Playbook: Washington's whirlwind March

- Maret 23, 2018



IT’S BEEN A WHIRLWIND MARCH SO FAR ... FOR THOSE HAVING A HARD TIME KEEPING TRACK AT HOME, LET’S RECAP: President Donald Trump fired national security adviser H.R. MCMASTER this week. He appointed JOHN BOLTON, a Republican who appears frequently on Fox News. Bolton is a hawk who has advocated for a preemptive war with North Korea, and overthrowing the government of Iran. This comes just days after Trump fired Secretary of State REX TILLERSON (whose birthday is today) and decided to swap in CIA Director MIKE POMPEO in his place.

TRUMP ANNOUNCED CNBC contributor LARRY KUDLOW as GARY COHN’S replacement at the National Economic Council. And don’t forget Attorney General JEFF SESSIONS fired FBI Deputy Director ANDREW MCCABE, who was just days away from retiring.

HE HAS shuffled his legal team -- JOHN DOWD is out. (BY THE WAY, Alan Dershowitz doesn’t want in. He said this to the Boston Globe: “‘I’m not going to become the president’s lawyer,’ the celebrated defense attorney told us Thursday, reached at his residence in Miami Beach. ‘I’m enjoying my retirement. I don’t want to move to Washington. I don’t want to be a lawyer.’” http://bit.ly/2G3dWTJ)

-- JOSH DAWSEY (@jdawsey1): “When NYT reported recently Trump was going to change his legal team, he denied it on Twitter. When we reported last week he was changing his national security adviser, Sarah Sanders denied. He did both about a week later after the denials.”

ONE PORN STAR and another Playboy model are saying they had affairs with Trump during which they were offered payments. Karen McDougal says she refused the money after sex with Trump, and Trump told her he was in love with her. http://nyti.ms/2GkSzkp Trump’s representatives have denied these affairs

-- BTW: Anderson Cooper is having a pretty good run. He interviewed McDougal on CNN (http://cnn.it/2IJ3DWy) and will interview Stormy Daniels on CBS Sunday. Keeping Zucker and Rhodes happy!

MEANWHILE, Congress kept the government running. But, in the wild world we’re living in -- Republicans, who for the past decades have espoused a philosophy of cutting the size of government, are massively increasing spending. THERE IS ALSO STILL NO ANSWER on DACA.

IT FEELS A LITTLE like a hangover from the Ides of March… DEBTS ARE GETTING SETTLED. It just didn’t all happen on March 15.


Good Friday morning. ABOUT LAST NIGHT -- H.R. MCMASTER received an impromptu standing ovation after being recognized by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at the Mellon Auditorium. Bush singled out McMaster during his speech for being a straight shooter and great team player, according to an attendee. Bush was accepting an award for his father at a gala to celebrate the U.S.-Saudi Arabia relationship.

SPOTTED: Former VP Dick Cheney, former Defense Sec. William Cohen, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his brother Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Khalid Bin Salman, Steve Hadley, Jim Jones, Norm Coleman, Elizabeth Dole, Jamie Dimon, Dan Poneman, Phil Gordon, Sam Vinograd, Morgan Ortagus, Capricia Marshall.

SCOOPY STORY from Eliana Johnson: “How To Succeed in Trump’s Cabinet Without Getting Fired: Defense Secretary James Mattis seems to know how to disagree with the president and get away with it": "Last July, James Mattis and Rex Tillerson arranged a tutoring session at the Pentagon for President Donald Trump in the secure, windowless meeting room known as 'The Tank.' The plan was to lay out why American troops are deployed in far-flung places across the globe, like Japan and South Korea. Mattis spoke first.

"'The postwar, rules-based international order is the greatest gift of the greatest generation,' Mattis told the president, according to two meeting attendees. The secretary of defense walked the president through the complex fabric of trade deals, military agreements and international alliances that make up the global system the victors established after World War II, touching off what one attendee described as a 'food fight' and a 'free for all' with the president and the rest of the group.

"Trump punctuated the session by loudly telling his secretaries of state and defense, at several points during the meeting, 'I don’t agree!' The meeting culminated with Tillerson, his now ousted secretary of state, fatefully complaining after the president left the room, that Trump was 'a f***ing moron.'" http://politi.co/2Ghd8Oo

TRUMP SEEMS TO BE MAKING IT SIMPLE for Democrats in swing districts. It seems increasingly obvious that Dems will run ads with a collage of these types of headlines -- porn stars, constant upheaval -- and say "The country is in chaos and I will be a check on the president. I'll back him when I agree with him, but will stand up to him when I don't."

ON TRUMP'S MIND at 6:07 a.m.: "House Intelligence Committee votes to release final report. FINDINGS: (1) No evidence provided of Collusion between Trump Campaign & Russia. (2) The Obama Administrations Post election response was insufficient. (3) Clapper provided inconsistent testimony on media contacts."

-- THIS IS a Republican report.

THE $1.3 TRILLION OMNIBUS that funds government through September passed last night. Read these AMAZING DETAILS from BURGESS EVERETT: “[I]t was a tricky road to avoid a government shutdown, requiring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to privately telephone Paul and let him vent about the Senate rules, then satisfy [Sen. James] Risch’s objections to a wilderness area being named after a dead Idaho governor. …

“Paul kept everyone in suspense that he might shut the government down again -- but he backed off late Thursday night after a private conversation with McConnell. The junior GOP senator from Kentucky spent the day refusing to rule out forcing another brief government shutdown in opposition to a return to ‘Obama spending and trillion-dollar deficits.’ …

“‘It's never really been about how long we stay here. But it is to a certain extent, when you lose, trying to draw attention to your cause,’ Paul told reporters as the clock neared midnight. ‘We look for victories any way we can, knowing that we don't have the votes to win.’ …

“[Risch] protested moving forward on the bill because it renamed an Idaho park after Cecil D. Andrus, a former Democratic governor and sometime political foe, who died last year, according to sources familiar with the matter.

“Risch was under the impression that the renaming would not be in the bill, according to a GOP senator. But Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) helped direct the renaming of the White Clouds Wilderness in the omnibus, and Risch was furious to read the bill and find it in there. McConnell and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) met with Risch privately about the matter to try to calm him. The Senate approved a technical change to the bill striking the renaming, but Simpson is insisting the provision stay in the bill, senators said. Risch refused to speak about it.” http://politi.co/2GkO3SZ

TO SPEND… OR, NOT TO SPEND -- FOR CONGRESS, THE ANSWER IS SPEND: “GOP Congress rebuffs Trump and goes on a spending spree,” by Sarah Ferris: A look at all the goodies by industry http://politi.co/2FZOwdy

KNOWING JOHN BOLTON, via Cory Bennett: “In their public comments, McMaster and Bolton have presented a stark contrast in their views on Moscow’s involvement in the hacks and online trolling that roiled the 2016 presidential election. While McMaster has taken a hard-line stance in blaming Moscow for orchestrating the digital disruption campaign, Bolton has made headlines by casting doubt on Russia’s role.” http://politi.co/2DPj3F4

NYT’S GERRY MULLANY in Hong Kong and CHOE SANG-HUN in Seoul, with Motoko Rich in Tokyo: “Trump’s Appointment of John Bolton Raises Concern in Asia”: “After months of painstakingly building a relationship with the departing national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, South Korean officials now have to manage their ‘very bad chemistry’ with Mr. Bolton, ‘who is all about sticks,’ said Lee Byong-chul, senior fellow at the Institute for Peace and Cooperation in Seoul.’” http://nyti.ms/2pB35dx

-- MICHAEL HIRSH in Politico Magazine: “John Bolton, the Anti-McMaster”: http://politi.co/2HZwTY9


HMM -- “John Bolton’s Curious Appearance In A Russian Gun Rights Video,” by NPR’s Tim Mak: “Incoming White House national security adviser John Bolton recorded a video used by the Russian gun rights group The Right to Bear Arms in 2013 to encourage the Russian government to loosen gun laws. The episode, which has not been previously reported, illustrates the common cause that Russian and American gun rights groups were forming in the years leading up to the 2016 election through former [NRA] President David Keene. Keene appointed Bolton to the NRA’s international affairs subcommittee in 2011.” http://n.pr/2pDBBmX

CNN’S KAITLAN COLLINS (@kaitlancollins): “Trump and Bolton have been discussing for weeks how he could replace McMaster. According to what a source familiar with those negotiations told me, Bolton promised Trump ‘he wouldn't start any wars’ if he selected him as the new national security adviser.”

BLOOMBERG'S JENNIFER JACOBS (@JenniferJJacobs): "Trump was in the residence Tuesday a.m. when McMaster briefed him *by phone* on what to emphasize in the Putin conversation. Though some were on the line, Trump did the Putin call without key staff at his side. Story by me and @margarettalev." http://bit.ly/2GlIbZk

FLASHBACK – Dec. 14, 2016 – “Trump’s flirtation with Bolton sends shivers through Senate: Republicans and Democrats have pledged to battle Trump if he names the least diplomatic diplomat to a top State Department post,” by Nahal Toosi and Madeline Conway: http://politi.co/2G3gyAY

THINK OF THESE STAFF MOVES LIKE THIS: TRUMP is hiring the people he always wanted to.

ABOUT KELLYANNE FOR COMMS DIRECTOR … A few days ago, Elaina Plott of The Atlantic scooped that Trump wanted Kellyanne Conway as comms director. White House sources tell us it’s very real. Although Mercedes Schlapp and Tony Sayegh were among those under consideration, there hasn’t been a formal interview process.

WHY KELLYANNE MAKES SENSE: She knows the president, has outlasted many of her West Wing counterparts and is a steady hand who can also make strategic decisions. Choosing her would also tamp down the infighting by others jockeying for the position. AN INTERESTING TWIST: Sayegh, who was recruited to consider the position, could actually support Conway. The two know each other quite well -- they worked together on tax reform and were friendly before the Trump administration from appearances on Fox News.

MORE STAFF CHANGES TO COME? -- “Amid White House Turmoil, Trump Mused About Life Without a Chief of Staff,” by NBC News’ Hallie Jackson and Carol Lee: “In the midst of a Cabinet shake-up and a possible staff upheaval, President Donald Trump considered firing his chief of staff earlier this month and not naming a successor, according to three people familiar with the discussions. Trump has mused to close associates about running the West Wing as he did his business empire, essentially serving as his own chief of staff, these people said.

“In conversations with allies outside the White House, the president envisioned a scenario in which a handful of top aides would report directly to him — bypassing the traditional gatekeeper position. The president hasn't publicly discussed his deliberations.

“Trump, who is said to always be reimagining his staff positions, appears to have tabled the suggestion for now. His second chief of staff, John Kelly, remains in his role after intense speculation about his job security. But the president was intrigued by, and seriously considered, the idea of not replacing him had he left.” http://nbcnews.to/2HVxmKK

WHEN ONE INVESTIGATION CLOSES… ANOTHER OPENS: “Goodlatte subpoenas DOJ over Clinton investigation, McCabe firing,” by Kyle Cheney and Elana Schor: “The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the Justice Department Thursday for records connected to the FBI’s 2016 investigation of Hillary Clinton — as well as the internal report that led to the ouster of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.

“Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) revealed the subpoenas Thursday afternoon, citing a frustratingly slow pace of cooperation from the department. ‘Given the Department’s ongoing delays in producing these documents, I am left with no choice but to issue the enclosed subpoena to compel production of these documents,’ Goodlatte wrote in a letter to DOJ. ...

“The new subpoena from Goodlatte encompasses thousands of records gathered by Inspector General Michael Horowitz in his investigation of the FBI’s handling of the 2016 investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server. But Goodlatte said he views the recent firing of McCabe as an extension of the initial request, since McCabe's firing was connected to his role in the Clinton probe.” http://politi.co/2DNX55w

THE LUXE ADMINISTRATION -- “HHS official who approved Tom Price's flights resigns,” by Dan Diamond: “John Bardis, a top HHS official who signed off on ex-Secretary Tom Price's charter jet flights, is resigning effective April 6, the agency confirmed Thursday. The health care entrepreneur and longtime friend of Price’s from Georgia served as HHS assistant secretary of administration since March 2017 and was responsible for departmental operations. He also helped oversee the ReImagine HHS project, an initiative to overhaul the agency and cut costs.

“Bardis' office has been the focus of a probe about whether Price's use of charter-jet flights for routine domestic travel — which cost more than $400,000 — complied with federal regulations. The HHS inspector general’s office, which is conducting the probe, told POLITICO that the final report is expected later this spring. Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, in a statement, said Bardis was ‘a truly transformative leader, and HHS has benefited greatly from his dedicated work over the past year.’” http://politi.co/2ukwoWL

TRUMP’S FRIDAY -- The president will meet with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. In the afternoon, he and the first lady will fly to Palm Beach, Florida, enroute to Mar-a-Lago.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Jordan Karem is the new deputy assistant to the president and director of Oval Office operations, according to a person familiar with the matter. He was previously special assistant to the president and trip director.

TV TONIGHT – PBS’ “Washington Week” hosted by Bob Costa: Dan Balz, Geoff Bennett, Jackie Calmes and Kayla Tausche.

TV SUNDAY – MSNBC’s “Kasie DC”: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Amb. Andrew Young, State Sen. Chris McDaniel, Josh Earnest, Michael Steel, Rick Tyler, Jake Sherman, Elisabeth Bumiller, Erica Werner and Ken Vogel.

SUNDAY SO FAR … CBS’S “FACE THE NATION”: Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) … Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) … Stoneman Douglas students involved in organizing the march, Jaclyn Corin and Ryan Deitsch … Stoneman Douglas student Kyle Kashuv.

-- NBC’S “MEET THE PRESS”: Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) … Corey Lewandowski. Panel: Bob Costa, Hugh Hewitt, Kasie Hunt and Heather McGhee.

-- CNN’s “STATE OF THE UNION,” guest-hosted by Brianna Keilar: Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) … Emma Gonzalez and Alex Wind. Panel: Van Jones, Rick Santorum, Linda Chavez and Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.)

-- “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: Stoneman Douglas students Cameron Kasky and Delaney Tarr ... Panel: Newt Gingrich, Julie Pace, Jason Miller and Juan Williams. Power Player: Second Lady Karen Pence and her daughter Charlotte.

YOU’RE INVITED … Join us for our first Playbook University in North Carolina with GOV. ROY COOPER on March 29 at Penn Pavilion at Duke University. Doors open at 11:45 a.m. RSVP http://bit.ly/2IqsO09




ATTN MUELLER -- “Trump Fundraiser Offered to Help Lift Sanctions on Russian Firms,” by Bloomberg’s Zach Mider and David Voreacos: “Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, offered last year to help a Moscow-based lawyer get Russian companies removed from a U.S. sanctions list. Broidy made the offer after an inquiry from Andrei Baev, an energy lawyer at Chadbourne & Parke LLP, both men acknowledged in statements to Bloomberg News this week.

“In a proposal sent to Baev shortly before Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, Broidy sketched out a potential campaign to influence top U.S. officials, according to a person with knowledge of the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity. The plan never went forward, Broidy and Baev said, and no such lobbying took place. But the discussions are a striking illustration of how Russians’ efforts to escape sanctions led them to seek political allies close to Trump.” https://bloom.bg/2GicvEk

KNOWING GINA HASPEL – “CIA Fills In Some Blanks on Gina Haspel’s Secret Life,” by WSJ’s Nancy Youssef: “She became a spy before the internet age and remained in that secret life for three decades, leaving behind no digital profile. … According to the CIA, she is a Johnny Cash fan and has a full-size cutout of the music icon in her office. She is single.

“The CIA said she is a native of Ashland, Ky., the oldest of five children, and the daughter of an airman who raised her all around the world as he served at various bases. She graduated from high school in the U.K., the agency said ... Ms. Haspel wanted to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, but her father told her girls weren’t welcome at the time, according to the agency. Instead, she graduated with honors from the University of Louisville with a degree in languages and journalism, according to the agency biography. …

“Public records searches offer few clues about where she lived during career. The only thing they reveal is that she has lived in a number of government sites around the world and that, for a time, she worked for the ‘U.S. State Department.’ The CIA said her first posting was in Africa, but it wouldn’t specify which country. … She then moved into counterterrorism. Her first day on the job was Sept. 11, 2001, the CIA said. With that, she would forever become affiliated with one of the agency’s most controversial programs.” http://on.wsj.com/2ILOgNg


POLICING THEMSELVES -- “Ethics panel reproves two Illinois Democrats for House rules violations,” by John Bresnahan: “The House Ethics Committee found that two Illinois Democrats violated chamber rules and must personally repay thousands of dollars for their actions. Yet in the case of Rep. Bobby Rush, the Ethics Committee will allow him to be repaid by his campaign committee for any personal cost, so the end result is that Rush won't be out of pocket at all.

“Rush and Rep. Luis Gutierrez were formally reproved by the Ethics panel for the violations, findings that were announced on Thursday by Reps. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), the chairwoman and ranking member of the committee. Both cases were initially investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent ethics watchdog, which found ‘substantial reason to believe’ that Rush and Gutierrez had violated House rules.” http://politi.co/2DMHW4t

THE MICROSOFT EFFECT -- “Facebook employees fear ‘golden’ years are over,” by Nancy Scola: “Facebook’s response to its controversy over data privacy looks nearly as chaotic to its employees as it does from the outside, people inside the embattled social network say. The company’s rank-and-file are grumbling about the way CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg kept silent about the Cambridge Analytica furor for six days — a vacuum that allowed minor-celebrity Facebook executives to make matters worse by issuing hair-splitting explanations on Twitter.

“Some Facebook staffers also see the company’s leadership as perpetually naive about how bad actors might misuse its platform, said company sources drawing from conversations with co-workers and discussions on the company’s internal communication forums. Others feel lingering guilt over the Russian election meddling that many employees believe helped propel Donald Trump into the presidency — and more prosaic worries that whatever changes Zuckerberg makes to address the crisis could upend months or even years of engineering work.” http://politi.co/2ufjqJL



SPOTTED: Todd Ricketts, RNC finance chairman, Chicago Cubs co-owner and Loyola University alum, watching Loyola beat Nevada in Atlanta last night to advance to the Elite 8, alongside “Loyola’s Sister Jean” – pic https://bit.ly/2DNiFac

SPOTTED at the Georgetown house of Melissa Moss and Jonathan Silver last night for a book party for Bill Press’ new book “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire” -- $16.84 on Amazon http://amzn.to/2HXd3g6: Nancy Pelosi (pic with Press: https://bit.ly/2ILphcV), Carol Press, Linda Douglass, Vic Fazio, Leslie Dach, Ricki Seidman, Ann Stock, Hattie and Bruce Babbitt, Mandy Grunwald, Marcia Hale, Dan and Rhoda Glickman, Shelby Coffey, Jane Mayer, Robyn Bash, Judy Woodruff, Jane Harman, Steve Scully, Anne and Mark Shields, Lauren Pratapas, Richard Hudock, Michael LaRosa, Karen Tumulty, Kitty Kelly, Lanny Davis, Eleanor Cliff, Gerry McGowan, Susan Toffler, Ray and Nina Benton and Elizabeth Bagley

TRUMP WH ALUMNI – Per Politico Influence: “Two former White House aides will join Reince Priebus at Michael Best & Friedrich’s Washington office. Michael Ambrosini, who will be a principal with Michael Best Strategies, previously worked for Data Trust and before that worked as the director of Priebus’ office when he was White House chief of staff. Katie Hrkman will be director of operations and was previously the deputy director of the President's Commission on White House Fellowships.”

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): former Rep. Bill Archer (Texas), a former Ways and Means chairman, turned 9-0 (hat tip: J.C. Derrick) … (was Wednesday): Joi Ridley, deputy executive director and director of membership and marketing of the National Bar Association

BIRTHDAYS OF THE DAY: Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet. An interesting book she’s recently read: “I’m Sikh. “When I was little, our Gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) had a library that carried comic books that were meant to teach kids about our faith. They were the only Punjabi comics I had ever seen. I recently discovered you can not only find those old comics online—but now there’s a whole new galaxy of Punjabi and Sikh graphic comics and art out there! And some of it is really cool! So I’ve been devouring a lot of that recently.” Read her Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2FWxQni

-- Maggie Gage, head of political strategies and head of Washington research at Credit Suisse. A book she’s read recently: “‘Personal History of Katherine Graham.’ Her grit and ability to persevere is inspiring. Her flare for drama adds to her story. I try to imagine walking in her shoes: She was the first female in her field. She unexpectedly assumed her position from her husband after he committed suicide. While coming to terms with his death (and the less than perfect relationship they shared) one of the first decisions she had to make was to publish the Pentagon Papers (and withstand the significant backlash cause by that decision).” Q&A: http://politi.co/2HUPHYg

A SPECIAL BIRTHDAY SHOUT OUT -- BRETT NORMAN, POLITICO health reporter. Have a great time with Kate and the kids next week in Florida!! (h/t your fellow health and eHealth teams)

BIRTHDAYS: Rex Tillerson is 66 … Johnny DeStefano, assistant to the President and counselor to the President ... The Affordable Care Act is 8 … Ryan Grim, The Intercept’s D.C. bureau chief ... Michael Caputo ... Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) is 7-0 ... Economist cartoonist Kevin Kallaugher ... Suzanne Turner ... Evan Keller is 23 … Dawn Selak, comms manager at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy … Kim Hunter ... Debbi Mayster ... Alec Gerlach … Derek Boyse, investment banking analyst at J.P. Morgan in Houston, is 24 (h/ts siblings Natalie and Fentress Boyse) ... Pakistan turns 78 on its Republic Day ... Daniel Udell ... Maria Garcia ... Adam Mowder, multiplatform editor at WashPost ... Anila Alexander ... Natalie Rosen Marx ... Paul Neaville, a founding partner of The Markham Group (h/t Teresa Vilmain) ... Sarah Foy ... Ian Koski, senior director for communications for North America, at the ONE Campaign, is 38 (h/t Sean Simons) ... Mike Berman, Sen. Doug Jones’ new banking staffer/economic policy advisor and a Gary Peters alum (h/t Katherina Dimenstein) …

… Maya Lau, an L.A. Times reporter covering LA County Sheriff’s Dept. ... Caroline Kirkendoll ... Mike Franc is 61 ... Michael Strautmanis ... Joanna London, senior director in APCO Worldwide’s D.C. office ... AFL-CIO’s Drew Waxman ... Tim Bulakul ... Brian Thomas is 54 ... Keturah Hetrick … Gabriele Cavalera … Stacey George … Valerie Michelman … Joshua Marcuse ... Rob Terra … Paul Guerin … Deloitte’s Ashley McCabe … Amelia Blackwood ... Nick Sinatra ... Ruth Elizabeth Leonard ... Erika Mansourian ... Terry Neal, president of Neal Communications Strategies ... Boeing’s Shaun Lara ... Bleacher Report’s Noah Chestnut is 31 ... Peter Vallone Jr. … Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer … Lynn Krogh of The Casale Group.


 

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