FOR YOUR AWARENESS … STREET CLOSURES for the State of the Union next Tuesday night. http://politi.co/2E9a43s
Good Thursday morning. THE WHIPLASH WHITE HOUSE … TRUMP THE IMMIGRATION LIBERAL … NYT’s MAGGIE HABERMAN, KATIE ROGERS and MIKE SHEAR: “Mr. Trump once again seemed to undercut his administration’s message, telling reporters at the White House that he would allow the young immigrants, known as Dreamers, to ‘morph into’ citizens over a period of time.
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“The reporters had gathered for a briefing from a senior official detailing the administration’s plans to stick to a restrictive immigration agenda when the president dropped in unprompted, shortly before departing for Davos, Switzerland, pre-empting the official.
“‘Over a period of 10 to 12 years,’ Mr. Trump said, ‘somebody does a great job, they work hard — that gives incentive to do a great job. Whatever they’re doing, if they do a great job, I think it’s a nice thing to have the incentive of, after a period of years, being able to become a citizen.’” http://nyti.ms/2DMk7O0
— DEPENDING ON THE DAY, Trump is either a Stephen Miller/Jeff Sessions hawk on immigration, or a Gang-of-Eight Republican like Jeff Flake or Marco Rubio. This leaves Congress confused. But it doesn’t much matter: even if the Senate passes a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, this would light the House on fire. Conventional wisdom would dictate that Trump could bring along conservative House Republicans. But, based on our conversations with the right flank in the House, they would discount Trump’s leftward shifting view on this as the result of getting bad information from his advisers and some congressional leaders.
— ANOTHER IMMIGRATION DEVELOPMENT: “GOP Lawmaker Wants to More Than Double High-Skilled Worker Visas,” by Bloomberg’s Naomi Nix and Ben Brody: “The measure, to be sponsored by Orrin Hatch, would allow as many as 195,000 H-1B visas based on demand, an increase of 110,000, according to draft copy of the legislation. The measure may set up a fight with the Trump administration. During his campaign for president, Donald Trump called the high-skilled H-1B system a ‘cheap labor program’ that takes away jobs from Americans.” https://bloom.bg/2E8JNCp
AND THEN THERE’S THIS … “Trump says he would speak to Mueller under oath in Russia investigation,” by WaPo’s Josh Dawsey, David Nakamura and Devlin Barrett: “President Trump said Wednesday he is ‘looking forward’ to testifying under oath to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as part of the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election while also mounting a preemptive defense of potential obstruction accusations.
“‘I would love to do it, and I would like to do it as soon as possible,’ Trump told reporters at the White House. ‘I would do it under oath, absolutely.’ The president suggested he could be investigated for obstruction of justice as part of the Russia investigation because he was ‘fighting back’ and reiterated there was ‘no collusion’ between his campaign and Moscow. ‘Oh, well, ‘Did he fight back?’’ Trump said, ‘You fight back, ‘Oh, it’s obstruction.’” http://wapo.st/2DyDkj4
–ANOTHER INTERESTING NUGGET: “People who have appeared before Mueller’s team say prosecutors have detailed accounts of events, sometimes to the minute, and have surprised witnesses by showing them emails or documents they were unaware that the team had or that their colleagues had written. One person said Mueller’s team has asked about Trump’s private comments around key events and how he explained decisions.”
TRUMP’S CLOSING LINE TO REPORTERS: “The fact is — you people won’t say this, but I’ll say it: I was a much better candidate than her. You always say she was a bad candidate. You never say I was a good candidate. I was one of the greatest candidates. Nobody else would have beaten the Clinton machine, as crooked as it was. But I was a great candidate. Someday you’re going to say that. Goodbye, everybody.” Transcript of the interaction with Trump http://wapo.st/2nbUQT7
A DAVID ROGERS BYLINE! — “The real reason for Congress’ shutdown fiasco”: “The Republican-led government shutdown in 2013 was billed as a fight over Obamacare. The latest disruption was triggered by Democrats’ demands on immigration. But lost in the headlines is the fact that the biggest common driver in both crises was Washington’s inability to come to grips with what it promised in the Budget Control Act of 2011.
“Republicans were alarmed then by the growing federal debt. And after a long hot summer of wrangling, Congress wrote into law discretionary spending caps that promised to save billions while preserving some rough parity between defense and domestic priorities in the annual appropriations bills which keep the government operating.
“In the years since, when that spirit is respected, Congress muddles by without breaking down. But when the BCA is ignored, chaos follows. And it’s no accident that this latest shutdown, like 2013 before it, came on the heels of budget plans that sought to dramatically alter the contours of the law.” http://politi.co/2ndf4gn
ON THE WORLD STAGE — JOHN HARRIS and MATT KAMINSKI in Davos: “The buffoon presidency? Davos elites learn to live with Trump”: “President Donald Trump will arrive here Thursday to be greeted politely by global elites who commonly regard him as a buffoon. What has come as a surprise to many of those people is how much they are learning to live with-and in some cases even enjoy-the Buffoon Presidency. However much the typical Davos habitué disagrees with Trump’s rhetoric on free trade and global integration, these are supremely practical types. One year into Trump, they are accommodating themselves to a changed power reality.
“Across the spectrum, it seems evident that the pleas of Trump critics in the United States-don’t normalize an abnormal presidency-have been rejected by the government and industry leaders who congregate at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in the Alps. POLITICO’s team in Davos spoke this week with a roster of leaders that included current and former heads of government as well as leading business executives.
“Aside from Trump’s incendiary bluster, many say, the actual consequences of his presidency have been more agreeable (or less disagreeable) than they feared a year ago. This is especially true in business circles, where people note that both the U.S and European economies are purring nicely. There is a wider group of people, dominated by political types, who say the Trump presidency is just as offensive as they always thought but has come with an alluring benefit: The chance for other nations to fill a power vacuum left by a U.S. retreat from global leadership.” http://politi.co/2DBlNGI
SPOTTED IN DAVOS last night heading down to the lower level of the Belvedere hotel to attend a small dinner hosted by CNBC chairman Mark Hoffman and “Squawk Box” anchors Joe Kernen, Becky Quick and Andrew Ross Sorkin: Steve Schwarzman, Larry Fink, Jamie Dimon, MGM board chairman Kevin Ulrich, Ginni Rometty, NYSE President Tom Farley and Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman.
— TRUMP’S MEDIA SCHEDULE: The president is sitting down with British TV host Piers Morgan for an interview that will air Sunday night on ITV in England. He is also sitting down with CNBC’s Joe Kernen for an interview that will air on “Squawk Box” on Friday morning.
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BEN WHITE: “Breaking tradition, Trump team unleashes verbal assault on the dollar”: “The Trump administration declared a surprising war on the U.S. dollar on Wednesday, breaking from a long tradition in which top American officials generally voice support for a strong American currency. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin shocked Wall Street by lauding the impact a weaker dollar can have on U.S. companies as it makes exports cheaper for other countries to buy. ‘Obviously, a weaker dollar is good for us as it relates to trade and opportunities,’ Mnuchin told reporters in Davos. Mnuchin said recent declines in the value of the dollar against other currencies were ‘not a concern of ours at all.’” http://politi.co/2DM33Yq
— WSJ EDITORIAL BOARD: “Someone ought to tell these fellows the history of strong- and weak-dollar presidencies. The weak include Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. The strong include Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Perhaps Mr. Mnuchin aims to follow Michael Blumenthal, who held the Treasury job in the Carter Administration. His weak-dollar lobbying, along with an easy money policy at the Federal Reserve, led to a collapse of the dollar of more than 20% between January 1977 and October 1978 that fed higher inflation and elected Reagan.” http://on.wsj.com/2FanhZ5
SELLING THE TAX PLAN — “What tax cut? GOP risks selling an invisible policy change,” by Brian Faler: “Republicans have a surprising task when it comes to selling their tax overhaul to the public: convincing voters they’ve gotten a tax cut. It may be hard for some to realize because, rather than sending out big, flashy rebate checks — as former President George W. Bush did with his 2001 tax cuts — Republicans are doling out the cuts piecemeal over the course of the year, as bumps in people’s paychecks.
“The average person earning between $50,000 and $75,000 will see a roughly $30 increase in their checks, assuming they’re paid biweekly. Some may not notice the increase, especially when all sorts of other things can affect people’s take-home pay, from pay increases to hikes in premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance.” http://politi.co/2DDpfVJ
— THIS COULD BE A PROBLEM for Republicans. They are counting on voters seeing an impact in their daily life — more money in their pocketbook — as a major selling point in the midterms. In a lot of ways, this mimics Democrats’ hurdle to sell Obamacare and the decision not to highlight and send in the mail a card to get credit for popular features of the plan like extending health care benefits to children and young adults.
CASHING IN ON TRUMP — “Trump Allies Are Profiting From Multiple Trump Groups, Testing Campaign Finance Laws,” by BuzzFeed’s Tarini Parti and Henry J. Gomez: “President Donald Trump’s close political advisers are making millions of dollars working for several different entities gearing up for Trump’s reelection campaign — raising questions about whether they are following campaign finance laws designed to keep campaigns from coordinating with big-money outside groups.
“Campaigns and party committees are not allowed to coordinate with allied outside groups that are supposed to be independent, such as super PACs and nonprofits. … Two firms led by Brad Parscale, formerly the Trump campaign’s digital director, made at least $5.1 million from Trump’s reelection campaign, the [RNC], and a pro-Trump super PAC called America First Action last year. Parscale himself also earned an additional $15,000 from the reelection campaign in January of 2017.” http://bzfd.it/2FdeJAO
BANNON WATCH — “Bannon lawyer juggles clients, risks conflicts in Russia probe,” by Darren Samuelsohn: “No other lawyer involved in the multiple investigations into Russian election interference is publicly juggling three clients of such high profile. The unusual arrangement raises the question of possible conflicts for [William] Burck, particularly if one of his clients should contradict — or even incriminate — another. At a minimum the dynamic could be awkward. At worst, it could create tensions that would leave Burck’s clients looking for new legal representation.
“In an interview with POLITICO, Burck — who is rarely quoted by reporters — acknowledged the potential for ethical conundrums and said he will keep reassessing the situation as the special counsel’s investigation develops. ‘It’s a general pool type of relationship where, if a conflict arises, where everyone in good faith will try to figure out what the best way to proceed is,’ Burck said. ‘I can never be adverse to one of those guys.’ Mueller himself has signed off on Burck’s triplet of Trump insiders, according to a source familiar with the arrangement.” http://politi.co/2DEK7fj
THE RUSSIA REPORT — “Errant court filing suggests feds had informant at Manafort firm,” by Josh Gerstein: “A document by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s attorneys appear to have accidentally filed in court Wednesday suggests that federal investigators had an informant inside Manafort’s consulting firm who provided information about his financial dealings.
“The one-page memo submitted along with a routine scheduling motion seems to have been prepared by a defense lawyer or investigator trying to assemble information that could support a claim by Manafort’s defense of improper contacts between the prosecution team — now headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller — and the media. The document, titled ‘DOJ, OSC and the Press,’ says that a reporter appeared to have obtained access to internal documents from the firm founded by Manafort, Davis Manafort Partners International.” http://politi.co/2DA4m9T
— “Judiciary Democrats want to share Trump Jr. testimony with Mueller,” by Elana Schor: “Two Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday pressed the committee’s Republican chairman to provide special counsel Robert Mueller with transcripts of the panel’s interviews with key witnesses in its Russia probe, including Donald Trump Jr. … It also amounted to a suggestion that witnesses — potentially including Donald Trump Jr., who sat for an interview in September — may have made false statements to the committee. In a recent interview, [Sen. Richard] Blumenthal predicted the Trump Jr. transcript would be ‘explosive’ if released.” http://politi.co/2n6hm0D
— CNN’S JEREMY HERB and “MOSCOW” MANU RAJU: “Senate Intelligence Committee not given access to Nunes FISA memo”: “Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr’s staff has not been given access to a classified memo drafted by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a sign of how closely House Republicans are guarding allegations of Justice Department wrongdoing over surveillance activities in the Russia investigation.
“According to three sources familiar with the matter, Burr’s staff requested a copy of the memo and has been denied, just as the FBI and Justice Department have also been denied reviewing a copy of the document. The memo is based on highly classified intelligence that only a select group of House and Senate lawmakers have accessed.
“Indeed, the memo was drafted by Nunes, R-California, and his staff, as the chairman weighs whether to hold a committee vote as early as next week calling for the memo’s public release.” http://cnn.it/2rCtF9L
MENENDEZ WATCH — “Judge tosses 7 of 18 counts against Menendez and Melgen,” by Matt Friedman and John Bresnahan: “A federal judge has acquitted Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen on seven of the 18 counts they were tried on last year, just days after the Justice Department announced its intent to try the duo again after the jury deadlocked in the first trial. U.S. District Court Judge William Walls, who came under criticism from Menendez also announced he will not preside over the retrial.
“The case has not been assigned to another judge yet, nor has a trial date been set. Despite the judge’s decision, Menendez faces the prospect of another bribery trial just as he begins his campaign for another Senate term. And if convicted, the 64-year-old New Jersey senator could find himself behind bars instead of behind a desk on the Senate floor.” http://politi.co/2DBrVTA
THE LATEST ON THE MOOCH — “Scaramucci Considers Return to SkyBridge, Scraps Vegas SALT Conference in 2018,” by Bloomberg’s Simone Foxman: “Anthony Scaramucci said he’d like to have a role again in the future of SkyBridge Capital, the fund-of-hedge-funds firm he founded, and scrapped plans to hold his flagship SALT conference in Las Vegas this year. ‘If the sale goes through I would like to — and I’ve talked to the HNA people about — retaining some equity in the firm and being active in terms of trying to help the firm’s growth and prosperity,’ he said Wednesday on Bloomberg TV from Davos, Switzerland.
“Scaramucci last year agreed to sell his stake in SkyBridge to a group including an American subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate HNA Group Co. The transaction is still awaiting approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. The SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, the annual bash that made him a celebrity in the hedge fund world, won’t happen this year because of ‘the logistics around the closing of the deal,’ Scaramucci told Erik Schatzker of BTV.” https://bloom.bg/2DxXx8y
THE JUICE …
— SPOTTED in the White House briefing room yesterday: Michael Lewis
— DAVE SHAW, formerly of Scripps and Marketplace, is joining POLITICO as executive producer for podcasts. Bridget Mulcahy has been promoted to senior producer and Micaela Rodriguez joins as assistant producer.
— CECILE RICHARDS is stepping down from PLANNED PARENTHOOD. BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer and Ema O’Connor: “Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards is planning to step down from her role as president after more than a decade at the helm, according to two sources familiar with the matter. She has served as the president of the women’s health and reproductive rights organization since 2006.” http://bzfd.it/2E8qMA2
— FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Justice Action Network and Public Opinion Strategies is releasing a poll that shows support for criminal justice reform. Polling memo http://politi.co/2FddTDW
TRUMP’S THURSDAY — The president is in Davos. He will participate in separate bilateral meetings with the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will later meet and attend a reception hosted by World Economic Forum Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab. He will have dinner with European business leaders.
FUN CLICKER — “A huge cache of Rumsfeld memos were just released — Here are the best ones,” by Paul Szoldra on Code Red News: http://bit.ly/2FbrOu8
QUOTE DU JOUR — CALIFORNIA GOV. JERRY BROWN to NYT’s ADAM NAGOURNEY: “Mr. Brown said he was ready for his exit, but demurred when asked if he was confident he was leaving California in good hands. ‘Well, that’s a loaded question,’ he said. ‘What if I say I am not confident? That’s one damn headline. So I have to say I’m confident.’” http://nyti.ms/2naHPdz
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Trump administration wants to end NASA funding for the International Space Station by 2025,” by The Verge’s Loren Grush: “The Trump administration is preparing to end support for the International Space Station program by 2025, according to a draft budget proposal reviewed by The Verge. Without the ISS, American astronauts could be grounded on Earth for years with no destination in space until NASA develops new vehicles for its deep space travel plans. The draft may change before an official budget request is released on February 12th. However, two people familiar with the matter have confirmed to The Verge that the directive will be in the final proposal. We reached out to NASA for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.” http://bit.ly/2n7s6f8
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HMM — “NSA Deletes ‘Honesty’ and ‘Openness’ From Core Values,” by The Intercept’s Jean Marc Manach: The NSA “maintains a page on its website that outlines its mission statement. But earlier this month, the agency made a discreet change: It removed ‘honesty’ as its top priority. Since at least May 2016, the surveillance agency had featured honesty as the first of four ‘core values’ listed on NSA.gov, alongside ‘respect for the law,’ ‘integrity,’ and ‘transparency.’ The agency vowed on the site to ‘be truthful with each other.’
“On January 12, however, the NSA removed the mission statement page — which can still be viewed through the Internet Archive — and replaced it with a new version. … In its old core values, the NSA explained that it would strive to be deserving of the ‘great trust’ placed in it by national leaders and American citizens. It said that it would ‘honor the public’s need for openness.’ But those phrases are now gone; all references to ‘trust,’ ‘honor,’ and ‘openness’ have disappeared.” http://bit.ly/2GgSPOk
MORE DRAMA AT FOGGY BOTTOM — “Tillerson’s State Overhaul Faces Mutiny as USAID Weighs Role,” by Bloomberg’s Nick Wadhams: “The agency in charge of U.S. foreign aid has put Rex Tillerson on notice about rising frustration over his State Department redesign, the most visible sign yet of the confusion surrounding his bid to reshape American diplomacy. ‘Per direction from the Front Office, we are suspending all USAID involvement in the Joint Redesign as of Monday, January 22nd,’ Jim Richardson, the redesign chief at the U.S. Agency for International Development, said in a Jan. 19 email to senior staff obtained by Bloomberg News. ‘You should not work on any Joint Redesign activities.’” https://bloom.bg/2FcFqFx
BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Christina Connelly-Kanmaz of Prism Group (hat tip: Kenny Cunningham, who was on time)
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Tina Tchen, partner at Buckley Sandler LLP and former chief of staff for former First Lady Michelle Obama. A fun fact about Tina: “I love sci-fi. No, I have never been to a Star Trek convention, but I probably could tell you about all the original series characters, which I watched endlessly as a kid with my mom.” Read her Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2E4gTmJ
BIRTHDAYS: NYT’s Jeremy W. Peters, also an MSNBC contributor (h/t Mitchell Rivard) … Jack Oliver is 49 … Nancy Gibbs … WaPo’s Michael Scherer … Joe Conason, editor in chief of National Memo, is 64 … Mark Isaacson, director of executive comms at the National Association of Manufacturers … Erika Reynoso of Wells Fargo … Kate Conway, creative director at the DCCC (hubby tip: Chris Harris) … CNN alum Ed Payne … Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) is 61 … Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) is 81 … Eleni Towns … Zach Pleat of Media Matters for America (h/t Bradley Beychok) … Adam Kovacevich, senior director for U.S. public policy at Google … Dave Martinez … Charles Aldinger … Rubenstein EVP Iva Benson (hubby tip: Josh) … Dan Kaniewski, FEMA’s deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness and a Bush 43 WH alum (h/t Ed Cash) … Angela Calman, VP of corporate communications at IBM-Watson Health … Ashley Jones … Dan Carol (h/t Jon Haber) …
… Adam Falkoff, president of CapitalKeys … Danielle Inman of the American Hotel and Lodging Association (h/t Courtney Alexander) … Politico’s Christopher Parisi … Christine Gianakis, press secretary for the NYC Dept. of Consumer Affairs, who’s getting married in July … Brian Dunn … Karen Ray Bishop … Eleni Gill … Heather Marrison … Josh Randle … Connor Wolf, labor policy reporter at InsideSources (h/t Shawn McCoy) … Meaghan Lynch, comms director for Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) … Kevin Helliker, Brunswick Group editor and a WSJ alum, is 59 … Joelle Terry … Mary Lynn Jones Rynkiewicz … Tina Kelley … Lucette Moran … Sefira Fialkoff … Dae Lim … Mark Bottini … John Thompson … Laura Simolaris … Erik Smulson is 51 … Sarah Tornero … Wes Caudell is 38 … Houston Ruck … Amy Mitchell … Elliott Vilmain … Michelle Goodman … Cory Mason, newly elected mayor from Racine, Wis. … Chet Culver … Susan Torricelli (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)
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