Sessions Ducks Senate Questions on Trump-Related Probes
‘That calls for a speculative answer ... I’m just not able to do that’

Attorney General Jeff Sessions prepares to testify during the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the fiscal 2019 budget for the Justice Department on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions reassured senators Wednesday the Justice Department will stay committed to the law in the face of criticism from President Donald Trump, who has openly disparaged the agency and actions of the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

But Sessions was coy during testimony about his role in the department’s high-profile investigations and the politics of Trump’s criticism.

A Plea for the Old School Senate: Senators Really, Really Want to Move Spending Bills This Time
Meeting on nomination rules changes gives way to talk of spending bills, comity

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., brought a chart of the Senate floor to the Rules Committee. (Rules and Administration Committee screenshot)

What could have been a contentious meeting about shortening Senate debate time for nominations turned into more of a bipartisan conversation among some of the most senior senators at taking another shot at moving regular spending bills.

“Let’s pick an appropriation bill, put some training wheels on it and head it to the floor. Let’s see how this works,” Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin said. “We’ve got to educate ourselves.”

Democrats Still Not Satisfied With CIA Disclosures About Gina Haspel
Agency making more available in a classified setting

Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico has joined with colleagues Ron Wyden and Dianne Feinstein in pressing the CIA to declassify more information on deputy director Gina Haspel. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The CIA will be providing senators with an opportunity to review more classified information about President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the agency in a secure room deep beneath the Capitol.

But some senators are not convinced about the commitment to transparency about nominee Gina Haspel, the current deputy director who spent much of her career serving in clandestine capacities.

White House: No Red Flags In Multiple Jackson Background Checks
Despite Trump team's efforts, nomination appears stalled

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, leaves Dirksen Building after a meeting on Capitol Hill with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., on April 24, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The White House on Wednesday continued defending embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee Ronny Jackson, saying multiple background checks have turned up no red flags. And, for the first time, a senior official said an internal review could happen as his nomination appears stalled.

With his Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee confirmation hearing still on hold amid allegations he over-prescribed medication, was drunk on the job and fostered a hostile work environment, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters he has undergone four federal background checks since becoming a White House doctor.

Texas Governor Wants Blake Farenthold to Pay for Special Election
GOP lawmaker resigned earlier this month over sexual misconduct and hostile workplace allegations

Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, resigned from Congress in April amid an Ethics Committee investigation into him and his office for a hostile work environment and sexual misconduct. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is asking former Rep. Blake Farenthold to pay for the June 30 special election to fill the seat the congressman vacated when he resigned earlier this month.

Abbott wrote a letter to Farenthold Wednesday to “demand” that he “cover all costs” for the June 30 special election in Texas’ 27th District.

Podcast: Midterm Takeaways From the Duel in the Desert
Political Theater, Episode 16

Arizona's special House election results offers some interesting data points for those watching the 2018 midterm elections. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republican Debbie Lesko won a close House race in an Arizona district that is usually very friendly to her party. As the midterm election season continues to heat up, Political Theater looks at the takeaways from this duel in the desert with Roll Call Elections Analyst Nathan Gonzales and Senior Political Reporter Bridget Bowman. 

Show Notes:

Emmer Wins First Franken-less Minnesota Hotdish Competition
Sen. Tina Smith took over as host of the 8th annual event

Minnesota congressional delegation members, from left, Reps. Jason Lewis, Erik Paulsen, Keith Ellison, Tim Walz, and Betty McCollum, and Sen. Tina Smith pose for a selfie Wednesday during the eighth annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Tom Emmer’s “Hotdish of Champions” won the eighth annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition on Wednesday.

He was originally tied for first with Rep. Rick Nolan’s “Last Dish Effort” — aptly named because the congressman is retiring after this term — but the master of ceremonies, MinnPost Washington bureau chief Sam Brodey, broke the tie. 

For House Democrats, Leadership Questions Persist
No. 2 Democrat declines to echo call for new team if they do not win majority

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., House Democrats' No. 3 leader, says if his party does not win the majority, it would be time to clean house among leaders. Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer did not want to entertain the thought of continuing in the minority. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer declined to echo Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn’s call for a new leadership team should Democrats fail to win control of the House in the midterms.

Clyburn told Politico at a fish fry event in his home state of South Carolina this weekend that if House Democrats are still in the minority come November “all of us have to go.”

We Made a List of All the Russia, Trump Investigations So You Don’t Have To
Who is looking into Russia’s role in the 2016 elections?

FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in the Dirksen Building on oversight of the FBI. Mueller is heading one of the multiple investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Hacking, Facebook ads and pee tapes. News keeps breaking around Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections, but who’s investigating the firehose of information?

Here’s our list:

Macron Denounces Nationalistic Wave That Propelled Trump to White House
Post-WWII order is in jeopardy, French president warns U.S. lawmakers

French President Emmanuel Macron, center, arrives to address a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday, flanked from left by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.,and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

French President Emmanuel Macron, addressing a joint meeting of Congress, denounced the wave of nationalistic fervor that helped Donald Trump capture the White House and urged U.S. lawmakers to seek a new and broader deal with Iran.

After spending a day and a half with Trump and first lady Melania Trump that included private meals, cheek kisses, hand-holding and backslapping, the French president broke with his political alter ego on several issues.

DACA Ruling Could Open Door for More ‘Dreamers’
Administration failed to describe unlawfulness of program, judge says

Heather Pina-Ledezma, 6, attends a news conference in the Capitol with Democratic senators and families impacted by President Obama's executive action on undocumented immigrants and to call on Republicans to pass immigration legislation, December 10, 2014. Heather's mother Madai is from Mexico but Heather was born in Annapolis. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The number of “Dreamers” protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program could nearly triple if the Homeland Security Department cannot convince a federal judge that President Donald Trump had a good reason to end it.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates for the District of Columbia ruled Tuesday night that Trump’s decision to end the program, known as DACA, was “unlawful” and “arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful.”

Bank Group Plans Midterm Ads, Starting With Tester, Budd
Six-figure ad buys on the way in Montana and North Carolina

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., will get a helping hand from the American Bankers Association in his re-election bid. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The American Bankers Association said Wednesday it would weigh into midterm congressional campaigns for the first time with independent expenditure TV ads, beginning with “six-figure” buys in Montana and North Carolina.

“These ads are a concrete example of our stepped-up political engagement efforts,” American Bankers Association President Rob Nichols told hundreds of bankers at the association’s government relations conference in Washington Wednesday.

Word on the Hill: What’s Buzzing on Capitol Hill?
Macron in the house, hotdish competition, Flint anniversary, and golf on the Hill

Kourtney Kardashian arrives for an Environmental Working Group briefing on cosmetics reform in Russell Building on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

We’re all over Capitol Hill and its surrounding haunts looking for good stories. Some of the best are ones we come across while reporting the big stories.

There is life beyond legislating and this is the place for those stories. We look for them, but we don’t find them all. We want to know what you see, too.

Special Election For Farenthold’s Seat Set For June 30
If necessary, runoff would likely be in September

The special election to replace former Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold is set for June 30. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called a June 30 special election to fill former Rep. Blake Farenthold’s seat.

The filing deadline for candidates is Friday at 5 p.m. local time. Registered voters in Texas’ 27th District can cast their ballots during the early voting period from June 13 through June 26.

GOP Baseball Team Returns to Scene of Last Year’s Shooting
Huge media and security presence around field where gunman opened fire last year

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., in red hat, hugs Matt Mika, who was critically injured in the shooting at last year’s Republican baseball practice. The GOP team held a news conference after their first practice at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republican congressional baseball coach Roger Williams hit infield practice Wednesday morning as Rodney Davis played catcher and Williams staffer Zack Barth backed them up around a flooded batter’s box.

In the outfield, lobbyist and former Hill aide Matt Mika fielded balls with teammates.