organized by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced plans for more Russian sanctions following those made last week in response to the country’s alleged meddling with U.S. elections, but President Trump had walked back on those claims by Monday afternoon. The sanctions this time would have been for Russia’s alleged aid to the Syrian chemical attack.

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— U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, along with Kennedy, Richmond and Scalise, has introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to “ALS champion” and former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason. He has another new bill to eliminate daily printing and hand-delivery of the Congressional Record and calendars to federal offices, which he claims will “save taxpayers millions.” He honored Louisiana native U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Taylor Conrad, who lost his life at 24 years old on April 3 during a training mission, on the floor, and gave his opinion to Hugh Hewitt regarding Syria and the airstrikes, before they happened: “Syria has crossed not just a red line, but a triple red line.”

— U.S. Sen. John Kennedy has a new bill with Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar to “protect the privacy of consumers’ online data.” On the $4 million in FEMA grants to the East Baton Rouge School Board for the 2016 floods, he said, “The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board shouldn’t have to shoulder these costs. They need to invest in educating students and preparing them for bright futures.”

— Congressman Steve Scalise has, according to a medical update released yesterday by MedStar Washington Hospital Center, “initiated a series of planned, inpatient procedures related to his ongoing recovery from injuries sustained in last summer’s shooting attack...It is anticipated that he will remain in the hospital for several days.” POLITICO reported that the Koch Companies PAC gave the Majority Whip $85,000. On the NOAA’s approval of Louisiana’s Gulf Exempted Fishing Permits, he said, “It is my hope that today’s action scaling back federal control of the Red Snapper season marks the beginning of restoring power back to Gulf States who understand their states’ needs best.”

— Congressman Cedric Richmond’s “deep friendship” with Scalise has been a speculation point this week in potentially helping the majority whip become speaker. Said Dillard University professor Robert Collins in Fox News, “They work well together on issues, even though they're both very partisan, so I think there's no question it would be a boon to the state of Louisiana if you were to have Steve Scalise as Speaker of the House, or as Minority Leader, working closely with Cedric Richmond, who, if the Democrats were to take the House, then Cedric Richmond would be in the majority and would probably be looking to move up into a leadership position himself.” Richmond told the Times-Pic, “For me, having a speaker I could talk to and bend his ear a little bit would be beneficial.”

— Congressman Clay Higgins, after the Syrian airstrike, wrote on Facebook, “I have faith that President Trump is following the advice and counsel of America’s top military commanders.” He praised for the 2018 Farm Bill, shortly after sending a letter to the president outlining constituent fears of a trade war with China affecting Louisiana agriculture. The congressman also criticized “wasteful spending” by the Department of Homeland Security, praised tax reform in a Daily Advertiser op-ed and visited the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for CajunCodeFest.

— Congressman Mike Johnson’s Lake Bistineau bill, which grants Louisiana land back to “the people who have spent generations building and cultivating it,” unanimously passed committee: “Some in Washington have argued the government should be compensated for returning that land back to the rightful owners. This is the equivalent of forcing the victim of a robbery to pay the thief for returning the stolen property.” Here’s Johnson testifying on behalf of the Barksdale Air Force Base and Fort Polk. He said after Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s balanced budget amendment, which would have required the government not spend beyond its revenue, failed to pass the House, that “Thomas Jefferson said the representatives of a nation should never take on more debt than what they can repay in their own lifetime.”

— Congressman Ralph Abraham said in support of implementing a work requirement for able-bodied adults to receive food stamps, “Why would Democrats oppose job training and helping people break free of poverty?” Here’s more of his thoughts on the 2018 Farm Bill with Voice of Louisiana Agriculture co-host Avery Davidson. He supported President Trump’s airstrike: “Syria and others who commit atrocities against its own people must realize that these actions will not go unanswered.” Earlier in the week, he chaired a committee hearing on “Chinese spies infiltrating many layers of our society for nefarious reasons,” and met with Louisiana students to talk agricultural education. He called former First Lady Barbara Bush “a courageous lady who always faces life with full vigor” after news broke that she is no longer seeking treatment in her failing health. In case you missed it, he said early last week, “Certainly Facebook needs to make major changes to better protect user data and prevent meddling from foreign governments, but it cannot be allowed to stifle freedom of speech and become just another echo chamber for the left's agenda.”

— Congressman Garret Graves, when announcing the $23.5 million in disaster relief grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation, said, “As we put these resources to work, it's critical to do so in a way that makes our communities stronger and less vulnerable." Here’s a cinematographically satisfying video on why he voted for the balanced budget amendment. He met with the Louisiana Retailers Association and National Grocers Association to discuss the SNAP program and “federal policies that impact grocery stores and pharmacies” in Louisiana. He also met with Louisiana-based Down syndrome advocates in Washington, promising to “continue working on policy reforms to help ensure people with Down syndrome have opportunities to maximize their potential and can continue living life to the fullest.” He’s also asking for constituents’ opinions on food stamp work requirements. Regarding last week’s escaped camel in Livingston Parish, he said, “So glad Bubbles made it home safe.”

1 More Thing: Scalise Vs. McCarthy

Here’s an excerpt from POLITICO’s recent take on the “frosty” relationship between House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in the bid to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan:

Then there’s the strained dynamic between Scalise and McCarthy, which hasn’t particular improved and has sucked in Ryan’s office, according to multiple Republican sources. McCarthy’s camp is still bitter that Scalise suggested he’d seek the speakership if McCarthy couldn’t garner the votes, arguing that it implied a lack of faith in the majority leader‘s ability to win over the conference.

Scalise’s allies, meanwhile, question whether McCarthy will have the votes to win — doubts that are likely to grow after Jordan's expressed interest in the speakership…

…With McCarthy and Scalise vying for his job, Ryan has tried to keep the peace between the two. During a news conference last week and a later interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,“ Ryan suggested that Scalise had endorsed McCarthy for speaker when, in fact, he had not done so.

“So Steve Scalise — it’s your understanding that he believes that Kevin McCarthy should be the heir apparent, whether it’s leader or speaker?” asked host Chuck Todd.

Ryan responded: “That’s right. That’s right… I think Kevin is the right guy to step up.”

Hounded by reporters for hours afterward asking whether Scalise had really endorsed McCarthy, the whip’s office put out a statement saying Scalise would back McCarthy for speaker.

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