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Washington Report April 20, 2018
20 Apr 2018

Washington Report April 20, 2018

Loyalty … NAFTA … Mitch … Nikki … Neil … Pruitt … Capt. Tammie Jo … Comey … Cohen … Kimba … Barbara  … and other news of the week.

Thanking Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI), Earth Day founder, for putting environmental protection on the national political agenda in 1970. Earth Day is this Sunday, April 22.


Joyce Rubenstein


House members scrambled out of town on Wednesday this week  — a day earlier than originally scheduled. And on Thursday the Senate made history by welcoming an infant onto the chamber’s floor. Sen. Tammy Duckworth gave birth on April 9, and the rules were changed to accommodate the new mom.



The Economist “All presidents, Republican and Democrat, seek to remake their party in their own image. Donald Trump has been more successful than most,” The Economist writes in its cover editorial:

“The organizing principle of Mr. Trump’s Republican Party is loyalty. Not, as with the best presidents, loyalty to an ideal, a vision or a legislative programme, but to just one man — Donald J. Trump — and to the … rage which [consumes] the voter base that, on occasion, even he struggles to control. In America that is unprecedented and it is dangerous.”





Politico “Senior Republican aides on Capitol Hill are growing increasingly concerned about their ability to ratify a NAFTA deal that the White House cuts. They worry that if the president’s negotiators come to an agreement in the coming months, they will not have the support to pass it. It’s the middle of an election year, and trade politics are particularly thorny on Capitol Hill. IT IS GETTING ALMOST NO ATTENTION but Congress would have to ratify a new NAFTA deal — Trump can’t do this alone. The Trump administration has done absolutely nothing to prepare the Hill for a bruising trade vote in the middle of an election year, according to key aides involved. GOP leadership is well aware of the void. When the Trans-Pacific Partnership cleared the Capitol, it benefited from a multi-year, multi-million dollar lobbying campaign.” BEST CASE if the Trump administration comes to a deal, Congress could try to tackle it in a lame-duck session of Congress. But that could mean months and months of uncertainty. BUT, BUT, BUT — Trump’s Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has another idea. “One strategy that has seemed to gain favor is to force a congressional approval on the new NAFTA by withdrawing from the existing pact even before the new one is ready. The thinking is that Congress will have to approve whatever terms are in the new deal quickly, lest the U.S. is left hanging without an agreement with two of its largest trading partners.” IT’S WORTH NOTING: Congress doesn’t usually take kindly to the administration, or anyone for that matter, trying to force it to act.”



Politico “McConnell aims to reshape courts in case Senate flips,” “Mitch McConnell is making a last dash to stock the judiciary with conservatives this year as a hedge against the chance that Republicans lose the Senate in November. “The GOP may have only a few more months of unified control of Washington to repeal Obamacare or enact President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan. But the Senate majority leader is taking a longer view – and confirming as many conservative judges as possible to lifetime appointments.”

— ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH TRUMP: “Well, we haven’t had any disputes in quite a while. And I have enjoyed this period.”

— ON A BILL TO PROTECT BOB MUELLER: “I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as the majority leader. And we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate.”

— ON A RESCISSIONS PACKAGE: “You can’t make an agreement one month and say, OK, we really didn’t mean it, and come back the next month and say, oh, we really didn’t mean our agreement.”



Politico “Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, hit back at the White House on Tuesday after a senior West Wing official said she was confused when she announced over the weekend that President Donald Trump would soon impose new sanctions on Russia.

“With all due respect, I don’t get confused,”

– Haley said in a statement.

Haley’s terse quip came just hours after Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, told reporters that the ambassador suffered from “momentary confusion” when she said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would announce the sanctions early this week. “She got ahead of the curve,” Kudlow said during a news conference in Florida. “She’s done a great job. She’s a very effective ambassador. There might have been some momentary confusion about that.”

A White House official, speaking on background, said on Tuesday night that Kudlow had called Haley and apologized. Still, Haley’s response offered a glimpse of the growing tension between the White House and her staff over the handling of the messaging flap. It also marked a rare public rebuke of the White House from an administration official.”



theSkimm “‘[Tuesday] Justice Neil Gorsuch – President Trump’s Supreme Court appointee – cast the tie-breaking vote and sided with the liberal justices on an immigration case. It was about a man who came to the US as a lawful permanent resident when he was 13. He was convicted in multiple burglaries, which were considered “crimes of violence” – and federal law says that could mean deportation. When the gov started the deportation proceedings, he appealed, arguing that the law was too vague. Now, the Supremes agree. Gorsuch based his decision on a similar ruling written in 2015 by his predecessor, Justice Scalia.”



theSkimm “A gov watchdog agency said the EPA broke the law when it bought [EPA Administrator Scott] Pruitt a soundproof phone booth. For $43,000. ICYMI, some people have been worried about Pruitt’s ethics. See: spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on first-class plane tickets, plus this condo deal from an energy lobbyist’s wife. Also, the $43,000 phone booth. Pruitt said he needed it to talk to the White House about sensitive topics … Now, the EPA’s watchdog is saying the agency violated a law requiring that Congress know about pricey office renovations that cost more than $5,000. Which…this did.”

AND NOW THIS … White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said his office will investigate Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s spending of $43,000 on a phone booth for his office.


Hero Shults

“Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults is being praised for her cool demeanor after her plane suffered a blown engine — killing one passenger — and she was forced to make a one-engine, emergency landing in Philadelphia with nearly 150 people onboard Tuesday.  Audio recordings of the radio communications between Flight 1380 and air traffic controllers detail how Shults coped with a nightmare situation: a forced emergency landing under partial power, and after losing pressure in the cabin.

Shults joined the Navy in 1985 and completed flight training in Pensacola, Fla. She rose to the rank of lieutenant commander before leaving the Navy Reserve in 2001. In her Navy career, Shults served in the now-defunct VAQ-34 Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron in Point Mugu, Calif., as an instructor pilot flying the F/A-18 Hornet and the EA-6B Prowler.

Shults was among the first female pilots “to transition to tactical aircraft” such as fighter jets, the Navy says.



The Hive “Comey has had a whole lot to say for the past week: in the 290 pages of his book, A Higher Loyalty, and in interviews with everyone from George Stephanopoulos to Stephen Colbert to the women of The View. And Comey has a riveting story to tell, one that adds novelistic detail and self-justifying context to the role Comey played in electing and then investigating Donald Trump. Yet the most interesting, consequential part of his book and publicity blitz is what Comey has not said: anything new about just who might be criminally culpable in the 2016 presidential election mess. Perhaps that’s because he’s given the good stuff to Robert Mueller. … Comey, of course, was surely hyper-vigilant not to publish or discuss anything he thought might impede a very active investigation.

“I think he has an emptiness inside of him, and a hunger for affirmation, that I’ve never seen in an adult.”

– James Comey during taping of “The New Yorker Radio Hour”  about President Trump

GIFT FROM THE JOURNALISTIC GODS Axios “Adding to our unprecedented real-time visibility into this presidency, Capitol Hill last night leaked 15 pages of memos that fired FBI Director James Comey had written in real time about his contacts with the White House.

One of the newsier revelations … President Trump had immediate doubts about his own national security adviser, Mike Flynn, who was later fired and is now cooperating with Mueller: “[T]he president pointed his fingers at his head and said ‘the guy has serious judgment issues.'”

“One of the biggest takeaways is how much presidential mindshare goes to grievances, distractions and worries about investigations.” SEE THE MEMOS



The Hive “The symbiotic relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News can make it difficult to discern where the Trump administration ends and the network begins. But [this week’s] revelation in Manhattan federal court, that Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen’s three-person client roster includes Sean Hannity, was shocking, even to those inside Fox News … one Fox staffer told me.“This is bad, it violates every rule of journalism.” Hannity, according to sources, had not informed senior Fox News executives about his undisclosed relationship with Cohen, so the network was basically flying blind. Adding to the chaos, Hannity was in the middle of hosting his afternoon radio show, and weighed in live on air without clearing his response with Fox’s notoriously controlling public-relations department. His opaque, have-it-both-ways explanation—that he wasn’t really a Cohen client, and that he merely consulted him informally about “real estate,” while still maintaining that attorney client privilege applied—did little to stop Fox journalists from speculating about just what, exactly, Cohen did for Hannity.


“As of this week, Wood sits at the center of the nation’s most important legal drama, deciding just how much attorney-client privilege President Donald Trump will be granted as prosecutors rifle through the files of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.” Politico Magazine




“I’m going to join the legal team to try to bring this to a resolution,’ Rudy Giuliani told The NY Post. “I’ve got great admiration for President Trump. “I’ve had a long relationship with Bob Mueller. I have great respect for him. He’s done a good job.’ Giuliani, a former US Attorney, served as New York City’s mayor when Mueller was the FBI director. ‘s.



It’s the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. “The federal government does not track school shootings, so The WaPot pieced together its numbers from news articles, open-source databases, law enforcement reports and calls to schools and police departments. THE FACT IS More than 208,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine. THE MOST RECENT SCHOOL SHOOTING HAPPENED TODAY  … Forest High School in Ocala, FL.  An unidentified person shot at least one round in a hallway, striking a student. He had a nonlife-threatening injury.”



theSkimm “Former First Lady Barbara Bush died this week at age 92. Barbara was a witty, candid, no-BS lady who was devoted to her big family. She and former President George HW Bush met at a high school dance in the 40s. They went on to be the longest-married couple in presidential history, and launch a political dynasty. Barbara’s nickname was “The Enforcer” at home, where she was a mother to six kids, grandmother to 17, and a great-grandmother to seven.

Barbara was hugely popular in the White House and on the campaign trail. Her main focus was literacy. She started a foundation to teach reading skills to families, and wrote children’s books – including some from her dog’s perspective – to raise money for the cause.  She also helped humanize AIDS at the height of the epidemic in the ’80s. Back then, people mistakenly thought you could get it just by touching someone with the disease. Barbara was photographed hugging patients. Last night, George W said “our souls are settled because we know hers was.” The lady known as “everybody’s grandmother” will be missed.”



AP “After slogging through … icy rain and a near-gale headwind that made her feel like she was running in place, Desiree Linden — a two-time Olympian and the 2011 Boston Marathon runner-up — won the Boston Marathon’s 122nd edition on Monday in 2 hours, 39 minutes, 54 seconds. Linden became the first U.S. woman to win since 1985 — before the race began offering prize money that lured the top international competitors to town.”

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