Good Thursday afternoon. A RECAP OF OUR CONVERSATION WITH BILL GATES … What he’ll talk about in his meeting with President Trump: “I have two clear messages. One is about foreign aid, where we’re partnered with the government, to help articulate why -- even if you just look at the benefit to America of stability, disease being less likely to come here -- that this is very beneficial; that having those strong relationships, maintaining that commitment, continuing to tune it; that there’s great things that are coming out of that.
“And that’s been my primary message. Because of this budget increase, a second message for me will be that there’s an opportunity to take on some tough unsolved problems. One that I would highlight is that the preparedness we have for a pandemic, either a naturally caused pandemic or a bioterrorism intention caused pandemic, we don’t have the tools, the preparedness, the capacity to deal with that.”
… On Trump’s “America First” rhetoric: “Yeah, I don’t agree with the ‘American First’ rhetoric. That is, I think the alliances that we’ve built over time and the help we’ve provided to countries, uplifting them … have made the world a more stable, a richer place.” …
.. On if he’ll shift Trump’s rhetoric: “No, I’ll take his framework and explain why things like health security and continued foreign aid, even in that narrow framework where you give no credit for saving lives in Africa, kind of pure humanitarian things, even without that, this is money well spent.” ...
… On the importance of foreign aid: “The story of foreign aid is that you allow countries to lift themselves up so they become self-sufficient. ... [I]t’s hard for me to understand the notion that helping people who are poorer than we are is a bad thing. It’s kind of in the Bible!” …
… On Washington’s response to social media, post-2016 election: “Do these platforms polarize people in a way that exacerbates trends towards polarization that are already taking place, and do they allow foreign influence that shouldn’t be allowed or trolls, hate speech, to come on and affect people’s views? Those are super interesting questions in a democracy. … The specific recommendations about what [social media companies] should do [in response to bad actors], I find fairly vague.” Full video of the interview http://politi.co/2FLJyNq
WELCOME TO THE JOB, LARRY! -- @realDonaldTrump at 7:11 a.m.: “Larry Kudlow will be my Chief Economic Advisor as Director of the National Economic Council. Our Country will have many years of Great Economic & Financial Success, with low taxes, unparalleled innovation, fair trade and an ever expanding labor force leading the way! #MAGA” ...
… at 9:26 a.m.: “We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive). P.M. Justin Trudeau of Canada, a very good guy, doesn’t like saying that Canada has a Surplus vs. the U.S.(negotiating), but they do...they almost all do...and that’s how I know!”
-- WHAT TRUMP TWEETED IS NOT TRUE. The office of the United States Trade Representative writes that the “U.S. goods and services trade surplus with Canada was $12.5 billion in 2016.” http://bit.ly/2FDrnO5 … The WaPo story that likely triggered the tweet, where Trump said he made up a claim on trade in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau http://wapo.st/2IqpDW8
NOT PLAYING NICE -- “White House disregarded Republican investigators’ requests. The GOP has been reluctant to fight back,” by McClatchy’s Anita Kumar: “The White House has refused to comply with all three investigations by the Republican-controlled House into the questionable behavior of President Donald Trump’s top aides, including Cabinet secretaries and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. And Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are being criticized for accepting no for an answer rather than subpoena the documents.
“The investigations involve three of the biggest controversies at the White House since Trump took office -- aides using private email for government business, spending taxpayer money on costly private airplane travel and holding interim security clearances for long periods of time while handling the nation’s secrets. ....
“‘During his tenure as Oversight Committee Chairman, Rep. Gowdy has sought information from the White House in three separate investigations, but the White House has defied the committee’s requests every time -- with absolutely no repercussions,’ Cummings told McClatchy. ‘It is now clear that the White House will not respond to this committee unless it is compelled to do so. Unfortunately, Republicans continue to wall off the Trump administration from real oversight.’” http://bit.ly/2FJqyiM
TRUMP ON STAFF CHANGES, per today’s pooler Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News: “The story was very false. They wrote a story about staff changes and it was very false. … Mike Pompeo is going to be an incredible secretary of state. We have some wonderful ideas. … There will always be change but very little. It was a very false story. A very exaggerated and false story. But there will always be change. And I think you want to see change. I want to also see different ideas.”
ON THE SAME PAGE -- “UK, US, Germany, France unite to condemn attack on ex-spy,” by POLITICO Europe’s Zach Sayer and Maxime Schlee: “The leaders of France, Germany, the U.S. and U.K. united on Thursday to condemn the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain, saying there was ‘no plausible alternative explanation’ other than Moscow being responsible. ‘This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War,’ the countries said in a joint statement. …
“The allies called on Russia to answer questions related to the attack, and said Moscow’s ‘failure’ thus far to respond to the U.K.’s inquiry ‘further underlines its responsibility.’” http://politi.co/2Is9zDn
-- “U.S. imposes new sanctions on Russian entities over 2016 election meddling,” by Elana Schor, Andrew Restuccia and Cory Bennett: “The Treasury Department on Thursday slapped new sanctions on two dozen Russian entities and individuals for interfering in the 2016 election and conducting a series of damaging cyberattacks.
“‘The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in U.S. elections, destructive cyberattacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,’ Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. ‘These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia.’” http://politi.co/2FLqsr1
2018 WATCH -- JOE BIDEN endorsed Susie Lee, who’s running in Nevada’s 3rd congressional district. It’s his first congressional endorsement this cycle (besides Conor Lamb), according to the DCCC.
FOGGY BOTTOM DISCORD -- “ Emails reveal conservative alarm over ‘Obama holdovers’ in Trump administration,” by Nahal Toosi: “[An article about a career staffer], which appeared in an obscure online publication called Conservative Review, had caused a stir among conservative activists and incoming Trump officials who were busy trying to establish who [Sahar] Nowrouzzadeh was -- and whether she could be purged.
“According to emails obtained by POLITICO, the agitators included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who sent the article to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s chief of staff; and an official who falsely claimed in an email to top Tillerson aides that Nowrouzzadeh 'was born in Iran,' and also that she had wept after Trump’s election. …
“The exchanges provide a window into the intense suspicion – critics call it paranoia – of senior Trump officials towards the career staffers they inherited upon taking over the government, especially in the realms of foreign policy and national security. In one email, a staffer was described as ‘a leaker and a troublemaker’ while another was branded a ‘turncoat.’” http://politi.co/2DvaZcC
ENTRIES FOR THE PLAYBOOK POOL ARE NOW CLOSED! -- The first tournament games tipped off at noon, so all brackets are now final. A sampling of who you’re competing against: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sean Spicer, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, NBC’s Chuck Todd, NYT’s Jonathan Martin, CNN’s Jake Tapper and Wolf Blitzer, Fox News’ Bret Baier, 15 governors and many more.
OUR PICKS: Jake and Anna both have Villanova over North Carolina in the finals … Daniel has Kansas over Xavier … Zach has Virginia over Michigan State. Check your bracket http://bit.ly/2Ga22bL
-- DON’T FORGET TO JOIN US tonight for an informal watch party at WILLIE'S (our official Playbook Pool partner) in Navy Yard during the evening games (which tip-off at 6:50 p.m.) for #PlaybookPool discounts and specials. Willie’s website http://bit.ly/2HBLtVE
ON THE WORLD STAGE -- PAGING JARED: “U.S. officials: Saudi crown prince has hidden his mother from his father, the king,” by NBC News’ Carol Lee and Courtney Kube: “[T]here is one Saudi woman whom U.S. officials say has not benefited from the prince’s rise: his own mother. Fourteen current and former senior U.S. officials told NBC News that intelligence shows Prince Mohammed bin Salman -- often referred to by his initials MBS -- blocked his mother from seeing his father, King Salman, more than two years ago and has kept her away from him as the young prince rapidly amassed power.
“Prince Mohammed, a key ally of the Trump White House, has concocted various explanations of his mother's whereabouts over the years, such as that she's out of the country receiving medical treatment, so King Salman would not know his son has been behind her continued absence, the current and former officials said.” http://nbcnews.to/2Du4xmf
MEDIAWATCH -- JAMES ANDREW MILLER in The Hollywood Reporter: “John Skipper Details His ESPN Exit and a Cocaine Extortion Plot” http://bit.ly/2Iqq3fa
-- “Big radio station owner files for bankruptcy,” by CNN’s Sherisse Pham and Brian Stelter: “iHeartMedia, the operator of 850 stations across the United States, submitted the paperwork on Thursday. Its rival Cumulus, the operator of 445 stations, did the same thing a few months ago.” http://cnnmon.ie/2DutJca
SPOTTED: Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) along with Kevin Gundersen, Rob O’Connor, Luke Burke and Chaim Starkey last night at the Trump Hotel … retired Gen. Wesley Clark this morning at the New York Athletic Club
OUT AND ABOUT -- WHITE HOUSE DEPARTURE LOUNGE -- SPOTTED at Tyler Ross’ going away party last night at the Hamilton -- Wednesday was his last day as deputy director of media affairs at the White House: Hogan Gidley, Lindsay Walters, Helen Fierre, Kelly and Frank Sadler, Natalie Strom, Ninio Fetalvo, Kelly Love, Giovanna Coia, Ashley Mocarski, Annie LeHardy, Carolina Hurley, Janet Montesi, Sofia Boza, Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Hillary Gross, Heather Swift, Alex Hinson, Andrew Parkinson, Ja’ron Smith, Andrew Giuliani, Adam Kennedy, Jeff Freeland, Andy Koenig, Emma Doyle.
SPOTTED last night at a Hoover Institution dinner at the Hamilton featuring senior fellow Niall Ferguson, author of the new book “The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook” – ($19.49 on Amazon http://amzn.to/2FD75Eh): David Frum, Bob Hillman, Ben Domenech, Jon Deckard, Katie Glueck, John Hudson, Autumn Brewington, Alice Lloyd, Eli Lake, Emily Esfahani Smith, Vic Matus, Tracy Wilkinson, Doyle McManus, Annie Linskey, Matt Continetti.
SPOTTED last night at a screening of the movie “12 Strong” at the National Archives, hosted by the Motion Picture Association of America and the Atlantic Council -- (trailer http://bit.ly/2IpWzho): Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Charlie Rivkin, Jane Harman, Fred Kempe, Christine Wormuth, retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, Michael Vickers, Adrienne Arsht, Pierre Agius, Caroline Atkinson, Kathleen Biden, Trey Herr, Andrew Baskett, Sam Ide, Paige Ennis, Tracy Bernstein, Stephen Flanagan, Jason Gorey, Geoff Lamb, Lloyd and Ann Hand, Morgan Ortagus, Capricia Marshall, Antoine van Agtmael, Ron Saleh.
TRANSITIONS -- Kristina Baum will be the next communications director for the House National Resources Committee. She was previously at Chevron Phillips Chemical. … Paxton Baker is opening up a D.C. office for the marketing firm Liquid Soul DC. Baker is the chairman of the board of the Congressional Award Foundation and a minority owner of the Washington Nationals as well as the Washington Kastles.