DEMS spending millions already to boost vulnerable Senate Democrats … TRUMP pushes against NY-NJ tunnel

- Maret 03, 2018

EARLY AND OFTEN -- SENATE MAJORITY PAC, the Senate Democratic super PAC, dropped $2.5 million on ads boosting Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).

LUNCH WITH THE FT -- “Trump confidant Chris Ruddy on the president’s ‘inner Democrat’”

Good Saturday morning. President Donald Trump is at Trump International Golf Course this morning in West Palm Beach, Florida, according to a pool report.

HMM ... TRUMP WHIPS AGAINST NEW YORK-NEW JERSEY TUNNEL, via WaPo’s Mike DeBonis and Josh Dawsey: “Trump personally appealed to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) this week to target federal funding for the $30 billion Gateway project, which would construct a tunnel into New York’s Penn Station to supplement two aging tubes that are at risk of failing in the coming years. …

“Trump delivered his message to Ryan on Wednesday during a meeting at the Capitol, three people familiar with the conversation said. … The motivations behind Trump’s opposition are not entirely clear. It is a direct challenge to a key political rival, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has been among the most powerful and vocal backers of federal funding for the project. Until recently, Schumer had held up several Trump nominees, including his pick to head the Federal Railroad Administration, to protest the administration’s failure to support the project.”

THE BIG PICTURE -- JOHN HARRIS and ANDREW RESTUCCIA: “Demoralized West Wing stokes fears over Trump’s capacity to handle a crisis”: “Chaos here, backlash there, shock everywhere. And in Washington and around the globe another gasping chorus of WTF commentary: reckless, not normal, reality show run amok. And so on, et cetera, et cetera, for the one-hundredth-and-can’t-remember time of the Trump Era.

“But there is something different about this week’s spasm of sudden policy lurches, graceless personal insults, oozing scandal news, and ceaseless West Wing knife fights. It is the starkest example to date of President Donald Trump’s executive style looking untenable not merely from the outside — from the perspective of establishment politicians and media analysts — but from the inside, too.

“Administration officials and outsiders with windows into decision-making describe a growing sense of despair within Trump’s ranks, driven by the mounting realization that the president’s brand of politics guided by intuition and improvisation is incompatible with a competently functioning executive branch. Most alarming, by these lights, is mounting evidence that Trump lacks an attribute possessed by most previous presidents and certainly by all the most successful ones: a capacity for self-critique and self-correction.”

HOW DID WE GET HERE? -- “Trump was angry and ‘unglued’ when he started a trade war, officials say,” by NBC News’ Stephanie Ruhle and Peter Alexander: “According to two officials, Trump's decision to launch a potential trade war was born out of anger at other simmering issues and the result of a broken internal process that has failed to deliver him consensus views that represent the best advice of his team. On Wednesday evening, the president became ‘unglued,’ in the words of one official familiar with the president’s state of mind.”

THE FALLOUT -- “Trade wars: Tariffs on bourbon, Harleys and blue jeans,” by Doug Palmer and Adam Behsudi: “European Union officials are already planning retaliatory actions, targeting products from politically sensitive Republican-run states, including the imposition of tariffs on Harley-Davidsons made in Speaker Paul Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin; duties on bourbon made in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky; and duties on orange juice from Florida, a critical swing state.”

-- “Trump’s tariff plan upends NAFTA talks,” by Megan Cassella in Mexico City: “President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally slap tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum has staggered the NAFTA renegotiation and threatens to derail talks that were already politically and economically sensitive for all three countries. Canadian, Mexican and U.S. government officials and industry representatives, gathered here for the seventh negotiating round, were sent scrambling when Trump announced plans to levy tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports to protect U.S. national security interests.

“While negotiators have continued to meet, the tone has changed as Canadian and Mexican representatives try to figure out the impact on their countries and whether their leaders will retaliate if Trump doesn't backtrack. ‘Why are we signing a trade deal with a country that would unilaterally decide to restrict certain sectors?’ said Jorge Guajardo, a former Mexican ambassador who now works as a senior director at McLarty Associates in Washington.”

THIS COULD CAUSE PROBLEMS -- “Trump Won’t Exclude Allies From Tariffs, White House Says,” by WSJ’s Jacob M. Schlesinger: “President Donald Trump plans to apply his steel and aluminum tariffs globally and won’t exempt allies such as Canada and Europe, a senior White House official said Friday, an approach that is likely to intensify protests over the move. The statement that there would be no exceptions to the duties came as Trump aides started to flesh out the president’s broad Thursday announcement, in which he said the U.S. plans to impose tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. Officials are scrambling to finalize many details ahead of a planned rollout of the full policies next week.”

A HEADLINE TRUMP WILL LIKE -- “In a Pennsylvania Steel Town, Donald Trump’s Tariff Is a Winner,” by WSJ’s Kris Maher in Braddock, Pennsylvania: “President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports have many economists and lawmakers worried about a coming trade war. But workers and others in this community, where steel has been made for well over a century, see a chance for more jobs and bigger paychecks.”

THE PRESIDENT’S HEALTH -- “Trump Swaps His Beloved Burgers for Salads and Soups in New Diet,” by Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs and Shannon Pettypiece: “The president whose trademark campaign-trail dinner consisted of two McDonald’s Big Macs, two Filet-o-Fish sandwiches and a chocolate milkshake is cutting back on doctor’s orders to drop a few pounds, according to three people familiar with the matter. Less red meat, more fish. One person said it’s been two weeks since he saw the president eat a hamburger. …

“[Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson] and the vice president’s doctor are pushing healthy food choices throughout the West Wing. Trump so far has embraced the new regimen, giving aides the impression he feels he is thriving on his new diet, they said. Still, he is allowing himself indulgences. He ate bacon at breakfast one day this week.”

THE BLACKLIST -- “Scaramucci Is on White House ‘Exclusion List’ Blocking Visits,” by Bloomberg’s Jen Jacobs and Justin Sink: “Anthony Scaramucci, President Donald Trump’s former communications director, is on a list of people blocked from entering the White House without special approval. A day after saying he wasn’t blocked, a White House official confirmed that Scaramucci is indeed among fired officials excluded from the campus. The acknowledgment came after the financier provided to Bloomberg News official White House correspondence that confirmed he was denied an appointment.

“Scaramucci is among a group of former staffers who left ‘under adverse circumstances’ placed on an ‘administrative exclusion list,’ the White House said in response to Bloomberg’s questions. Those former employees must have any appointments on the premises ‘evaluated on a case by case basis.’”

ALWAYS BE HUSTLING -- “Trump to launch major donor initiative after disastrous week,” by Alex Isenstadt: “Donald Trump is wrapping up the most chaotic week of his presidency by rolling out a major new donor push -- one of his most serious steps yet to prepare for a 2020 reelection campaign.

“As with [George W.] Bush, the president will reward donors who’ve bundled thousands of dollars in contributions, giving them an entree to exclusive dinners, political briefings, and future retreats.

“Under the plan, which is intended to provide a fundraising infrastructure that was lacking from Trump’s 2016 campaign, donors who raise $25,000 will join the ‘Trump Train’ and those who bundle $45,000 will be part of the ‘45 Club.’ The program, which will jointly benefit Trump’s campaign and the [RNC], will introduce higher class levels for larger dollar amounts in the future. Funds raised will also go toward the party’s 2018 efforts.”

KUSHNER WATCH -- “Mueller team asking if Kushner foreign business ties influenced Trump policy,” by NBC News’ Carol Lee, Julia Ainsley and Robert Windrem: “Federal investigators are scrutinizing whether any of Jared Kushner’s business discussions with foreigners during the presidential transition later shaped White House policies in ways designed to either benefit or retaliate against those he spoke with, according to witnesses and other people familiar with the investigation.

“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has asked witnesses about Kushner’s efforts to secure financing for his family’s real estate properties, focusing specifically on his discussions during the transition with individuals from Qatar and Turkey, as well as Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, according to witnesses who have been interviewed as part of the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 election.

“As part of the scrutiny of Kushner’s discussions with Turks, federal investigators have reached out to Turkish nationals for information on Kushner through the FBI’s legal attache office in Ankara, according to two people familiar with the matter.

“Separately, Qatari government officials visiting the U.S. in late January and early February considered turning over to Mueller what they believe is evidence of efforts by their country’s Persian Gulf neighbors in coordination with Kushner to hurt their country, four people familiar with the matter said. The Qatari officials decided against cooperating with Mueller for now out of fear it would further strain the country’s relations with the White House.”

TRUMP’S SATURDAY -- The president is speaking at a “Trump Victory” reception at Mar-a-Lago this afternoon. He and the First Lady will return to Washington later in the day. They will then attend the Gridiron Club dinner.

BANNON IN ITALY – Katie Watson (@kathrynw5): “Steve Bannon posing for the paparazzi in the Piazza Navona in Rome. Pics by Tony Gentile/Reuters”

CLICKER – “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker -- 16 keepers

FOR YOUR RADAR -- “Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin ‘Extremely Paranoid’ Ahead of Damning New Investigation, Sources Say,” by the Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng and Sam Stein: “Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is likely to be the subject of another damaging investigation as early as next week, one that could prove politically fatal. The top watchdog for the Department of Veterans Affairs is preparing a report that is expected to criticize Shulkin over his use of his security detail to run personal errands ...

“Multiple sources in and outside of the administration independently noted a significant uptick in Shulkin’s suspiciousness and anxiety of late and have described to him as acting ‘extremely paranoid.’ Two people familiar with the situation said that Shulkin this week had even ordered an armed guard to stand outside his office on the 10th floor of the VA. According to these sources, the VA secretary also cut off 10th floor access earlier this week to multiple VA appointees who he apparently suspected of disloyalty.”

THE STORY THAT NEVER DIES -- “Days before the election, Stormy Daniels threatened to cancel deal to keep alleged affair with Trump secret,” by WaPo’s Beth Reinhard, Frances Stead Sellers and Emma Brown: “The 2016 election was less than a month away, and Donald Trump’s attorney had blown the deadline for paying Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged affair with the future president.

“In an Oct. 17 email, an attorney for Daniels -- a porn star whose real name is Stephanie Clifford -- threatened to cancel the nondisclosure agreement by the end of the day. That very morning, Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, had created a limited liability company, public records show, that ultimately would serve as a vehicle for Daniels’s payoff. But the money had not arrived. A second email to Cohen, a short time after the first, said Daniels was calling the deal off.

“‘Please be advised that my client deems her settlement agreement canceled and void,’ Daniels’s lawyer, Keith Davidson, wrote in the email, which The Washington Post obtained. Ten days later, the $130,000 payment arrived, according to another email reviewed by The Post. Daniels’s story about her sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier would remain under wraps long past Election Day.”

PAGING TRACY FLICK -- “Six teenagers are running for governor in Kansas, and suddenly this doesn’t seem so preposterous,” by WaPo’s Monica Hesse in Merriam, Kansas: “And now, a report from the Midwest, where a gangly hope has arrived in the form of children enrobed in various assortments of khakis and blazers, because six teenage boys are running for governor of the state of Kansas. The would-be boy governors of Kansas. This was a funny concept for a while, and then it became absurd, and then a national tragedy happened and it became not funny but actually an emotion approaching tender, even aching.”

GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman:

-- “Bitter Rivals: Iran and Saudi Arabia” – PBS’ Frontline: “Frontline investigates how a dangerous political rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia has plunged the Middle East into sectarian war.” Cameos by Kim Ghattas, Steve Coll, Ryan Crocker, Vali Nasr 2

-- “The Afterlife of Pablo Escobar,” by Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker: “In Colombia, a drug lord’s posthumous celebrity brings profits and controversy.”

-- “Welcome to the Age of Climate Migration,” by Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone: “Extreme weather due to climate change displaced more than a million people from their homes last year. It could soon reshape the nation.” (h/t

-- “The Reckoning,” by Sean Flynn in Smithsonian Magazine: “Thirty years ago, an acclaimed series of documentaries introduced the world to an isolated tribe in Papua New Guinea. What happened when the cameras left?”

-- “The Everyday Chaos of Incarceration,” by Jerry Metcalf in the Marshall Project: “Prison is the very absence of normal. On day one, I was stripped of my clothes alongside a bunch of other men, marched around naked, and issued an ID number. Chaos is a norm, though it sounds oxymoronic to say so. I haven’t experienced a truly good night’s sleep in two decades. Violence is the ultimate norm. Over the years, I’ve been stabbed, cut, clunked, almost raped, and had the crap kicked out of me on numerous occasions.”

-- “Hitler Looks Eastward,” by Henry C. Wolfe in the Atlantic’s Feb. 1937 issue: “The Führer’s promises of new lands, vast natural resources, and employment for everybody are calculated to stir the imagination of the German people. ‘Colonies to absorb our surplus population and provide us with the raw materials we lack will solve our economic and social problems’, a Nazi official told me. In the opinion of many they have in mind the acquisition of Polish, Lithuanian, Czechoslovak, or Russian territory.”

-- “The Case Against Tipping in America,” by Vince Dixon in Eater: “The data is overwhelming: Tipping encourages racism, sexism, harassment, and exploitation.”

-- “The Smart Set,” by Ludwig Huber in Inference Review, reviewing “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” by Frans de Waal: “In one set of experiments, various animals were tested for their ability to copy complex tasks after seeing them performed. Chimpanzees proved able to drag food with a rake, and to open crates with pull, pressure, or rotary locks. They were also able to cooperate in order to obtain a reward. The monkeys used their hands in these experiments; the dogs, their mouths; horses, goats, and pigs used neither. Is a cognitive difference at work?” ... $10.37 on Amazon

-- “Among the ufologists,” by Andrew Stuttaford in the New Criterion – per ALDaily’s description: “Welcome to Roswell, New Mexico, the convergence of America’s weakness for the strange, penchant for conspiratorial thinking, and knack for turning a buck.”

-- “She’s taught at the Parkland high school for 14 years. Can she go back?” by Tampa Bay Times’ Lisa Gartner: “As a journalism teacher, Melissa [Falkowski] wanted to answer their questions, and keeping busy kept her calm. But when the microphones were unhooked from the collars of her Douglas T-shirts, she found herself thinking back to that day in her classroom. Driving her 9-month-old daughter to day care, Melissa couldn’t stop sobbing.”

-- “Guantánamo, Forever,” by Amos Barshad in Longreads: “After nearly a decade, Gitmo detainee Haroon Gul believed he had a chance at freedom. Then came President Trump.”

-- “Malls and the future of American retail,” by Alexandra Lange in Curbed – per’s description: “The mall was supposed to be a reinvention of the town square — and for nearly half a century it was, as a public space committed to shopping, eating, or merely lounging around with friends. But the retail apocalypse has taken the core out of the mall, the flagship retail that held it all together, and the new mall may have more in common with a museum, where shopping is less important than an overall mood of luxury and citizenship.”

-- “Things Fall Apart,” by Allyn Gaestel in the Atavist: “A feat of elegant design wowed elite architects and promised to bring education to poor children in Nigeria. Then it collapsed.”

-- “Malta: an island of secrets and lies,” by Matthew Engel in the New Statesman: “Business is booming in the tiny former British colony. But stories of corruption and assassination are filling the newspapers, and it may be headed for the EU’s naughty step.”

-- “The Inside Story Of How An Ivy League Food Scientist Turned Shoddy Data Into Viral Studies,” by Stephanie M. Lee in BuzzFeed: “Brian Wansink won fame, funding, and influence for his science-backed advice on healthy eating. Now, emails show how the Cornell professor and his colleagues have hacked and massaged low-quality data into headline-friendly studies to ‘go virally big time.’”

-- “Burning Out: What Really Happens Inside a Crematorium,” by Caren Chesler in Popular Mechanics – per’s description: “The proportion of dead Americans getting cremated has risen from 5% to 50% since 1980, mainly for reasons of cost: Cremation costs around $280, whereas a grave can cost $4,000. The Catholic Church used to forbid cremation, but reversed its position in 1963, though it still bans scattering of ashes.”

SPOTTED: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen having lunch yesterday at Cafe Deluxe in Cleveland Park. … Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) at Fiola Mare Friday night.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD -- Caitlin Gibson, a feature writer for the Washington Post, and Chris Richards, the Post’s pop music critic, on Tuesday welcomed Riona Laine Richards, who was born at 8:09 a.m. at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring. “Riona clocked in at 8 lbs. 7 oz., and so far, her favorite songs are by Stereolab, Sade, Lil Wayne, Brian Eno, Joni Mitchell and Aphex Twin. Mom and baby are healthy and happy.”

-- Nathan Leamer, policy adviser to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and Amanda Leamer, a freelance writer, on Wednesday welcomed their third child, Juniper March Leamer. “She was welcomed with open arms by her big sister India and brother Ephraim. All is well for mother and baby.” Pic

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Liz Oberg, special projects coordinator in WH comms, who is celebrating with a trip to Vegas with her girlfriends (hat tip: Mike Abboud) ... Ellie Warner, Kaine finance aide and a HFA and Tina Smith alum, turned 25 (h/t Ian Sams) … Edelman’s Joe Scannell

BIRTHDAYS: Marc Short … Alexa Henning, the White House’s director of broadcast media ... George Little, partner at the Brunswick Group and a CIA and Pentagon alum (h/t Ben Chang) ... GOP ad maker and consultant Dan Conston is 33 ... The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott ... Carlton Carroll, deputy director of comms at Center for Audit Quality, is 36 … Cameron French, director at Burson-Marsteller, is 34 ... Ben Goldstein ... Michael Remez, editorial officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts ... Richard Lichtenstein, founder and president of Marathon Communication (h/t Jon Haber) ... Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) is 34 ... Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) is 56 ... Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.) is 75 ... Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) is 57 ... Jesse Hunt, NRCC national press secretary (h/t Matt Gorman) ... biographer Ron Chernow is 69 ... Ira Glass, host and producer of “This American Life,” is 59 (h/t Zoe Chace) ... Caitlin Gallagher, NRSC’s press secretary, the pride of Denver and a huge Peyton Manning fan (h/t Katie Martin) … David Yassky, dean of Pace University School of Law, is 54 ... David Steinhardt is 49 ... Adam Sachs ... Jason Gerson ... Patrick Gavin (h/t Kiki Burger) ...

... Peter Mirijanian, who is now helping Abbe Lowell on a freelance basis with media inquiries, is 55 ... Scott Pollard of Hill+Knowlton Strategies (h/t Richard Keil) ... Hannah Blatt, press secretary at House Majority PAC ... Ghada Alkiek, finance director for Elissa Slotkin and a Dale Kildee alum (h/t Mitchell Rivard) … DCCC’s Alex Smith ... Jason Dick, deputy editor at CQ Roll Call … Lauren Shay Lavin ... Aaron Robinson, senior manager of digital media at Nielsen … Tariq Khan ... Kristin Lawton, director of comms. for Prosperity Now … Charles Cote, VP of strategic comms. at PCMA … Tim Morrison ... Anne Gordon ... Jasen Castillo ... Matt Rhodes ... Geneva Overholser ... Edward Lewine ... Janeen Lawlor ... David Pringle ... Matt Wanning ... Andy Engel ... Carolyn Stanford Taylor.

THE SHOWS, by @MattMackowiak, filing from Austin:

-- NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross … Denis McDonough … Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). Panel: Tom Brokaw, Al Cardenas, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Katy Tur

-- ABC’s “This Week”: Reince Priebus … Chris Christie … Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) … Wilbur Ross. Panel: Cecilia Vega, Matthew Dowd, Van Jones, Meghan McCain and Megan Murphy

-- CBS’s “Face the Nation”: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) … Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) … Peter Navarro … father of Parkland victim Andrew Pollack. Panel: Jeffrey Goldberg, Ed O’Keefe, and Margaret Talev

-- CNN’s “State of the Union”: Peter Navarro … Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) … Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Panel: Bakari Sellers, Linda Chavez, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Jen Psaki

--“Fox News Sunday”: Peter Navarro … Business Roundtable CEO and president Josh Bolten. Panel: Michael Needham, former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), Josh Holmes and Gerald Seib … “Power Player of the Week” with country singer and philanthropist Dolly Parton

-- Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures”: Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) … former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly … Michael Mukasey … Anthony Scaramucci … former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.). Panel: Michael Goodwin and Lee Carter

-- Fox News’ “MediaBuzz”: Ed Henry … Mollie Hemingway … Capri Cafaro … Alex Harris …Kristin Tate … Cathy Areu … David Bossie … Carley Shimkus

--CNN’s “Inside Politics” with John King: Panel: Manu Raju, Michael Bender, Abby Phillip and Mary Katharine Ham

-- CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS”: Panel: Evan Osnos … former Secretary of State Condi Rice … Lynda Obst

-- CNN’s “Reliable Sources”: Panel: Jeff Greenfield, Olivia Nuzzi, Josh Dawsey and Natasha Bertrand … Steve Brill … Jordan Klepper

-- Univision’s “Al Punto”: Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) … Ezequiel Hernandez … Hector Suarez … Chilean president-elect Sebastian Piñera … Maria McFarland

--C-SPAN: “The Communicators”: FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, questioned by Politico’s Brian Fung … “Newsmakers”: DNC chairman Tom Perez, questioned by USA Today’s Susan Page and The Washington Post’s James Hohmann … “Q&A”: Politico Magazine’s Joshua Zeitz

-- MSNBC’s “Kasie DC”: Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) … Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) … Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) … Marc Lotter … Sam Graham-Felsen … Phil Rucker … Eli Stokols … Anne Gearan …Tim Alberta … Ken Dilanian … Julia Ainsley

-- “The McLaughlin Group”: Moderator Tom Rogan with Pat Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, Clarence Page and guest panelist The Federalist’s Ben Domenech

-- Washington Times’ “Mack on Politics” weekly politics podcast with Matt Mackowiak (download on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher or listen at Author and Go BIG! Media founder Phillip Stutts.


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