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(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

The Trump administration can’t seem to decide how much of a confrontation it wants with California over gas guzzlers.

As the Environmental Protection Agency moves to loosen car and truck mileage standards, California is very much standing in its way. The state holds a waiver that allows it — and any state choosing to go along with it — to keep intact the strict pollution requirements imposed by the Obama administration.

Those standards are a crucial component of California’s climate action plans — plans the Trump administration does not much like. As long as California holds the authority to set mileage standards, the Trump administration is powerless to allow substantially more gas guzzlers on the road.

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House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) speaks to reporters Tuesday morning.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) speaks to reporters Tuesday morning. (Mark Wilson)

House Speaker Paul Ryan defended special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on Tuesday even as he supported the release of a Republican memo about classified surveillance that could undermine the investigation into Russian interference with the presidential election. 

"This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller's investigation, and his investigation should be allowed to take his course,” Ryan said.

"There are legitimate questions about whether an American's civil liberties were violated,” Ryan said.

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  • Congress

President Trump is set Tuesday to deliver his first address to Congress on the State of the Union, or maybe it’s the “State of the Uniom,” depending on the ticket.

A batch of tickets with the misprint was delivered Monday to members of Congress who quickly had some bipartisan fun with the mishap. 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) preferred a deadpan approach, simply tweeting how much he was looking forward to the “State of the Uniom.” Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona poked fun at embattled Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for the spell-check fail.

  • White House
  • Congress
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

President Trump will try to bring his pitchman's A-game to his first State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress and a national television audience, though even the strongest performance may not sway many voters.

Trump will have about 60 minutes of prime time Tuesday night to try to turn public opinion as his approval rating sits at historic lows for a president at this point in his term, and his party faces the prospect of losing control of the House and perhaps the Senate in the midterm election.

Many viewers will tune in to hate-watch Trump, though a president's fans are usually more likely to watch such speeches than are opponents. Only about 4 in 10 Americans say they approve of Trump's performance in office, numerous polls have shown. His challenge will be to reach the shrinking slice of swing voters who can be persuaded that he is taking the country in the right direction.

Americans probably will hear a lot about the economy in President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday.

Among the main points Trump will make in the speech are taking credit for creating jobs and boosting the economy, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to give a preview of the president's remarks.

Here’s context for some of the comments he’s likely to make.

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President Trump has spent the last year trampling many of the courtesies and customs associated with his office and the swampy bog, Washington, he now calls home.

But there is one ritual that holds fast: the State of the Union address, set for delivery Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress.

Vaguely prescribed in the Constitution — Article II, Section 3, Clause 1, for those keeping score — the speech fulfills the obligation of the president “from time to time” to give “to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” (And it’s been a he, invariably, for the last 229 years.)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 29.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 29. (Alexei Nikolsky / Kremlin Pool Photo)

The Trump administration late Monday released a long-awaited list of 114 Russian politicians and 96 "oligarchs" who have flourished under President Vladimir Putin, fulfilling a demand by Congress that the U.S. punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election.

The political list is the entire presidential administration, as listed on the Kremlin website, and the Russian Cabinet, while the oligarchs list is a carbon copy of the top of the Forbes magazine's Russian billionaires' list. The publication of the so-called "Putin list" angered and dismayed many in Moscow.

Yet the administration paired that move with a surprising announcement that it had decided not to punish anybody — for now — under new sanctions retaliating for the election-meddling. Some U.S. lawmakers accused President  Trump of giving Russia a free pass, fueling further questions about whether the president is unwilling to confront Moscow.

Former combat pilot Martha McSally was put off by Donald Trump when he ran for president.

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Supreme Court weighs appeal in gerrymandering case.
Supreme Court weighs appeal in gerrymandering case. (Olivier Douliery / TNS)

The Supreme Court signaled Monday it may be open to blocking a state ruling on partisan gerrymandering at the behest of Pennsylvania’s Republican leaders.

Last week Pennsylvania’s high court struck down the state’s election districts on the grounds they were drawn to give the GOP a 13-5 majority of its seats in the House of Representatives.

Unlike other recent rulings, the state justices said they based their ruling solely on the state’s constitution. Usually, the U.S. Supreme Court has no grounds for reviewing a state court ruling that is based on state law.

  • Congress
Antiabortion advocates rally outside the Supreme Court last year.
Antiabortion advocates rally outside the Supreme Court last year. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

The Senate turned back legislation Monday to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, halting a Republican-led effort to restrict access to the late-term procedure with a bill that President Trump said he would sign into law.

The House had passed the measure last fall and Trump’s endorsement this month gave it new momentum. But on a 51-46 Senate vote, it failed to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a Democratic-led filibuster to advance.

Voting in Congress largely fell along party lines. In the Senate, two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, opposed the bill. Three Democrats, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, voted in favor.