FIRST IN PLAYBOOK -- A group of Senate Republican-focused outside groups raised nearly $13.9 million during the first quarter of 2018. The SENATE LEADERSHIP FUND raised $9.6 million and ONE NATION brought in nearly $3.8 million. AMERICAN CROSSROADS brought in $350,500 and CROSSROADS GPS raised $50,000. That’s up from $7.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 and $7.1 million in the third quarter of 2017. Current cash-on-hand is $34.4 million.
STEVEN LAW, who heads SLF and One Nation, said that the groups have already gotten another $12.1 million in “hard pledges” for the second quarter of this year. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, who is closely tied to SLF, has done a “huge amount” of travel, meetings and phone calls, according to Law.
MORE FROM LAW ...
-- ON 2018: “I think what is continued to develop among our donor base a recognition that this is going to be a historically difficult election and there is just a sharpening focus on the importance on holding a senate majority as a firewall.”
-- TWO ISSUES MOTIVATING DONORS -- NO. 1: “[There] is a growing alarm among our donors about the widening fundraising disparity between some of these targeted Democratic Senate incumbents and their Republican challengers. … Several Republicans were massively outraised. It’s propelling our donors to get engaged.”
NO. 2: “[That there will be] at least one more Supreme Court vacancy in the first term of this administration … There is a real focus on the importance of the Senate with respect to both the Supreme Court and federal courts.”
-- DONORS ON TRUMP: “[They] wish he would put away his smart phone but in general the strategic and policy direction is something they like. Not all of our donors, but vast majority are very pleased with how tax reform turned out, the decision to move U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and the focus on federal courts. … The tariffs that would be an outlier. Not thrilled about that, but they also discern maybe there is a strategic direction under that [of being] tougher with trading partners.”
SCOOP: THE CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP FUND is dumping another $100,000 into Arizona’s 8th congressional district to boost Debbie Lesko’s candidacy to fill former Rep. Trent Franks seat. The spend is a “final, hyper-targeted digital and phone effort.” Trump won this district by more than 20 points.
GRIM NEWS FOR HOUSE RS, via Elena Schneider: “A whopping 43 House Republicans raised less money than Democratic challengers in the first three months of 2018 -- nearly the same number of stragglers the GOP had at the end of last year, according to POLITICO's analysis of the latest Federal Election Commission filings. An overlapping group of 16 Republican incumbents already have less cash on hand than Democratic challengers, up from the end of 2017, despite hopes that tax reform would open more donor wallets.” https://politi.co/2HbuBFi
WAPO’S ERICA WERNER: “Republicans fear political risk in Senate races as House moves to extend tax cuts”: “Heading into a contentious campaign for control of Congress, Republicans are increasingly divided over how to bolster their signature legislative achievement — a $1.5 trillion tax cut — amid signs it is not the political gift they had expected it to be last year.
“House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) aims to pass another massive tax cut this summer, which Republicans hope will rev up the GOP base and improve the standing of Republicans at the polls.
“But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is under pressure to block a vote, which Republican campaign strategists worry could allow red-state Democrats to vote for additional tax cuts and undermine one of the GOP’s most effective lines of attack in conservative-leaning states: that Democrats voted against a big tax cut last December.” https://wapo.st/2JaWOfN
-- THIS IS ANOTHER EXAMPLE of the House and Senate being on two completely different pages. The House is going to try to undo a spending agreement they just passed, which is something Mitch McConnell says he has no interest in doing.
TOP TRUMP ADMINISTRATION STORY -- “Haley sets a red line for Trump,” by Eliana Johnson and Burgess Everett: “In the span of 24 hours, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has done what none of her colleagues in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet have before: successfully telegraphed to her boss that she will not quietly suffer his public humiliations. Haley was initially blamed by White House aides for creating confusion by speaking on national television about the administration’s plans to roll out new sanctions against Russia that the president ultimately decided to defer.
“But within hours of White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow’s statement Tuesday that Haley had fallen prey to ‘momentary confusion’ and gotten ‘out ahead of the curve,’ she’d exacted a public apology from her colleague. But that alone wasn’t enough for the former South Carolina governor, who issued a direct statement to make her point crystal clear: ‘With all due respect, I don’t get confused.’ The incident met with silence from the president and his loyalists but has only helped to burnish Haley’s image outside the White House.” https://politi.co/2HcxoBY
-- CNN’S JEFF ZELENY -- @jeffzeleny: “NEW: @nikkihaley is asked how her relationship is with President Trump, she says: ‘It’s perfect’ before walking into the UN Security Council Chambers.”
CNBC’S KAYLA TAUSCHE: “U.S. targeting NAFTA deal in three weeks: Sources” https://cnb.cx/2EXAMuP
CONFIRMATION WATCH -- “White House hypes North Korea trip to boost Pompeo’s image,” by Louis Nelson and Eliana Johnson: “The White House on Wednesday cast CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s meeting with North Korea’s leader as evidence of his qualification to be President Donald Trump’s top diplomat, putting a political spin on his act of high-stakes nuclear diplomacy. Word of the trip, arranged to discuss an upcoming summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un, leaked on Tuesday in the midst of the White House’s effort to ensure Pompeo’s confirmation as secretary of state.
“Trump has tapped Pompeo to replace the ousted Rex Tillerson, but his fate in a narrowly divided Senate is uncertain. The revelation was timed to shore up Pompeo’s image as a diplomat capable of executing sensitive negotiations on the president’s behalf, according to a senior administration official—and to undermine Democratic efforts to portray him as a warmonger unsuited to lead the country’s diplomatic corps.” https://politi.co/2vqauSr
-- “Trump and Kim May Meet in Sweden or Switzerland, Sources Say,” by Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs, Toluse Olorunnipa, and Nikos Chrysoloras: “Locations for the meeting include Geneva, an unnamed Swedish location, and venues in Asia and Southeast Asia, people familiar with the talks told Bloomberg. One person said the U.S. wasn’t considering Beijing, Pyongyang, Seoul or Panmunjom, the site of the Korean armistice signing in 1953.” https://bloom.bg/2EZF4Se
-- TRUMP on the talks, yesterday during a press conference at Mar-a-Lago: “If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go. If the meeting, when I'm there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting, and we’ll continue what we're doing or whatever it is that we'll continue. But something will happen.”
THE NEW NORMAL -- “The world learns to ignore Trump: Diplomats and investors are starting to dismiss Trump’s policy tweets and other quickly shifting statements,” by Ben White and Megan Cassella: “Trump last week shocked the world by suggesting he might rejoin the giant Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-nation pact among nations representing 13 percent of the global economy. He reversed himself days later.
“Beyond TPP, Trump in recent weeks has declared war on Amazon then not done very much about it. He settled on Russia sanctions only to ditch them, leaving American allies and members of his own administration completely befuddled.
“In ordinary times, a declaration like the one Trump made about TPP would have sent stocks soaring, thrilled exporters and sent corporate strategists scrambling to assess the impact. But none of that really happened. Financial markets and America’s trading partners largely ignored the comments as a throwaway line, and the market wisdom proved to be correct when Trump tweeted that he did not ‘like the deal for the U.S,’ deflating the TPP trial balloon before it left the ground.” https://politi.co/2HB0I4K
THE INVESTIGATIONS ...
DARREN SAMUELSOHN and ANDREW RESTUCCIA: “‘Is he 15 years loyal?’: Trump allies worry Cohen will flip”: “President Donald Trump and his outside advisers are increasingly worried that his longtime personal attorney might be susceptible to cooperating with federal prosecutors. Two sources close to the president said people in Trump’s inner circle have in recent days been actively discussing the possibility that Michael Cohen – long seen as one of Trump’s most loyal personal allies – might flip if he faces serious charges as a result of his work on behalf of Trump.
“‘That’s what they’ll threaten him with: life imprisonment,’ said Alan Dershowitz, the liberal lawyer and frequent Trump defender who met with the president and his staff over two days at the White House last week. ‘They’re going to threaten him with a long prison term and try to turn him into a canary that sings.’” https://politi.co/2J56CIr
-- WSJ’s Joe Palazzolo, Michael Rothfeld and Michael Siconolfi: “Mr. Trump made the call seeking advice from Jay Goldberg, who represented Mr. Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s. Mr. Goldberg said he cautioned the president not to trust Mr. Cohen. On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Mr. Cohen ‘isn’t even a 1,’ he said he told Mr. Trump.” https://on.wsj.com/2vqdmyq
-- “New York Attorney General Seeks Power to Bypass Presidential Pardons,” by NYT’s Danny Hakim and William K. Rashbaum: “Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York is moving to change New York state law so that he and other local prosecutors would have the power to bring criminal charges against aides to President Trump who have been pardoned, according to a letter Mr. Schneiderman sent to the governor and state lawmakers on Wednesday.” https://nyti.ms/2EZcJeN ... The letter https://nyti.ms/2Hc64jl
UNSHACKLED … “Ex-Playboy Model, Freed From Contract, Can Discuss Alleged Trump Affair,” by NYT’s Jim Rutenberg: “The tabloid news company American Media Inc. agreed to let a former Playboy model out of a contract that had kept her from talking freely about an alleged affair with Donald J. Trump. The settlement agreement, reached on Wednesday, ends a lawsuit brought by the model, Karen McDougal, and protects the president from being drawn into a legal case involving efforts to buy the silence of women who had stories to tell about him during the 2016 campaign. ...
“Under the terms of Wednesday’s settlement, A.M.I. has the right to up to $75,000 of any future profits from her story about the alleged affair. According to her lawyer, Peter K. Stris, Ms. McDougal can keep the $150,000 payment, and the publisher will retain the rights to photographs of her that it already has.” https://nyti.ms/2HdbJKh
GOOD EYE -- WAPO’S JENNA JOHNSON: “‘People don’t realize’: Trump and the historical facts he wants you to know”: “As President Trump announced that South and North Korean leaders have his blessing to discuss a permanent end to the military conflict between their two countries, he dropped in a quick history lesson. ‘People don’t realize the Korean War has not ended,’ Trump said on Tuesday, his face contorting into a look that seemed to communicate surprise and bafflement. ... Several days after [a] trip [to France], Trump said in an interview that French President Emmanuel Macron ‘loves holding my hand’ and that ‘people don’t realize he loves holding my hand.’
“Trump’s public remarks are filled with dozens of similar comments. ... According to Trump, most people don’t know that there’s more than one Air Force One; that the heroin epidemic has ravaged New Hampshire; that the Empire State Building was constructed in less than a year; that universities ‘get massive tax breaks for their massive endowments;” that Clemson University is ‘a great academic school, one of the top 25;’ or that nonprofit organizations and churches are barred from endorsing political candidates.” https://wapo.st/2HJOPXB
ARIZONA REPUBLIC: “With McCain in hospital, Arizona lawmakers push bill that would delay vote to replace him,” by Ronald J. Hansen and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez: “State lawmakers are considering a bill that would take U.S. Sen. John McCain’s seat off the November ballot if the six-term Arizona Republican, who is battling a deadly form of brain cancer, leaves office early. …
“The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Senate Democrats intend to try to block the legislation by voting as a bloc to ensure that its emergency clause can't get the needed two-thirds approval. … If McCain were to leave the seat before his term ends in 2022, the governor would decide who fills the vacancy and the seat would appear on the next general election ballot.” http://bit.ly/2Hejcof
THE JUICE …
-- DONNA SHALALA raised well over $100,000 at a D.C. fundraiser Tuesday night at Heather and Jim Johnson’s Georgetown condo. The former Clinton aide, who is running to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), made the case to supporters that she was ready to deliver on day one, according to one attendee. CO-HOSTS: Buffy Cafritz, Linda and Tom Daschle, Ann and Vernon Jordan, Liz and George Stevens, Linda and Rich Tarplin and Carol and Tom Wheeler.
SPOTTED: Bob Barnett and Rita Braver, former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, former North Dakota Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, John Podesta, former Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), Mack McLarty and Alice Rivlin.
-- JASON KANDER visited South Carolina on Wednesday, where he met with lawmakers and Democratic party leaders, attended a South Carolina Black Caucus reception and appeared on Columbia’s “Urban Scene” radio show. The Palmetto State is the 39th state Kander has visited since Nov. 2016.
-- THE SENATE HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE takes on the FDA on new proposed imodium rules. https://politi.co/2EZnhuo
TRUMP’S THURSDAY -- The president is leaving Mar-a-Lago this morning enroute to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South in Key West where he will be briefed. He will then return to Mar-a-Lago.
L.A. TIMES: “Gov. Jerry Brown says Trump administration will fund his National Guard mission -- without immigration duties,” by John Myers: “Gov. Jerry Brown formally mobilized 400 California National Guard members Wednesday for transnational crime-fighting duties, thus preventing any effort by President Trump to have the troops focus on immigration enforcement on the Mexican border.
“The governor announced that federal officials have agreed to fund the plan he announced last week — a mission to ‘combat criminal gangs, human traffickers and illegal firearm and drug smugglers’ in locations around California, including near the border. The order Brown signed makes clear that the troops will not be allowed to perform a broader set of duties as envisioned by Trump’s recent comments.” https://lat.ms/2J3XAeH
SNEAK PEEK -- RONAN FARROW on NewYorker.com in an article drawn from his upcoming April 24th book, “War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence”: “Inside Rex Tillerson’s Ouster: The last days of his brief and chaotic tenure as Secretary of State”: http://bit.ly/2Hcc2AB … Pre-order -- $23.01 on Amazon https://amzn.to/2qIoxxI
JONATHAN MARTIN in Casselton, North Dakota, “Across Midwest, Farmers Warn of G.O.P. Losses Over Trump’s Trade Policy: China’s proposed tariffs on soybeans would hit hard in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota and other states with highly competitive House and Senate races”: https://nyti.ms/2K0gq7U
INCHING TOWARD THE 21ST CENTURY -- “Baby, c’mon in: Senate allows newborns of members in chamber,” by AP's Laurie Kellman: “Its passage without objection came despite plenty of concern, some privately aired, among senators of both parties about the threat the tiny humans pose to the Senate’s cherished decorum. ... Sen. Orrin Hatch, the father of six, grandfather of 14 and great-grandfather of 23, said he had ‘no problem’ with such a rules change. ‘But what if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?’ he asked.” http://bit.ly/2qIXr8Z
-- “Male Democratic senators join push for new harassment rules in Congress,” by Elana Schor: https://politi.co/2vxJAYy
PRUITT FILES -- “Scott Pruitt’s Moroccan calendar draws blanks,” by ABC News’ Stephanie Ebbs: “The 47-hour journey in Morocco was already drawing congressional scrutiny and criticism from outside groups because of the lack transparency over why Pruitt was in the country and what he was doing while he was there. ...
“Conservative congressional estimates put the cost of the trip at more than $40,000, and because of travel snags, Pruitt and his aides spent two days in Paris at high-end hotels. Pruitt did not publicly announce he was going ahead of time, did not bring reporters along, and when he finally released copies of his itinerary in response to Freedom of Information requests from ABC News and other news organizations, the bulk of the schedule was blacked out.” https://abcn.ws/2HyfdpT
SPOTTED: Eric Holder and his wife on a Delta shuttle heading to D.C. from LGA ... Cal Ripken Jr. at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, where he received the “Great Americans” medal and was interviewed by David Rubenstein ... Former British Prime Minister David Cameron at Sonoma Wednesday night.
OUT AND ABOUT – SPOTTED: Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) with country music group Little Big Town, which includes his constituent Kimberly Schlapman, at the annual GRAMMYs on the Hill -- (pic https://bit.ly/2JYWd24). Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Mike McCaul (R-Texas), Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.,) and Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) also attended.
-- SPOTTED at a party held by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) at Station House in NE to honor her husband John Bessler, who won the 2018 University System of Maryland Board of Regents’ Faculty Award: Justice Stephen Breyer and Joanna Breyer, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Hilary Rosen, Frances Stead Sellers, Margaret Carlson, Nina Totenberg – pic https://politi.co/2vtiFNB
BIRTHDAYS OF THE DAY: Ron Kaufman, senior adviser in the public policy and regulation practice at Dentons. How the Trump presidency is going: “As my friend James Carville once famously said ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ Raising GDP, increasing wages, highest employment in decades, lowest unemployment among African Americans, Hispanics and women, 15 year high in consumer confidence! According to James — looks like the President gets re-elected!!!” Read his Playbook Plus Q&A: https://politi.co/2J5eU31
-- Sheinelle Jones, co-anchor of NBC’s “Weekend Today,” is 4-0. How she got her start in journalism: “I started interning in local newsrooms when I was a junior in high school in Wichita, Kan. and never looked back. After graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2000, my first job was a ‘one man band’ in Springfield, Illinois. I spent 3 years in Tulsa, 9 years in Philadelphia, now ‘The Today Show.’” Q&A: https://politi.co/2HeZixq
BIRTHDAYS: Joanne Ochsman … James Littlefair of Treasury’s advance team ... CNN’s Emily Kuhn (hat tip: Matt Dornic) ... Martha Newton of the Dept. of Labor ... Jon Dominic Garcia … Felix Gillette, staff writer at Bloomberg BusinessWeek … conservative consultant Jim Kelly … Seth Solomonow of Bloomberg Associates ... Jonathan Levy, director of policy and strategy at Vision Ridge Partners ... Sarah (Rozier) Flaim, comms. director for the House Financial Services Committee ... Caitlin Hayden, EVP and group director -- media at Edelman and a State and NSC alum (h/t Ben Chang) ... Jeff Fraser is 3-0 ... Louis Agnello, public law and policy Associate at Akin Gump (h/t Kurt Bardella) ... Ally Schmeiser, partner at Sentinel Strategic Advisors ... Courtney Sieloff, president of Asana Creative Strategy, is 4-0. She’s celebrating in Tulum ... Tory Brown, of The Pastorum Group and Progress Now fame, “celebrating her with tacos, per usual” (h/ts Josh Cohen) … Stateline.org staff writer Sophie Quinton ... Abbey Schubert ...
... Katie Delzell, director of development at AAN/CLF, is 27 (h/ts hubby Taylor Haulsee and Blake Waggoner) … Lori Yates, a Bush alum now with the Illinois Senate (h/t Lindsay Walters) ... Laura Lee Burkett, deputy legislative director for Rep. Steven Palazzo (h/t Grace McKellip) ... AEI’s Ryan Nabil ... Vic Beck, director of comms at Northrop Grumman ... Mudar Zahran ... Libby Wuller, newly promoted director of external engagement at Quorum ... William Carter ... Anya van Wagtendonk ... Politico Europe’s Kritasha Gupta ... Orde Kittrie, a law professor, former State official, and an expert on nonproliferation … Kara Watt … Patty Blumer ... Nat Grossman ... Russ Ferguson ... Luke Swarthout ... Jamie Bennett ... AARP’s Mary Liz Burns ... Peter Giangreco ... Staci Appel (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)