POLITICO Playbook: ‘Very legal & very cool’

POLITICO Playbook: ‘Very legal & very cool’

THE PRESIDENT SPEAKS … BUENOS AIRES TWEETS … MUELLER ON THE MIND … @realDonaldTrump at 4:52 a.m. D.C. time (6:52 a.m. Buenos Aires time): “Oh, I get it! I am a very good developer, happily living my life, when I see our Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly). Against all odds, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail…”

… at 4:59 a.m. D.C. time (6:59 a.m. Buenos Aires time): “….Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!”

ANDREW RESTUCCIA in Buenos Aires and GABBY ORR: “Mueller follows Trump abroad — again”: “White House aides had hoped that the G-20 summit would be an opportunity for President Donald Trump to showcase his deal-making skills. Now, they’re worried that special counsel Robert Mueller’s latest bombshell could overshadow his latest tour on the world stage. And some think that’s just the way Mueller wanted it.

“In a Thursday statement, Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, called it ‘hardly coincidental’ that Mueller made a dramatic legal move ‘just as the President is leaving for a meeting with world leaders,’ adding that the chief Russia investigator ‘did the very same thing as the President was leaving for a world summit in Helsinki.’” POLITICO

Good Friday morning. IN ONE WEEK, a slice of government shuts down. … WAPO’S ERICA WERNER and SEUNG MIN KIM: “Democrats reject new Republican plan to pay for Trump’s wall”

— THE HOUSE is out Monday, which gives Congress four days in session to strike a deal. WATCH FOR talks between SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER (D-N.Y.) and PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP. This bill will need support from a whole bunch of Senate Democrats.

REBEL LEADER READY TO VOTE FOR PELOSI? … NYT’S JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: “‘Seriously, and very purposely, and doggedly,’ were the words Representative Ed Perlmutter of Colorado used to describe Ms. Pelosi’s approach to winning over her opponents. A day after he ticked the ‘no’ box on his secret ballot, Mr. Perlmutter said on Thursday that he was in active conversations with Ms. Pelosi and was open to supporting her for speaker in January.” NYT

THE COHEN AFFAIR … WAPO’S CAROL LEONNIG and JOSH DAWSEY: “‘Individual 1’: Trump emerges as a central subject of Mueller probe”: “In two major developments this week, President Trump has been labeled in the parlance of criminal investigations as a major subject of interest, complete with an opaque legal code name: ‘Individual 1.’

“New evidence from two separate fronts of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation casts fresh doubts on Trump’s version of key events involving Russia, signaling potential political and legal peril for the president.

“Investigators have now publicly cast Trump as a central figure of their probe into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign. Together, the documents show investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks — and that they tried to conceal the extent of their activities.” WaPo

— YAHOO’S HUNTER WALKER: “Mueller eyes Ivanka and Don Jr.’s work on Trump Tower Moscow”: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Trump’s efforts to build a skyscraper in Moscow has led him to ask questions about the role two of the president’s children played in attempting to secure a Russian real estate deal, sources tell Yahoo News.” Yahoo

— BUZZFEED’S ANTHONY CORMIER and JASON LEOPOLD: “The Trump Organization Planned To Give Vladimir Putin The $50 Million Penthouse In Trump Tower Moscow”

KYLE CHENEY, RACHAEL BADE and GABBY ORR: “‘The perfect witness’: Dems want Cohen to testify on the Hill”: “Michael Cohen was once President Donald Trump’s most militant loyalist. Now House Democrats are eyeing him to become their star witness. Democrats think Cohen could be a linchpin in their upcoming efforts to spotlight Trump’s relationship with Russia and are hoping to call him to testify before the House once they seize control of Congress.

“They’re well aware of Cohen’s close connection to the president — and that he’s turned on Trump, making him a potential ally in their quest to uncover and highlight Trump’s alleged dirty laundry. Even Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr has joined his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Mark Warner, in suggesting Cohen should come back to the Hill — particularly after he pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to lawmakers about Trump’s awareness of the proposed Trump Tower Moscow deal in the heat of the presidential election.” POLITICO

BURGESS EVERETT and ELANA SCHOR: “GOP unloads on Flake”: “Jeff Flake is finally taking a stand on the need to protect Robert Mueller — and it’s infuriating his fellow Republicans. The retiring Arizona senator is undermining the Senate GOP’s efforts to approve as many lifetime-appointed federal judges as possible in the lame duck. His vow to oppose all judges until he gets a vote shielding the special counsel from presidential interference has already frozen 21 judicial picks in committee and on Thursday helped derail a nominee on the Senate floor.

“And GOP frustrations are boiling over at Flake, a Trump critic who is using the leverage possessed by an individual senator to advocate for his priorities. But so far McConnell has been unwilling to bend to Flake and give him a vote — which might not pass the Senate anyway, given the number of Republicans resistant to the Mueller bill or Flake’s hardball tactics.” POLITICO

“Tim Scott sinks Trump judicial nominee,” by Marianne LeVine and Burgess Everett

ALEX ISENSTADT in Scottsdale, Ariz.: “GOP governors call out Trump after midterm drubbing”

NYT’S NICK CONFESSORE and MATT ROSENBERG: “Sheryl Sandberg Is Said to Have Asked Facebook Staff to Research George Soros”: “Sheryl Sandberg asked Facebook’s communications staff to research George Soros’s financial interests in the wake of his high-profile attacks on tech companies, according to three people with knowledge of her request, indicating that Facebook’s second in command was directly involved in the social network’s response to the liberal billionaire.

“Ms. Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, asked for the information in an email to a senior executive in January that was forwarded to other senior communications and policy staff, the people said. The email came within days of a blistering speech Mr. Soros delivered that month at the World Economic Forum, attacking Facebook and Google as a ‘menace’ to society and calling for the companies to be regulated.” NYT

— FT’S HANNAH KUCHLER in San Francisco: “Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg asked if George Soros was shorting stock”

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION — “Trump’s wealthiest Cabinet members earned millions in 2017,” by Lorraine Woellert and Theo Meyer: “President Donald Trump’s three wealthiest Cabinet members took in tens of millions of dollars last year, including from divesting holdings to avoid conflicts of interest, according to disclosure filings released by the administration.

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her husband took in at least $59.4 million in 2017, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reported income of more than $41.6 million, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross tallied $47 million that year, according to annual financial disclosures each made to their agencies. A substantial chunk of the trio’s income came from the sale of assets. They also reported bringing in money from dividends, capital gains and interest on accounts, the filings show.” POLITICO

TRUMP’S FRIDAY — The president, who is in Buenos Aires for the G-20, will participate in a photo op with Argentine President Mauricio Macri this morning and then participate in a meeting with him. He will participate in the USMCA signing ceremony before taking part in the official G-20 welcome and family photo. Trump will attend the G-20 opening remarks and participate in a working lunch. He is scheduled to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Trump will also meet with Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is also scheduled to have a pull-aside meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

TRUMP and first lady Melania Trump will participate in an embassy meet-and-greet. The two will join in a G-20 family photo before attending a cultural performance and G-20 leaders’ dinner.

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — BEN SCHRECKINGER and DANIEL LIPPMAN, “The China hawk who captured Trump’s ‘very, very large brain’: Washington veteran Michael Pillsbury has quietly become a key figure behind Trump’s confrontational China policy, to the dismay of Beijing — and some fellow China experts”: “He has caught the ear of Trump, who during a November press conference proclaimed him ‘probably the leading authority on China.’ The former Reagan and George H.W. Bush Pentagon official has spent decades in the cold, dismissed by critics as a mix of conspiratorial and self-promoting.

“But now, current and former Trump officials say he is among the most important voices shaping a confrontational U.S. turn towards China which some analysts fear could trigger a new global cold war. … Pillsbury’s growing influence has delighted China hawks, while alarming advocates of comity with Beijing. Some respected China experts have called his writings ‘shoddy’ and infected by paranoid notions of Chinese malevolence. But he is welcome at the Trump White House, where he is a regular visitor.” POLITICO


  • CBS

    “Face the Nation”: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) … Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) … Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Panel: Seung Min Kim, Jerry Seib, David Nakamura and Jeff Goldberg

  • FOX

    “Fox News Sunday” (live from the Reagan Library in California): Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) … Jack Keane and Michèle Flournoy. Panel: Karl Rove, Juan Williams and Jennifer Griffin

  • CNN

    “State of the Union”: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) … Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). Panel: Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), Mike Rogers, David Urban and Karen Finney

  • CNN

    “Inside Politics”: Julie Pace, Toluse Olorunnipa, Sara Murray and Rachael Bade

  • NBC

    “Meet the Press”: Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) … Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). Panel: Dan Balz, Pat McCrory, Heather McGhee and Andrea Mitchell

  • ABC

    “This Week”: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) … Roger Stone. Panel: Mary Bruce, Chris Christie, Matthew Dowd, Meghan McCain and Donna Brazile

POLITICO EUROPE — “Donald & Jean-Claude, a (kinda) love story,” by David Herszenhorn and Daniel Lippman: European Commission President Jean-Claude “Juncker is a polyglot internationalist; Trump a self-proclaimed nationalist who speaks only English and never much liked traveling away from home. Trump is famously a teetotaler, while Juncker is known to enjoy more than a tipple. Juncker is the son of a steelworker; Trump the son of a multimillionaire real estate developer. …

“When he arrived in the Oval Office [in July], according to American and European officials who were present, Trump was watching CNN, which was describing his acrimonious relations with Europe. … ‘Jean-Claude, they say we hate each other,’ Trump told his visitor. Juncker then put his arms around Trump and declared, ‘I love you, Donald.’” POLITICO Europe

2020 WATCH — “New Hampshire Democrats invite rising star Beto O’Rourke to the crucial presidential primary state,” by CNBC’s Brian Schwartz: “Since O’Rourke’s loss earlier this month, Rob Friedlander, a senior advisor to the Texas Democrat’s campaign, has received calls from the New Hampshire Young Democrats requesting that O’Rourke come to the Granite State, according to people familiar with the matter. The goal would be to have O’Rourke tour parts of the state and interact with voters.” CNBC

MEDIAWATCH — Per Morning Media: “The Los Angeles Times is beefing up its Washington bureau. Janet Hook, most recently at the Wall Street Journal, is rejoining the Times’s Washington bureau as chief political writer. Anna Phillips, who joined the Times in 2016 and was most recently on the Metro staff, will cover environmental policy in Washington. And Molly O’Toole, a former writer and editor at Foreign Policy, Defense One and HuffPost, will be a Washington-based immigration writer.”

SPOTTED: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at DCA. He got “briefly patted down after coming through the machine,” according to our tipster. … Anderson Cooper on the Delta shuttle from LGA to DCA. Pic … Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on a Thursday afternoon flight from DCA to PHX in first class.

OUT AND ABOUT … The Elizabeth Dole Foundation hosted an event honoring military and veteran caregivers that raised $1.7 million last night called “Heroes and History Makers.” Honorees included: Tom Hanks, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

SPOTTED: C. Boyden Gray, Elizabeth and Bob Dole, Steve Schwab, former Sen. Chuck Robb, UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, Harriet Dominique, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford, Michael Steel, Jason Mida, Philip Dufour, Nadeam Elshami, Paul Pelosi, Christine Pelosi, Marc Adelman and Bulgarian Ambassador Tihomir Stoytchev.

TRANSITIONS — Christyn Lansing will be a senior director at CGCN Group. She previously was strategic communications director at DHS. … Julie Tarallo and Nu Wexler will be communication managers for Google in D.C. Tarallo is the former comms director for the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Wexler worked for Facebook and is also a Twitter alum.

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Michael Beschloss, presidential historian and author of the new book “Presidents of War,” is 63. A trend that he thinks deserves more attention: “Appalling reduction in history teaching in our public schools, and too frequent failure to use history as an important tool of leadership and life. If you ignore history, your life experience will be limited largely to what happens to you and your family, friends and acquaintances. If you learn about history in some fashion, you can tap into the collective wisdom of billions of people.” Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Larry Summers is 64 … Sergio Gor, communications director for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) … Jason Miner … Crystal Carson … CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski is 29 … Andy Glass is 83 … CNN’s Erica Orden … G. Gordon Liddy is 88 … Tom McGean … Reuters’ Jonathan Landay is 63 … Sam Jacobson is 3-0 … Margaret Spellings, president of UNC and former Bush Education secretary, is 61 … Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is 63 (hat tips: Caitlin Carroll and Taylor Holgate) … South Dakota Gov.-elect Kristi Noem is 47 … National Journal staff writer Alex Clearfield is 27 (h/t Hanna Trudo) … James Sonne … CNN’s Lauren Pratapas … Edelman’s Ben Mahler … Donna Harmon, a veteran of Kentucky and Pennsylvania campaigns, is 3-0 (h/t Justine Turner) … former Rep. Glenn English (D-Okla.), who was also CEO of the NRECA trade association for 19 years, is 78 (h/t son John) …

… Steve Haro, principal at Mehlman Castagnetti … Rudy Takala, editor of opinion at The Daily Caller, is 33 (h/t Eddie Scarry) … Bill Oliver, retired SVP of public affairs for AT&T … Conor Hall of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office (h/t Gordon Bronson) … Jodi Rudoren, NYT’s associate managing editor for audience … Emil Steiner is 4-0 … Jocelyn Quinn … J.W. Boothe … HuffPost’s Travis Waldron … William Daroff, SVP for public policy and director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America, is 5-0 … Taylor Kenyon … Marshall Cohen of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy … Alec Ross, an Obama State alum … Martin Kifer … Karen Hanretty … Amy Pritchard … Alexia Bohannon … Toby Graff (h/t Elizabeth Gray)

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