FBI obtained court order to monitor Trump adviser. New billboard goes after Chaffetz. Hatch has $3.5 million in the bank.
Happy Wednesday. President Donald Trump has claimed, without evidence, that President Barack Obama tapped the phones at Trump Tower, and the White House has gone to great lengths to try to explain that. But it is true, U.S. officials say, that the FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of a Trump adviser as part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign. [WaPost]
Topping the news: Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul introduced a bill earlier this year that would, in most cases, prohibit the president from sending in troops or firing missiles without congressional approval — legislation they want Congress to take up again after last week’s U.S. airstrike on a Syrian base. [Trib] [DNews]
-> When more traditional methods of getting in touch with Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s office failed, a Utahn decided to try a new way to get his message across: a 48-foot wide billboard in Provo that reads "Why won’t Chaffetz investigate the Trump-Russia connection?" [Trib]
-> Sen. Orrin Hatch said he currently intends to run again in 2018 but is weighing all the factors — one of which will likely not be financial concerns. A summation of his latest filing with the Federal Election Commission shows the senator has $3.5 million cash on hand, which rivals the funding power even of senators who face tough re-election battles. [Trib] [DNews]
-> A new national poll shows high approval for Gov. Gary Herbert, who was ranked as the ninth most popular state chief executive in the country. Among senators, Utah’s elected officials didn’t fare quite as well, with Lee in 41st place and Hatch in 62nd. [Trib] [DNews] [KUTV]
Tweets of the day: From @danpfeiffer: "Pepsi, United and Spicer are an economic stimulus package for the PR industry."
-> From @politics_n_prep: "Pepsi, United, and Spicer walk in to a bar. There is no punchline. It’s been a rough week."
-> From @IsaacDovere: "My favorite Passover tradition is the Clarification of the Holocaust Remarks"
In other news: Sen. Mike Lee has penned a new book that will tell the stories of the women, slaves, Indian chiefs and ancillary players who he says helped found the United States but said history does not often recognize. [Trib] [DNews]
-> As Congress takes a recess, Hatch reflected on the past few months. He said he doesn’t regret using the "nuclear option," which changed Senate rules to push through Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, and provided assurance that a failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act doesn’t mark the end for health care reform. [ABC4]
-> Though former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was announced last month as the White House pick to serve as the ambassador to Russia, it could still be weeks before President Donald Trump officially makes the announcement and the process moves forward. [DNews]
-> Hatch, Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes attended the 45th anniversary celebration of local business Nature’s Sunshine, lauding the organization as a typification of Utah’s "great entrepreneurial spirit." [Trib]
-> The Bureau of Land Management acquired 41 new acres of Utah land with a property purchase at the mouth of a popular canyon in the Iron County town of Kanarraville, which has become a busy hiking destination thanks to its slot canyon and waterfalls at Kanarra Creek. [Trib]
-> At today’s Salt Lake County Collective Impact on Homelessness Steering Committee meeting, county and city leaders are expected to address lingering questions about which homeless populations will be housed where and overflow shelter considerations. [DNews]
-> In spite of the three new homeless centers Salt Lake County is planning for in West Valley City and South Salt Lake, homeless service providers said they will keep their doors open, anticipating a continued need for such resources. [ABC4]
-> Jeff Salt, director of Great Salt Lakekeeper, said he fears the South Salt Lake shelter could increase problems with homeless camps hidden in the banks of the Jordan River. [KUTV]
-> For the past seven years, Salt Lake County taxpayers have been paying to support neighboring school districts or have received benefits from taxpayers in other districts as part of an equalization program. However, property owners across the county will face tax adjustments once the program expires this year. [Trib]
-> Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski released her Climate 2040 plan, which calls for an 80-percent reduction in energy and transportation-related greenhouse gases over the next 23 years. [Fox13] [KUTV]
-> Salt Lake City’s housing inventory has plummeted nearly 70 percent over the past five years, leaving prospective home-buyers with a shortage of affordable options. [APviaKUTV]
-> Ogden is planning a development project on the land where the old Wonder Bread factory used to sit before closing in 2014, which is expected to cost at least $100 million. [ABC4]
-> The Utah County Commission issued a letter of intent to stop providing funding to operate the Peaks Ice Arena in Provo, which may force the venue to close. [Fox13]
-> Pat Bagley critiques Hatch’s obfuscation about whether he’ll run for re-election in 2018 with a cartoon you can’t unsee. [Trib]
Nationally: The White House accused Russia of engaging in a cover-up of the Syrian government’s role in a chemical weapons attack last week that left dozens dead and spurred U.S. military strikes. [NYTimes] [TheHill] [ABCNews] [NBCNews]
-> White House press secretary Sean Spicer faced backlash after suggesting that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was guilty of acts worse than Hitler, whom he said "didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons." Spicer later apologized for the statement. [NYTimes] [CNN] [NPR] [WaPost]
-> In the first special congressional election since President Donald Trump took office, Republican Ron Estes, the Kansas state treasurer, narrowly won the special election for the seat, which was vacated by the president’s new CIA director. [NPR] [NYTimes] [WaPost] [CNN]
Where are they?
- Rep. Mia Love meets with Catholic Church leaders, tours a breast cancer imaging center in the district and meets with constituents.
- Gov. Gary Herbert attends the opening of the Dell EMC Draper Office, meets with staff and films public service announcements before attending an Economic Summit preparation.
- Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox heads to a Cache/Rich County Board of Realtors Meeting, speaks to InTech Collegiate High School students and attends a Utah State University student forum.
- State Auditor John Dougall meets with a legislator, travels to Vernal, speaks at the Utah Association of Counties Management Conference with State Treasurer David Damschen and attends a community meeting in Highland.
- State Treasurer David Damschen speaks at the Utah Association of Counties Management Conference in a joint presentation with Dougall.
-- Thomas Burr and Taylor Stevens