IT WAS A BAD NIGHT for House Republicans. As Steve Shepard, Elena Schneider and Scott Bland point out below, Rep. Evan Jenkins got his clock cleaned in the West Virginia Senate primary. Indiana Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita spent months whacking at each other in the Indiana Senate primary, allowing Mike Braun to waltz in and say, “wait, both of these guys are D.C. flunkies. Vote for me.” North Carolina GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger -- who piqued the attention of the FBI in the recent past -- lost.
WHEN HOUSE REPUBLICANS popped their heads up to take bigger roles, voters said “no thanks.” It’s a sharp contrast to past years, when House Republicans like Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and even Mike Pence launched successful bids for higher office from the people’s House.
BUT THERE WAS nothing definitive to take away from last night, vis a vis the internal party dynamics. Some establishment folks won, others who aligned themselves with the Freedom Caucus triumphed. Troy Balderson won Pat Tiberi’s Columbus area seat -- after Tiberi dumped $470,000 into his race from his overflowing cash reserves. Balderson -- a statehouse lawmaker -- was undoubtedly the establishment choice. Anthony Gonzalez -- a former Ohio State football player and the son of a Cuban immigrant who was backed by the Chamber of Commerce and Conservative Leadership Now PAC -- beat Christina Hagan, who was backed by the House Freedom Caucus folks. Hagan branded herself as "Anti-Establishment. Pro-Trump."
BUT MARK HARRIS, who topped Pittenger -- the first incumbent to go down this year -- has publicly aligned himself with the House Freedom Caucus. … NEXT PRIMARY DAY UP: Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon and Pennsylvania on May 15.
THE BIGGEST WINNER of the evening wasn’t on the ballot. Mitch McConnell and establishment Republicans beat back insurgent Don Blankenship, who had made the West Virginia primary a referendum on the Kentucky Republican in sharp -- and often racist -- tones. After a taking a beating in Alabama, Blankenship’s loss will be a major boost in energy and fundraising power Republicans need for November. Alex Isenstadt chronicles Mitch’s victory https://politi.co/2FX1hkc
DEM ENTHUSIASM? NOT IN OHIO … PAUL KANE (@pkcapitol): “Update: A very bright spot. With 99% in, per AP, more than 819k Republicans voted in OH Gov race, compared to 671k Democrats. DeWine received 73,000 more GOP votes than Cordray received Dem votes.”
STEVEN SHEPARD, ELENA SCHNEIDER AND SCOTT BLAND: “Top takeaways from the first big primary of 2018”: “1. Republicans averted catastrophe, but victory in West Virginia is far from assured. …
“2. Words alone can’t earn the Trump mantle. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita spent the final week of the GOP Senate primary in Indiana trying to convince voters that Mike Braun — the businessman and former one-term state representative who had surged to the front of the field on an outsider message — wasn’t a reliable conservative. They cited Braun’s participation in Democratic primaries for more than three decades. ...
“3. House members went down hard. It was a bad night for House members running statewide: Jenkins lost to Morrisey by more than 5 points. Rokita and Messer finished even further behind Braun. Rep. Jim Renacci, who still won the GOP nomination to face Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio, failed to win a majority of the vote in the primary, despite endorsements from Trump and the state Republican Party. ...
“4. The first incumbent falls. Will others join? Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) became the first incumbent member of Congress knocked out in a primary in 2018. …
“5. Both parties got their men for Ohio governor. It was an easy night for both parties watching the Ohio gubernatorial race. State Attorney General Mike DeWine easily dispatched Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor in the GOP primary … And on the Democratic side, former state Attorney General Richard Cordray cruised past Rep. Dennis Kucinich. ...
“6. Chalk two up for the GOP establishment. Establishment Republicans got more good news in Ohio when Troy Balderson and Anthony Gonzalez won primaries for open congressional seats.
“7. Women are dominating Democratic primaries. Women are running for federal office in record numbers in 2018 — and it looks like Democratic primary voters are poised to support those candidates like never before. There were 20 open Democratic House primaries with women on the ballot Tuesday night, and voters selected a female nominee in 17 of them.” https://politi.co/2KOd3kD
Good Wednesday morning. James Comey was fired a year ago today. THE PRESIDENT is having a Cabinet meeting at 11:30 a.m. He then has nothing on his schedule until 3:10 p.m., when he attends a celebration of military mothers and spouses event. He’s dining with members of Congress at 7 p.m.
MIKE POMPEO IN PYONGYANG … CNN’S WILL RIPLEY (@willripleyCNN): “Sec. Pompeo’s lunchtime toast in North Korea: ‘For decades, we have been adversaries,’ he said. ‘Now we are hopeful that we can work together to resolve this conflict, take away threats to the world & make your country have all the opportunities your people so richly deserve.’”
HEARING PREP … WHAT GINA HASPEL WILL SAY AT HER CONFIRMATION HEARING … EXCERPTS FROM HER TESTIMONY… (Hearing is 9:30 this morning in 216 Hart)
-- NO MORE TORTURE: “I understand that what many people around the country want to know about are my views on CIA’s former detention and interrogation program. I have views on this issue, and I want to be clear. Having served in that tumultuous time, I can offer you my personal commitment, clearly and without reservation, that under my leadership CIA will not restart such a detention and interrogation program.”
-- SHE’LL WORK WITH THE HILL: “As both a career intelligence officer and an American citizen, I am a strong believer in the importance of oversight. Simply put, experience has taught us that CIA cannot be effective without the people’s trust. And we cannot hope to earn that trust without the accountability that comes with Congressional oversight. If we can’t share aspects of our secret work with the public, we should do so with their elected representatives. For CIA, oversight is a vital link to the open society we defend.”
-- ON BEING A SPY: “I recall my first foreign agent meeting was on a dark, moonless night with an agent I’d never met before. When I picked him up, he passed me the intelligence, and I passed him extra money for the men he led. It was the beginning of an adventure I had only dreamed of.”
-- FIRST FEMALE NOMINATED TO LEAD THE CIA: “By any standard, my life at the Agency -- and it has been my life -- has exceeded all of my expectations, from that January day when I took my oath to today. There were few senior women leading at CIA in those days, and we are stronger now because that picture is changing. I did my part—quietly and through hard work—to break down those barriers. And I was proud to be the first woman to serve as the number-two in the Clandestine Service. It is not my way to trumpet the fact that I am a woman up for the top job, but I would be remiss in not remarking on it—not least because of the outpouring of support from young women at CIA who consider it a good sign for their own prospects.”
… THEN THERE’S THIS ... “9/11 Planner, Tortured by C.I.A., Asks to Tell Senators About Gina Haspel,” by NYT’s Charlie Savage: “President Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to lead the C.I.A. has revived debate over the agency’s post-Sept. 11 interrogation program and still-murky questions about her involvement.
“Now, on the eve of her Senate confirmation hearing, a striking voice is trying to join that fray: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed ... [who] asked a military judge at Guantánamo Bay for permission to share six paragraphs of information about Ms. Haspel with the Senate Intelligence Committee. Ms. Haspel ran a black-site prison in Thailand where another high-level detainee was tortured in late 2002.
“But it is not known whether she was involved, directly or indirectly, in Mr. Mohammed’s torture. Mr. Mohammed was held in secret C.I.A. prisons in Afghanistan and Poland. In the weeks after his capture, an Intelligence Committee report said, Mr. Mohammed was subjected to the suffocation technique called waterboarding 183 times over 15 sessions, stripped naked, doused with water, slapped, slammed into a wall, given rectal rehydrations without medical need, shackled into painful stress positions and sleep-deprived for about a week by being forced to stand with his hands chained above his head.” https://nyti.ms/2wt6ReS
-- More than 100 retired U.S. ambassadors, including Thomas Pickering, Samantha Power, Don Beyer and Rufus Gifford -- from both Republican and Democratic administrations -- are sending a letter to the Senate opposing the confirmation of Gina Haspel to be CIA director. The letter http://bit.ly/2I7G1dJ
IRAN FALLOUT …
-- “Behind Trump’s Termination of Iran Deal Is Risky Bet That U.S. Can ‘Break the Regime,’” by NYT’s David E. Sanger and David D. Kirkpatrick: “For President Trump and two of the allies he values most — Israel and Saudi Arabia — the problem of the Iranian nuclear accord was not, primarily, about nuclear weapons. It was that the deal legitimized and normalized Iran’s clerical government, reopening it to the world economy with oil revenue that financed its adventures in Syria and Iraq, its missile program and its support of terrorist groups. Now, by announcing on Tuesday that he is exiting the nuclear deal and will reimpose economic sanctions on Iran and companies around the world that do business with the country, Mr. Trump is engaged in a grand, highly risky experiment. ...
“In theory, America’s withdrawal could free Iran to produce as much nuclear material as it wants — as it was doing five years ago, when the world feared that it was headed toward a bomb. But Mr. Trump’s team dismisses that risk: Iran does not have the economic strength to confront the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia. And Iran knows that any move to produce a weapon would only provide Israel and the United States with a rationale for taking military action. It is a brutally realpolitik approach that America’s allies in Europe have warned is a historic mistake, one that could lead to confrontation, and perhaps to war.” https://nyti.ms/2I04x4t
-- BEHIND THE SCENES -- NYT’s Mark Landler: “Mr. Trump’s announcement capped a frantic four-day period in which American and European diplomats made a last-ditch effort to bridge their differences and preserve the agreement. That effort began Friday, when Mr. Pompeo called his counterparts in Europe to tell them that Mr. Trump was planning to withdraw from the deal, but that he was trying to win a two-week reprieve for the United States and Europe to continue negotiating.
“Mr. Pompeo, people familiar with the talks said, suggested that he favored a so-called soft withdrawal, in which Mr. Trump would pull out of the deal but hold off on reimposing some of the sanctions.” https://nyti.ms/2K6xV5C
-- Susan Glasser (@sbg1): “Trump pulling out of the Iran deal he called ‘the worst deal ever’ is not a surprise. The surprise is that so many smart people thought they could convince him otherwise.”
SUSAN RICE in the NYT, “Trump’s Most Foolish Decision Yet”: “As required, Iran relinquished 97 percent of its enriched uranium stockpile, dismantled two-thirds of its centrifuges and its entire plutonium facility, abided by the most intrusive international inspection and monitoring regime in history, and forswore ever producing a nuclear weapon. This agreement was never about trust. It is about stringent verification — in perpetuity. The deal effectively cut off all potential pathways for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.
“Now President Trump has ceded the moral high ground and freed Iran from all those constraints. Iran will be able to resume its nuclear activities without being blamed for violating the agreement. Instead, it is the United States that is about to unilaterally violate the very agreement it negotiated by reimposing nuclear-related sanctions while Iran remains in compliance.” https://nyti.ms/2IsvYTK
ABOUT COHEN’S ESSENTIAL CONSULTING … CNN’S KARA SCANNELL and SHIMON PROKUPECZ: “Mueller’s team questions Russian oligarch about payments to Cohen”: “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have questioned a Russian oligarch about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments his company’s U.S. affiliate made to President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, after the election, according to a source familiar with the matter. Viktor Vekselberg, chairman of asset manager Renova Group, is an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin, and last month the Trump administration placed him on a list of sanctioned Russians for activities including election interference.
“The purpose of the payments, which predate the sanctions, and the nature of the business relationship between Vekselberg and Cohen is unclear. ... Investigators also asked Vekselberg about donations the head of his U.S. affiliate made to Trump’s inaugural fund and campaign funds, sources said.” https://cnn.it/2jJMpgr
-- MORE FROM THE NYT’S MIKE MCINTIRE, BEN PROTESS and JIM RUTENBERG: “Among the other payments to Mr. Cohen’s company described in the financial records were four for $99,980 each between October and January by Novartis Investments S.A.R.L., a subsidiary of Novartis, the multinational pharmaceutical giant based in Switzerland.
“Novartis — whose chief executive was among 15 business leaders invited to dinner with Mr. Trump at the World Economic Forum in January — spent more than $10 million on lobbying in Washington last year and frequently seeks approvals from federal drug regulators. Novartis said in a statement that its agreement with Essential Consultants had expired.
“In addition, Korea Aerospace Industries paid Mr. Cohen’s company $150,000 last November, according to the records. The company, an aircraft manufacturer, has teamed with the American defense contractor Lockheed Martin in competing for a multibillion-dollar contract to provide trainer jets for the United States Air Force that is expected to be awarded this year. A representative for Korea Aerospace declined to comment.” https://nyti.ms/2ImMR2p
-- HMM: “AT&T confirms it paid Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s company,” by CNN’s Brian Stelter and Hadas Gold: “AT&T confirmed Tuesday evening that it paid President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen in 2017 for ‘insights into understanding the new administration.’ The payments were revealed in a document published by Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti Tuesday afternoon.
“Avenatti alleged that Essential Consultants, a shell company set up by Cohen before the election to pay Daniels, was paid by several corporations, including AT&T. At the time, AT&T was seeking government approval for its acquisition of Time Warner, CNN’s parent company. A document released by Avenatti stated that ‘Essential received $200,000 in four separate payments of $50,000 in late 2017 and early 2018 from AT&T.’” https://cnnmon.ie/2woOk3c
SO IT SEEMS THAT, in part, Cohen was running a Trump political intelligence shop, of some sort … plus a lot more.
-- “Michael Cohen Puts Up Family Apartment Against Bank Debts,” by Bloomberg’s Caleb Melby and Shahien Nasiripour: “Michael Cohen, the longtime personal attorney for President Donald Trump who has been drawn into a potentially costly legal battle, has put up his family’s Manhattan apartment as collateral for millions of dollars in loans to his troubled taxi business. ... Cohen and his wife have now pledged their apartment in the Trump Park Avenue -- a 10th-floor spread combining three units -- as additional collateral to the bank, which valued it at $9 million, according to filings of the April 22 transaction.” https://bloom.bg/2K5vXSR
RUDY IN THE NEWS, DAY 8 -- DARREN SAMUELSOHN and BEN SCHRECKINGER: “‘It’s extremely insulting’: Giuliani fires back at allegations of erratic behavior”: “‘None of that is true,’ Giuliani said of [Joe] Scarborough’s remarks in an interview Tuesday afternoon. ‘I’m not sleeping now. I’m in Dallas. I’m wide awake. I’ve handled numerous cases including some sensitive cyber matters. I’m a lot more aware and intelligent than Joe has ever been and a lot more accomplished. Joe hasn’t been knighted by the Queen of England. He hasn’t run a U.S. attorney’s office, much less a city that he turned around or went through 9/11.’
“As for the allegations about his drinking, Giuliani acknowledged being a social drinker but said he doesn’t have alcohol early in the day. ‘I’m not drinking for lunch,’ he said. ‘I may have a drink for dinner. I like to drink with cigars.’” https://politi.co/2K47Vb4
SCOOP -- “Secret intelligence source who aided Mueller probe is at center of latest clash between Nunes and Justice Dept.,” by WaPo’s Bob Costa, Carol D. Leonnig, Devlin Barrett and Shane Harris: “Last Wednesday, senior FBI and national intelligence officials relayed an urgent message to the White House: Information being sought by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes could endanger a top-secret intelligence source. Top White House officials, with the assent of President Trump, agreed to back the decision to withhold the information. They were persuaded that turning over Justice Department documents could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI, according to multiple people familiar with the discussion and the person’s role.” https://wapo.st/2wsq7Jm
WHITE HOUSE DEPARTURE LOUNGE – “Trump campaign veteran leaving White House communications office,” by Annie Karni, Nancy Cook and Matt Nussbaum: “Cliff Sims, a special assistant to the president who oversees White House message strategy, is expected to take a position at the State Department as a senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the coming weeks.” https://politi.co/2jJQTE8
HAPPENING TONIGHT -- The Herb Block Foundation is hosting the “Herblock Prize” award ceremony and lecture at the Library of Congress. This year’s lecturer is Scott Simon and Ward Sutton is the prize winner.
AMAZING SCENE … “Shouting match erupts on House floor over chaplain,” by Rachael Bade and Heather Caygle: “No. 4 House Democrat Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), who is Catholic, and Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) got up in each other’s faces on the House floor and squabbled over the merits of a special investigation into the dismissal. The exchange was so heated that some lawmakers and aides watching worried they’d come to blows, though Crowley’s office said that was never going to happen.
“[M]acArthur walked over to the Democratic side of the chamber and accused Crowley of politicizing the issue. According to one source who witnessed it, MacArthur said he prays with Conroy regularly and he’s a Republican — so this is not a partisan issue and Crowley shouldn’t make it one. MacArthur, who is Episcopalian, said he was offended by Crowley’s actions. Crowley grew angry and started yelling at MacArthur saying, ‘I’m offended!’ He pointed to the speaker’s chair, arguing that Ryan was the one who made it a political issue when he fired the chaplain.” https://politi.co/2FZgjGg
-- FROM JAKE: I was in the House gallery for this, watching the floor from above. This was as heated of a fight as I’ve ever seen. Both men were screaming, nearly face to face -- some lawmakers inserted themselves in between them, presumably to calm the situation.
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION -- “U.S. embassy cables warned against expelling 300,000 immigrants. Trump officials did it anyway,” by WaPo’s Nick Miroff, Seung Min Kim and Joshua Partlow: “In the past six months, the Trump administration has moved to expel 300,000 Central Americans and Haitians living and working legally in the United States, disregarding senior U.S. diplomats who warned that mass deportations could destabilize the region and trigger a new surge of illegal immigration. The warnings were transmitted to top State Department officials last year in embassy cables now at the center of an investigation by Senate Democrats, whose findings were recently referred to the Government Accountability Office. ...
“Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson dismissed the advice and joined other administration officials in pressuring leaders at the Department of Homeland Security to strip the immigrants of their protections.” https://wapo.st/2K8U5nY
THE MUELLER INVESTIGATION …
-- “First Mueller convict reports to prison,” by Josh Gerstein: “A Dutch attorney now has the dubious distinction of being the first person imprisoned in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Alex van der Zwaan, 33, reported to a low-security Federal Bureau of Prisons facility near Allenwood, Pennsylvania, on Monday to serve the 30-day sentence he received for lying to investigators in the course of Mueller’s investigation, according to a bureau spokesperson. His projected release date is June 4, according to information on the prison bureau’s website.” https://politi.co/2FZvZJB
BEYOND THE BELTWAY -- “Newsom gets pummeled in California governor debate,” by California Playbooker Carla Marinucci in Los Angeles: “California’s crowded field of major gubernatorial candidates battled in a televised debate for the first time Tuesday, exchanging barbs over sanctuary cities and #MeToo issues — and saving some of their toughest blows for the Democratic frontrunner, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. …
“But Newsom confidently stood his ground regarding issues like his past sexual transgressions — which Democrats used to raise the issue of character — and on his backing of sanctuary cities, where Republicans lambasted him as a danger to public safety. Throughout the evening, Newsom portrayed himself as a leader who would battle Trump on key areas including immigration, the budget, and other governmental priorities, saying that ‘it’s incumbent upon the next governor to stand up and stand tall’ to advance California values ‘around the nation.’” https://politi.co/2rvaLil -- “‘People are afraid of retribution’: Hunter clan fights for survival,” by Rachael Bade in Alpine, California: https://politi.co/2I0gaZb
MEDIAWATCH … “Christiane Amanpour named as Charlie Rose’s official replacement,” by CNN’s Brian Stelter: “Amanpour will continue to host mainly from CNN in London while four new contributors will join from a WNET studio in New York. The contributors are Walter Isaacson, Michel Martin, Alicia Menendez and Hari Sreenivasan.” https://cnnmon.ie/2I5Xjfq
TRANSITIONS … JONATHAN BECKER, former chief of staff for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), is joining Greenberg Traurig. He was previously at Invariant.
-- FIRST IN PLAYBOOK … OBAMA ALUMNI: Kevin Lewis is now at Blue Engine Message & Media. He is a former spokesperson at DOJ and is an alum of the Obama White House and the Obama post-presidency office, where he was chief spokesperson.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Dana Perino, anchor of Fox News Channel’s “The Daily Briefing” and co-host of “The Five.” She’s celebrating by “going to the Bon Jovi concert at Madison Square Garden with my husband and then heading to Washington on Thursday for an event where President Bush 43 is getting the Distinguished International Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council.”
--A fun fact about her: “When I was working as a press secretary for Rep. Dan Schaefer in 1997, I met my husband on a plane on my way back to DC after a series of editorial board meetings in Denver. We call it love at first flight.” Read her Playbook Plus Q&A: https://politi.co/2FYRPwW
BIRTHDAYS: Virginia White is 96 (Texas tips: Robert and Elena) … Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent at the New York Times Magazine and author of “This Town,” is 53 ... EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is 5-0 ... Laura Capps ... Theo LeCompte, COO of MemoryWell, is 39 (hat tip: wife Jenni) ... David Gergen is 76 … HuffPost is 13 ... Third Way president Jon Cowan (h/t Ladan Ahmadi) … John Ashcroft is 76 ... Facebook’s Joel Kaplan is 49 … Kent Knutson, VP of gov’t relations for the Home Depot, is 51 ... Steven Richman ... Politico’s Victoria Guida and LaToiya O’Brien ... Mary Towey ... Gregg Keller ... Jeremy Kennedy ... Maine State Rep. Matt Moonen ... Olya Moskalenko ... WSJ China politics reporter Eva Dou ... Fabion Seaton, comms director for the Maryland Democratic Party ... Ezra Klein, founder and editor-at-large of Vox.com, is 34 … Nicholas Jackson, EIC of Pacific Standard (h/t Teddy Scheinman) ... DOL’s Aaron Krejci … David Wysong ... Judith Steinberg Dean is 65 ...
... Nihal Krishan, producer in the D.C. bureau of ABC News Australia ... Ashley Schapitl, press secretary for Sen. Feinstein (h/t Don Sisson) … former Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) is 65 (b/t Blain Rethmeier) ... IFA’s Jenna Weisbord is 3-0. “She is celebrating with family and friends at a rooftop bash at POV at the W this weekend” (h/t Erica Farage) … Danielle Friedman, associate at Perkins Coie ... Sam Fox, owner of Harbour Group Industries, is 89 ... David Perera ... Chris Ullman, managing director and director of global comms. for Carlyle ... Gregory Whitten ... Lauren Decot ... Melanie Hastings ... Sally Buikema ... Victoria McCullough of Tumblr (h/t Kelley McCormick) ... Edelman’s Erica Noble ... Conor Lynch ... Katherine Casey ... McClatchy’s Greg Gordon ... Parker Poling, COS to the chief deputy whip of the House … Reeve Hamilton ... Kevin Shuvalov … Joe Mohorovic ... Virginia Dent … Jack Peterson ... Daily Beast senior editor Justin Miller ... Ian Osborne ... Nikki Thomas Richards ... Stu Sandler ... Brian Sowa is 4-0 ... Matt Hessburg … Rick Boxer … Jill Hassenfelt … Peter Drummond (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)