POLITICO Playbook: We’re halfway there
HAPPY JULY. WE ARE HALFWAY through 2020, which may very well turn out to be the most consequential year of this century.
SO FAR, THIS YEAR:
-- AMERICA KILLED Qassem Soleimani, and we predicted a proxy war in the Middle East that never came to pass.
-- PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP and Israeli PM BENJAMIN NETANYAHU announced a peace effort that has thus far gone nowhere.
-- THE SENATE acquitted TRUMP on charges of impeachment.
-- THE SUPREME COURT kept DACA alive, peeled back abortion prohibitions in Louisiana and protected LGBT people in the workplace.
-- THE UNITED STATES cut a peace deal with the Taliban in February. By June, news outlets reported that Russia was paying the Taliban to kill our soldiers.
-- A NOVEL CORONAVIRUS was discovered in January, got a name and killed more than a half-million people on our planet -- including more than 127,000 Americans. It plunged America into a recession, cost tens of millions of Americans their jobs and altered the nation’s political and economic landscape, potentially for decades to come.
-- PROTESTS BROKE OUT across America after police in Minneapolis killed GEORGE FLOYD, with people of all races and creeds rising up against the treatment of Black people by law enforcement.
AND AS OF TODAY -- 126 DAYS before Election Day -- the POLITICO/MORNING CONSULT POLL says that a stunningly high 75% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. 59% of those polled disapprove of the job TRUMP is doing.
THIS SHOULD BE quite alarming for the TRUMP WHITE HOUSE. The vast preponderance of public polling suggests JOE BIDEN will trounce the incumbent president as of now. In the last day, the USA Today/Suffolk poll showed BIDEN up 12.
TRUMP WORLD’S RETORT is that the president has not yet started on BIDEN, and four months gives the president tons of time to define the former VP, who has been in public office for five decades.
ALSO QUITE ALARMINGLY FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, the public overwhelmingly believes it’s more important to stop the spread of the coronavirus than to get the economy going.
WEST WING READING … FAV/UNFAV: Trump: 39/56 … VP Mike Pence: 39/49 … House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy: 18/29 (28 no opinion … 25 never heard of) … Biden: 46/47 … Nancy Pelosi: 34/53 … Jared Kushner: 16/44.
-- KUSHNER’S FAVORABILITY AMONG REPUBLICANS: 33/22 … AMONG DEMS: 6/65.
THE DEMOCRATIC ESTABLISHMENT had a good day Tuesday: AMY MCGRATH was declared a winner in Kentucky, and JOHN HICKENLOOPER won his Senate primary in Colorado. The GOP ESTABLISHMENT has some work to do: Colorado Rep. SCOTT TIPTON lost his primary to LAUREN BOEBERT, who has suggested that she hopes QAnon is real. More from Ally Mutnick on the Colorado primary
-- TIPTON had TRUMP’S endorsement -- he’s the second candidate the president backed to lose in the last two weeks.
COOK POLITICAL REPORT’S DAVE WASSERMAN (@redistrict): “Fact: when President Trump took office in January 2017, there were 241 Republicans in the House. Since then, 115 (48%) have either retired, resigned, been defeated or are retiring in 2020.”
FRONTS: NYT, with another two-column lead headline about the Russia bounty story: “MONEY TRANSFERS BOLSTERED BELIEF IN RUSSIAN SCHEME” … WAPO, with a four-column banner headline TRUMP is going to love: “As limits return, Fauci raises alarm” … WSJ has the photo of STEVEN MNUCHIN and JAY POWELL elbow-bumping … N.Y. POST has a knife in the police shield with this: “THE THANKS THEY GET: Pols attack NYPD, slash budget after decades of crime reduction”
DRIVING TODAY: THE GANG OF EIGHT is expected at the White House for a briefing on Afghanistan, Russia and allegations of a bounty program. THE HOUSE will finish its business for the week.
IN A SURPRISE, THE SENATE on Tuesday night cleared an extension of the PPP program until August. The House now has to clear it -- that’s worth keeping your eye on.
… BIDEN will attend a virtual fundraiser, which will be pooled. Chris Cadelago and Natasha Korecki with a look at Biden’s first interaction with media in months
TOM FRIEDMAN suggests in the NYT that BIDEN’S bumper-sticker slogan be: “Respect science, respect nature, respect each other.”
REMEMBER KYIV? … WHAT TEAM TRUMP IS READING … WAPO: “Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said the administration plans a new law that would make it a crime to publish secretly taped conversations of officials. The [change], he told The Washington Post in an interview by video link from Kyiv, seeks to end the ‘malicious practice,’ adding this was necessary to ‘protect state security.’”
MORE ON BOUNTYGATE …
-- NYT: “Suspicions of Russian Bounties Were Bolstered by Data on Financial Transfers,” by Charlie Savage, Mujib Mashal, Rukmini Callimachi, Eric Schmitt and Adam Goldman: “American officials intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account, evidence that supported their conclusion that Russia covertly offered bounties for killing U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, according to three officials familiar with the intelligence.
“Though the United States has accused Russia of providing general support to the Taliban before, analysts concluded from other intelligence that the transfers were most likely part of a bounty program that detainees described during interrogations.
“Investigators also identified by name numerous Afghans in a network linked to the suspected Russian operation, the officials said -- including, two of them added, a man believed to have served as an intermediary for distributing some of the funds and who is now thought to be in Russia.”
-- AP: “Russian bounties further strain Trump’s bond with veterans,” by Steve Peoples and Sarah Blake Morgan with a Charlotte, N.C., dateline: “They didn’t like it when then-candidate Donald Trump criticized John McCain for being captured in combat. They were angrier when Trump, as commander in chief, abandoned Kurdish allies in the Middle East. And they were upset again last month when he threatened to deploy troops against American protesters.
“Trump’s relationship with the nation’s military community has been frequently strained. But just four months before the November election, reports that he either ignored, or was unaware of, a Russian plot to kill U.S. troops could intensify the tension and create new political risks.”
BIG PICTURE … WAPO’S PHIL RUCKER and SEUNG MIN KIM: “Republican leaders now say everyone should wear a mask — even as Trump refuses and has mocked some who do”
INSIDE THE WEST WING -- “Trump team’s brewing debate: How to message a raging health emergency,” by Nancy Cook and Gabby Orr: “The Trump White House has a new internal battle: how much to talk publicly about a pandemic that’s crippling huge swaths of America.
“President Donald Trump’s top aides are divided over the merits of resuming national press briefings to keep the public informed about the latest coronavirus statistics as infection rates spike in large states including California, Texas, Florida, Arizona and Georgia.
“Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, senior adviser Jared Kushner, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and counselor to the president Hope Hicks are among the aides arguing against these regular sessions because they want to keep the White House focused on the path forward and the nascent economic recovery -- without scaring too much of the country about a virus resurgence when infections are rising at different paces in different regions.
“Other senior aides, as well as Vice President Mike Pence and his team, believe keeping Americans up-to-date about the nature of the outbreak is critical as the death toll rises.” POLITICO
BIG NEWS IN OKLAHOMA -- “Oklahoma voters approve Medicaid expansion as coronavirus cases climb,” by Rachel Roubein: “Oklahoma voters on Tuesday narrowly approved a ballot measure to extend Medicaid to tens of thousands of poor adults, making their state the first to expand government-backed health insurance during the pandemic.
“The vote, which passed with 50.5 percent support, also throws a wrench in the Trump administration's plan to make Oklahoma the first state to receive its permission to cap Medicaid spending, a longtime goal of conservatives hoping to constrain the safety-net entitlement program.
“Oklahoma has become the fifth state where voters defied Republican leaders to expand Medicaid through the ballot. Missouri will hold a similar vote on Medicaid expansion later this summer.” POLITICO
PALACE INTRIGUE … MELANIE ZANONA: “Cheney takes on Trump”: “Rep. Liz Cheney has suddenly become one of the most outspoken GOP critics of Donald Trump. Even more surprising: the Wyoming Republican hasn’t faced any serious blowback from the president.
“Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, has increasingly called out Trump over his foreign policy decisions and leadership during the coronavirus crisis — a risky move in today’s GOP, where any break with Trump can fuel a primary challenge or nasty Twitter tirade from the president.
“But Cheney’s found a balancing act that few Republicans have been able to achieve. And as the prospect of a post-Trump GOP begins to come into view, her relative independence from the president could position her for another rapid rise in party leadership one day. ‘She’s got values, she’s got guts and she says what’s on her mind. That resonates with a lot of people,’ said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.).” POLITICO
-- IN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN … AXIOS’ JONATHAN SWAN: “Scoop: Kushner changes top Trump campaign staff”: “Michael Glassner, the man who organizes President Trump's rallies, has been ‘reassigned,’ and Trump's 2016 Arizona chair Jeff DeWit will join the campaign as chief operating officer to oversee the final stretch to election day, three sources familiar with the situation tell Axios. ...
“Jared Kushner engineered these moves. Glassner, a Trump campaign original dating back to 2015, has been told he will now be handling the campaign’s various lawsuits, sources say.”
TRUMP’S WEDNESDAY -- The president will have lunch at 1:15 p.m. with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the private dining room.
-- ON THE MENU? … WAPO’S CAROL MORELLO: “U.S. finds little support for extending arms embargo against Iran”
PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION -- “Virginia orders bars to remain closed as it prepares to enter Phase 3 of reopening,” by WaPo’s Antonio Olivo, Patricia Sullivan and Rebecca Tan: “Bar areas inside Virginia restaurants and taverns will not join the state’s next phase of reopening Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam said, a reversal in policy that followed Delaware’s decision to shut down recently reopened bars in beach communities.
“After federal officials said Tuesday that bars were the source of coronavirus outbreaks in other states across the country, Northam said people in Virginia will continue to be prohibited from congregating inside bar areas unless they are eating at high-top tables that are set at least six feet apart.” WaPo
TRADE WATCH -- “Mexico says López Obrador will visit Washington to celebrate new trade pact,” by Sabrina Rodríguez: “President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico has been invited by the Trump administration to visit Washington next week to celebrate the implementation of the new North America trade pact, the Mexican government said on Tuesday.
“The U.S. government has invited López Obrador for an official work visit on July 8-9, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard wrote on Twitter. He and President Donald Trump are expected to have their first face-to-face meeting since López Obrador took office in December 2018.” POLITICO … More from Sabrina on what to expect from Trump’s North American trade pact
JOSH GERSTEIN: “Court: Thwarting congressional ethics office not a crime”: “A law prohibiting obstruction of Congress does not apply to schemes targeting the House’s Office of Congressional Ethics, a federal appeals court declared Tuesday. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the ruling as it upheld a broader criminal case against David Bowser, who served as chief of staff to Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.)
“At a 2018 trial, a jury convicted Bowser on several felony charges related to alleged efforts to use Broun’s taxpayer-funded ‘member’s representational allowance’ to pay debate consultant Brett O’Donnell for work coaching Broun for debates.
“However, after the trial U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan tossed out the most serious conviction, for obstruction of Congress. Over the objections of federal prosecutors, Sullivan held that the obstruction statute does not apply to congressional entities that don’t do their work under the control of congressional committees. A three-judge D.C. Circuit panel unanimously concluded Sullivan’s reasoning was on target.” POLITICO
CNBC’S BRIAN SCHWARTZ: “Pence donors, allies helped finance vice president’s legal defense fund for Mueller probe”
THE LATEST IN HONG KONG -- “Hong Kong Police Make First Security-Law Arrest as Thousands Protest,” by WSJ’s Dan Strumpf in Hong Kong: “Police made their first arrest under China’s new national-security law for Hong Kong, apprehending a man for waving an independence flag, as thousands of protesters took to the streets to defy Beijing’s move to crush dissent in the city.
“With an extensive show of force on Wednesday, officers in riot gear confronted demonstrators who gathered in Hong Kong’s main shopping district, making arrests, firing pepper spray and hoisting a purple banner warning protesters could be in violation of the new law. The man arrested for holding a Hong Kong independence flag was violating the new law, police said on Twitter.” WSJ
BOOK CLUB … AP: “Book coming from Dem House counsel on Trump impeachment”: “Norman Eisen’s ‘A Case for the American People: The United States v. Donald J. Trump’ will be released July 28, Crown announced Tuesday. Eisen served as the ethics czar under President Barack Obama and as counsel to Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment process. Crown, a division of Penguin Random House, is calling the book ‘a detailed behind-the-scenes account of the attempts to bring the President to justice.’” $28 on Amazon
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].
WHITE HOUSE ARRIVAL LOUNGE -- Chad Yelinski is joining the White House as a special assistant to the president on the Domestic Policy Council. He most recently was legislative director for Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), and is a Mark Meadows alum.
TRANSITIONS -- Jackie Cottrell is joining the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board as director of its Office of External Affairs. She previously was the longtime chief of staff for Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). … Joe Cirincione has retired as president of Ploughshares Fund after over 12 years. He will continue analyzing national security policy from his home in the Washington area. He is also a Center for American Progress, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Stimson Center and Capitol Hill alum.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Neal Patel, VP at the Alpine Group and a Trump OMB alum. What he’s reading for fun: “Michelle Obama’s memoir ‘Becoming.’ I didn’t know much of her background prior to the book. It discusses life for Mrs. Obama growing up on the South Side of Chicago, then balancing being a successful and ambitious attorney herself, a mother of two girls with an ambitious spouse, and ultimately, first lady. I’m halfway through and it’s been a great read so far.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is 5-0 … Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) is 56 … NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker … Brett Zongker of the Library of Congress … Renewable Fuels Association’s Bob Dinneen … Washingtonian publisher Susan Farkas … Mike Czin, SVP at SKDKnickerbocker … Lida Masoudpour (h/ts Tyler Cherry) … Greta Lundeberg, VP on Boeing’s government affairs team, is 41 (h/t Amy Brundage) … AJ Roshfeld of Brady PAC (h/t Evan Skloot) … Guy Cecil, chair of Priorities USA … Julie Gibson … John Giesser … Pat McQuillan (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) …
… State Department’s Grace Koh is 45 … Diane Ravitch is 82 … journalist Erika Bolstad … Mara Lee Durrell … Kate Wilson … Blaine Kelly … Michael Berson, partner at Adams and Reese, is 4-0 (h/t Thad Inge) … Travis Holler … POLITICO’s Vali Mansouri … Mitchell Bowman … Jason Plautz is 33 … Liz Elkiss ... Kevin Franck ... Clark Jennings, managing director for Asia at Crowell & Moring International … Paul Friedman … Jioni Palmer … Laura McClure Houghton … Bianca Rosales, comms associate at NARAL Pro-Choice America ... Kaye Willis White ... Pierson Fowler ... Steve Gladis ... Gwendolen Cates ... Ricky Diaz ... Bill Rehkopf