GOOD MORNING from NEW ORLEANS … We flew down here yesterday to check out VP MIKE PENCE fundraising with HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP STEVE SCALISE at a private event at the World War II Museum. We wanted to catch the vibe of the GOP fundraising circuit with two of the party’s top names, and see what Republicans were talking about as a maelstrom swirls at the White House.
THEY WERE NOT TALKING ABOUT THE DRAMA. At all. Not one iota. (By the way, Pence’s remarks were pooled, there was media in the room and he said nothing about “fake news.” He didn’t criticize the media once.)
DESPITE the constant drama in D.C. — especially at the White House — Scalise and Pence were a draw. They raised $1.4 MILLION for the Great America Committee — Pence’s PAC — and Scalise’s victory committee. It was a relatively small event — just 14 tables of eight or so chairs each arranged under a bunch of antique military planes suspended from the ceiling.
SCALISE and PENCE — and the rest of D.C. Republicans — have work to do if they want to compete this fall: Democrats are walloping Republicans in the cash dash with 74 DAYS until Election Day.
HERE’S WHAT THEY SAID TO DONORS …
— SCALISE: “In South Louisiana we started the Blue Dogs. Democrats across the country are not against our [ICE] agents who keep us safe. But unfortunately, in Washington, that’s what their party’s become about.”
— PENCE ON SCALISE: “I never served with a more principled conservative, I never served with a more courageous man than Steve Scalise.”
— PENCE on NANCY PELOSI and a DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY: “I don’t know if the rest of you remember the last time Nancy Pelosi was speaker of the House, but I do, I was there, alright? And you don’t want to go there again.” Insert tepid applause here … PENCE: “You can applaud that if you want.” Loud applause
— PENCE ON 2018: “Conventional wisdom out there says that the first midterm election for the party that’s in the White House will be challenging. Right? And the truth is, history bears that out — it does, OK? … But I think we all know what President Donald Trump thinks of conventional wisdom.”
BTW … PENCE has done two or three money events each week for the last few months — and he plans to keep up the schedule in the weeks ahead. That is helpful, because he can go far more places than Trump. He has trips planned next week to Minnesota for the GOP there, and to Wisconsin for Leah Vukmir, who is running for Senate.
— HOUSE GOP TEA LEAF READING … PENCE has raised piles of cash for PROTECT THE HOUSE, his joint fundraising committee with HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY. But the VP is still keeping his hands in the Scalise camp, by making a trip here on the back of a swing to Houston and lavishing praise on Scalise. PENCE jetted back to Washington on Air Force Two after the event.
MEMBERS OF CONGRESS involved in the event included the Louisiana delegation … Scalise, obviously, and Republican Reps. Garrett Graves, Clay Higgins, Ralph Abraham and Mike Johnson. ALSO SPOTTED at the event: Bob Livingston, the former Louisiana congressman who was almost speaker of the House.
DONORS, fundraisers and attendees include big names like RNC finance chair TODD RICKETTS, Ned Diefenthal, Joe Canizaro, Ben Bordelon, Kurt Crosby, Michael Gray, Fred Heebe and Phyllis Taylor.
— KELLYANNE CONWAY is fundraising this morning for HOUSE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE CHAIRMAN CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS in Spokane. KREM
AND ON THE OTHER SIDE … AP talks to NANCY PELOSI: “[Pelosi] says she’s not going anywhere — and certainly not while President Donald Trump is in the White House.
“‘This is not anything to make a big fuss over, it’s politics,’ Pelosi said in a 35-minute phone interview with The Associated Press. ‘I can take the heat and that’s why I stay in the kitchen.’ Pushing back on those who say her leadership position is in jeopardy, Pelosi all but dared her doubters to envision any other House Democrat sitting across the table to negotiate with Trump.
“‘I have a following in the country that’s unsurpassed by anybody, unless they’re running for president,’ Pelosi said. Trump and the Republicans are eager to see her go, she said, ‘and I’m just not going to let them do that.’” AP
Good Friday morning. SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN — “Senate passes giant spending package in hopes of averting shutdown,” by Sarah Ferris: “The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed an $857 billion spending package that Republican leaders are counting on to convince President Donald Trump to back down from threats of a government shutdown in September.
“The package, an uncommon bipartisan truce to fund two-thirds of government operations, was strategically crafted to ward off a presidential veto. But the odds remain long that the legislation will even make it to the White House, with just 11 working days left for House and Senate lawmakers to merge opposing versions of the bills — and get Trump’s approval — before funding runs out on Sept. 30.” POLITICO
CHANGES AHEAD? — “Republicans: Sessions gone after midterms,” by Eliana Johnson and Burgess Everett: “Republicans on Capitol Hill who have long protected Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the wrath of his own boss increasingly believe his time is up. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said Thursday evening that he believes ‘moves are being made’ to oust Sessions after the midterm elections.
“‘It’s apparent that after the midterms he will make a change and choose someone to do what he wants done,’ Corker said in a phone call. ‘It just feels to me that after the midterms the president will make the change.’ A Republican close to the White House echoed that view.
‘We are in a sad place in our country’s history,’ Corker added.” POLITICO
NYT SCOOP — “Manhattan D.A. Eyes Criminal Charges Against Trump Organization,” by William K. Rashbaum: “The Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with Michael D. Cohen’s hush money payment to an adult film actress, according to two officials with knowledge of the matter. A state investigation would center on how the company accounted for its reimbursement to Mr. Cohen for the $130,000 he paid to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, who has said she had an affair with President Trump, the officials said.
“Both officials stressed that the office’s review of the matter is in its earliest stages and prosecutors have not yet made a decision on whether to proceed. State charges against the company or its executives could be significant because Mr. Trump has talked about pardoning some of his current or former aides who have faced federal charges. As president, he has no power to pardon people and corporate entities convicted of state crimes.” NYT
THE STEP BACK — “With a Vocabulary From ‘Goodfellas,’ Trump Evokes His Native New York,” by NYT’s Mark Landler: “For much of the 1980s and 1990s, ‘the Dapper Don’ and ‘the Donald’ vied for supremacy on the front pages of New York’s tabloids. The don, John J. Gotti, died in a federal prison in 2002, while Donald J. Trump went on to be president of the United States.
“Now, as Mr. Trump faces his own mushrooming legal troubles, he has taken to using a vocabulary that sounds uncannily like that of Mr. Gotti and his fellow mobsters in the waning days of organized crime, when ambitious prosecutors like Rudolph W. Giuliani tried to turn witnesses against their bosses to win racketeering convictions. …
“[T]he president [is] also evoking a bygone world — the outer boroughs of New York City, where he grew up — a place of leafy neighborhoods and working-class families, as well as its share of shady businessmen and mob-linked politicians. From an early age, Mr. Trump encountered these raffish types with their unscrupulous methods, unsavory connections and uncertain loyalties.
“Mr. Trump is comfortable with the wiseguys-argot of that time and place, and he defaults to it whether he is describing his faithless lawyer or his fruitless efforts to discourage the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, from investigating one of his senior advisers, Michael T. Flynn, over his connections to Russia.” NYT
— “Critics fear Trump’s attacks are doing lasting damage to the justice system,” by WaPo’s Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey and Ann E. Marimow: “‘When it’s done right, it’s fine,’ [Rudy] Giuliani said, noting that prosecutors offer witnesses leniency for their cooperation in criminal probes and that it’s a valuable tool for getting to the truth if they do it properly. ‘It’s one of the tools prosecutors use,’ he added. ‘Then it gets tested by a jury. You can’t stop that.’
“Alberto R. Gonzales, who was attorney general under President George W. Bush, and Neal Katyal, solicitor general under President Barack Obama, both said it was a necessary tool. ‘If President Trump’s views were the law, literally thousands of criminals would be on the street today,’ Katyal wrote in an email.” WaPo
— @maggieNYT: “‘flipping’ people was a tactic often used by a federal prosecutor back in the 1980s in NYC. Anyone recall his name?”
THE NEW YORKER’S ADAM ENTOUS and RONAN FARROW, “The Conspiracy Memo About Obama Aides That Circulated in the Trump White House: The 2017 document, titled ‘The Echo Chamber,’ accused former Obama officials of undermining the incoming Administration”: “Some of the same conspiracy theories expressed in the memo appear in internal documents from an Israeli private-intelligence firm that mounted a covert effort to collect damaging information about aides to President Obama who had advocated for the Iran deal. …
“The Black Cube documents obtained by The New Yorker referred to [Ben] Rhodes and [Colin] Kahl, arguing that they were using allies in the media to undermine the Trump Administration. The Black Cube documents use the term ‘echo chamber’ five times, including in a document describing the operatives’ directive as ‘Investigating the Rhodes’ / Kahl “Eco-chamber.”” New Yorker
ABOUT THAT PARDON — “Trump sought his lawyers’ advice weeks ago on possibility of pardoning Manafort, Giuliani says,” by WaPo’s Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey: “President Trump asked his lawyers several weeks ago for their advice on the possibility of pardoning Paul Manafort and other aides accused of crimes, his lawyer said Thursday. …
“Trump’s lawyers counseled the president against the idea of pardoning anyone linked to the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to Giuliani, saying Trump should at least wait until special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his probe. Giuliani said the president agreed and did not push the issue further.” WaPo
THE PUSHBACK — “Fox News’ Neil Cavuto Shreds Donald Trump: ‘The Problem Is You’” — HuffPost‘s Rebecca Shapiro: “Fox News host Neil Cavuto issued one of his searing monologues on Thursday, criticizing President Donald Trump for focusing on the stock market’s positive performance while creating ‘a moral bust.’ ‘You are so darned focused on promoting a financial boom that you fail to see that you are the one creating this moral bust,’ Cavuto said. ‘And we could all be the poorer for it.’” HuffPost
REALITY CHECK — BEN WHITE, “No, impeachment will not crash the stock market”: “The longest bull market run in American history could get killed off by a financial collapse in Turkey, a policy mistake by the Federal Reserve or a plain old economic recession. It will probably not be slain by an impeachment of President Donald Trump. That’s the consensus view of Wall Street traders and money managers, who say that while an ugly impeachment fight might cause temporary volatility, markets could easily survive an impeachment and even the unlikely event that Trump is removed from office in a Senate trial.
“In fact, Wall Street pros often talk about a potential relief rally if Trump departs the White House early. The underlying economy would remain strong, and a hypothetical President Mike Pence would likely continue Trump’s policy of low taxes and fewer regulations without all the wild tweeting and investigations and persistent trade wars.” POLITICO
2018 WATCH — “Black voters energized amid outcry over polling places,” by AP’s Errin Haines Whack in Cuthbert, Georgia, and Brinley Hineman in Atlanta: “Officials in a predominantly black Georgia county fired a consultant amid widespread backlash to a proposal that would close most polling places in the area three months ahead of a potentially historic election.
“Consultant Mike Malone had advocated consolidating the polling sites after he was hired in April. Randolph County lawyer Tommy Coleman sent Malone a letter Wednesday ending the contract, according to a copy of the letter Coleman gave The Associated Press on Thursday. Despite the firing, the Randolph County Board of Elections will still — for now — hold a vote Friday on whether to eliminate seven of the rural county’s nine polling places ahead of this fall’s pivotal midterm elections.” AP
BORDER TALES — “Immigration Judges Have Been Told To Hold More Hearings,” by BuzzFeed’s Hamed Aleaziz: “In a move that advocates say could threaten due process rights for immigrants and lead to more deportations, immigration judges in multiple cities have been instructed to cram more hearings into their daily schedules, according to sources knowledgeable on the matter.
“Advocates believe the Trump administration has undercut the independence of judges in order to speed up deportations. Already this year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions restricted the types of cases in which asylum would be granted and limited the ability for judges to indefinitely suspend certain cases.” BuzzFeed
THE INVESTIGATIONS — “National Enquirer hid damaging Trump stories in a safe,” by AP’s Jeff Horwitz: “The National Enquirer kept a safe containing documents on hush money payments and other damaging stories it killed as part of its cozy relationship with Donald Trump leading up to the 2016 presidential election, people familiar with the arrangement told The Associated Press. The detail came as several media outlets reported on Thursday that federal prosecutors had granted immunity to National Enquirer chief David Pecker, potentially laying bare his efforts to protect his longtime friend Trump. …
“Five people familiar with the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc. … said the safe was a great source of power for Pecker, the company’s CEO. The Trump records were stored alongside similar documents pertaining to other celebrities’ catch-and-kill deals, in which exclusive rights to people’s stories were bought with no intention of publishing to keep them out of the news. By keeping celebrities’ embarrassing secrets, the company was able to ingratiate itself with them and ask for favors in return.” AP
TRUMP’S FRIDAY — The president and first lady Melania Trump are leaving this afternoon for Columbus, Ohio. They will visit the Nationwide Children’s Hospital before heading to the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Trump will then meet with supporters before delivering remarks at the Ohio Republican Party state dinner. He and the first lady will then return to Washington, D.C.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
“Face the Nation”: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) … Jonathan Turley. Political panel: Dan Balz, Kristina Peterson, Shannon Pettypiece and Shawna Thomas
“Fox News Sunday,” guest-anchored by Sandra Smith: Corey Lewandowski. Panel: Marc Lotter, Gillian Turner, Marie Harf and Juan Williams
“Meet the Press”: Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). Panel: David Brody, Hallie Jackson, Joshua Johnson and Susan Page
“State of the Union”: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) … Panel: Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Marc Short, Amanda Carpenter and Karine Jean-Pierre. Special “State of the Cartoonian” with Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mike Luckovich
“Inside Politics,” hosted by John Avlon: Sahil Kapur, Julie Davis, Josh Dawsey and Jackie Kucinich
JOIN US — On Friday, Aug. 31, for a special Playbook Elections event in Pennsylvania to discuss the 2018 midterm cycle and issues shaping the races. RSVP
WOMEN RULE — This year we’re selecting four “Women of Impact” who have shown the courage and ability to lead in a divided era — and we want your help. Tell us about a standout woman whom we should honor at this year’s Women Rule summit. Nominations
PLAYBOOK ON THE ROAD — We’re nearing the end of our contest, but keep your entries coming for the next week! Send a pic of you or a friend reading Playbook on vacation to get featured next week and a chance to win a signed Matt Wuerker cartoon to Daniel to [email protected] or tweet your photos to @playbookplus with the hashtag #PlaybookLoyal. This week’s entries
— SOME OF OUR FAVORITES: BRUCE MEHLMAN, founder of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas: “OBX + SBUX + PLYBX = Great first week of August.” Pic … DAN SCHNUR: South Africa. Pic … JAY TIMMONS, CEO of NAM: Florida. Pic … OLIVIA and ANNABELLE BURR: “Checking Playbook at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island.” Pic (h/t Mom, Danielle Burr, head of federal affairs at Uber) … TONY PODESTA: “Low tide in Portivy, Brittany with Ricard [the French aperitif] and Greta, my guard dog.” Pic …
… JAKE PERRY: “The snake charmer in the Marrakech Medina couldn’t keep me away from Playbook #playbookloyal.” Pic … RICHARD KEIL, EVP at H+K Strategies: Sea Ranch, Sonoma County, Calif. Pic … ANDREW KOVALCIN, principal of Advanced Advocacy: Havana. Pic … JOSÉ CUNNINGHAM, chairman of the D.C. Republican Party: Chautauqua, N.Y. Pic … CHRIS ORTMAN of the MPAA: Barcelona. Pic …
… JAY PERRON, partner at Prism Group: Little Compton, R.I. Pic (h/t Anne Brady Perron) … DANIEL SWARTZ, D.C. photographer: Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher. Pic … JON YUAN: Harvard Square. Pic … CAROL DANKO of OPIC: Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Pic … STUART ROY, president of Strategic Action Public Affairs: the Outer Banks. Pic
2020 WATCH — “Avenatti stirs up DNC meeting,” by Natasha Korecki in Chicago: “The media circled him. Onlookers stopped him to take selfies. His entrance into a little-known committee meeting created an unmistakable buzz. On the first day of the DNC summer meeting on Thursday, attorney Michael Avenatti proved as recognizable and media-savvy as any of the prospects considering running for the party’s presidential nomination in 2020.
“The attorney best known for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits against President Donald Trump — now flirting with a presidential run of his own — appeared eager to convince that he’s more than just a face on TV.” POLITICO
— DAVID SIDERS in Chicago: “Tensions flare as Democrats close in on superdelegate overhaul”: “Democratic Party officials are on the verge of greenlighting a Bernie Sanders-endorsed plan to weaken the influence of superdelegates in the presidential nominating process. But it won’t be pretty.
“As [DNC] members arrived here Thursday for their annual summer meeting, outspoken opponents of the proposal acknowledged they were outnumbered. Still, they pledged an aggressive, last-ditch lobbying effort ahead of a Saturday vote, defying a call for unity from party leaders.
“We’re up against a wall,’ said Bob Mulholland, a superdelegate and DNC member from California who helped organize opposition to the proposal. ‘We’re going to fight it like hell.’” POLITICO
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION — “Trump admin intentionally slowing FBI vetting of refugees, say ex-officials,” by NBC’s Dan De Luce and Julia Ainsley: “The FBI has dramatically slowed the pace of security reviews for refugees in recent months, which former Trump administration officials and human rights advocates say is part of an intentional bid by White House hardliners to restrict the number of refugees allowed in the U.S. Former officials and aid organizations say the administration has overloaded the FBI and other government agencies with an array of procedures that have weighed down the bureaucracy and effectively delayed refugee admissions. … Refugee admissions have plunged to historic lows.
“The U.S. is on track to admit only about 20,000 – 21,000 refugees by the end of September, far below a ceiling set at 45,000 by administration officials last year. That cap itself was lower than any set by a U.S. president since the current refugee program was created in 1980. The delays in security screening coincide with an intense debate inside the administration over how many refugees should be permitted to enter the country next fiscal year, with political appointees pushing for an unprecedented brake on refugee admissions.” NBC
HOT ON THE LEFT — “‘Pay a living wage’: Bernie Sanders accuses Disney of dodging fair pay,” by the Guardian’s Andrew Gumbel in LA: “The Walt Disney Company came under heavy fire on Thursday for a decision to walk away from hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks for its southern California theme parks, a move critics are characterizing as an extraordinary last-ditch effort to avoid paying a living wage to thousands of workers. Leading the charge, Senator Bernie Sanders accused the company of acting out of fear that voters in Anaheim, Disney’s host city, will pass a living wage ordinance in November.
“The ordinance, applicable to any large company receiving municipal tax breaks, would require Disneyland and the neighboring Disney California Adventure to pay all 30,000 employees at least $15 an hour, rising to $18 an hour by 2022 and keeping pace with inflation thereafter. Sanders, a champion for low-wage workers nationwide, told the Guardian it was time for Disney to ‘get off of welfare and pay all of its workers a living wage.’” Guardian
MEDIAWATCH — “Second Fox News reporter leaves amid objections to network,” by Jason Schwartz: “Another on-air reporter is leaving Fox News over frustrations with the direction and tone of the network, the second in the last three weeks to defect for those reasons. Adam Housley, a Los Angeles-based reporter who joined Fox in 2001, felt there was diminished opportunity at the network for reporters and disapproved of tenor of its on-air discussion, according to two former Fox News employees with knowledge of his situation.
“Housley believed that as the network’s focus on Trump has grown — and the number of talking-head panels during news shows proliferated — it had become difficult to get hard reporting on air, according to one of those former employees. ‘He’s not doing the type of journalism he wants to be doing,’ the former employee said. ‘And he is unhappy with the tone of the conversation of the channel.’” POLITICO
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — The University of Chicago Institute of Politics is announcing its Pritzker fellows for fall quarter 2018: Amanda Carpenter, author, CNN contributor and Ted Cruz alum; former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), a former chair of the NRCC; Mary Katharine Ham, a conservative journalist; former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), an author and former chair of the DCCC …
… Roberta Jacobson, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and assistant secretary of state for the Western hemisphere; Ameya Pawar, alderman for the 47th Ward of the city of Chicago and the first Asian-American member of the Chicago City Council; Maria Ramirez, co-founder of Politibot and political reporter for Univision; and Democratic political strategist Paul Tewes.
TRANSITION — TOM SHANNON, former undersecretary of state for political affairs, has joined Arnold & Porter as senior international policy adviser.
BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Jessica Jensen, who works in PR at Honda Aircraft Company (hat tip: her former Fox News colleagues) … Alex Gangitano of Roll Call (h/t Bryan Petrich) … Erin Collins, NRCC deputy press secretary (h/t Matt Gorman) … (was Wednesday): Axios’ Stef Kight (h/t Shannon Vavra).
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Major Garrett, chief White House correspondent for CBS News and host of “The Takeout” podcast, is 56. A fun fact about Major: “My coffee and Led Zeppelin addictions are fairly well established, as is my photography habit. This might be new. I have a thing for state capitals. I go out of my way to tour the buildings and walk the grounds — to see the stories states tell about themselves. I only have Maine, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Kansas, Kentucky and the Dakotas to go.” Playbook Plus Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Todd Harris, partner at Something Else Strategies … Nick Denton is 52 … CNN’s David Gregory is 47 … former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) is 76 … Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is 66 … Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is 71 … Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) is 71 … Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) is 46 (h/t Amy Graham) … Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) is 62 … Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) is 57 … Mike Huckabee is 63 (h/ts daughter Sara and Tim Griffin) … Galia Slayen, comms director for Illinois Democratic gubernatorial nominee J.B. Pritzker … Ricki Seidman, comms specialist and senior principal at TSD (h/ts Stephanie Cutter, Tim Burger and Jon Haber) … Catherine Lowe … James Gordon Meek (h/t Burger) … David Molina (h/t Mallory Howe) … Sahar Wali of SEIU … Jane Brown of UnitedHealth Group (hubby tip: Nick) … Betsy Wright Hawkings of the Democracy Fund (h/ts Harry and Charlie) … Politico’s Brendan Cheney … George Haydock … Seyward Darby, EIC of Atavist Magazine …
… Natalie Strom, who does comms for the chairman of the SEC (h/t Michael Short) … Sauli Niinstö, president of Finland, is 7-0 … Michael Moynihan, correspondent for HBO’s “Vice News Tonight” (h/t Nigel Duara) … Brooke Barker (h/t Samantha Greene) … Mary Hood … Bonnie Reiss … Geo Saba … Pam Coulter … Errol Louis … Brad Bainum, communications adviser at the Wisconsin Democratic Party (h/t Kevin McAlister) … Abbie McDonough … Politico Europe’s Nadia Chabane-de Viron … Aaron Houston … JB Britten … Erik Brydges … Morgan Buckley … Justin Roth … Meagan Shephard … Zach Zampella … Carissa Gillespie … James Manasco … Dabney Hegg … Merrit Gillard … Randan Swindler … Harry Rhoads Jr. … Lisa Reed … Courtney Shellgren … Danny Finnegan is 56 … Trey Barnes … Joann Orner … Emily Cherniack (h/ts Teresa Vilmain).