Happy Friday! THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is closed in the D.C. area today due to weather. http://bit.ly/2EUBdqE
THE MARCH STORM … CAPITAL WEATHER GANG: “On Friday and Saturday, a powerful storm will lash the Northeast with destructive coastal flooding, wind and heavy snow. It is shaping up to be the most destructive nor’easter of the season, perhaps the most destructive in decades for some along the coast.” http://wapo.st/2FatOmM
THE PRESIDENT (@realDonaldTrump) at 5:42 a.m.: “Alex Baldwin, whose dieing mediocre career was saved by his impersonation of me on SNL, now says playing DJT was agony for him. Alex, it was also agony for those who were forced to watch. You were terrible. Bring back Darrell Hammond, much funnier and a far greater talent!”
-- “ALEX BALDWIN”! … “Dieing” … Amazing. Trump later deleted and resent this tweet without the typos.
-- THE PRESIDENT at 5:50 a.m.: "When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!"
WHO IS FUNDING THE HOUSE GOP SUPER PAC … THE CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP FUND got $1.9 million from Chevron … $1 million from the Tesoro Corporation, an oil and gas company … Hushang Ansary, the 92-year-old former Iranian government official, gave $1 million … Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot, gave $504,600.
WAPO’S DAVE WEIGEL in BRIDGEVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA: “In tight Pennsylvania race, GOP struggles to land a blow against Conor Lamb”: “First, Republicans in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District accused Democrat Conor Lamb of supporting Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House.
“Next, they talked up the tax cuts that the GOP had passed through Congress in December. Most recently, the GOP turned, perhaps desperately, to a different audience — Democrats, some of whom in Allegheny County began receiving cheeky direct mail thanking Lamb for protecting ‘our Second Amendment rights.’”
“The race in the 18th District, which was drawn to safely reelect a Republican congressman, only to see him resign last year, has closed to single digits despite an onslaught of Republican spending. On the air and in mailboxes, it has previewed many of the attacks Republicans may use this year to protect their control of the House of Representatives.” http://wapo.st/2FLxcpw
-- CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP FUND, which has spent more than $2 million in the race, has released a new ad calling Lamb “Two-Faced”: http://bit.ly/2F3TMbF
-- REPUBLICANS will have no excuse if they don’t sew this one up. They’ve spent millions in a Republican district.
THE FALLOUT -- DOUG PALMER: “Trump blasted at home and abroad for plan to impose steel, aluminum tariffs”: “President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum reverberated across the world Thursday, spurring retaliatory threats from some of the nation’s closest allies and sending stock prices plummeting on investors’ fears of the global economic fallout.” http://politi.co/2F8AL8f
INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE -- “Trump’s Chaos Theory for the Oval Office Is Taking Its Toll,” by NYT’s Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman: “Mr. Trump is isolated and angry ... according to ... friends and aides, as he carries on a bitter feud with his attorney general and watches members of his family clash with a chief of staff he recruited to restore a semblance of order -- all against the darkening shadow of an investigation of his ties to Russia. ... Morale in the West Wing has sunk to a new low ... In private conversations, Mr. Trump lashes out regularly at Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a vitriol that stuns members of his staff. ...
“Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner, whom he now views as a liability because of his legal entanglements, the investigations of the Kushner family’s real estate company and the publicity over having his security clearance downgraded, according to two people familiar with his views. In private conversations, the president vacillates between sounding regretful that Mr. Kushner is taking arrows and annoyed that he is another problem to deal with.
“Privately, some aides have expressed frustration that Mr. Kushner and his wife, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, have remained at the White House, despite Mr. Trump at times saying they never should have come to the White House and should leave. Yet aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out.” http://nyti.ms/2CSo3bD
THE LATEST ON GUNS …
-- NYT’S MIKE SHEAR, SHERYL STOLBERG and TOM KAPLAN: “N.R.A. Suggests Trump May Retreat From Gun Control”: “The lobbyist, Chris Cox, posted on Twitter just after 9 p.m. that he met with Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence, saying that ‘we all want safe schools, mental health reform and to keep guns away from dangerous people. POTUS & VPOTUS support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control. #NRA #MAGA.’ Mr. Trump tweeted about an hour later, ‘Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!’” http://nyti.ms/2oJytFC
-- “Conservatives floored by Trump’s gun control lovefest,” by Burgess Everett and Rachael Bade: “Minutes into Donald Trump’s renegade embrace of the left’s wish list for gun control, Republican Rep. Warren Davidson’s phone lines blew up. ‘What is Trump doing?’ texted one angry constituent from his conservative southwest Ohio district, according to Davidson. ‘You’ve got to stop this,’ demanded another. ‘That can’t be real,’ Davidson recalled thinking as his supporters — all Trump enthusiasts — unloaded on the president. Then he reviewed the full video clip. ‘I was like, “You’re kidding me, right?”’ he said in an interview. ‘It was a bit shocking.’
“Trump threw decades of party orthodoxy on gun rights out the window on Wednesday, as he mused aloud about enacting a comprehensive gun control package and said that due process should come after guns are taken away from dangerous people. The response on Thursday among congressional Republicans was a mix of disbelief, denial and outrage. The GOP has its rifts on hot-button issues like immigration and health care. But its devotion to expansive gun rights has been close to absolute. As Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) put it, ‘Everyone says it’s the NRA’ that explains the GOP's devotion to the cause. ‘No. It’s your constituents.’” http://politi.co/2FeccKe
-- HOW THE NRA IS FIGHTING BACK: BLOOMBERG’S JOSH GREEN: “The grass-roots effort to blunt this momentum by the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm has been much quieter -- and conducted largely out of sight, through a mobile app. As lawmakers return to Washington this week under pressure to act on guns, the NRA is directing members’ activism at the audience that matters most: Congress.
“Republican congressional leaders have had little to say; the NRA hasn’t sponsored marches or rallies. But in mid-February the mobile app of the NRA’s Institute of Legislative Action urged users to send pre-written tweets that automatically route to their individual members of Congress, telling them to ‘Protect our constitutional right to self-defense; Defend the #2A! #DefendTheSecond.’
“A few days later, the NRA app, drawing on users’ personal data, offered to connect them to their legislators so they could ‘Ask Your Lawmakers to Oppose New Gun Control.’ Members of Congress were quickly besieged with a coordinated message that cut against the #NeverAgain movement dominating newspapers and cable television. And after President Trump’s comments in favor of gun control at a bipartisan White House meeting yesterday, the White House switchboard number, posted within the app, was also likely besieged.” https://bloom.bg/2CU9lAQ
DEPARTURE LOUNGE … “Trump’s tariff war nudges Cohn toward White House exit,” by Ben White and Andrew Restuccia: “Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, has been rumored to be on the brink of leaving the White House for months but stayed for one main reason: to stop the president from imposing steep tariffs. By Thursday afternoon, Cohn had lost the fight. ...
“Cohn’s allies began wondering [after the tariffs announcement] if this would be the final insult sending the director of the National Economic Council to the exit. One person close to Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive, said he wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually left the chaotic and deeply exhausting administration as a result of the decision. A second person close to Cohn described it as a brutal blow that violated one of the NEC director’s core beliefs -- that protectionism is economically backward and won’t lead to increased prosperity.” http://politi.co/2F8JSpv
-- “Trump and McMaster have seemed anxious to part but so far remain together,” by WaPo’s Greg Jaffe and Josh Dawsey: “For months, the White House has been stuck when it comes to replacing H.R. McMaster, the president’s national security adviser. President Trump has often seemed eager to move on from the Army three-star general, who has struggled to bond with his irascible boss. And McMaster, who friends said has threatened to quit in fits of frustration and anger, has seemed eager to leave.
“But efforts to move McMaster back to the Army have been stymied by two issues: Trump has had trouble finding a high-quality replacement who is willing and able to take over, and it is also not clear that McMaster, still an active-duty general officer, has any place to go in the Army.
“The net result is one of the weaker National Security Councils in recent memory -- a critical part of the White House that has struggled at times to corral powerful personalities in the Pentagon and State Department and advance the president’s often ill-defined foreign policy agenda.
“McMaster has had an especially strained relationship with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a favorite of the president’s, who has been slow to respond to McMaster’s requests for military options to counter adversaries such as Iran and North Korea, officials said. ‘He treats me like a three-star’ rather than a coequal, McMaster has complained to colleagues of Mattis, a retired four-star Marine Corps general.” http://wapo.st/2oJkdMZ
-- @jimsciutto: “SCOOP: NSA McMaster has spoken to senior leadership at Stanford's Hoover Institution about a possible position there after departing WH, source with knowledge of discussions tells me.”
HOPE’S NEXT ACT …“Trump Is ‘Losing a Limb’ With the Departure of Hope Hicks,” by NYT’s Mike Grynbaum: “When Hope Hicks walked into President Trump’s private study on Wednesday to inform him that she planned to leave the White House -- concluding a can’t-make-it-up run in which Ms. Hicks, a woman with zero political experience three years ago, became the closest aide to the most powerful man in the world -- the president responded like a father whose daughter had outgrown the nest.
“According to a person with knowledge of their conversation, Mr. Trump expressed an understanding of Ms. Hicks’s desire to pursue a new phase of her life. But, the person added, he also acknowledged something else: that Ms. Hicks’s happiness in her role had begun to wane lately, after a trying few weeks in the public glare. ...
“Ms. Hicks, a reluctant émigré to insular Washington, kept a tiny circle of confidants, complaining that she could not trust anyone in a company town. She frequently visited family in Connecticut and friends in New York, where she felt she could comfortably walk down the street without being accosted or asked for a favor. She has told friends that, for now, she has no definite ideas for her life after the West Wing, except that she will not be living in Washington. An extended vacation with her family is planned. Book agents have come calling, but Ms. Hicks has told acquaintances that she is reluctant to write anything — although she has joked that a massive advance could change her mind.” http://nyti.ms/2F6f3FP
ABOUT THOSE CRUMBS -- “Nearly half of Americans agree with Nancy Pelosi’s ‘crumbs’ comment, according to a poll by a pro-Trump group,” by WaPo’s Ed O’Keefe: “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has earned the ire of Republicans for suggesting that major corporations are giving workers ‘crumbs’ while top executives reap bonuses after passage of the GOP’s tax revision plan. But a new poll from [America First Policies] supportive of President Trump finds nearly half of Americans agree with Pelosi’s comments despite weeks of relentless criticism from GOP leaders. …
“The poll found that 49 percent of respondents totally agreed with her statement, while 43 percent disagreed. More respondents strongly disagreed (35 percent) than strongly agreed (31 percent) with Pelosi. Eighteen percent ‘somewhat agreed’ with her comment, while 9 percent ‘somewhat disagreed.’ Three percent of respondents said it ‘depends,’ or were neutral on the questions, while 5 percent were ‘unsure’ or refused to answer.” http://wapo.st/2oKAp0f
ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA … “Nuclear missile threat a ‘red line’ for Trump on North Korea,” by CNN’s Jim Sciutto and Dana Bash: “The Trump administration is considering military action against North Korea if the rogue regime successfully builds a nuclear missile capable of hitting the United States, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the administration’s latest thinking. Senior national security officials believe a nuclear armed Pyongyang represents an unacceptable risk to the U.S.
“Beyond the missile threat to the U.S. homeland, the national security officials pushing for military action believe that if North Korea becomes a full nuclear power, it will proliferate, potentially sharing nuclear and missile technology with states such as Iran, Pakistan and Libya, and non-state actors.” http://cnn.it/2FglJjS
THE INVESTIGATIONS … MUELLER LATEST: “Mueller eyes charges against Russians who stole, spread Democrats’ emails,” by NBC News’ Ken Dilanian, William M. Arkin and Julia Ainsley: “Special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling a case for criminal charges against Russians who carried out the hacking and leaking of private information designed to hurt Democrats in the 2016 election, multiple current and former government officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News. ... Sources say he has long had sufficient evidence to make a case, but strategic issues could dictate the timing.” http://nbcnews.to/2tdldyy
THE JUICE …
-- RACHAEL BADE is now a political analyst for CNN. She’s still covering Congress for POLITICO.
-- ERICA SUARES has taken over the role of liaison for the business community for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. JIM NEILL, former Senate Budget Committee staffer, has taken over her position on McConnell’s team handling all conservative coalitions.
TRUMP’S FRIDAY -- The president and first lady will fly to Charlotte in the morning to attend the Rev. Billy Graham’s funeral. He’ll then fly to Palm Beach to go to Mar-a-Lago for the weekend.
SUNDAY SO FAR … – CBS’ “Face the Nation”: Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) ... Andrew Pollack, the father of Parkland victim Meadow Pollack. Political panel: Jeff Goldberg, Ed O'Keefe, Susan Page, and Margaret Talev
-- NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Tom Brokaw, Al Cardenas, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Katy Tur
-- ABC’s “This Week”: Matthew Dowd, Van Jones, Meghan McCain, Megan Murphy, Cecilia Vega
-- CNN’s “State of the Union”: Bakari Sellers, Linda Chavez, Rick Santorum, and Jen Psaki
-- CNN’s “Inside Politics,” hosted by John King: Manu Raju, Mike Bender, Rachael Bade and Mary Katharine Ham
-- “Fox News Sunday”: Panel: Mike Needham, Jane Harman, Josh Holmes, Jerry Seib. Power Player: Dolly Parton
THREE-PART NYT EDITORIAL: “THE TIES THAT BIND”: “Intrigue in the House of Trump” http://nyti.ms/2t9kcaD … “Jared Kushner Flames Out” http://nyti.ms/2t8CzMG … “Ivanka Trump’s Brand Building at the White House” http://nyti.ms/2oBuF9X
UNIQUELY QUALIFIED UPDATE … “The White House chief calligrapher has a higher clearance than Jared Kushner,” by CNN’s Betsy Klein: “According to information obtained by CNN from a U.S. government official as of November 2017, among those with top secret clearance is White House chief calligrapher Patricia Blair. The calligrapher’s office plays a key role in White House diplomacy. The East Wing, which oversees the calligrapher’s office, declined to comment on the role of the chief calligrapher or why a top secret clearance is necessary.” http://cnn.it/2Fdgd1D
NYT’S BROOKS BARNES in LOS ANGELES: “In a surprise twist in the continuing saga of the Weinstein Company, an investor group said on Thursday that it had reached an agreement to buy most of the assets of the near-bankrupt studio, just days after a deal had been declared all but dead.” http://nyti.ms/2FKJ0sa
MEDIAWATCH – per Michael Calderone in Morning Media: “Washington Post publisher and CEO Fred Ryan is hosting a reception next week at the paper’s headquarters celebrating the engagement of MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Scarborough writes opinion columns for the Post, but has never worked on staff at the paper. A Post spokesperson told me it is a private Post event that's being thrown by Ryan.”
-- “Longtime Fox News exec who wrote controversial Olympics column out at network,” by CNN’s Oliver Darcy and Brian Stelter: “John Moody, the longtime Fox News executive who wrote a controversial column about the US Olympic committee last month, is no longer with Fox News, three people familiar with the matter told CNN.
“A Fox News spokesperson confirmed the news, telling CNN, ‘John Moody has retired from Fox News.’ A person close to the situation said Moody had planned on retiring before his recent column drew outrage.” http://cnnmon.ie/2oCgl17
BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Natalie Szemetylo, production manager at Wilson Grand Communications and the pride of Zanesville, Ohio (hat tip: James Reed)
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Ashley Chang, executive director and head of strategic communications for corporate responsibility at JPMorgan Chase & Co. What she’s been reading recently: “I’m rereading the Tom Brokaw’s ‘Boom!: Voices of the Sixties Personal Reflections on the ‘60s and Today’ and am still floored to think that our country survived a presidential assassination, and the murder of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, alongside the Vietnam War – imagine if they had social media?” Read her Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2F8EVgn
BIRTHDAYS: Joe Brettell, partner for strategic engagement at Prosody Consulting ... Kevin Madden, partner at Hamilton Place Strategies ... author Tom Wolfe is 87 ... former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) is 66 ... Owen Gallo ... Jason Boxt, EVP at PSB Research ... former Interior Secretary, Colorado Senator and AG Ken Salazar is 63 (Interior’s “birthday” is also tomorrow) (h/t Laura Davis) ... Brookings’ Robin Lewis ... Emily Miller ... Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) is 53 ... Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.) is 75 ... Ernesto Vargas … Carter Baum, former press secretary for Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) ... Politico’s Rachel Geffner ... Kaylee Berger, Sen. Schumer’s deputy director of scheduling ...
... Levi Russell, financial adviser at Morgan Stanley in California and an AFP alum ... Dylan Colligan of Javelin and an FP1 Strategies and House Republican Conference alum ... Katherine Harris Neel ... Eric Phsillip, press secretary to the Mayor of NYC (h/t Teresa Vilmain) ... Sally Rosen, senior coordinating producer at WME|IMG and a CBS News alum … Kevin Benore ... Adrian Uribarri ... Jonathan Pelto ... Gary O’Connor is 45 ... B-J Certain ... Eric Dolan, managing editor at The Raw Story ... Grant Winter ... Joe Garofoli of the S.F. Chronicle ... Yuri Beckelman, deputy COS for Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and an AFL-CIO alum … former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev is 86 (h/t AP)