AT 4:46 P.M. yesterday afternoon, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP delivered REP. DAN DONOVAN (R-N.Y.) an endorsement the lawmaker had long been waiting for. Donovan is running against MICHAEL GRIMM, a former House Republican who was recently in prison. The district they’re running in is Staten Island and Brooklyn, a narrowly Republican swath of New York City that voted for Trump overwhelmingly. Grimm has positioned Donovan as insufficiently supportive of Trump’s legislative agenda. Needless to say, this is one of the districts in America where Trump could be helpful.
-- TRUMP, on Twitter: “There is no one better to represent the people of N.Y. and Staten Island (a place I know very well) than @RepDanDonovan, who is strong on Borders & Crime, loves our Military & our Vets, voted for Tax Cuts and is helping me to Make America Great Again. Dan has my full endorsement! … Very importantly, @RepDanDonovan will win for the Republicans in November...and his opponent will not. Remember Alabama. We can’t take any chances on losing to a Nancy Pelosi controlled Democrat!”
THERE’S ONLY ONE PROBLEM. Donovan voted against the tax-cut bill. He voted against it three times. He voted against it in every incarnation. The only material reason Trump gave to support Donovan was incorrect. Not only did Donovan vote against it, he was vocally opposed to it. He called it a “tax hike on the people I represent.”
AN UNFORCED ERROR -- and an embarrassing one at that for the leader of the Republican Party. YA GOTTA WONDER: What is going on in the White House? It’s tough to think of a mistake easier to avoid than whether a lawmaker voted for the largest legislative achievement of the past two years.
Good Thursday morning. The Washington Capitals tied the Stanley Cup finals, beating the Las Vegas Golden Knights in Nevada. The series moves home Saturday night. The Washington Nationals are the winners of six straight, and are in first place.
BIG NEWS ON THE TRADE FRONT -- “Trump readies to hit U.S. allies with steel, aluminum tariffs,” by Megan Cassella and Ben White: “President Donald Trump is preparing to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union as soon as Friday, but conversations with his top advisers are still ongoing, a senior administration official said late Wednesday.
“The decision could be made final Thursday, and the official put the odds of the U.S. imposing tariffs on all three close trading partners at 75 percent. But the official added that a meeting Thursday morning could change that decision or slow it down. Any official document released by the White House is expected to include language saying that all decisions are subject to further negotiation, the official said, which leaves open the possibility that the countries could have some wiggle room to avoid the duties.” https://politi.co/2ssqkHo
-- REMEMBER: The clock is ticking. Trump’s temporary exemption for Canada, Mexico and the EU is set to expire at midnight.
ANNIE KARNI: “Email snafu reveals White House outreach to Obama and Clinton alumni”: “President Donald Trump is better known for speaking directly to his base than trying to win over his critics.
“But when it comes to selling Trump’s Iran strategy and other foreign policy initiatives, the White House has been blasting out its talking points to an uncharacteristically inclusive list of foreign policy heavyweights – including former Obama administration officials, advisers to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and critics who have publicly accused Trump of being, across the board, ‘bad at playing president.’
“An unusual peek at the White House list of ‘influencers’ came courtesy of communications aide Kelly Sadler, who failed to blind-copy recipients in a May 22 email blast highlighting the administration’s new Iran strategy. The email, reviewed by POLITICO, suggested to its recipients ways to amplify the White House’s message and show support.” https://politi.co/2H5Z1rK
THE INVESTIGATIONS …
-- NYT’S MATT APUZZO, ADAM GOLDMAN and MIKE SCHMIDT: “F.B.I. Official Wrote Secret Memo Fearing Trump Got a Cover Story for Comey Firing”: “The former acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, wrote a confidential memo last spring recounting a conversation that offered significant behind-the-scenes details on the firing of Mr. McCabe’s predecessor, James B. Comey, according to several people familiar with the discussion. ...
“In the document, whose contents have not been previously reported, Mr. McCabe described a conversation at the Justice Department with the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, in the chaotic days last May after Mr. Comey’s abrupt firing. Mr. Rosenstein played a key role in the dismissal, writing a memo that rebuked Mr. Comey over his handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton.
“But in the meeting at the Justice Department, Mr. Rosenstein added a new detail: He said the president had originally asked him to reference Russia in his memo, the people familiar with the conversation said. Mr. Rosenstein did not elaborate on what Mr. Trump had wanted him to say. To Mr. McCabe, that seemed like possible evidence that Mr. Comey’s firing was actually related to the F.B.I.’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and that Mr. Rosenstein helped provide a cover story by writing about the Clinton investigation.” https://nyti.ms/2J2VrjE
-- NBC NEWS’ KELLY O’DONNELL -- (@KellyO): “NEW: Rudy Giuliani tells me he is doing question and answer prep sessions regarding special counsel probe with the president in the evenings this week.”
-- CNN’S “MOSCOW” MANU RAJU and JEREMY HERB: “Key Senate panel still divided on Trump-Russia collusion along partisan lines”: “The Senate Intelligence Committee remains deeply divided over whether there is evidence of collusion between Donald Trump's campaign and Russia after a year-long investigation, the latest sign that Congress is unlikely to find consensus over a key question surrounding the 2016 elections.
“Republicans on the panel maintain they’ve seen no evidence of collusion, while Democrats say it's clear that the Russians had found willing partners in the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 race. ‘There was clearly an intent to collude,’ said Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden. Asked if he believes there’s evidence to support the notion of collusion, GOP Sen. Roy Blunt said: ‘Not that I’ve seen.’
“Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine agreed. ‘Our investigation is not complete, but to this date and time I have not,’ Collins said when asked if she'd seen evidence of collusion. Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said that the committee has ‘a handful’ of witnesses remaining to interview. He was hopeful the interviews could be completed by June and the report itself could be done by Labor Day -- but it’s unclear if the panel will be able to release an unclassified report before the midterms.” https://cnn.it/2sllo83
-- “Michael Avenatti Withdraws Bid To Appear Before Judge in Cohen Probe,” by WSJ’s Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Nicole Hong: “Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for former adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, withdrew a bid to participate in proceedings related to the criminal investigation into President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, shortly after other lawyers and a federal judge raised concerns in court about his behavior in the matter.
“Mr Avenatti withdrew his motion after U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood issued a stern warning, saying if she allowed him to participate in the case involving Michael Cohen, Mr. Avenatti would have to change his conduct and stop what she called his ‘publicity tour.’ ‘You will not be permitted to use this court as a platform for anything,’ Judge Wood said, adding that he wouldn’t be allowed to publicize private documents or to share his views of Mr. Cohen’s guilt—‘which you do,’ she said.” https://on.wsj.com/2IZCum7
-- “Manafort allies launch defense fund,” by Josh Gerstein: “Self-described friends of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort are launching a defense fund to help pay the mounting legal bills he’s incurring as a result of two looming criminal cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“A newly revealed website portrays the wealthy lobbyist and political consultant as struggling to cover his debts since prosecutors froze his bank accounts last year. ‘The Defense Fund is urging anyone who values civil liberties and wishes to show the ‘Deep State’ that they cannot exert their will on ordinary citizens, to join them in supporting the Manafort family as they grapple against the Special Counsel to clear their name,’ a statement announcing the fund said. ‘Special Counsel Mueller previously seized Manafort’s assets, effectively crippling his 6th amendment rights and leaving him and his family struggling to pay legal bills.’” https://politi.co/2J4oJPd … The fund’s website http://bit.ly/2xABTSO
PETER BAKER on BEN RHODES’ new book on A18 of the NYT: “How Trump’s Election Shook Obama: ‘What if We Were Wrong?’”: “Riding in a motorcade in Lima, Peru, shortly after the 2016 election, President Barack Obama was struggling to understand Donald J. Trump’s victory. ‘What if we were wrong?’ he asked aides riding with him in the armored presidential limousine.
“He had read a column asserting that liberals had forgotten how important identity was to people and had promoted an empty cosmopolitan globalism that made many feel left behind. ‘Maybe we pushed too far’ Mr. Obama said. ‘Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe.’ …
“The day Mr. Obama hosted Mr. Trump at the White House after the election seemed surreal. Mr. Trump kept steering the conversation back to the size of his rallies, noting that he and Mr. Obama could draw big crowds, but Mrs. Clinton could not, Mr. Rhodes writes” in “The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House,” out June 5. https://nyti.ms/2sgGSCX … $24 on Amazon https://amzn.to/2J6KJsM
OUCH! -- “Trump’s Net Worth Slides to $2.8 Billion, Lowest Since Campaign,” by Bloomberg’s Caleb Melby: “President Donald Trump’s net worth slipped to $2.8 billion, a decline of $100 million over the past year, as revenue at his namesake Fifth Avenue tower and golf courses fell.
“The drop, the second in two years, is based on figures compiled by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index from lenders, property records, annual reports, market data and a May 16 financial disclosure. It occurred as Trump began his second year in the White House and his name was stripped from buildings in Toronto, Manhattan and Panama.” https://bloom.bg/2H8bafw
THE SUMMIT …
-- ABC’S TARA PALMERI and CONNOR FINNEGAN: “Top U.S. diplomat for Asia on ropes ahead of North Korea summit”: “In one of his first major personnel moves as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo is expected to withdraw the nomination of Susan Thornton for Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, three sources with knowledge of the matter told ABC News.
“Thornton is a career Foreign Service officer with 20 years of experience in the region who has been the acting Assistant Secretary since March 2017. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was a fierce proponent of hers, battling China hawks in the administration and on Capitol Hill to get White House approval for her nomination in December.” https://abcn.ws/2sk4ZRa
-- A COMPLICATING FACTOR: “Taiwan event creates headaches for Trump amid North Korea talks,” by Andrew Restuccia: “As Trump administration officials scramble to pull off a high-stakes meeting with North Korea next month, they’re grappling with another diplomatic challenge in Asia: the opening of a new office building in Taiwan. Senior White House aides have for months been quietly weighing how to handle the June 12 opening of an office complex in Taipei that serves as a de facto U.S. embassy without enraging the Chinese government.
“Chinese officials have repeatedly signaled, both in public comments and in private conversations with Trump administration aides, that any decision by the United States to include high-level officials – or even worse, a Cabinet secretary – in the delegation attending the ceremony would be met with outrage from Beijing. With less than two weeks to go before the event, the White House has not yet finalized the delegation, according to people familiar with the planning, though it is expected to include at least one senior administration official.” https://politi.co/2xrJHWA
SETTING A RECORD -- BURGESS EVERETT: “McConnell set to pass Dole as longest-serving GOP Senate leader”: “On June 12, McConnell will surpass the 11-plus-year run of former Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas to become the longest-serving Republican Senate leader ever. It’s a remarkable feat given the turmoil in the Republican Party since Trump’s takeover: The House GOP will soon be on its third party leader in little more than three years, while the lower rungs of Senate leadership are about to experience significant turnover. McConnell is on his third president as Republican leader.” https://politi.co/2kC77iN
JOHN BRESNAHAN: “Schock loses appeal of criminal indictment”: “A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected former Rep. Aaron Schock’s effort to throw out his criminal indictment, a major setback for the Illinois Republican’s efforts to avoid a trial on corruption charges.
“Schock can appeal the decision, in part, to the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, or to the Supreme Court. Barring a dramatic reversal, however, the criminal proceedings against Schock will move forward.” https://politi.co/2H8lxzY
POLITICO/MC POLL: “Poll: Trump’s tweets damage the nation,” by Steven Shepard: “A majority of voters believe President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed is harmful to his presidency and the nation’s standing in the world.” https://politi.co/2H4lZPX
ASKED AND ANSWERED -- @FLOTUS: “I see the media is working overtime speculating where I am & what I’m doing. Rest assured, I’m here at the @WhiteHouse w my family, feeling great, & working hard on behalf of children & the American people!”
THE JUICE …
-- OMB DIRECTOR MICK MULVANEY is set to headline the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s annual dinner and reception June 18.
TRUMP’S THURSDAY -- The president is traveling to Houston in the morning where he will meet with families of Santa Fe shooting victims and community leaders. In the afternoon, Trump is meeting with supporters and will speak at an NRSC lunch at the St. Regis Houston. He will then travel to Dallas, where he is holding a fundraiser, before returning to Washington.
YOU’RE INVITED -- HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP STEVE SCALISE (R-La.) will sit down with us for his first live D.C. event since the shooting JUNE 12 at the D.C. Bar headquarters (901 4th Street NW). The conversation comes almost one year to the day after the baseball-practice shooting. Scalise, of course, is the No. 3 House Republican, and has an inside view of governing during these fascinating times. RSVP http://bit.ly/playbookscalise
-- SPEAKING OF SCALISE … THE ATLANTIC’S ELAINA PLOTT … STEVE SCALISE PROFILE: “The Man Who Would Be Speaker: The odds are against Steve Scalise -- but he’s used to that.” https://theatln.tc/2L9Iqpi
WASHINGTON, INC. -- “How a sanctioned Russian bank wooed Washington: New documents show gala invites, a charismatic CEO and high-powered lobbyists burnished VTB’s image,” by the Center for Public Integrity’s Carrie Levine: “Less than two months before a 2016 presidential election marked by Russian interference, senior State Department official Daniel Fried received an invitation to a private gala featuring an exclusive performance by the Bolshoi Ballet and a post-event reception. ‘Clearly your last meeting with Andrey Kostin made an impression!’ said the email, sent by a former State Department official who now heads a trade association dedicated to business ties between the U.S. and Russia.
“‘Please see attached a special invitation from him’ for Fried and a guest to attend a VTB-sponsored gala at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Who is Kostin? The chairman of VTB, a state-owned Russian bank operating under U.S. sanctions limiting its activities since 2014. VTB’s well-connected Washington lobbyists had previously brokered a meeting between the two men to discuss the sanctions. Fried, the State Department’s sanctions policy coordinator, declined. ‘I won’t be attending,’ he replied to the trade association head. ‘We’re not interested in advancing their corporate reputation.’” http://bit.ly/2IZHerV
VALLEY TALK -- “How a Pentagon Contract Became an Identity Crisis for Google,” by NYT’s Scott Shane, Cade Metz and Daisuke Wakabayashi: “The company’s relationship with the Defense Department since it won a share of the contract for the Maven program, which uses artificial intelligence to interpret video images and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes, has touched off an existential crisis, according to emails and documents reviewed by The Times as well as interviews with about a dozen current and former Google employees.
“It has fractured Google’s work force, fueled heated staff meetings and internal exchanges, and prompted some employees to resign. The dispute has caused grief for some senior Google officials ... as they try to straddle the gap between scientists with deep moral objections and salespeople salivating over defense contracts.” https://nyti.ms/2H4oHEV
2018 WATCH -- “Democrats struggle with midterm message on impeachment,” by Darren Samuelsohn, Burgess Everett and Kyle Cheney: “A senior Senate Democrat warned on Wednesday that Americans would soon grow ‘tired of’ the Trump-Russia scandal, tamping down the impeachment fever spreading through his party’s base. Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia moderate who would take over the Intelligence Committee should Democrats win back the Senate in November, played down the idea that he would devote the panel’s work to a renewed investigation of the president’s Russia ties.
“‘The notion for those who may be partisans in the crowd … “Well, gosh, if Democrats take control, they’ll be able to really ramp these up” — I think the American public will be tired of it if this is not wound down in this calendar year,’ Warner said during a technology and politics conference in Southern California. ...
“Many party leaders believe it is dangerous to fixate on Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election, especially at the expense of kitchen-table issues like jobs and health care. The question is particularly sensitive given that Republicans insist they can energize their own voters with talk of Democratic overreach on a scandal that many of their core voters consider bogus.” https://politi.co/2LMFpfV
HMM -- “New Mexico governor candidate profited from high-risk insurance plans,” by Rachana Pradhan: “U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the leading Democratic candidate for governor in New Mexico, profited from the state’s use of a high-priced health-insurance program for seriously ill patients, even after Obamacare made such programs virtually obsolete.
“As most states were shuttering their subsidized health-insurance programs for people with pre-existing conditions because they could get coverage through Obamacare, a firm co-founded by Grisham and a close political ally received millions of dollars to run New Mexico’s program, even as she served in Congress.” https://politi.co/2H5bewL
SURREAL REAL ESTATE -- “AOL’s Steve Case Sells Estate to Saudi Government for $43 Million,” by WSJ’s Candace Taylor: “AOL co-founder Steve Case has sold Merrywood, the Northern Virginia estate that was also a childhood home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, for $43 million to the government of Saudi Arabia. The sale, which closed last week, is the most expensive residential sale on record in the Washington, D.C., area, according to Monica Boyd of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, who represented the buyer.
“According to a Saudi spokeswoman, the government plans to use the residence when Saudi-delegation dignitaries visit the United States. ‘The Saudi government understands the historical significance of the Merrywood home and has tremendous respect for its place in American history,’ the spokeswoman said in a written statement.” With a pic https://on.wsj.com/2JhUVln
SPOTTED: Michelle Obama lunching at Chez Billy Sud on Wednesday with two other women ... Henry Kissinger in a luxury suite at Yankee Stadium watching Wednesday night’s game.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK -- Kirk Wagar, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Singapore from 2013-2017, is joining Mercury as co-chairman.
TRANSITIONS -- Natalie Ravitz is joining Oath as chief communications officer and “chief storyteller.” She previously was SVP of comms at the NFL and served as chief of staff and SVP of strategy to Rupert Murdoch at 21st Century Fox and News Corp. ... Walt Cronkite IV joined FTI Consulting this week as a director on the public affairs and government relations team, where he’ll help clients navigate Capitol Hill and understand the media. He previously was a Capitol Hill producer at CBS News.
... Nathan Brand is joining the Patrick Morrisey Senate campaign in West Virginia as communications director. He previously was communications director at Hoosiers For Rokita. … Callie Fines and Denelle Robinson are now chief financial officer and chief administrative officer at EMILY’s List, respectively.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: “Last Week Tonight” writer Juli Weiner. A book she’s been reading recently: “I am reading the whimsical and gimlet-eyed ‘D C-T!’ by Joana Avillez and Molly Young, which makes New York City seem like a small town and alien planet all at the same time. It’s a book of word puzzles, so maybe ‘reading’ is not quite the right word. ‘Cherishing,’ maybe? ‘Recommending,’ however, is definitely the right word.” Read her Playbook Plus Q&A: https://politi.co/2IYZNwq
BIRTHDAYS: Lauren Passalacqua, comms director at the DSCC ... Al From … Bernard Goldberg is 73 ... Katie Troller Bond ... Aditi Srinivas ... Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) is 56 ... Rep. Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam) is 85 … Politico’s Janet Michaud, Brad Bosserman, Jamie Oh and Hugh Stapleton ... RNC finance alum Angela Meyers … Isabel Carter-Kahn of Virginia Victory … BuzzFeed’s Matt Berman ... Debra DeShong, VP of global industry affairs at MGM Resorts International (h/t Amy Weiss) ... McClatchy’s Julie Moos ... Michael O’Connor, partner at Williams & Connolly and co-chair of its transactions and business counseling practice group … Dan Iten ... Clark Judge, founder and managing director of White House Writers Group ... Phil Elwood ... former Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) is 7-0 ...
... Bert Kaufman, head of corporate and regulatory affairs at Zoox … Ray Quintero, partner at Healthsperien (h/t Kristofer Eisenla) ... Sarah Heck ... Vidhya Murugesan ... Charlie Meisch, senior advisor for communications and policy at the FCC … Saul Levine is 8-0 ... Jay Dana is 31 ... Dan Pino is 29 ... Howard Homonoff, SVP at MediaLink (h/t Michael Knopf) ... billionaire Ira Rennert is 84 ... Rabbi Aaron Potek is 32 ... Fariba Yassaee (h/t Ben Chang) … Marilyn Tavenner, president and CEO of AHIP … Erik Telford, SVP at In Pursuit Of ... Zofia Rawner ... Sara Carter, Fox News contributor ... Rhonda Roberts ... Karen Quarles ... Pamela Hughes ... Steve Duprey … Bill Oglesby ... Alix Heard … ... Paul Heinen ... Stephanie Weix (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)