BREAKING -- @morningmoneyben: "Trump offered NEC chair to @larry_kudlow last night and Kudlow accepted. Will start soon." The developing story http://politi.co/2HzgnO6
ONE SMART REPUBLICAN told us earlier this week to watch closely how the GOP reacts to a Rick Saccone loss in Pennsylvania’s 18th district, a deep red slice of Pennsylvania, where the party spent nearly $10 million on what should’ve been a layup special election. If Republicans brush it off as a fluke, they’re in trouble, he said.
Well … HOUSE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE CHAIR CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R-WASH.): “We aren't even in full momentum on tax reform.” SPEAKER PAUL RYAN said Conor Lamb ran as a “pro-life, pro-gun, anti-Nancy Pelosi conservative.”
-- JONATHAN MARTIN (@jmartNYT): “Standing outside the House R caucus, very few of them want to come to terms with the reality of cycle. Still fixated on Saccone weakness.” … SEUNG MIN KIM (@seungminkim): “Like Charlie Dent said this morning of the GOP’s focus on candidate quality in #pa18: "Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.'”
SURE, Rick Saccone might’ve been a weak candidate and Conor Lamb a star. But Republicans should’ve put this district away easily. They didn’t.
RACHAEL BADE and ALEX ISENSTADT: “Republicans sound the alarm after likely loss in Pennsylvania": “[NRCC] Chairman Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) led off the huddle by calling the race ‘a wake-up call,’ said one person in attendance. ‘Prepare to bear down,’ he added.
"But most rank-and-file going in and out of the meeting downplayed the election, suggesting Republican candidate Rick Saccone was weak and Lamb was a "unicorn" who couldn't be replicated in tight races this fall.” http://politi.co/2FBoUnl
-- ALLENTOWN MORNING CALL’S LAURA OLSON: “While Trump had won far more precincts in the district than Hillary Clinton, Lamb was able to win in 172 of those won by Trump. Saccone, unsurprisingly, won in zero of precincts that Clinton had won.” http://bit.ly/2Gs2Ngn
MIGHT NOT BE OVER -- ELENA SCHNEIDER: “Republicans prepare for recount in Pennsylvania special election”: “The special congressional election in Pennsylvania appears headed to a recount, with Republicans preparing behind the scenes to cry foul after the vote count showed Democrat Conor Lamb leading Republican Rick Saccone by 627 votes.
“The GOP is considering challenging the accuracy of voting machines in the district, in addition to confusion over the state's changing congressional map later this year, according to two sources familiar with the process, granted anonymity to discuss ongoing plans that have not been finalized.” http://politi.co/2FQ49U7
Good Wednesday afternoon. CHRIS CUOMO to primetime, via NYT’s Mike Grynbaum: “The move would catapult Mr. Cuomo, 47 … into the highest echelon of cable news, pitting him directly against Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Sean Hannity of Fox News.
“CNN has struggled recently in prime time, falling to third-place behind Fox News and MSNBC, as viewers are increasingly drawn to partisan commentary. Anderson Cooper, who hosts the network’s coverage between 8 and 10 p.m., attracted about a third of Mr. Hannity’s audience last month, for instance.” http://nyti.ms/2IpfXLF
ANOTHER IMMIGRATION BATTLE? -- WaPo’s MIKE DEBONIS and JOSH DAWSEY: “ Trump is open to short-term DACA deal, White House tells GOP leaders”: “White House officials have told key Republican leaders on Capitol Hill that President Trump is open to cutting a deal in an upcoming spending bill to protect young immigrants from deportation in exchange for border wall funding, according to four GOP officials briefed on the talks. ...
“One idea under consideration is a three-year extension of the DACA program in exchange for three years of wall funding, according to a GOP official. This official said talks were fluid. A White House spokesman declined to comment. Talks are being led by senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and legislative affairs head Marc Short, according to the people familiar with the conversations.” http://wapo.st/2DrqqCx
BACK IN THE SADDLE -- RACHAEL BADE: “Scalise hits campaign trail after June shooting”: “The Louisiana Republican in a closed-door Republican Conference meeting Wednesday announced that he would be transferring $1 million to the House GOP’s campaign arm. That’s after wrapping up a seven-day swing through Florida, his home state of Louisiana, Texas all the way up to the Midwest for colleagues trying to hold their seats. …
“Sources close to Scalise told POLITICO that numerous House Republicans have requested the whip’s presence at campaign events in the coming weeks and months. He’ll soon be traveling to Texas, Florida, New York, California, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Illinois.” http://politi.co/2GrcWd2
ON THE WORLD STAGE -- “UK expels Russian diplomats over spy poisoning,” by POLITICO Europe’s Annabelle Dickson: “Theresa May on Wednesday expelled 23 Russian diplomats after the country failed to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent poisoned a former double agent and his daughter in the U.K. …
“‘[The Russians] have provided no credible explanation that could suggest they lost control of their nerve agent,’ May told MPs Wednesday. ‘No explanation as to how this agent came to be used in the United Kingdom; no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons program in contravention of international law.’ …
“To inflict more meaningful pressure, the prime minister will need to rely on international allies. May welcomed expressions of support from NATO and across the European Union and beyond and told MPs the U.K. will push for a ‘robust international response’ when the UN Security Council opens consultations in New York later Wednesday.” http://politi.co/2Gt1Pk3
OFF TO A ROCKY START -- “Rand Paul opposes Pompeo nomination to lead State Department,” by Burgess Everett: “The libertarian-leaning GOP senator said Wednesday that Pompeo’s earlier support for the Iraq war and defense of enhanced interrogation techniques -- or ‘torture’ in the view of Paul and many other senators -- is disqualifying. And the Kentucky senator indicated he may be willing to filibuster both Pompeo’s nomination and CIA director nominee Gina Haspel, who he says is ‘gleeful’ in her defense of torture techniques.” http://politi.co/2FASVDJ
FOGGY BOTTOM SHAKEUP -- “Top Tillerson aides resign amid State Department shuffle,” by Nahal Toosi: “Two top aides to Rex Tillerson will also be leaving the State Department by the end of the month, officials confirmed on Wednesday, in the latest fallout from President Donald Trump’s decision to fire the embattled secretary of state.
“The departures of Margaret Peterlin, Tillerson’s chief-of-staff, and Christine Ciccone, his deputy chief-of-staff who was overseeing an initiative to ‘redesign’ the State Department, will please many U.S. diplomats. Many State staffers say the two were widely disliked for severely limiting access to the secretary, sidelining career diplomats and slowing down an already cumbersome decision-making process.
“For now, however, another top Tillerson aide, Brian Hook, appears to be staying in place. Hook has also spurred resentment in Foggy Bottom for using the division under his control, the Policy Planning Staff, to effectively take over many decisions and functions traditionally left to the department’s regional and functional bureaus. The department announced Wednesday that Hook will lead the U.S. delegation to an international meeting later this week in Vienna on the status of the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has threatened to scuttle.” http://politi.co/2FzwM8F
MORE AGENCY PROBLEMS -- “Emails show Ben, Candy Carson selected $31,000 dining set,” by CNN’s Rene Marsh and Gregory Wallace: “Newly released emails cast doubt on claims by Secretary Ben Carson and his spokesman that he had little or no involvement in the purchase of a $31,000 furniture set for his Department of Housing and Urban Development dining room. Emails show Carson and his wife selected the furniture themselves.
“An August email from a career administration staffer, with the subject line ‘Secretary’s dining room set needed,’ to Carson’s assistant refers to ‘printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out.’ …
“HUD spokesman Raffi Williams initially denied the Carsons had any involvement in the dining set selection. … Confronted Tuesday with the discrepancy between his past comments and the internal emails, Williams offered only this explanation: ‘When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles.’” http://cnn.it/2FGmGPt
-- “Scott Pruitt’s $25,000 soundproof phone booth? It actually cost more like $43,000,” by WaPo’s Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin: “In total, the EPA appears to have spent more than $18,000 on the prep work, readying the space for a $25,000 soundproof booth that has brought Pruitt a wave of criticism and official scrutiny. The total cost for the project now appears to be closer to $43,000.” http://wapo.st/2FHmAau
K STREET FILES -- “Head of major insurer lobby stepping down after turbulent term,” by Paul Demko: “Marilyn Tavenner is stepping down after three year tumultuous years at the helm of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a K Street powerhouse that's seen its influence decline as Washington grew more hostile to Obamacare. … Tavenner will be replaced by Matt Eyles, who is currently the lobby’s chief operating officer.” http://politi.co/2FD3Rks
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HAPPENING ACROSS THE COUNTRY-- “Thousands of students, teachers march on White House to call for better gun control,” by Mel Leonor and Kimberly Hefling: “Thousands of students and teachers marched Wednesday in Washington and across the nation as they left school to call for stricter gun control measures. The protests come on the one-month anniversary of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead.
“Hundreds of students gathered in demonstration at the White House, bearing signs and chanting for tighter gun control laws. They then walked to the U.S. Capitol, where they were greeted by members of Congress who back their cause.” http://politi.co/2FzwM8F
-- “A conservative Parkland student helps set the agenda in Washington,” by the Miami Herald’s Alex Daugherty: “[Kyle] Kashuv, the high school junior who vaulted to national prominence as a conservative counterweight to the vocal Parkland students who favor tighter gun-control legislation, is back in Washington for a second week of high-profile meetings, and he’s setting the agenda in the nation’s capital.
“Senators from both parties are rearranging their schedules to speak with him, television channels are clamoring to get him on air and he even brokered a Skype conversation between Rubio and YouTube video blogger Jake Paul. He has already met with President Donald Trump once, and plans to be at the White House before and during the March for Our Lives on March 24.” http://hrld.us/2FE0kOv … Picture of Kashuv meeting with Majority Whip Steve Scalise today http://bit.ly/2DrWW7n
BUSINESS BURST -- BREAKING: "Theranos CEO Holmes and former president [Ramesh] Balwani charged with massive fraud," by CNBC's Anita Balakrishnan: "Elizabeth Holmes, founder of embattled blood testing start-up Theranos, has been charged with 'massive fraud,' the [SEC] said on Wednesday. The SEC alleged in a complaint that Theranos raised more than $700 million from late 2013 to 2015 while 'deceiving investors by making it appear as if Theranos had successfully developed a commercially-ready portable blood analyzer that could perform a full range of laboratory tests from a small sample of blood.' ...
"Theranos was once considered a high-flying start-up, and Holmes graced major magazine covers, touted as the personification of innovation. But Wall Street Journal investigations over the past five years questioned the efficacy of Theranos' blood testing technology, raising flags for regulators." http://cnb.cx/2GsFjYx ... SEC release http://bit.ly/2FyPYnf
VALLEY TALK -- “How Conservative Activists Catfished Twitter,” by Gizmodo’s Kashmir Hill: “While Project Veritas’s findings weren’t particularly shocking, how they were obtained was. Project Veritas didn’t just fake-recruit its targets, it fake-seduced them. Many of the male employees were secretly recorded while on dates at dimly-lit restaurants, sipping wine.” http://bit.ly/2GrxHFE
SPOTTED: Leon Panetta “holding court and taking selfies” on the tram at Dulles, per out tipster -- pic http://bit.ly/2pbOdSJ ... Jennifer Garner speaking Tuesday morning during a Senate Finance Committee briefing on the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting program -- pic http://bit.ly/2tLNxbt
SPOTTED at a birthday party last night hosted by Mike Rogers, the former House Intel chairman and now a CNN contributor, for his wife Kristi at Cafe Milano: Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Amey Upton, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Pete Pace, Rachel Pearson, Chip Reid and Tammy Haddad.
SPOTTED at NARAL Pro-Choice America’s annual event “The Power of Roe” at The Hamilton last night: Ilyse Hogue and John Neffinger, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Reps. Denny Heck (D-Wash.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), Nicole Brener-Schmitz, Emily Pomeranz, Cora Faith Walker, Melissa Schwartz, Liz Schoetz, Kaylie Hanson Long, Amanda Thayer, Karen Finney, Andrea Hailey and David Williamson, Kimball Stroud, Amy Dacey, Rachel Laser, Heather Booth, Sunita and Dan Leeds, Anna Burger, Melinda Bieber, Sara Imershein, Karen Mulhauser, Doug Gordon, Lauren Baer, Susie Lee, Andy Kim, Kathy Manning, Lisa Brown, Debbie Mucarsel Powell, Elissa Slotkin, Angie Craig, Chrissy Houlahan, Jenna Kruse, Alex DeLuca and Julie McClain Downey.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD -- Kelsey Pritchard, communications director for South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, and Chris Pritchard, who starts dental school at Creighton University in the fall, recently welcomed Jack Owyn Pritchard, who came in at 5lb, 15 oz. Pics http://bit.ly/2paUj5X ... http://politi.co/2p9aDE8