Playbook: NAFTA drama shifts into high gear

- Juni 01, 2018

SAY GOODBYE TO A NAFTA DEAL? … WAPO’S DAMIAN PALETTA: “Trudeau says NAFTA talks broke down after Pence made ultimatum”: “Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said months of intense negotiations between his country, the United States and Mexico imploded Tuesday when Vice President Pence demanded that any deal expire automatically in five years.

“Trudeau said he was prepared to travel to Washington this week to try to finalize a rework of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but Pence, in the phone call, said a meeting would occur only if the ‘sunset’ provision was agreed to in advance.

“‘I had to highlight that there was no possibility of any Canadian prime minister signing a NAFTA deal that included a five-year sunset clause, and obviously the visit didn’t happen,’ Trudeau said Thursday. … Trudeau said Thursday that he felt the United States, Mexico and Canada were on the verge of a renegotiated NAFTA that he described as a ‘win, win, win’ before the talks stalled after the Pence phone call.”

THROWDOWN … CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU on the tariffs, in a speech yesterday: “Let me be clear: These tariffs are totally unacceptable. For 150 years, Canada has been America’s most steadfast ally. Canadians have served alongside Americans in two world wars and in Korea. From the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, we have fought and died together.

“Canadian personnel are serving alongside Americans at this very moment. We are partners in NORAD, NATO, and around the world. We came to America’s aid after 9/11 – as Americans have come to our aid in the past. We are fighting together against Daesh in Northern Iraq.

“The numbers are clear: The United States has a $2 billion U.S. dollars surplus in steel trade with Canada – and Canada buys more American steel than any other country in the world, half of U.S. steel exports. Canada is a secure supplier of aluminum and steel to the U.S. defense industry, putting aluminum in American planes and steel in American tanks. That Canada could be considered a national security threat to the United States is inconceivable. …

“In closing, I want to be very clear about one thing: Americans remain our partners, friends, and allies. This is not about the American people. We have to believe that at some point their common sense will prevail. But we see no sign of that in this action today by the U.S. administration.” Video

BUT … Trudeau went to a Broadway show with Ivanka! Didn’t that mean anything?!

CUE THE WEST WING PALACE INTRIGUE: BEN WHITE, ANDREW RESTUCCIA and NANCY COOK: “War inside Trump trade team triggers global angst”: “Senior administration officials profess privately to not knowing exactly what Trump will ultimately decide to do on trade at any given moment. The uncertainty has led the president’s advisers to compete for his attention in a bid to sway him, leading to nasty behind-the-scenes fights that are increasingly bursting into public view.

“The week began with a statement that the administration would move ahead with trade levies on China, just days after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said a trade war with the world’s second-largest economy was ‘on hold.’ Trump’s senior trade adviser Peter Navarro publicly rebuked Mnuchin’s statement on Wednesday, calling it an ‘unfortunate sound bite.’

“One senior administration official said privately this week that Navarro’s public scolding of the Treasury secretary was a ‘firing-level offense’ but held out no hope that Trump would take any action.”

JUST SAYING: Typically a White House communications director would help implement a strategy for communicating the administration’s position on major policy initiatives. It’s been three months since Hope Hicks departed the White House and seemingly no process has been put in place to permanently fill her slot.

-- AND THE REACTION ON THE HILL AIN’T SO GREAT EITHER … BURGESS EVERETT: “Republicans gobsmacked by Trump’s tariffs: GOP lawmakers thought the president was going to hit China — not key U.S. allies”: “Republicans are bitterly protesting the Trump administration’s decision to impose sweeping tariffs on U.S. allies — alarmed that the White House ignored their frenzied lobbying campaign and afraid that the party could suffer at the polls in November. ... Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) called it ‘bad news’ and predicted imminent retaliation from the key U.S. allies.

“Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said there is ‘mounting evidence that these tariffs will harm Americans.’ And Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) warned that similar policies 90 years ago sparked the Great Depression. ‘This is dumb. Europe, Canada, and Mexico are not China, and you don’t treat allies the same way you treat opponents,’ Sasse said. ‘“Make America Great Again” shouldn’t mean “Make America 1929 Again.”’

ALL OF THIS IS IN ADDITION to the fact that it was looking extraordinarily unlikely that Congress would ratify a new NAFTA this year anyway.

BREAKING … WSJ: “Lawmakers Oust Spanish Leader Who Enacted Painful Economic Reforms,” by Jeannette Neumann in Madrid: “Spanish lawmakers voted to oust Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday, ushering in a center-left government whose new leader pledged to enact a moderate, pro-European agenda unlikely to knock Spain’s robust economic recovery off course. … Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez … becomes prime minister immediately.”

Good Friday morning, and happy June.

SPOTTED: Donald Trump Jr. and a woman at LaGuardia waiting for the 2 p.m. Delta Shuttle to Washington. They were accompanied by two Secret Service agents in the SkyClub lounge. Pics

IT’S WORTH NOTING -- The president held two 30-minute off-the-record gaggles with reporters yesterday.

AXIOS’ JONATHAN SWAN: “Scoop: Trump repeatedly pressured Sessions on Mueller investigation”: “President Trump pressured Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reclaim control of the Russia investigation on at least four separate occasions, three times in person and once over the phone, according to sources familiar with the conversations.”

NYT’S KEN VOGEL: “Stormy Daniels’s Lawyer Sought Help From Democrats in Fight With Trump”: “Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film actress who says she had a sexual encounter with President Trump, has sought help for his legal battle against Mr. Trump from leading Democratic operatives.

“Mr. Avenatti contacted an official in the network of liberal groups led by David Brock, while someone associated with Mr. Avenatti’s law firm was in touch with two people connected to major Democratic donors, according to people familiar with the conversations. But the discussions do not appear to have led to any financial help for the high-profile legal and public relations fight being waged by Mr. Avenatti and Ms. Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels.

“Mr. Brock’s groups decided not to donate to the efforts because they saw little value in spending money on a legal fight that was largely being waged in the news media, especially given Mr. Avenatti’s penchant for attracting press coverage, according to two Democratic political operatives familiar with the discussions. …

“In an interview Thursday, Mr. Avenatti reiterated that ‘this isn’t about politics.’ ‘I can’t tell you the name of every person that I have spoken to, or not spoken to, over the last three months,’ he said, ‘but what I can tell you is that we have not taken any political-associated dollars from anyone on the right or anyone on the left. Period.’”

PAUL RYAN’S $$ DASH -- “Speaker Paul Ryan raises $700K from Ohio events this week,” by The Columbus Dispatch’s Jessica Wehrman: “House Speaker Paul Ryan has raised around $700,000 for House Republicans this week during a swing through Ohio, appearing at fundraisers in Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, according to a spokesman.

“The Wisconsin Republican … headlined a fundraiser along with Sen. Rob Portman and former Rep. Pat Tiberi for state Sen. Troy Balderson, a Zanesville Republican who running for Ohio’s open 12th Congressional District seat that Tiberi vacated in January. The fundraiser, which cost $1,000 for guests and $2,700 for hosts, included a reception and a roundtable at a lobbyist’s private residence in Dublin.”

A LOOK BACK … FROM ALLY TO SPY -- “White House once touted FBI informant’s support for Trump’s trade agenda,” by Kyle Cheney: “Before President Donald Trump tagged him a ‘spy’ who had ‘infiltrated’ his campaign, Stefan Halper had a different relationship with the White House: helping advance Trump’s trade agenda with China. ...

“In a White House press release from August 14, 2017, titled ‘Praise for President Donald J. Trump’s Memorandum on Chinese Trade Practices,’ Halper is a featured voice in support of Trump's call for an investigation of China’s theft of intellectual property — a move critics worried would damage relations between the two nations.

“Nestled between quotes from a scholar from the conservative Hudson Institute and former congressman Randy Forbes, Halper — identified as a professor from the University of Cambridge — issued a glowing assessment of Trump’s decision.” press release

ABOUT THOSE PARDONS … NYT’s PETER BAKER and EILEEN SULLIVAN: “All three have connections, if sometimes distant, to Mr. Trump, either through political allies or his time in the private sector. Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who greeted Mr. Trump as he arrived for a visit to Houston on Thursday, pushed for the pardon for [Dinesh] D’Souza. [Rod] Blagojevich appeared on ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ Mr. Trump’s reality show, and [Martha] Stewart hosted an ‘Apprentice’ spinoff show. Moreover, all three of the cases were tied to prosecutors who have become nemeses of the president.

“Mr. D’Souza was prosecuted by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in New York who was fired by Mr. Trump last year and has been one of his fiercest critics. Ms. Stewart was prosecuted by James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director who was fired by Mr. Trump last year and has engaged in a running war of words ever since. As for Mr. Blagojevich, he was prosecuted by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a close friend and colleague of Mr. Comey. Mr. Trump previously pardoned I. Lewis Libby Jr., a top aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was also prosecuted by Mr. Fitzgerald.”

-- NATASHA KORECKI in Chicago: “Ex-FBI honcho blasts Trump over Blagojevich”: “Robert Grant, a longtime colleague and friend of special counsel Robert Mueller who headed the FBI’s Chicago office at the time of the Blagojevich investigation, told POLITICO in an interview that Trump is working to upend the FBI’s work as personal revenge for the special counsel probe he’s facing. ‘It’s so disheartening to think that the president of the United States would overturn the evidence heard by a judge and jury, all out of an animus toward Bob Mueller, James Comey and [former U.S. Attorney] Pat Fitzgerald,’ said Grant, who is now retired from the FBI.

“‘Blagojevich got caught by wiretaps and microphones and he was engaging in a practice that we believed he was taking part in for quite awhile … I don’t think anybody who listened to those tapes would think anything but it was an incredibly corrupt governor who was dealing with corrupt associates.’”

-- @charlie_savage: “What’s the pattern w/ pardoning Libby & D'Souza, floating Stewart & Blagojevich? Celebrity + white collar + undoing big wins by enemies (prosecutors were Comey, his lawyer Pat Fitzgerald, & fired SDNY US atty @PreetBharara). Who else fits? Maybe Conrad Black, another Fitz case...”

-- N.Y. POST COVER: “THE APPRENTICE: ‘YOU’RE PARDONED!’ EDITION” Cover, with photos of Dinesh D’Souza, Martha Stewart, Rod Blagojevich and an empty pane, that says “Who’s next?”

-- @DineshDSouza: “I’ll be on @foxandfriends [Friday] morning in the first TV interview following my pardon by President @realDonaldTrump. Tune into @foxnews at 6:30 a.m. ET!”


-- NBC NEWS SCOOP … CAROL LEE and JULIA AINSLEY: “Jared Kushner close friend Rick Gerson now under scrutiny from Mueller”: “Richard Gerson, a hedge-fund manager in New York, was in the Seychelles in January 2017, less than two weeks before President Donald Trump's inauguration and around the time Trump associate Erik Prince secretly met with Russian and United Arab Emirates officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, four of the people said.

“While in the remote Indian Ocean island nation, Gerson met with Prince Mohammed — also known by his initials as MBZ — and communicated with a Lebanese-American businessman with close ties to the UAE, George Nader, who had organized the Erik Prince meeting, according to text messages Gerson sent at the time and a person familiar with the meeting.

“Gerson had met Nader just weeks earlier when Trump officials, including Kushner, gathered for a secret meeting with MBZ at a Four Seasons hotel in New York, four people familiar with the meeting said. Trump's incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn and chief political adviser Steve Bannon, as well as the UAE's ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Otaiba, also attended the meeting.”

-- WAPO’S MATT ZAPOTOSKY: “Prosecutors interview Comey as they investigate whether McCabe should be charged”: “Investigators from the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office recently interviewed former FBI director James B. Comey as part of a probe into whether his deputy, Andrew McCabe, broke the law by lying to federal agents — an indication the office is seriously considering whether McCabe should be charged with a crime, a person familiar with the matter said.

“Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz accused McCabe in April of misleading investigators and Comey four times — three of them under oath — about authorizing a disclosure to the media. Horowitz referred the findings to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

“Lying to federal investigators can carry a five-year prison sentence, though McCabe disputes that he intentionally misled anyone. Comey’s interview, while significant, does not indicate prosecutors have reached any conclusions, and people familiar with the process said it is not surprising given the allegations McCabe faces. A referral from the inspector general does not guarantee charges will be filed.”

CLICKER -- “LISTEN: How Michael Cohen Protects Trump By Making Legal Threats,” by NPR’s Tim Mak:

TRUMP’S FRIDAY -- In the morning, the president will participate in the U.S. Coast Guard change-of-command ceremony. He will also meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before heading to Camp David.

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

SUNDAY SO FAR -- NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Rudy Giuliani. Panel: Joshua Johnson, Rich Lowry, Peggy Noonan and Katy Tur

– CNN’s “State of the Union” (guest host: Dana Bash): House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Panel: Karine Jean-Pierre, Linda Chavez, Bakari Sellers and Rick Santorum

-- “Fox News Sunday”: Corey Lewandowski. Panel: Brit Hume, Marie Harf, Guy Benson and Juan Williams

-- CNN’s “Inside Politics,” hosted by John King: Josh Dawsey, Manu Raju, Catherine Lucey and Rachael Bade

-- ABC’s “This Week”: Panel: Jon Karl, Patrick Gaspard, Chris Christie, Sara Fagen and Karen Finney

-- CBS’ “Face The Nation”: Panel: Susan Page, Michael Crowley, David Nakamura and Ed O’Keefe ... Debut of the 2018 CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker

SUSAN GLASSER on, “Marco Rubio’s Reboot for the Trump Era”: “‘Everyone is trying to figure out how can we do our job in this environment,’ Rubio told me in an interview for The New Yorker Radio Hour. ... ‘Yes, there are issues that will cross the line, and you’ve got to speak out, but you’ve also got a job to do on a regular basis, and it’s just that if we spend all day just responding to the daily outrage cycle, we don’t have time to do the rest of our job. And so everyone’s found a different way forward. I found, if there are lines that are crossed, I’m going to speak out strongly.’ ...

“Rubio has ... managed to stay on Trump’s good side personally, and is one of many Republicans on Capitol Hill who the President calls at all hours of the day and night for advice and counsel.”

PRUITT FILES -- “Senate Democrats demand EPA IG probe whether Pruitt got improper gift from top aide who scouted apartments, citing new agency emails,” by WaPo’s Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis: “Three Senate Democrats asked the [EPA’s] inspector general Thursday to probe whether agency chief Scott Pruitt received an improper gift from a top aide who conducted a housing search for him last year, citing new emails that show the staffer corresponded with a real estate agent during office hours on her agency email account. The new emails, attached to a letter written by Sens. Tom Udall (N.M.), Thomas R. Carper (Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), detail how EPA director of scheduling and advance Millan Hupp worked with a private real estate agent in the summer to locate an apartment for Pruitt and his wife.”

MEDIAWATCH -- “Facebook Nears Deals on News Shows for Video Platform ‘Watch,’” by WSJ’s Deepa Seetharaman and Lukas I. Alpert: “Facebook Inc. is close to announcing a first crop of news shows for its video platform Watch that will likely include content from Fox News and CNN, capping months of turbulent talks and several strategy shifts by the social-media company, people familiar with the matter said.

“The news programs being negotiated, which would be financed by Facebook and run exclusively on the platform, include one from Fox News hosted by Shepard Smith ... A few of the shows could be announced as early as next week and will officially launch in July.”

-- CAREN BOHAN is joining USA Today’s politics team as Washington editor. She most recently was White House and politics editor at Reuters.

SPOTTED separately on an 8:15 p.m. Acela from NYC to D.C.: Margaret Brennan, Ray Odierno and former USAID director Raj Shah

OUT AND ABOUT -- SPOTTED Thursday at a BBQ at Marc and Kristen Short’s home in Arlington, Virginia: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, Paul Teller, Russ and Mary Vought, Andy Koenig, Jonathan Hiler, Neal Patel, Michelle Runk, Ja’Ron Smith, Maxine Teller, Jeff Freeland and Catherine Curry.

-- SPOTTED at a fundraiser in C. Boyden Gray’s Georgetown ballroom for Walker Stapleton, a member of the Bush family running for governor of Colorado: former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, Josh Bolten, Jim Nicholson, former Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, Marvin Bush, Jamie Wareham, Bobbie Kilberg, France Hoang, Dexter Walker, Fritz Brogan, Chip Molster, and Sam Schreiber.

BIRTHWEEK (was Wednesday): Mark Bescher of Unilever (hat tip: Amanda Harris) ... (was last Wednesday): Cassandra Sánchez (h/t Melanie Fonder Kaye)

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Spencer Ackerman, national security reporter at the Daily Beast, is 38. A trend he thinks deserves more attention: “Inside the U.S., what ICE is doing to immigrant communities simply hasn’t gotten the urgent and sustained journalistic resources it demands, particularly from national publications. Abroad, the decimation of Yemen by U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia.” Read his Playbook Plus Q&A:

BIRTHDAYS: Sam Smith, celebrating with an urban boxing class (h/t Bubba) ... USAID administrator Mark Green is 58 ... Dan Bartlett, EVP of corporate affairs for Walmart ... Alex Seitz-Wald, political reporter for NBC News and MSNBC ... Tyler Ross, Trump WH communications alum ... Richard Sant, research director in the office of the vice president ... Alex Stoddard (h/t Geoff Morrell) ... Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) is 62 ... Alex Gambal ... Jenny Cizner, COO of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs ... Karen Tramontano of Blue Star Strategies ... Leslie Harris (h/ts Jon Haber) ... Constance Boozer, director of surrogates and media affairs for Senate Minority Leader Leader Schumer ... Elizabeth Glidden ... Axios’ Shane Savitsky ... Irena Vidulovic … Yevgeniy Prigozhin is 57 … Sean Kennedy, SVP of global gov’t affairs for Airlines for America … Olivia Gazis of CBS News .. Forest Harger ... Sasha Moss of R Street ...

... Cruz-world’s Jason Johnson (h/t Chris Wilson) ... Matt Kenney ... Elizabeth Rojas Levi, director of public affairs and government relations at Nokia (h/t Fara Klein) ... the European Central Bank is 20 (h/t Brussels Playbook) ... Monica Millman (h/t Hunter) ... Greg Nelson … Nairi Hourdajian, VP of marketing and comms at Canaan Partners … Erin Shields Britt, director of corporate comms. at CVS Health … Jeremy Rose, co-founder of Advoc8 (h/t Jill Barclay) ... GOP ad man Jim Innocenzi ... Mark Lotto ... Matt Burns … Mac O’Brien, director at Hamilton Place Strategies ... Suzanne Merkelson ... Addie Bryant ... Steve Duprey … Diane Zeleny ... Bill Shuler … Christopher Minakowski is 47 ... Steven Holmes ... Dee Sachetti ... Terrance Green ... Abby Spring ... Timothy Gannon ... Heather Matson ... Addisu Demissie (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)


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