Posts tagged with "Politico"

Can new White House counsel hold the line as Dems, Mueller gain ground?

December 6, 2018

New White House Counsel Pat Cipollone began work on December 3, following a nearly two-month delay since his appointment—and with dwindling time to help colleagues fend off both the Russia investigation and a coming onslaught of House Democratic oversight demands, Politico reports.

Cipollone, a partner at the D.C. law firm, Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner, also has Justice Department credentials—having served there during the George H. W. Bush administration. He already has advised the White House on the Mueller probe—however, those in the know anticipate that Emmet Flood will continue to take “first chair” in that legal challenge.

President Donald Trump tapped Cipollone to replace Chief White House Counsel Don McGahn, who stepped down just before the midterm elections, on October 17, following a turbulent tenure during which he clashed with the president (and also testified to Mueller’s team). Cipollone’s start date was confirmed to Politico by “two sources familiar with the timing.”

Even before assuming his official duties, the political news outlet confirmed, Cipollone had reached out to White House legal aides responsible for everything from judicial nominations to federal litigation to presidential pardons. His first major test will involve handling (or holding off) several investigations launched by House Democrats, who will assume committee chairmanships in January.

Mike Purpura, a Justice Department alumnus who worked in George W. Bush’s counsel’s office, is likely to serve as deputy White House counsel leading the response to congressional investigations, according to a source familiar with the plans, Politico said. In that role, he is expected to emerge as a central behind-the-scenes player in the West Wing over the next two years, helping to shield the president from newly emboldened Democrats with subpoena power.

Research contact: @elianayjohnson

Judge gives go-ahead to subpoenas in Trump Hotel emoluments lawsuit

December 5, 2018

Peter J. Messitte, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court of Maryland ruled on December 3 that lawyers for Maryland and Washington, D.C., plaintiffs in an emoluments-related lawsuit can start issuing subpoenas. The suit alleges that President Donald Trump has used his luxury hotel near the White House to unconstitutionally profit from his political office, Politico reported on December 3.

The case would set the stage either for potentially shutting down the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., or for requiring Trump to divest entirely from the property—where many foreign diplomats currently are staying when they visit the Beltway and where many U.S. politicians are holding dinners and events to gain favor with the president.

In fact, the GSA lease for the property—which governs the use of the Old Post Office Building in the District of Columbia, where the hotel is situated—clearly states: “No … elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.

According to Politico, the attorneys general in Maryland and Washington said they planned to serve as many as 20 companies and government agencies with subpoenas by midday on December 4.

It’s the first time a lawsuit alleging a president violated the Constitution’s emoluments, or anti-corruption, clauses has advanced to the discovery stage, the political news outlet noted.

In response, Politico reported, the Justice Department on November 30 said it would try to halt the attorneys’ general case with an appeal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, but by the end of the day on Monday, December 3, the DOJ had yet to file anything in that court.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said that, if Justice Department lawyers do seek to stop the case, he said he was confident the delay would be temporary.

“They have a very high burden to win on a Writ of Mandamus, I don’t think they can meet that standard here,” Frosh told Politico. “They’ve done everything they possibly can to stop us from getting discovery.”

Research contact: @Woellert

Grim climate report galvanizes incoming Democrats

November 27, 2018

Federal scientists warned in a new report released on November 23 that “more frequent and intense extreme weather- and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities nationwide” in the coming years—with costs threatening to reach hundreds of billions of dollars annually by the middle of this century.

The message, echoing decades of sobering conclusions from the world’s leading climate scientists, is at odds with President Donald Trump’s repeated denial of global warming, Politico reported; noting that the administration chose to release it on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day and one of the slowest news days of the year.

But despite the timing, the report—Fourth National Climate Assessment—is bound to energize the new class of progressive Democrats set to take control of the House in January, the political news outlet predicted—saying that “Many of them, led by incoming Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14th District, New York) already are pushing for an expansive “Green New Deal” as one of the rallying cries the party would take into the 2020 campaign.

The 1,600-plus-page document is the just the most recent to warn that the planet will see devastating changes. Indeed, the researchers warned, “Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems—including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security.”

The effects of global warming are expected to alter the coastlines, worsen droughts and storms, and foster the outbreaks of dangerous diseases as temperatures climb.

And while the report said that quick action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution could dramatically affect the state of the planet by the end of the century, many of the impacts the U.S. will see in the next two decades appear irreversible—both on the environment and on the economy. “With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.”

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-30th District, Texas) who is set to take the gavel at the House Science Committee, said it’s time to start addressing the causes of the wildfires, devastating storms, coastal flooding and toxic algae blooms that plagued much of the U.S. this year, Politico reported. “That is why I have made climate change one of my top priorities for the Committee going in to the next Congress,” she said in a statement.

The government officials who oversaw the report said there had been no political influence over its findings, but they sidestepped questions about whether the White House sought to bury the report by releasing it in the middle of a long holiday weekend, Politico said.

“We hope you will focus on the content of the report,” David Reidmiller, the director of the National Climate Assessment, told reporters. “We think the report speaks for itself.”

Ocasio-Cortez pressed the case in a tweet, taking her Democratic colleagues to task: “People are going to die if we don’t start addressing climate change ASAP. It’s not enough to think it’s ‘important.’ We must make it urgent,” she wrote. “That’s why we need a Select Committee on a Green New Deal, & why fossil fuel-funded officials shouldn’t be writing climate change policy.

The White House tried to downplay the new report’s conclusions Friday, claiming that they are “largely based on most extreme scenarios.” The White House also noted that U.S. greenhouse gas pollution has declined 14% since 2005—although the causes of that drop include trends that Trump opposes, such as a shift away from coal-fired power plants.

The new report, which Congress requires to be issued every four years, was released by U.S. Global Change Research Program. It is the product of 300 scientific experts under the guidance of a 60-member federal advisory committee, and it was open to review by the public, 13 federal agencies, and a panel at the National Academy of Sciences.

Research contact: @dailym1

Trump parries with press on CIA report that MBS ordered Khashoggi murder

November 26, 2018

On Thanksgiving, President Donald Trump took time out from thanking himself for doing a wonderful job to say that the CIA did not reach a conclusion about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi—adding during a teleconference with U.S. military troops that Salman “regretted the death more than I do,” Politico reported.

The president previously had declined to listen to Turkey’s tape of the actual murder—or to confirm or deny reports that the CIA had concluded that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.

When asked who should be blamed instead, Trump said on the conference call from his residence and private club Mar-a-Lago, “maybe the world” because it’s a “vicious, vicious place,” and referenced oil prices as a reason not to punish Saudi Arabia further, according to pool reports.

Asked by a reporter if the CIA had a recording implicating Salman, Politico noted that the president responded: “I don’t want to talk about it. You’ll have to ask them.”

Later, he answered a question on the crown prince’s possible involvement by saying: “Whether he did or whether he didn’t, he denies it vehemently. His father denies, the king, vehemently. The CIA doesn’t say they did it. They do point out certain things, and in pointing out those things, you can conclude that maybe he did or maybe he didn’t.”

Comments from both the press and the public were, on the whole, critical of Trump’s refusal to denounce the Saudis during the holiday and the preceding week.

“He’s actually publicly lying about whether or not the US government and its intelligence agencies have concluded … that Khashoggi was murdered and by whom, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow tweeted on 1 p.m. on November 23.

According to a November 23 report by The Hill, Turkey’s top ranking diplomat scorched President Trump on Friday, accusing him of turning a ‘blind eye’ to the killing of Washington Post journalist and Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi.

“Trump’s statements amount to him saying ‘I’ll turn a blind eye no matter what,'” Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said in an interview.

“Money isn’t everything. We must not move away from human values,” Çavuşoğlu added.

David Axelrod, director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, tweeted, “For all his bravado @real Donald Trump has proven himself pathetically weak in the eyes of the world, heeling like a Chihuahua on the end of a gilded Saudi leash,” at 8:42 a.m. on November 22.

Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, commented, “The president’s failure to hold Saudi Arabia responsible in any meaningful way for the death of Jamal Khashoggi is just one more example of this White Houe’s retreat from American leadership on issues like human rights and protecting the free press.”

Finally, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) tweeted, “ … [It] is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal #Khashoggi.”

A poll conducted at the end of October by Axios/SurveyMonkey found that most Americans think President Trump hasn’t been tough enough on Saudi Arabia in response to the  Khashoggi by Saudi agents—with just one-third saying his response had been “about right” and only 5% thinking he had been too tough.

Research contact: @LilyStephens13

Is Trump’s middle-class tax cut fake news?

October 24, 2018

Politico calls it “the mystery middle-class tax cut.” President Donald Trump first floated the idea on October 20 at a Nevada rally, saying that his administration is “studying very deeply right now round the clock a major tax cut for middle-income people.” He upped the ante before leaving for a campaign stop in Texas on October 22, telling White House reporters that the administration plans to produce a “resolution” calling for a 10% tax cut for middle-income earners

It was not clear what he meant by resolution, the political news outlet said, noting that there are no current plans in Congress for any kind of large new tax cut for the middle class. In fact, Politico reported, White House officials, congressional leaders (who already have left town to campaign in their home states), and tax nerds “mostly have no idea what he’s talking about.”

Aides were left to conjecture exactly what the president had read in his newspaper clippings, or seen on Twitter, to inspire this grand promise from his rally podium. One senior administration official on Sunday night had not even heard about the president’s tax cut remark on Saturday in Nevada and said they had no idea what he was talking about.

“I guess I’ll hear about it when I get to work on Monday,” the official told Politico reporters Nancy Cook and Ben White.

The tax cut has been proposed by the POTUS at a time when the GOP already is scurrying to avoid rebukes for the ballooning debt and deficit under Trump’s watch. The president’s own Treasury Department reported last week that the deficit hit $779 billion in the 2018 fiscal year— the highest level since in six years.

“This is the height of cynicism,” Greg Valliere, chief global strategist for Horizon Investments, told Politico of Trump’s tax cut talk. “Number one, I think even Republicans would be gun-shy about adding this much more to the deficit. And the public actually seems pretty indifferent to tax cuts. This doesn’t pass the smell test or the laugh test.”

One potential clue to Trump’s thinking: Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) released a tax proposal aimed at the middle class late last week. Some Republicans close to the White House speculated that Trump is trying to one-up his potential 2020 presidential rival.

Research contact: @nancook

As China continues to ‘go low’ on shipping rates, Trump moves the bar higher

October 22, 2018

President Donald Trump is threatening to intensify the trade war between the United States and China by ordering the U.S. Postal Service to withdraw from a treaty that has set shipping rates among 192 member nations for 144 years.

The Universal Postal Union—established in 1874 and adopted as a body of the United Nations in 1948—has enabled developing countries to pay lower rates when shipping packages internationally; often putting some of the cost of delivering packages on the postal services of wealthier countries.

Indeed, according to an October 17 report by Politico, the policy initially was intended to spur economic growth in poorer countries by connecting them with global markets.

But now that some of those countries—including China—have become exporting giants, the Trump administration hopes to use its withdrawal as leverage to negotiate more favorable terms for historically wealthy countries, like the United States.

Reaction has been mixed. A senior administration official told Politico that  the administration would prefer to stay within the union and that a full withdrawal takes a year to implement. Therefore, he said, he hopes that America can negotiate more favorable terms within that time frame.

“You could have something shipped from Indiana to New York and it would be more expensive than having it shipped from China because of price distortion introduced through the [old] rates,” Professor Rick Geddes, a postal service expert and Director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy at Cornell University, told NBC News for an October 19 story.

Companies such as Amazon and FedEx have long taken issue with the treaty, the network said—both citing what they believe are unfairly discounted shipping rates for foreign shippers.

However, on the plus side, American manufacturers, believe that withdrawing from the agreement would level what they see as an unfair playing field.

Indeed, Jayme Smaldone, CEO of the New Jersey–based company, Mighty Mug, wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal last February, noting that his firm paid $6.30 to ship by regular mail; but a Chinese company that sold a knock-off version could ship it to the same location from 8,000 miles away for just $1.40.

Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, told

NBC News that the administration was making a positive move. “Manufacturers and manufacturing workers in the United States will greatly benefit from a modernized and far more fair arrangement with China,” he said.

American consumers had for years benefited from lower e-commerce prices on sites like Amazon and eBay when buying lower-priced Chinese goods. Without the discount, those sellers could evaporate and U.S. online shoppers would have to pay higher prices.

“Chinese sellers on eBay and other platforms may disappear, or at the very least they will not find it so easy to sell to Americans anymore,” Gary Huang, chairman of the Supply Chain Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghaitold Bloomberg.

He added, “American consumers will have less access to that really cheap stuff.”.

Research contact: @matthewchoi2018

Obama implores, ‘Restore honesty, decency, and lawfulness in government’

September 10, 2018

Former President Barack Obama has delivered two major speeches since the start of September—one at Senator John McCain’s funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral on September 1 and another at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on September 7—a sure sign that the crucial midterm elections are approaching.

The occasion for the latest speech was the presentation to the 44th president of the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government by the university in acknowledgement of his belief in the principles of equality and decency over division.

I’m here today,” he said on Friday, “because this is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us as citizens of the United States need to determine just who we are, what it is that we stand for. As a fellow citizen, not as an ex-president, I’m here to deliver a simple message, which is that you need to vote, because our democracy depends on it.”

Obama characterized the upcoming election as the most significant in American history. “Just a glance at recent headlines should tell you that this moment really is different,” he noted. “The stakes really are higher. The consequences of any of us sitting on the sidelines are more dire.”

And, according to a September 7 report by Politico, for the first time since leaving office, he said Trump’s name. “It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom [of our tribal divisions], not the cause,” Obama said, to applause. “He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.”

He laid a great deal of the blame for the country’s climate of contention on U.S. legislators. “It’s not just about Trump, he said. It’s about Republicans “who know better in Congress … bending over backwards to shield” Trump. They’re hypocrites, he said, and they’re just as dangerous to America. At times mocking them and at times laying into them, Obama said they’ve abandoned all that they’re supposed to stand for as Republicans, and as citizens of this country, Politico reported.

“None of this is conservative. I don’t mean to pretend I’m channeling Lincoln now, but that’s not what he had in mind, I don’t think, when he formed the Republican Party. It sure isn’t normal. It’s radical. It’s a vision that says our protection of our power is all that matters,” Obama said.

What’s more, Obama said, no American should feel good about the idea, expressed in the anonymous New York Times op-ed on September 6, that there are adults in the room managing Trump.

“That is not a check. That’s not how our democracy’s supposed to work. These people aren’t elected,” he said. “They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90% of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this White House, and saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’re preventing the other 10%.’”

He ended by imploring the public to do the right thing: “Even if you don’t agree with me or Democrats on policy, even if you agree with more libertarian economic views, even if you are an evangelical and the position on social issues is a bridge too far,” Obama said. “I’m here to tell you that you should still be concerned and should still want to see a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government. It should not be Democratic or Republican. It should not be partisan to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents.”

“We are Americans,” Obama said.

At press time, Trump’s favorability polls remained stable. Gallup reported that 41% of Americans approved of the president’s job performance and 53% disapproved.

Research contact: @IsaacDovere

Mueller rejects Manafort plea deal before second trial

August 29, 2018

President Donald Trump’s former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort tried to make a deal with the Special Counsel ahead of his second trial in Washington, D.C., but the talks fell apart, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.

Manafort’s defense team reportedly held plea discussions with prosecutors last week— hoping to help their client “flip” before he was held accountable for helping Russia interfere in the 2016 elections—but the talks stalled over objections raised by Robert Mueller.

The Journal was unable to determine the nature of those objections, and representatives for Manafort and Mueller declined to comment for the report.

Manafort is facing a second set of charges in D.C. related to his work for a Russia–backed political party in Ukraine, as well as his offer of reports on the campaign to a wealthy Russian to whom he owed money. He is being accused of failing to register as a foreign agent, among other charges.

The former Trump associate was convicted by in an Alexandria, Virginia-based federal jury trial on eight felony counts in the first legal victory for Mueller’s team. The jury found Manafort guilty on five charges of filing false income tax returns, one count of failing to report foreign bank accounts, and two counts of bank fraud. They deadlocked on the other 10 of 18 counts, with one juror holding out.

According to Politico, Mueller’s team in recent days has shortened its estimate of the length of Manafort’s upcoming trial, which is scheduled to start on September 17. The special counsel’s prosecutors wrote it could be completed in around two, rather than three, weeks.

Research contact: @aviswanatha

Democrats break barriers in August 14 primaries

August 16, 2018

When Democrats broke through barriers to elect Barack Obama to be the 44th U.S. president in 2008, that was only the beginning. Democratic voters selected a diverse array of history-making candidates in primaries across four states on August 14—including nominating a transgender woman for governor of Vermont, Politico reported.

Christine Hallquist, a former energy executive at Vermont Electric Coop, would be the first openly transgender governor in America if she defeats GOP Governor Phil Scott in November. Meanwhile, former high school teacher Jahana Hayes is poised to become the first African-American Democrat to represent Connecticut in Congress after winning her primary in the 5th District; and in Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, a Muslim and a Somali immigrant who had been a state legislator, won the Democratic nomination for the 5th Congressional District.

The night of firsts came as Democrats also hope to rebuild their party in the Midwest, Politico said—especially in Wisconsin, where voters selected state education official Tony Evers to take on two-term Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the fall.

“It’s a classic midterm election where the ‘out’ party has a terrific opportunity to win,” Democratic pollster Paul Maslin told the political news outlet. “That’s what happened the other way in 2010 and 2014. Now it’s our turn. We don’t want to go overboard but I think we are very hopeful of reversing a lot of the Republican gains over the last several cycles.”

According to a poll taken by Gallup in June, the Democratic edge in party affiliation over the GOP has grown to seven percentage points-the largest it has been in over two years. During the late summer and fall of 2016, Democrats averaged a three-point advantage.

Research contact: datainquiry@gallup.com

Coming to America: White House aide Stephen Miller lobbies for lower immigration numbers

August 6, 2018

Folks on the Beltway are wondering just how low the POTUS can go, in more ways than one: President Donald Trump last year advocated dropping the refugee cap as low as 5,000 people, down from 50,000, according to a former administration official— a cut far deeper than even his most hawkish adviser, Stephen Miller, proposed at the time, Politico reported on August 2.

Ultimately, the political news outlet said, the administration restricted to 45,000 the flow of refugees into the United States, this fiscal year—representing the nadir since the program began in 1980, and less than half the target of 110,000 that President Barack Obama set in his last planning cycle.

But that was then. Now, Miller and a group of like-minded aides are lobbying Trump to markedly reduce the number of people entering America, as both legal and illegal immigrants, Politico says.

Despite the blowback that they—and Attorney General Jeff Sessions—got over the imposition of a “zero tolerance” prosecution policy at the southern border that resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents, they are seeking a go-ahead.

One Republican close to the White House and a former White House official familiar with the discussions told Politico that the cap could fall as low as 15,000 in 2019.

“Inside the Washington Beltway, this is a numbers game that’s being carried out by people who don’t care about refugees and are orienting this to their base,” Anne Richard, who served as assistant secretary of state for Population, Refugees and Migration in the Obama administration, told Politico.

Miller, a policy adviser to Trump since the campaign and, before that, an aide to then-Senator Jeff Sessions, has made immigration his signature issue—and other White House denizens are loath to cross him, given his passion for the subject and his close relationship with the president, according to people familiar with dynamics inside the administration.

Miller declined to comment for the story. A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Research contact: ncook@politico.com