SPOTTED today in the House members’ dining room: House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Joe Scarborough having lunch today.
TRUMP’S D.C. REALITY … Many very qualified Washington Republicans have said some version of this to us:
-- TAX REFORM is done. Infrastructure is not likely to happen. The House could easily flip. The Senate Republicans will have a tough 2020 cycle. In other words, legislating is almost over. The Trump White House is partially a target of a federal investigation. Aides have lawyered up. The president makes policy advisers spar over policy. And the losers are often thrown under the bus. Why join this White House?
ABOUT PENNSYLVANIA 18 … We wrote in Playbook this morning that Republicans were pouring money into the special in Pennsylvania with little regard for the fact that the district will disappear in a few weeks.
AFTER PLAYBOOK THIS A.M., DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS TOLD US that they believe CONOR LAMB will win next week’s race against Rick Saccone. THIS WOULD BE A BIG DEAL: Republicans should win that seat by double digits and will VASTLY outspend Democrats.
… AND: QUINNIPIAC has Democrats up 48% to 38% on the generic ballot. … BUT the gap has narrowed for Republicans. Last month, Democrats were up 53% to 38%. The full poll http://bit.ly/2FmHAXS
PUTIN ON TRUMP … AP/MOSCOW at 11:49 a.m.: “Russian President Vladimir Putin lavished praise on President Donald Trump on Wednesday, but added that he was sorely disappointed with the U.S. political system, saying that it has been “eating itself up.”
“Speaking in an interview with the Russian state television, Putin described Trump as a great communicator. ‘I have no disappointment at all,’ Putin said when asked about the U.S. president. ‘Moreover, on a personal level he made a very good impression on me.’ The two leaders met on the sidelines of international summits last year. Putin praised Trump as a ‘balanced’ man, who easily gets into the gist of various issues and listens to his interlocutor.
“‘It’s possible to negotiate with him, to search for compromises,’ … He also noted that he spent some time talking to Melania Trump when he sat next to her during an official dinner at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany in July. The Russian leader said he told her and the wife of the Italian premier ‘about Siberia and Kamchatka, about fishing ... about bears on Kamchatka and tigers in the Far East.’
“‘I made some exaggerations,’ the action-loving Russian leader said with a grin. ‘When you talk about fishing, you can’t help exaggerating.’ Asked jokingly by the interviewer if he was trying to recruit the women, the KGB veteran responded by saying: ‘No, I stopped dealing with that a long time ago.’ He added with a smile: ‘But I liked doing that, it was my job for many years.’” http://bit.ly/2FiInZD
Good Wednesday afternoon. DEPT. OF AMAZING FUNDRAISERS -- REP. PETE SESSIONS (R-Texas) is holding a fundraiser at JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE’S concert at the Capital One Arena in D.C. on March 18th. For $2,500 per ticket, you can watch the show with the chair of the House Rules Committee. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that suite. The invite http://politi.co/2G7m5HP
TRUMP TO HILL REPUBLICANS: THANKS BUT NO THANKS … FOR NOW: SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS said the administration is “still on pace for an announcement on [tariffs] at the end of this week,” per BuzzFeed’s Tarini Parti, today’s pooler.
WHERE IS JARED KUSHNER as Gary Cohn quits, and Trump skirmishes with his party on tariffs? LAS VEGAS for a speech! (h/t Ken Vogel). http://bit.ly/2tpvHe4 He’s also going to Mexico.
TRUMP TWEETS ON TRADE -- @realDonaldTrump at 6:40 a.m.: “From Bush 1 to present, our Country has lost more than 55,000 factories, 6,000,000 manufacturing jobs and accumulated Trade Deficits of more than 12 Trillion Dollars. Last year we had a Trade Deficit of almost 800 Billion Dollars. Bad Policies & Leadership. Must WIN again! #MAGA” …
… at 10:10 a.m.: “China has been asked to develop a plan for the year of a One Billion Dollar reduction in their massive Trade Deficit with the United States. Our relationship with China has been a very good one, and we look forward to seeing what ideas they come back with. We must act soon!” … at 10:38 a.m.: “The U.S. is acting swiftly on Intellectual Property theft. We cannot allow this to happen as it has for many years!”
ON THE HORIZON -- “Trump eyes another trade crackdown: Officials say the president is itching to go after China on trade issues after months of being urged to be more moderate,” by Andrew Restuccia and Adam Behsudi http://politi.co/2G1bJJf
EUROPE’S TARIFF RESPONSE -- “EU’s anti-Trump hit list: Everything including the kitchen sink,” by POLITICO Europe’s Hans von der Burchard and Jakob Hanke: “The EU is set to hit a wide range of American products -- ranging from yachts to peanut butter -- with duties of 25 percent to retaliate against President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. The products targeted, as shown in a list obtained by POLITICO, are chosen so as not to harm EU industries, which do not need these imports. Some targets clearly gun for politically sensitive Republican-run states.
“The total value of the targets is €2.83 billion. They will be discussed on Wednesday by commissioners from the 28 member countries, and will be rolled out if Trump goes ahead with the restrictions he announced last week.” http://politi.co/2G3fPkc … The list http://bit.ly/2G0NA5u
HEADLINE THE PRESIDENT WILL LOVE -- “Trump tariff promise prompts U.S. steel company to restart Illinois plant,” by Adam Behsudi http://politi.co/2G2k6Ev
SITUATIONAL AWARENESS -- “U.S. trade deficit hits highest level since 2008,” by Doug Palmer: “The U.S. trade deficit, which President Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed to reduce or eliminate, rose 5 percent in January to hit $56.6 billion, its highest level since October 2008, when George W. Bush was president, Commerce Department data released Wednesday showed.
“The gap, which measures the difference between imports and exports, was higher than during any month of former President Barack Obama's administration. Trump claims the trade deficit is a result of bad trade deals, but most economists believe it mainly reflects an economy's strength -- and that it tends to rise when times are good.” http://politi.co/2G0s1lD
MORE PROBLEMS AT THE VA -- “Inspector General: Poor leadership led to widespread problems at DC VA,” by Stars and Stripes’ Nikki Wentling: “A culture of complacency at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Washington D.C. allowed widespread failures to persist for years, putting veterans at risk and weakening core functions of the hospital, according to new findings from the VA Inspector General’s Office. An extensive report released Wednesday by the inspector general details ‘systemic’ and ‘formidable’ problems at the Washington DC VA Medical Center since 2013. …
“The issues were many and varied. Inspectors found a consistent lack of medical supplies and equipment, dirty and unsterile conditions, a flawed inventory system and chronic understaffing. They also discovered a backlog of thousands of delayed orders for items such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, surgical implants and prosthetic limbs.
“More than 1,300 boxes containing veterans’ personal health and identification information were found unsecured in a warehouse, the hospital basement and a trash bin, according to the report. Millions of dollars were spent without the controls to determine whether the expenses were necessary.” http://bit.ly/2G3DyAS
HOT APP -- “TRUMP TOWN: Tracking White House Staffers, Cabinet Members and Political Appointees Across the Government,” by ProPublica’s Derek Kravitz, Al Shaw and Claire Perlman: “We’ve collected personnel records for thousands of these appointees. Use this database to search for them by name, former employer and agency.” http://bit.ly/2G3a6uL
HARASSMENT FILES -- The Nevada Independent’s JON RALSTON: “Kihuen, dogged by sex harassment allegations, considering running again despite previously announcing retirement”: “Rep. Ruben Kihuen, who announced last year that he was retiring after multiple allegations of sexual harassment, is considering filing for re-election, multiple sources have confirmed.
“Kihuen has contacted donors, the Culinary union and even former Sen. Harry Reid about the possibility of running again, saying he has received encouragement to do so. He has until a week from Friday to file.” http://bit.ly/2G43g8b
AT THE AGENCIES -- “Ben Carson Removes Anti-Discrimination Language From HUD Mission Statement,” by HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel: “Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is changing the mission statement of his agency, removing promises of inclusive and discrimination-free communities.
“In a March 5 memo addressed to HUD political staff, Amy Thompson, the department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, explained that the statement is being updated ‘in an effort to align HUD’s mission with the Secretary’s priorities and that of the Administration.’” http://bit.ly/2G1UJma
AFTERNOON READ -- BEN WHITE in POLITICO MAGAZINE: “Why Isn’t Wall Street Freaking Out About Trump?”: “To Wall Street pros, the story of Trump’s bull market is part luck, part policy and possibly a whole lot of irrational exuberance. When investors look past the daily theater, they mostly love Trump’s embrace of traditional Republican policies. He’s slashed regulations and cut corporate tax rates nearly in half, juicing profits and pumping cash into the economy. And they’ve guessed -- correctly so far -- that Trump the trade warrior and nuclear saber-rattler would remain mostly a cartoon character with little or no real-world impact. ...
“But there’s another possibility: that Wall Street has it all wrong. If Trump really were the black swan he seemed on election night, it’s possible that the kinds of risk he presents -- a constitutional crisis, a neomercantilist trade battle, even a nuclear war -- just aren’t the kind of things that the markets can price in. And what I found is that some investors are wondering whether the market really is missing something, and that destabilizing moment might still be in our future.” http://politi.co/2G472hR
ABOUT TOMORROW -- “Trump reopens a seemingly settled video-game debate,” by the AP’s Mae Anderson: “In the wake of the Florida school shooting, President Donald Trump is reviving an old debate over whether violent video games can trigger violent behavior. There’s just one problem: Roughly two decades of research has repeatedly failed to uncover any such link.
“Trump plans to meet Thursday with representatives from the video game industry. Trump’s recent public comments referencing the ‘vicious’ level of game and movie violence in the context of school safety show that he is eager to explore the issue.” http://bit.ly/2G7fM77
ON THE WORLD STAGE -- “U.S. Holocaust Museum Revokes Award to Aung San Suu Kyi,” by NYT’s Michael Schwirtz: “The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has revoked a prestigious human rights award it had given to the Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, now Myanmar’s civilian leader, faulting her for failing to halt or even acknowledge the ethnic cleansing of her country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.” http://nyti.ms/2G35xk7
ANOTHER TEACHERS’ STRIKE LOOMING? -- “Arizona teachers wear red, talk strike amid frustration over low wages,” by The Arizona Republic’s Ricardo Cano, Lily Altavena and Kaila White http://bit.ly/2G4gsKr
MEDIAWATCH -- Scott Mayerowitz was named the AP’s business news department’s deputy business editor for storytelling. He has been with the AP since 2011.
-- “New Bloomberg rule: At least one woman on panels,” by Talking Biz News’ Chris Roush: “Bloomberg editor in chief John Micklethwait announced a new policy on outside speaking engagements for Bloomberg journalists as an expansion of the newsroom’s efforts to promote gender equality and diversity. The new policy requires that at least one woman be on a panel in order for Bloomberg journalists to participate.” http://bit.ly/2oWkz2J
SPOTTED last night at a cocktail reception to honor Hudson Institute fellow Walter Russell Mead starting as the new Global View columnist for the Wall Street Journal: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) (who spoke), Anna Cotton, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Tony Podesta, Eliana Johnson, Jamie Kirchick, Chris Isham, Saagar Enjeti, Marshall Kosloff, Mike Stone, Hannah Thoburn.
TRANSITIONS -- Emily Cashman will be senior manager of government affairs at Thorn, a non-profit started by Ashton Kutcher. She was previously a legislative aide for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). … Francisco Bencosme is heading to Amnesty International as their Asia Pacific advocacy manager. He most recently has served as a legislative aide on Senate Foreign Relations covering Asia/Pacific issues and is the former president of the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD -- Ryan Brown, communications director for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Christi Brown, senior client associate at Merrill Lynch, on Tuesday welcomed Sloane Marie Brown, born at 2:25 a.m. Pics http://bit.ly/2FkIsMq ... http://bit.ly/2Fn3CW9