POLITICO Playbook: Finally, a New York Times story Trump will like

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SPOTTED: A.G. BILL BARR refused to testify Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, but he held court at the D.C. lunch hotspot Tosca for at least two hours.

Playbook asked GEORGE CONWAY why he thought Barr had taken on the job of defending the president. “I have no theory,” he said. “I am at a complete and utter loss to explain it.”

— “Trump finds in Barr the attorney general — and shield — he long sought,” by WaPo’s Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger and Ashley Parker: “For a time, President Trump was reluctant to select William P. Barr as his attorney general. The veteran Justice Department official from the George H.W. Bush administration was not a longtime Trump loyalist, and the president wondered whether one of his own political allies might serve better as a shield, people familiar with the matter said. …

“Trump, who spent a few hours at most with Barr before picking him as attorney general, told people that he was pleased with Barr’s pugnacious performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, though one Trump ally who regularly speaks with the president said his joy was ‘shortsighted’ because Barr lost credibility with some lawmakers who could be useful later. …

“A White House official said that Barr had ‘set the narrative’ in a way that was positive for the White House …

“Trump campaign advisers, who said they had raised more than $1 million after the Mueller report was released, said the attorney general’s comments have generally been helpful — especially his earlier assertion that there was ‘spying’ during the 2016 presidential race.” WaPo

MAYBE THERE WAS SPYING? — “F.B.I. Sent Investigator Posing as Assistant to Meet With Trump Aide in 2016,” by NYT’s Adam Goldman, Michael Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti: “The conversation at a London bar in September 2016 took a strange turn when the woman sitting across from George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, asked a direct question: Was the Trump campaign working with Russia?

“The woman had set up the meeting to discuss foreign policy issues. But she was actually a government investigator posing as a research assistant, according to people familiar with the operation. The F.B.I. sent her to London as part of the counterintelligence inquiry opened that summer to better understand the Trump campaign’s links to Russia.” NYT

TRUMP SAYS NO TO MCGAHN TESTIMONY … ANITA KUMAR: “Congress shouldn’t be looking anymore. This is all. It’s done,” Trump told Fox News. “Nobody has ever done what I’ve done. I’ve given total transparency. It’s never happened before like this. They shouldn’t be looking anymore. It’s done.” POLITICO

JARED’S MIDEAST PEACE PREVIEW — The first son-in-law sat for a rare public interview Thursday night with Rob Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. No real news, but here are some highlights:

The plan is “more of an in-depth operational document.”

“If you say ‘two-state’ [solution], it means one thing to the Israelis, it means one thing to the Palestinians. So we said, you know, let’s just not say it.”

“People will be surprised what’s in it, but I hope they react rationally.”

“We’ve had a leaky environment here in Washington where a lot of things leak, but nothing’s leaked from my team.”

On Trump: “He’s not going to allow you to pretend like something’s solved when it’s not solved. His view is we should either solve it or admit that it’s not solved.”

On Obama: “We came into what we felt was a strategy-free environment.”

— BEST EXCHANGE … KUSHNER: “If we fail, we don’t want to fail the way it has been done in the past.” SATLOFF: “You want to be original in your failure.”

— MONEY QUOTE: “When you work for a president you try not to disappoint. Sometimes you disappoint. When you work for your father-in-law you can’t disappoint.” Watch the video

Good Friday morning. Blake Hounshell with Daniel Lippman here, filling in for Jake and Anna. They’ll be back Saturday for all your Playbooking needs. Thanks for reading.

2020 WATCH — The online left seems to be awakening to the very real possibility that JOE BIDEN will win the Democratic nomination, and they’re not happy. On Thursday, a years-old clip of Biden praising Dick Cheney circulated endlessly on Twitter, prompting groans and rebukes from progressives. Meanwhile, BERNIE SANDERS is gearing up to take on Biden.

Biden has avoided engaging attacks from his left, but that might not be sustainable much longer.

RED ALERT IN FRANKFORT … ALEX ISENSTADT: “Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is a presidential phone-buddy and White House regular who’s become one of President Donald Trump’s loudest surrogates.

“He’s also one of the most unpopular governors in the country, facing a treacherous reelection in November. And the White House, fearing that an embarrassing loss in a deep-red state would stoke doubts about the president’s own ability to win another term, is preparing to go all-in to save him.

“Vice President Mike Pence, who recently flew to Lexington to raise money for the governor, is scheduled to headline a gala dinner hosted by Bevin on Friday evening. On Saturday, Bevin will air his first TV ad during the Kentucky Derby — expected to be a Trump-themed spot packed with footage of the president.” POLITICO

WHAT KELLYANNE IS READING — “Beto O’Rourke Blew It,” by Margaret Carlson in The Daily Beast

MILESTONE — @adamwren: “.@PeteButtigieg just reached a million followers. He had something like 60,000 a few short months ago.”

TRUMP’S FRIDAY — The president will have lunch with Secretary of State MIKE POMPEO at 12:30 p.m. Then at 1:45 p.m., he’ll greet Slovak Prime Minister PETER PELLEGRINI. They’ll hold a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, followed by a larger meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House.

The White House says Trump and Pellegrini will discuss “recent, positive gains in bilateral security cooperation [read: NATO defense spending] as well as our shared concerns on cyber threats and the importance of energy security.” The meeting is one of a series the Trump team is holding with Central European leaders as part of its effort to counter the growing influence of China and Russia in the region.

THE REVOLUTION WAS ALREADY TELEVISED … POLITICO Magazine’s Friday Cover: “Bernie Sanders Had His Own TV Show. We Found the Archives,” by Holly Otterbein: “This is Bernie Sanders, [Burlington’s] socialist mayor, and for whatever reason, he wants to talk about drugs.

‘Do any of the older kids you know have some problems with drugs?’ Sanders asks. ‘Who wants to talk to me about that? What about drugs? Is that a problem?’

‘I like coke!’ a little boy who looks 10 or 12 exclaims.

‘Tell me about that,’ Sanders says.

‘I like Coca-Cola!’ the boy clarifies.

‘Oh, Coca-Cola. Alright, but who knows about cocaine?’ Sanders asks. ‘Anyone ever seen cocaine?’ …

Sanders changes the subject to cigarettes. ‘Who here smokes?’ he asks. ‘Come on, raise your hand.’ A child, sitting in an adult’s lap, responds: ‘I don’t smoke because I’m a little kid. I’m only 5 years old.’”

MOORE TICK-TOCK — “Trump Won’t Nominate Stephen Moore for Fed Board,” by the NYT’s Jim Tankersley, Maggie Haberman and Emily Cochrane: “Several senators relayed … concerns to the White House this week and made clear that Mr. Moore did not have the votes to clear the Republican-controlled Senate. …

“Mr. Trump’s decision to cut Mr. Moore loose appeared to come as a surprise to his potential nominee, who had spent the morning telling several news media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, that he would not withdraw and that he retained the full backing of the White House, which was ‘all in.’ …

“Mr. Trump told reporters he planned to nominate Mr. Moore and Mr. Cain before White House officials had performed a traditional background check, including reviewing writings, finances and past public controversies.”

— YOWZERS: “‘Read people’s articles that they write,’ [advised] Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia. That, she said, ‘would be a good start.’” NYT

— OK … Moore on why he told The Wall Street Journal he wasn’t pulling out only minutes before doing so: “You may think I misled you. But it is what it is.” WSJ

SHOT … Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), April 28 WSJ op-ed: “Trump’s Tariffs End or His Trade Deal Dies”

… CHASER — @realDonaldTrump, May 2 tweet: “Congrats to @U_S_Steel for investing $1+ BILLION in America’s most INNOVATIVE steel mill. 232 Tariffs make Pennsylvania and USA more prosperous/secure by bringing Steel and Aluminum industries BACK. Tariffs are working. Pittsburgh is again The Steel City. USA Economy is BOOMING!”

— THE FULL STORY: GOP smacks Trump on trade,” by Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine

YIKES: “Pig ‘Ebola’ Virus Sends Shock Waves Through Global Food Chain,” by Bloomberg’s Dan Murtaugh and Enda Curran: “While official estimates count 1 million culled hogs, slaughter data suggest 100 times more will be removed from China’s 440 million-strong swine herd in 2019, the Chinese zodiac’s ‘year of the pig.’ The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast in April a decline of 134 million head — equivalent to the entire annual output of American pigs — and the worst slump since the department began counting China’s pigs in the mid 1970s. …

“The epidemic could have political repercussions as well. Xi Jinping may want to finalize trade negotiations with U.S. President Donald Trump to both ease the importation of much-needed pork, poultry and beef supplies, and to enable Chinese lawmakers to focus solely on quelling outbreaks, said INTL FCStone’s Suderman.”

CNN: “Former CIA officer pleads guilty to conspiring to commit espionage for China”

THE INVESTIGATIONS — “Someone Did Get to Look at Trump’s Tax Returns: Deutsche Bankers,” by Bloomberg’s Greg Farrell: “Donald Trump doesn’t want anyone to see his tax returns. Not the public. Not Congress. But at least one group has peered into the carefully guarded trove and could provide some insight — a team from Deutsche Bank AG. The bankers got a look before agreeing to lend to the Trump Organization in 2012 — access that was described by two people familiar with the interaction. …

“After a recent subpoena, Deutsche Bank was prepared to begin on May 6 turning over details to Congress about that relationship and its loans to Trump family businesses. Now, Trump and his family have sued to stop the flow of information.” Bloomberg

WHITE HOUSE VISITORS’ LOUNGE — “Wynonna Judd working with White House on criminal justice reform,” by Gabby Orr and Anita Kumar

MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY, the former Russian billionaire who was locked up for 10 years by Vladimir Putin, spoke Thursday night at a small gathering organized by American Interest publisher Charles Davidson at his house. About Putin’s loyalists: “Those people that Putin regards as his inner circle, we sometimes call it the court, as in the king’s court. … This court consists of two parts. One is the innermost circle, these are the principal beneficiaries of the current regime. There are several hundred such people. The next ring out is several thousand people, maybe as much as 10,000 people.”

On whether Russia has anything on Trump: “As to concerns, is there kompromat, compromising material in Russia on Trump, I don’t believe in kompromat. … If there were some serious financial kompromat, I think the FBI would be all over it by now, but if we’re talking about personal relations kompromat, women, whatever, I think that we could see that that doesn’t qualify as kompromat for Trump.” Pic of Khodorkovsky

BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “California governor makes big change to giant water project,” by AP’s Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento: “California Gov. Gavin Newsom scrapped a $16 billion plan Thursday to build two giant water tunnels to reroute the state’s water system and instead directed state agencies to restart planning for a single tunnel. The move came after $240 million has already been spent on the project championed by former Gov. Jerry Brown to divert water from the north to the state’s drier south.” AP

PLAYBOOK GREATER METRO SECTION — “Baltimore Mayor Pugh resigns after month on leave amid investigation into her business deals,” by The Baltimore Sun’s Ian Duncan, Jean Marbella and Luke Broadwater: “Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned Thursday, apologizing for the harm she has caused to the city’s image amid a growing scandal over her sales of a self-published children’s book series. It was the latest blow to the leadership of a city that’s seen two mayors resign in scandal in less than a decade and a third one decline to seek another term after a riot over police misconduct and a soaring murder rate.” Baltimore Sun

BIG IN THE VALLEY — “Facebook Building Cryptocurrency-Based Payments System,” by WSJ’s AnnaMaria Andriotis, Liz Hoffman, Peter Rudegeair and Jeff Horwitz: “Facebook Inc. is recruiting dozens of financial firms and online merchants to help launch a cryptocurrency-based payments system on the back of its gigantic social network.

“The effort … threatens to upend the traditional, lucrative plumbing of e-commerce and would likely be the most mainstream application yet of cryptocurrency. It comes as the social-media giant is under intense pressure from regulators, users and shareholders to address privacy shortcomings.” WSJ

— BIG IN D.C.: Facebook bans extremist figures for being ‘dangerous,’” by WaPo’s Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg: “The bans — including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and Infowars host Alex Jones — are a sign that the social network is more aggressively enforcing its hate speech policies under pressure from civil rights groups.” WaPo

MEDIAWATCH — MAJOR CHANGES AT CBS NEWS — N.Y. Post’s Alexandra Steigrad: “Norah O’Donnell is officially out as co-host of CBS’s struggling morning show — thanks to Gayle King. The new anchor lineup for ‘CBS This Morning’ has been set and it doesn’t include O’Donnell because King — riding high off her big interview with R. Kelly — has demanded she be sent elsewhere, The Post has learned. …

“O’Donnell is still a coveted name at CBS, however, and has been offered a ‘monster anchor’ job that includes a chief political anchor role at the network in addition to [Jeff] Glor’s job as anchor of ‘CBS Evening News,’ The Post has learned. She will also continue to appear on ‘60 Minutes,’ a source said. Glor, who has struggled to improve on the show’s third-place ranking, will likely be offered a correspondent or weekend anchor role, the source said.

“Besides King, the new morning show lineup includes ‘CBS This Morning Saturday’ co-anchor Anthony Mason and CBS News correspondents Tony Dokoupil, a source said. … Zirinsky denied that King had anything to do with O’Donnell leaving the morning show, which has fallen in the ratings since Charlie Rose was ousted over sexual harassment claims in 2017.” NYP

— Curt Mills will be Washington editor of Spectator USA and is going to help its U.S. expansion and move to print in October. He most recently has worked at the National Interest. Spectator USA has also named Dominic Green as life and arts editor to oversee everything non-D.C.

Stephen Moore will not be returning as a CNN contributor, per The Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr.

— COMING ATTRACTIONS: Fox News will air a town hall with Kirsten Gillibrand on June 2.

SPOTTED: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) at the back bar at Cap Lounge on Thursday night. … Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) on Wednesday at St. Anselm. … Dave Urban, who was wearing shorts and carrying a backpack, walking on M Street on Thursday. … Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) on Capitol Hill on Thursday, meeting separately with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Pics

… Gary Cohn, Heidi Heitkamp and six students with the Harvard Institute of Politics meeting with members of House Ways and Means about the students’ proposal to fix Social Security. PicSen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) walking around unstaffed on Capitol Hill post-rainstorm Thursday evening.

NEW PODCAST ALERT — CNN’s Dan Merica: Bill “Clinton, along with his daughter Chelsea Clinton and through The Clinton Foundation, launched a podcast on Thursday titled, ‘Why Am I Telling You This,’ a nod to a phrase that the former president often uses to connect stories he tells in speeches.” CNNPreview of the podcast

SUNDAY SO FAR …

  • ABC

    “This Week”: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Panel: Mary Bruce, Chris Christie, Stefanie Brown James and Jonathan Swan

  • CBS

    “Face the Nation”: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo … Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Panel: Byron York, Michael Crowley, Rachael Bade and Shawna Thomas

  • CNN

    “State of the Union”: Panel: David Urban, Abdul El-Sayed, S.E. Cupp and Karen Finney

  • CNN

    “Inside Politics”: Panel: Nia-Malika Henderson, Michael Shear, Rachael Bade and Paul Kane

  • NBC

    “Meet the Press”: Kristen Soltis Anderson, Eddie Glaude Jr., James S. McDonnell, Eliana Johnson and Jerry Seib

TRANSITIONS — Kevin Manning is now deputy director of public affairs and press secretary at the Commerce Department. He previously served as the department’s deputy press secretary. … Stephen Cobb, former deputy attorney general of Virginia and an Obama Commerce alum, has returned to private practice, joining the law firm Troutman Sanders LLP as counsel. … Kate Constantini is now deputy comms director for With Honor, an organization that tries to get more young veterans to run for office. She previously was communications strategist for Convergence Media and is an NRCC alum. …

… Sarah Kennedy Hillmann is rejoining Subject Matter as creative director. She previously was senior copywriter at Weber Shandwick. … Tom Strong-Grinsell will be deputy regional finance director for the tri-state area for Pete Buttigieg’s campaign. He is currently director of special projects for Fred Hochberg and a Hillary for America alum.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — James Davis, SVP of the Seminar Network and board member of AFP, and Patricia Montesinos Davis welcomed Tennessee Powell Davis, naming him after James’ mentor Powell Moore, who passed away last year. He came in at 7 lbs, 5 ounces. “His four sisters are already fighting to hold him.” PicAnother pic

— Heather Cable, communications manager at The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Andrew Fake, portfolio manager at Freddie Mac, welcomed Susannah Mae last week. Pic

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Scott Kamins, president of government and public relations firm Kamins Consulting and a Bush 43 Commerce, State and RNC alum, is 44. What he’s been reading: “‘Love Your Enemies’ by Arthur Brooks. There’s no reason why Washington can’t be known for a vigorous but respectful competition of ideas, but it won’t happen until more people demand it and give politicians credit for the collaborative efforts that do take place. It reminds me of the saying about the work of the intelligence community: ‘The failures are public and the successes are secret.’” Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Willie Geist, host of NBC’s “Sunday TODAY” and co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” is 44 … Marisol Garibay, acting chief comms officer at the CFPB … Ben Ginsberg, partner at Jones Day … former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy … Vince Harris, founder and CEO of Harris Media … Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) is 76 … Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is 7-0 … former Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is 58 … POLITICO New Jersey Playbooker Matt Friedman … Sonya Newenhouse … POLITICO’s Anna Stubbs and David Nicks … Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association … Stephen Krupin, managing director and director of executive communications of SKDKnickerbocker … Holly Turner … Poland is 228 years old on its Constitution Day … Greg Clugston … Cliff Maloney, president of Young Americans for Liberty … Linda Kenyon (h/t birthday boy Greg Clugston) … Katie Farrar … Meredith Slesinger of Amtrak … Irene Rosenfeld is 66 … Mikhail Prokhorov is 54 … Rob Astorino is 52 …

… Stephen Labaton, EVP at Booz Allen Hamilton … Max Burns, head of comms for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights … Andy Miga … Christina Davidson … Ben Droz … Art Jaeger … Democracy Works co-founder and executive director Seth Flaxman … Carolina Rodríguez Hernández … Michael Blume of Sentinel Strategic Advisors … Chris Bodenner (h/t Becca Glover) … Andrew Nagorski … Brenna Marron … Matt Gustavson … Ben Crair … Susan Steinmetz, EVP at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities … Spencer Gaffney … Julia Convertini, who recently started at Ogilvy Government Relations … Lindsey Kolb, digital director at DOE, is 25 (h/t Caleb Ecarma) … Caitlin Peruccio … Sam Azzarelli of CRC Public Relations … Roy Temple, partner at GPS Impact, is 55 … Tim Mulvey … Rob Jones, founder and CEO of Alliance Group … Stephanie Logan … Melissa Wideman … Paul Kangas … Steele Burrow … Jason Killian Meath is 5-0 … Mickey Munley (h/t Teresa Vilmain)

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