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Washington Report March 9, 2018
09 Mar 2018

Washington Report March 9, 2018

D.C. Reality … The Kim & I … Made For TV Moment …Remember Tariffs? … What Cyber Strategy? … Elephants … This Race Should Be A Gimme For R’s …. 70% … and other news of the week.

Remember, SPRING ahead on Sunday … 100 years ago, in March 1918, Congress enacted — and President Woodrow Wilson signed — the first daylight saving law, the Standard Time Act, during World War I as a way to save coal.

Joyce Rubenstein


Trump’s D.C. Reality

BGov “Look for a budget double whammy next week: Lawmakers are struggling to advance legislation to fund the government through Sept. 30, while President Donald Trump’s agency chiefs make their budget pitches for fiscal 2019.
Partisan skirmishing over Planned Parenthood funding has stalled negotiations over the fiscal 2018 omnibus and cast doubt about lawmakers’ ability to pass the spending package by the end of March 23, when the current continuing resolution expires. The Senate will continue its consideration of legislation (S. 2155) that would roll back some of the Dodd-Frank regulations enacted after the 2008 financial services meltdown.


The Hill “A bill to bolster the national background check system for gun purchases crossed a critical milestone this week, getting enough support to break a filibuster and pass the Senate.
GOP Sen. John Cornyn’s office noted on Friday that the legislation picked up six more cosponsors, bringing the total number of supporters to 62. The boost in support puts it just over the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, a key procedural hurdle, and gives it enough support to potentially be passed by the Senate. Despite having more than 60 votes, it remains unclear when, or if, it will be brought up for a vote.

Many very qualified Washington Republicans have said some version of this:
Axios — TAX REFORM is done. Infrastructure is not likely to happen. The House could easily flip. The Senate Republicans will have a tough 2020 cycle. In other words, legislating is almost over. The Trump White House is partially a target of a federal investigation. Aides have lawyered up. The president makes policy advisers spar over policy (ICYMI, Trump’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn has resigned … after Trump announced he would impose stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.) And the losers are often thrown under the bus. Why join this White House?”


Breathtaking Gamble

Axios “President Trump’s “breathtaking gamble” (per NYTs) in agreeing to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un reflects the winging-it approach he has always taken to life, business and politics: Jonathan Swan points out that Trump is totally improvisational: He spent his days at Trump Tower with effectively no calendar and no agenda. He’d sit at his desk taking and making phone calls, open to any offer, any idea. WHY IT MATTERS: Trump has an eye for the grand, cinematic moment, and surely sees this as the ultimate made-for-TV moment. Perhaps more than any modern president he believes in the Great Man theory of history: He believes to his core that his singular charisma and “talent” (a word he uses so often) can solve the world’s most intractable problems.


Swan remembers a senior White House official telling him there are three ways to get Trump to do something, all of which we’re seeing this week (with his tariffs announcement as well):
1. Tell him it’s never been done before.
2. Tell him the lawyers would never allow it.
3. Tell him the establishment would go crazy.

“Trump will probably fall victim to the same conceit that most American presidents do in the sense that they [think they] personally, in their interactions with foreign leaders, can work their magic, away from the plodding diplomats. … It’s incredibly naive, it doesn’t work.”

Risky Business

WaPo “… there is also significant risk for Trump in agreeing to a meeting apparently without the kind of firm preconditions sought by previous U.S. administrations. There has never been a face-to-face meeting, or even a phone call, between sitting leaders of the two nations because American presidents have been wary of offering the Kim regime the validation of a leaders-level summit on the global stage.

Politico “…Asked some Republican aides about this, and many of them were too shocked to render judgment. THE THEATER OF THIS ANNOUNCEMENT, was, unsurprisingly, pretty amazing. South Korean officials — fresh off their historic talks with the North Koreans — made the announcement from the White House after talks with the president.

WHO STANDS TO GAIN Financial Times “Experts are skeptical that Pyongyang will genuinely give up its nuclear programme, which it views as a deterrent to US aggression. The regime may promise to do so but history shows it has a poor record of upholding such pledges. In 1994 it signed the Agreed Framework to freeze its plutonium weapons programme in exchange for aid. The deal collapsed in 2002 amid US intelligence revelations that the regime was secretly pursuing a uranium enrichment programme. In 2005 Pyongyang committed to de-nuclearisation following multilateral talks; it tested its first nuclear device the very next year.”

“It’s Not Normal”

NYTs “By day’s end, dazed White House officials were discussing whether Mr. Trump would invite Mr. Kim to come to the United States. That seemed entirely likely, the senior administration official said, though American officials doubt the North Korean leader would accept. … The announcement capped another day of swirling drama at the White House, in which the president defied his own party by announcing sweeping tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and sought to ignore a mushrooming scandal over a pornographic film actress who claims to have had an affair with him.”

Just Saying

… Trump knocked Stormy Daniels and GOP opposition to his tariff plan off the front burner. Hmmm.


Hope-less White House

@maggieNYT: “Trump reaching out more directly to reporters – a la popping into briefing room, working phones – is likely in the post-Hicks era”..


Remember Tariffs?

Politico “Yesterday, President Trump had an important announcement.The US is increasing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. But not every country has to pay up. Canada and Mexico get a pass while the three countries renegotiate their trade agreement. And the rest of the world has the option to pick up the phone and negotiate their way out of this. A big change from the ‘no exception rule’ Trump talked about when these were first announced. The tariffs go into effect in 15 days. … The Trump admin says this will protect the US from foreign competition. Critics say this could escalate into a trade war. Either way, if you buy things with steel or aluminum – anything from cars to beer – this will shake up costs.”

BGov “Across corporate America, the race is on to dodge the tariff.” Axios “Under the new rules, an importer can ask the Commerce Department for a waiver if there’s a limited supply of the product in the U.S. or if national security is at stake. … How that’ll be interpreted is anyone’s guess, but aluminum can makers, pipeline builders and car companies are now building their cases for why the tariffs shouldn’t apply to them.”
“Today’s action could ultimately cost far more American jobs than it would create, and raise costs on consumer products.”
– Gary Shapiro, President & CEO, Consumer Technology Association

THEN THERE’S THIS WaPo “While our economic competitors in China move to seize the commanding heights of technology, in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and robotics, Trump is trying to protect jobs in steel, coal and other industries that have been in decline for nearly 50 years. He seems determined to transform the United States into a lagging indicator, rather than a leading one.”

Heads Up

Politico “Many Republicans told us last night that they believe the tariffs will be knocked down in court due to the loose use of a national security exemption.”

U.S. Goes It Alone

Yesterday, 11 countries signed a new free trade deal…without the US. A big sign that trade partners are ready to take steps of their own.


Whiplash Alert

THIS WEEK: Sam Nunberg went on television, said he would not turn over emails to the special prosecutor and would not speak to a grand jury. He decided to do both. … Texans voted in party primaries, and the candidate the DCCC dropped oppo on made it to the run off. … THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE campaigned against President Donald Trump’s tariffs, and Trump levied them anyway. Stormy Daniels, a porn star, sued the president, and her lawyer said on NBC’s “Today Show” that she had a romantic relationship with Trump and was paid to keep quiet.”



The Hill “The Senate has pushed a final vote on legislation weakening the Dodd-Frank financial reform law until next week after failing to reach a deal on amendment votes. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that Republicans and Democrats were unable to agree on which of the more than 100 amendments to the bill would get votes. The Senate will vote on a series of amendments “early next week.” .. The underlying measure is expected to pass with bipartisan support despite opposition from liberal Democrats, and the battle over amendments isn’t likely to change the final outcome.”


What Cyber Strategy?

Bgov “A bipartisan group of senators is pressing President Trump to issue a national strategy for deterring malicious activity in cyberspace … the senators wrote in aletter, obtained by The Hill. “The United States has failed to formulate, implement, and declare a comprehensive cyber doctrine with an appropriate sense of urgency. …we urge you to end this state of inaction immediately. … The issue came up most recently at a SASC hearing on worldwide threats that featured extensive discussions between lawmakers and top intelligence officials on cyber threats. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, in response to questions … at the hearing Tuesday, acknowledged that the government has not developed a comprehensive cyber policy.”



The United States has moved to allow hunters to import big-game trophies, including elephant tusks and lion hides, acquired in certain African countries with approvals granted on an individual basis.

This … contradicts public statements by President Trump, who had endorsed the restrictions.


At The Agencies

“Ben Carson Removes Anti-Discrimination Language From HUD Mission Statement,” by HuffPost “Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is changing the mission statement of his agency, removing promises of inclusive and discrimination-free communities. In a March 5 memo addressed to HUD political staff, Amy Thompson, the department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, explained that the statement is being updated ‘in an effort to align HUD’s mission with the Secretary’s priorities and that of the Administration.'” Well, now we know.


Race Should Be A Gimme

WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK: PENNSYLVANIA 18 Politico “We wrote in Playbook this week that Republicans were pouring money into the special in Pennsylvania with little regard for the fact that the district will disappear in a few weeks. Republicans should win that seat by double digits and will VASTLY outspend Democrats. CALLING IN THE CALVARY WaPo “If Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone wins an unexpectedly close special election here next Tuesday, it will be on Donald Trump’s coattails. On the other hand, this race wouldn’t be competitive at all if the president was not so polarizing – even in a mostly blue collar, largely rural southwestern Pennsylvania district that he carried by 20 points in 2016. This race should be a gimme for the GOP. Democrats didn’t even bother to field a candidate in 2016 or 2014. But public and private polls show the contest in the 18th district is now a toss-up, even after Republicans have poured in more than $10 million – about five times what Democrats have spent. Court-ordered reapportionment means that the district will cease to exist in its present form come November, but a defeat here would nonetheless represent the biggest political humiliation for Trump since he went all in for Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama and lost anyway last December. That’s why the White House is sending in the cavalry.”


Canadian Kind Of Thing

WaPo “In healthcare news, hundreds of doctors in Canada are saying ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to a pay bump. You read that right. They’re signing a petition to make the gov take the cash money from their raises and put it toward things like paying nurses more and get patients more access to certain services. It may or may not be the most Canadian thing ever.”



Reuters “False news stories spread much more quickly and widely on Twitter than truthful ones, an imbalance driven more by people than automated “bot” accounts, researchers said on Thursday. A study by researchers at the MITs Media Lab examining about 126,000 stories shared by some 3 million people on Twitter from 2006 to 2017 found that false news was about 70% more likely to be retweeted by people than true news. The study, published in the journal Science, was one of the most comprehensive efforts to date to assess the dynamics behind how false news circulates on social media. False stories spread significantly more quickly and broadly than true stories in all categories of information, but this was more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends or financial information, the researchers said. “Let’s not take it as our destiny,” said Deb Roy, [one] of the researchers, “that we have entered into the post-truth world from which we will not emerge.”

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