BTW … WE KNOW IT’S NOT AS SEXY AS IMPEACHMENT, but the government is slated to shut down in 27 days — on Nov. 21. There are just 12 days in session between now and then, so this is becoming a real issue that Washington is going to start focusing on soon. (Please don’t give us the “They won’t shut down the government” thing. These things are never planned!)
WHAT THEY’RE FOCUSING ON AT MAIN JUSTICE … NYT’S KATIE BENNER and ADAM GOLDMAN: “Justice Dept. Is Said to Open Criminal Inquiry Into Its Own Russia Investigation”: “Justice Department officials have shifted an administrative review of the Russia investigation closely overseen by Attorney General William P. Barr to a criminal inquiry, according to two people familiar with the matter. The move gives the prosecutor running it, John H. Durham, the power to subpoena for witness testimony and documents, to convene a grand jury and to file criminal charges.
“The opening of a criminal investigation is likely to raise alarms that Mr. Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies. Mr. Trump fired James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director under whose watch agents opened the Russia inquiry, and has long assailed other top former law enforcement and intelligence officials as partisans who sought to block his election.” NYT
— WSJ: “A person familiar with the matter said the time span covered by the inquiry had expanded to examine U.S. intelligence gathering from before the FBI formally opened its investigation in July 2016 to early spring of 2017. Mr. Mueller was appointed in May 2017.”
THE PRESIDENT says he will go to Nats Park for Game 5 of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros — if the series gets that far. The Nats have to win tonight and Saturday to avoid a Game 5 on Sunday night.
— WAPO’S DAVID NAKAMURA: “‘They’ve got to dress me up in a lot of heavy armor — I’ll look too heavy,’ he responded when a reporter asked him about whether he would take the mound. Trump appeared to be making a reference to a bulletproof vest that presidents sometimes are required to wear by Secret Service when they are amid large crowds. A team official confirmed later that he will not take part in that on-field tradition.” WaPo
— DCist’s guide to getting to the park. Read it here
A SHIFT … WAPO’S MIKE DEBONIS and RACHAEL BADE: “Democrats say whistleblower’s testimony is unnecessary as other witnesses come forward”: “The whistleblower who initially unmasked President Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine for political favors has moved steadily toward the periphery of the House impeachment inquiry as several Democrats said Thursday they have ample testimony from senior Trump administration officials to back his claims.
“Democrats were once prepared to take extraordinary steps to preserve the whistleblower’s identity under questioning, considering him central to their investigation. But over the past month, they have grown cold to the idea of exposing him to additional scrutiny after several witnesses described how Trump leveraged access and military aid to secure a promise from Ukraine to launch investigations that could help his 2020 reelection bid.
“‘I think it’s quite clear we have a surfeit of evidence that corroborates in full every aspect of what happened and the policy they were pursuing,’ said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees. A person familiar with the discussions between the whistleblower and House investigators, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks, said Thursday that there are no active efforts to arrange for the individual’s testimony.” WaPo
Good Friday morning. SPOTTED: Former Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer leaving Sen. John Thune’s (R-S.D.) office Thursday.
BEIJING LECTURES THE U.S. … BLOOMBERG: “China Fires Back at Pence, Says U.S. Should Get House in Order”: “China fired back at Vice President Mike Pence’s criticism on human rights, calling his speech ‘lies’ and chiding him for ignoring U.S. problems like racism and wealth disparity.
“Pence on Thursday gave a long-anticipated speech in which he criticized China’s actions against protesters in Hong Kong while calling for greater engagement between the world’s two biggest economies. He said the U.S. stands with demonstrators in Hong Kong and accused Beijing of curtailing the rights and liberties of the city’s residents.
“Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, blasted Pence’s ‘arrogance’ and said no force would stop the country’s progress. She accused him of seeking ‘to disrupt China’s unity or internal stability’ and called Hong Kong, Taiwan and the far west region of Xinjiang ‘internal affairs.’
“‘The U.S. has already abandoned and cast aside its morality and credibility,’ Hua said. ‘We hope these Americans can look at themselves in the mirror to fix their own problems and get their own house in order.’” Bloomberg
SO, HE’S NOT BRINGING THE TROOPS HOME … WSJ: “U.S. Weighs Leaving More Troops, Sending Battle Tanks to Syria,” by Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef: “The White House is considering options for leaving about 500 U.S. troops in northeast Syria and for sending dozens of battle tanks and other equipment, officials said Thursday, the latest in an array of scenarios following President Trump’s decision this month to remove all troops there.
“The options, presented by military officials, would represent a reversal from the American withdrawal Mr. Trump wanted. It also would modify U.S. objectives—from countering Islamic State extremists to also safeguarding oil fields in eastern Syria with additional troops and new military capability. Washington sees the fields as potential leverage in future negotiations over Syria.” WSJ
IMPEACHMENT CLIP PACKET …
— DARREN SAMUELSOHN: “Giuliani probe snowballs”: “The scrutiny [of Rudy Giuliani] isn’t just coming from the previously known probes by FBI agents and the U.S. attorney’s office based out of Manhattan, according to two people familiar with the investigation. The criminal division of the Justice Department in Washington has taken an interest in the former New York mayor, too, meaning an expansion of resources that indicates the politically sensitive probe into the president’s personal attorney is both broader and moving at a faster pace than previously understood.” POLITICO
— AP: “Trump confronts the limits of impeachment defense strategy,” by Zeke Miller, Jill Colvin and Jonathan Lemire: “Asked about criticism that the White House lacks a coordinated pushback effort and could do a better job delivering its message, spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said, ‘It’s hard to message anything that’s going on behind closed doors and in secret.’ ‘It’s like you’re fighting a ghost, you’re fighting against the air. So we’re doing the best we can,’ she said on Fox News.” AP
— NEWSY NUGGETS FROM MIKE SHEAR, MAGGIE HABERMAN AND NICK FANDOS’ NYT IMPEACHMENT LEDEALL: “Impeachment investigators have negotiated in recent days with a lawyer for [John] Bolton about a date for him to be deposed behind closed doors, according to two people briefed on the matter. …
“White House aides are planning to add communications aides dedicated to impeachment, a move that Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, has pushed for. Among those under consideration to help lead the new team is Tony Sayegh, who recently left the Treasury Department where he was the top spokesman. White House aides have also discussed bringing on in some capacity Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida and a favorite of Mr. Trump’s, a person familiar with the conversations said.”
— CNN: “White House official expected to back up diplomat’s testimony over Trump push for Ukraine probe into Bidens”: “Tim Morrison, a top Russia and Europe adviser on President Donald Trump’s National Security Council, is expected to testify before House impeachment investigators next week and corroborate key elements of a top US diplomat’s account that Trump was pressing for Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into the Bidens before he would greenlight US security assistance, according to sources. …
“Morrison’s testimony is expected to be significant because he is a current White House official whose name was cited 15 times in Taylor’s opening statement, which Democrats view as damning for Trump. Morrison also listened to the July 25 call between Trump and the Ukrainian leader, CNN reported earlier this month. His testimony would be the first from someone who heard the call directly.” CNN
— IMPEACHMENT TESTIMONY UPDATE … Saturday: Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs; Monday: Charlie Kupperman, former deputy national security adviser; Tuesday: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, NSC Europe chief;
Wednesday: Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs; Thursday: Morrison.
JOHN BRESNAHAN: “Rep. Katie Hill threatens legal action over nude photos”: “Attorneys for Rep. Katie Hill on Thursday threatened to bring legal action against a British tabloid for posting what it claims are nude photos of the freshman California Democrat. Hill’s legal team — Marc Elias and Rachael Jacobs of the firm Perkins Coie — also suggested Hill was defamed over allegations by the Daily Mail that she has a Nazi-inspired tattoo on her body.
“In a cease-and-desist letter to Candace Trunzo, executive editor of the Daily Mail, Elias and Jacobs demanded that ‘you remove these photos from publication at once.’ The newspaper ran a series of intimate photos of Hill and a former campaign staffer whom it said she had an affair with before Hill won her seat in Congress. Hill, who is going through an acrimonious divorce, has admitted to an ‘inappropriate’ relationship with a female campaign staffer and apologized to her constituents over the matter.” POLITICO
2020 WATCH …
— FUN ONE: “How South Florida became headquarters of the Trump-Industrial Complex,” by Marc Caputo
— “Senate Dems on Hillary Clinton 2020: ‘Absolutely not,’” by Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine
— L.A. TIMES’ MICHAEL FINNEGAN: “California’s tough-on-crime past haunts Kamala Harris”
— @DanielStrauss: “Rep. Tulsi Gabbard WILL NOT seek re-election. She announced the move in an email and video. ‘I will not be seeking re-election to Congress in 2020,’ she said. She was facing a serious primary challenge from Hawaii state Sen. Kai Kahele.” The video
TRUMP’S FRIDAY — The president will depart the White House at 11:40 a.m. en route to Benedict College in South Carolina. He will give a speech on judicial reform at 2:15 p.m. Afterward, Trump will head to Camp David.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
LINDSEY’S LATEST — “Senate Republicans toughen on impeachment after Trump gripes,” by Marianne LeVine and Melanie Zanona: “Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, introduced a resolution on Thursday that condemns the Democrat-led impeachment probe. The South Carolina Republican has attacked Democrats for their handling of the impeachment process. His resolution — backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — calls on the House to hold a vote to formalize the impeachment inquiry and to give Republicans the same authority as Democrats to issue subpoenas.” POLITICO … The resolution … 46 co-sponsors so far, per Graham
— KCRW’s JOSH BARRO (@jbarro): “It’s remarkable, the text of the resolution is all process complaints, no substantive defense of the president’s behavior.”
— Axios’ @jonathanswan: “Very much by design. If it were the latter, the number of signatures would be… not ideal.”
WHAT’S HAPPENING AT DEPT. OF ED — “DeVos held in contempt for violating judge’s order on student loans,” by Michael Stratford: “A federal judge on Thursday held Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in contempt of court and imposed a $100,000 fine for violating an order to stop collecting on the student loans owed by students of a defunct for-profit college. The exceedingly rare judicial rebuke of a Cabinet secretary came after the Trump administration was forced to admit to the court earlier this year that it erroneously collected on the loans of some 16,000 borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges despite being ordered to stop doing so.
“U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim wrote that ‘the evidence shows only minimal efforts to comply with the preliminary injunction’ she issued in May 2018 ordering the Education Department to halt its collection of the loans.” POLITICO
HAPPENING TODAY … ANNABELLE DICKSON: “EU ambassadors will meet in Brussels at 9 a.m. U.K. time (10 a.m. local time) this morning to discuss the U.K.’s request to extend its Brexit deadline. Diplomats will mull how much longer to give the U.K. to sort Brexit out. But the discussions will take place against the backdrop of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s latest Brexit gamble — a threat to MPs to pull the Withdrawal Agreement Bill needed to take the U.K. out of the EU with a deal, and to effectively put his government on strike, unless MPs vote on Monday to allow him to hold a general election on December 12.” London Playbook
MEDIAWATCH — “Trump to Tell Federal Agencies to Cut New York Times, Washington Post Subscriptions,” by WSJ’s Andrew Restuccia: “‘Not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving—hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved,’ White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an email Thursday.
“Ms. Grisham declined to provide further details, and it wasn’t immediately clear how the White House intended to compel agencies to cancel the subscriptions or how soon the order would take effect. The White House was still working on implementing the directive as of Thursday morning, an administration official said. …
“Mr. Trump is an avid consumer of the news, and he regularly reads the Times and the Post, according to aides who privately acknowledged that they expect him to continue doing so despite the directive.” WSJ
— NATASHA BERTRAND and DARREN SAMUELSOHN: “Lawyers for Ukrainian oligarch have another client: The columnist who pushed Biden corruption claims”
— “CNN’s Jeff Zucker Says He’s Interested in Hiring Former Fox News Host Shepard Smith,” by The Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr
— NBC’S KELLY O’DONNELL got the career achievement award at the RTCA dinner Thursday night at the Anthem. Her line of the night: “Ours is a business of questions and I have one more … Could I ask this of the RTCA board, could we call this the ‘Mid-Career Achievement Award’? Because I’d like to think I’m just getting started.”
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at email@example.com.
SPOTTED: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) taking selfies at the airport in Manchester, N.H., on Thursday, after flying in from D.C. Pic … Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Woody Johnson at Cafe Milano on Thursday night. … Toby Keith at Cafe Milano on Thursday night.
SPOTTED at a party Thursday night for Richard Vague’s new book, “A Brief History of Doom: Two Hundred Years of Financial Crises” ($20.43 on Amazon), hosted by Steve Clemons at Cafe Milano: Kurt and Ia Volcker, Grover Norquist, Molly Ball, Brian Bartlett, Barton Gordon, Heather Podesta, Josh Eastright, Sudeep Reddy, Suzanne Smalley, Melodie Thomas, Michael Tomasky, Ryan Heath, Nihal Krishan, Greta and Bill Brawner, Paul Brown …
… Paula Stern and Paul London, Michael Powell, Brandon Riker, Niharika Acharya, Lyndon Boozer, Tom Omestad, Justin Cooper, Michael Sexton, Tara McKelvey, Shilpi Niyogi, Christina Sevilla, Kelsey Glover, Fred Hochberg, Campbell O’Connor, Walt Slocombe, David Fuscus, Jerry Hagstrom, Tom and Gretchen Toles, Daniel and Amelia Bob, Alex Yergin and Jessica Reinis, Harrison Grafos, Christopher Colford and Isabel Sawhill.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Patrick Butler, president and CEO of America’s Public Television Stations, is 7-0. A trend that he thinks doesn’t get enough attention: “While our politics seem toxic, I’m impressed by the quiet civility and random acts of kindness that so many people demonstrate in their daily lives. President Eisenhower used to say, ‘America is great because America is good,’ and I still think that’s true. I see Chief Justice Roberts at my Starbucks from time to time, standing in line with everybody else in a politics-free zone until ‘John’s’ coffee is ready. That’s the real us, and that’s the way it should be.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Ed Barron … James Carville is 75 (hat tips: Jon Haber) … Bill Purcell is 66 … Phil McNamara … Eric Anthony (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Louis Burgdorf … Rachel Craddock, White House press assistant … Nate Hodson … Geoff Burr, policy director at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck … CBS’ Jan Crawford … POLITICO’s Bill Kuchman … Bryan DeAngelis, managing director at Hamilton Place Strategies … Debora Pignatelli … Gordon Johndroe, VP of government operations comms at Boeing, is 45 (h/t Tim Burger) … JPMorgan Chase’s Irene Baker … Brian DeBose … Margaret Reid Windham … Josh McElveen … Matt Resch of Resch Strategies … Gary Regenstreif … Charles Chamberlain, Democracy for America’s chair …
… Albert Somit, a political scientist known as the father of biopolitics, is 100 (h/t Tom Busch) … Elizabeth Crisp … Alisha Prather … Chuck Conconi … Brigid Ueland of the Senate Finance Committee … Sam Dulik … Adam Ukman … Nick Iacono … Kendall Evans Heath … Samantha Bisogno, communications manager for government affairs at the Ocean Conservancy … Trey Hodgkins … Joe Christinat, VP of communications at Nasdaq … Lauren Dunn … Lon Deckard … Aaron Saunders … Richard Goldstein … Corey Weaver … Jeremy Redmon is 48 … Jeff Pace … Garrison McMurtrey … Matt LoParco … Russell Pandres … Kiki Setterlund … Suzanne Reichardt of McLarty Associates … Stefano Giustiniani
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine