WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
President Trump met privately with Pope Francis today at the Vatican where the two exchanged gifts and discussed peace, religious freedom, and the Middle East and the protection of Christians
Following the deadly Manchester attack, the UK raised the threat level from severe to critical, believing that another attack could be imminent
Former CIA Director John Brennan said he "encountered and am aware" of intel that revealed interactions between Trump’s campaign associates and Russian officials that he was "concerned about" and "raised questions" in his mind about whether Russia gained the cooperation of those individuals
The Trump budget landed with a thud yesterday, while CBO will release its analysis of the House-passed GOP health care bill today THE TAKE with ABC News’ Rick Klein He may want to find someone’s hand to hold, or at least put down the potica. In a busy stretch of split-split-screens, with President Trump multiple time zones away, the story that’s defining his presidency has shifted in at least one critical way. Republicans have been laser-focused on getting Democrats and those involved in the Russia investigation to admit a core fact: that evidence has not be presented proving collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Rep. Trey Gowdy was almost pleading with former CIA director John Brennan to admit as much on Tuesday; Sean Hannity that night attacked Democrats and the media for "pushing that Russian, tin-foil-hat conspiracy theory with zero evidence." So what’s changed? Evidence of coordination – the basis for the congressional and now special-counsel investigations – may not wind up mattering at all. The Washington Examiner’s Byron York makes an important point: the most recent leaks and revelations have pointed primarily at the cover-up itself. "Focusing on alleged obstruction, the president’s enemies no longer have to find an underlying crime on his part to attempt to remove him from office," York writes. As for potential obstruction, James Comey’s day in Congress awaits, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats appears ready to tell his story to Robert Mueller, the special counsel. Unlike with the Russia contacts, Trump can’t blame individual members of his team for this offshoot of the inquiry. QUOTE OF THE DAY "I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about," -Former CIA Director John Brennan testifying on Capitol Hill yesterday THE SLEEPER STORY with ABC News’ Shushannah Walshe Just three weeks ago, it was the most anticipated number around. When it gets released today, the CBO score on the House-passed American Health Care Act could get lost in other news. But the numbers will matter soon enough. When House Republicans passed the AHCA, they didn’t know the bill’s financial impact or the amount of people that could gain or lose coverage. In order for the Senate to even take up the bill using reconciliation, the AHCA needs to save $2 billion over the next 10 years. If it doesn’t, the House needs to vote again, to say nothing of the politics in the Senate. The other number to watch? How many people could lose coverage – a number Democrats absolutely won’t let Republicans forget in 2018. Even before the CBO weighs in, a key negotiator, Rep. Tom MacArthur, resigned as co-chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group. He cited divisions within his own group over Obamacare’s replacement as a main reason for that resignation. It’s likely those divisions become more stark after today. BUDGET BLASÉ While presidential budgets are often quickly tossed in the trash while lawmakers write their own spending bills, Republicans this year seemed particularly keen on moving, as soon as possible, beyond President Trump’s first congressional budget proposal. And this time, the president’s budget isn’t only as irrelevant as it traditionally is – many Republicans are openly criticizing Trump’s priorities, as reflected in his spending requests. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., invoked the GOP’s B-word in condemning the massive cuts to foreign aid and State Department funding: "You have a lot of Benghazis in the making if this thing becomes law." While the budget does beef up Defense spending, Sen. John McCain called it "inadequate" and even "illegal" – the latter because it skirts the spending levels set by sequestration in 2013. In a less frenzied news environment, this sort of reaction would be a much bigger deal. Republicans are not only yawning at this a reflection of presidential priorities — many of them are in open revolt, ABC News’ Ali Rogin reports. http://abcn.ws/2rfyqoG A MOMENT FOR MONTANA With President Trump’s controversies swirling at home and his popularity (or lack of popularity) stagnant, Democrats are ready for something to show for it. After coming close in Kansas and Georgia, the national parties haven’t been very invested in Thursday’s special election in Montana. But the under-the-radar contest has the opportunity to take us by surprise while everyone’s eyes are on the president overseas. Yes, the U.S. House seat has been red for two decades. But Montanans are known to split their tickets: they elected a Democratic governor in November and one of their two Senate seats are blue. Heck, the state almost went to Barack Obama in 2008. And with a Bernie-esque candidate in Rob Quist — and a state that refused to go Hillary Clinton’s way even on the final day of the Democratic primary calendar last June — the Treasure State might just deliver the shocker that Democrats need to claim some positive movement more than six months after the ultimate electoral shocker left them directionless, ABC News’ Ryan Struyk writes. NEED TO READ with ABC News’ Adam Kelsey Trump expected to retain attorney for Russia inquiry. President Trump is expected to retain lawyer Marc Kasowitz as his private attorney representing him on matters related to the Russia investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a source close to Kasowitz and sources familiar with the Trump’s decision confirmed to ABC News. Kasowitz has represented Trump "on a wide range of litigation matters for over 15 years." http://abcn.ws/2ryAVSD Michael Flynn risks being held in contempt of Congress. The Senate Intelligence Committee has announced two new subpoenas against former national security adviser Michael Flynn to compel him to turn over documents related to his contact with the Russians, adding that Flynn risks being held in contempt of Congress if he does not comply with the requests. http://abcn.ws/2q9YMs5 Food stamps a casualty of Trump’s proposed budget. Anti-hunger advocates aren’t pleased by Trump’s budget. Lucy Melcher, associate director for advocacy with the anti-hunger group No Kid Hungry, argues that the proposed cuts are "devastating" to a program that research shows lifts people out of poverty. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps or SNAP, is the "hunger safety net" for Americans in poverty or out of work. http://abcn.ws/2q9VQvm Trump’s budget cuts EPA by 31 percent. The president’s new budget plan cuts 31 percent of the agency’s funding overall, including significant reductions to research programs and enforcement of clean air and clean water programs. Environmental research faces one of the largest cuts; Trump’s budget proposes cutting almost half of the research budget, or $234 million. http://abcn.ws/2qTYd4C WHO’S TWEETING?
@devindwyer: "He is something," @POTUS Trump said of @Pontifex according to the travel pool. "We had a fantastic meeting."
@mikememoli: UPDATE: "Per Vatican pool the pope and Melania were actually talking about potizza, which apparently is a Slovenian treat. Not pizza."
@theintercept: What Trump and Duterte said privately about North Korean nuclear threat https://interc.pt/2qeE7yO by @jeremyscahill @AlexanderEmmons @ryangrim
@gdebenedetti: New: A PENCE robo-call started today in Montana: "With Greg Gianforte’s help, we will Make America Great Again" http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/23/pence-montana-special-election-238743
@aseitzwald: Seth Rich’s parents write op-ed in Washington Post: "Imagine living in a nightmare that you can never wake up from." https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/were-seth-richs-parents-stop-politicizing-our-sons-murder/2017/05/23/164cf4dc-3fee-11e7-9869-bac8b446820a_story.html?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.0fdedae392d2