Good Wednesday morning.
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BULLETIN at 5:06 a.m.: “MOSCOW (AP) – Lavrov tells Tillerson that Russia has questions about ‘very ambiguous’ and ‘contradictory’ ideas from US.”
— VIDEO of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s remarks at the top of his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. http://bit.ly/2os6FGE
THE POWER CENTER — SPOTTED: REINCE PRIEBUS and MICK MULVANEY sitting first row on the first baseline at the Cardinals/Nats game last night, which the Nats won 8-3.
THE SHIV –– “Trump won’t definitively say he still backs Bannon,” by the N.Y. Post’s Michael Goodwin: “‘I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,’ Trump said. ‘I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.’ He ended by saying, ‘Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.’” http://nyp.st/2o5i9NN
— WHAT THIS MEANS: Either Bannon stops doing whatever is annoying Trump, or he’s gone. Plain and simple.
— N.Y. POST cover: “‘We’re not going into Syria’” http://nyp.st/2oxW5ys … TRUMP on Chinese President Xi Jinping: “I was a little surprised, we had a great chemistry, not good, but great. I liked him and he liked me a lot. That doesn’t mean we’re going to get along on trade or North Korea, but we had great chemistry.” http://nyp.st/2oWOYk0
STAYING ON MESSAGE — “Trump Exclusive: We’re Not Going Into Syria,” on Fox Business with Maria Bartiromo: http://fxn.ws/2nDLCCr
THE STUFF TRUMP CARES ABOUT — NEW POLITICO/MORNING CONSULT POLL — KELLYANNE CONWAY and SEAN SPICER are the best-liked White House aides.
— 30% of people have a favorable view of Conway and 39% have an unfavorable view of her, while 31% don’t know who she is. 28% have a favorable view of Spicer and 37% have an unfavorable view of him while 36% don’t know him. Just 27% have a favorable view of Jared Kushner, 30% have an unfavorable view of him while 42% don’t know him. Just 14% have a favorable view of Hope Hicks while 71% don’t know her. 24% have a favorable view of Reince Priebus, 29% view him unfavorably while 47% don’t know him. 65% of people don’t know Gary Cohn.
— “Poll: Voters back Syria airstrikes,” by Steven Shepard: “Voters support the initial U.S. airstrikes in Syria ordered last week by President Donald Trump, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll — but there is less backing for an escalation of hostilities that includes ground forces. Nearly two-thirds of voters, 66 percent, support last week’s airstrikes on a Syrian air field, the poll shows. That includes 35 percent who strongly support the strikes, and another 31 percent who somewhat support them. Only 24 percent oppose the strikes, and 10 percent don’t have an opinion. Support for the strikes is fairly bipartisan, the poll shows. While 82 percent of Republicans back the strikes, so do 57 percent of Democratic voters and 59 percent of independents.” http://politi.co/2p6Z6DK
SPICER’S MEA CULPA — “Spicer apologizes for claiming Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons,” by Josh Dawsey: “White House press secretary Sean Spicer had to do something Tuesday night his boss deeply dislikes: He apologized. Hours after seemingly minimizing the Holocaust in an attempt to explain the atrocities of chemical attacks by the Syrian regime, Spicer went on CNN to ask forgiveness for an ‘inappropriate’ reference and to offer a mea culpa to his TV-obsessed boss for becoming a ‘distraction.’ ‘I mistakenly used an inappropriate, insensitive reference to the Holocaust,’ Spicer told Wolf Blitzer. ‘I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.’” http://politi.co/2oxWkcH
— ALEX ISENSTADT (@politicoalex): “NEW: Spicer reached out to Sheldon Adelson’s office and ‘said he made a terrible mistake+ apologized if he was offensive,’ per Adelson spox” …
— GRETA VAN SUSTEREN will interview Spicer at 9:20 a.m. at the Newseum’s “The President and the Press: The First Amendment in the First 100 Days”. http://bit.ly/2o5WANa
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Xi stresses China’s North Korea concerns in talk with Trump,” by AP’s Chris Bodeen and Gerry Shih in Beijing: “Chinese President Xi Jinping told President Donald Trump in a phone call Wednesday that Beijing is willing to work with Washington on ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program but wants a peaceful solution. Xi’s comments come after the U.S. president tweeted that China should do more on the issue Washington sees as an increasingly urgent threat, or the U.S. would go it alone. The call, brief details of which were released by the Chinese foreign ministry, also come as tensions have risen with the deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier to the area and the conducting of the biggest-ever U.S.-South Korea military exercises. Xi told Trump that China insists on peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and wants to find a solution to the problem through peaceful means.” http://apne.ws/2oo232B
****** A message from JPMorgan Chase & Co.: “It is now more important than ever for the business community and government to come together and collaborate to find meaningful solutions and develop thoughtful policies that create economic growth and opportunity for all.” Learn more in JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon’s Letter to Shareholders: http://politi.co/2oaMj4Q ******
BULLET, DODGED — “Republicans fend off strong challenge to hold on to House seat in Kansas,” by WaPo’s Dave Weigel in Wichita: “Republicans fended off a surprising Democratic challenge on Tuesday in the first special election of the year for a House seat vacated by a Republican lawmaker who became part of President Trump’s administration. Ron Estes, the GOP state treasurer, was buoyed by an 11th-hour intervention from national Republicans, Vice President Pence and Trump himself in his bid to retain the seat of former congressman Mike Pompeo, who is now the CIA director. In a victory speech, Estes told voters he’d ‘repeal and replace Obamacare’ and fight for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.” http://wapo.st/2oy0TUh
— One Republican operative involved in the race emailed that the last-minute $100,000 infusion in activity was a “smart insurance investment.” “Name of the game is motivating Republicans. Everything that was done had that in mind: NRCC ad on abortion, Cruz, Pence, Trump,” the operative emailed. Senior Republican officials said they expected to win by six or seven points — and they did. The DCCC did not spend a dime in this race. Again: Trump won this district by 27 points.
— “Newly Energized Liberals Pour Record Effort Into Local Races,” by WSJ’s Janet Hook in Alpharetta, Georgia: “Much of the grass-roots energy is being channeled not by Democratic leaders but by virtual political organizers who have proliferated online in the wake of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s loss to Mr. Trump last year. Liberal advocacy sites like The Daily Kos and Moveon.org are breaking political fundraising and participation records. ActBlue, an online fundraising conduit for Democratic campaigns, handled 4 million donations totaling $111 million in the first quarter of 2017 — more than four times as much as in that period in 2015.” http://on.wsj.com/2p6V8e9
LATEST ON RUSSIA — “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page,” by WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett and Adam Entous: “The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said. The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.
“This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor. … ‘This confirms all of my suspicions about unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance,’ Page said in an interview Tuesday. ‘I have nothing to hide.’ He compared surveillance of him to the eavesdropping that the FBI and Justice Department conducted against civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.” http://wapo.st/2oy0WiS
OH — “Classified docs contradict Nunes surveillance claims, GOP and Dem sources say,” by Jim Sciutto, Manu Raju and Eric Bradner: “After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal, multiple sources in both parties tell CNN. Their private assessment contradicts President Donald Trump’s allegations that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice broke the law by requesting the ‘unmasking’ of US individuals’ identities. Trump had claimed the matter was a ‘massive story.’ However, over the last week, several members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees have reviewed intelligence reports related to those requests at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.” http://cnn.it/2oodrf3
TRUMP’S WASHINGTON — “White House calls for deep agency cuts,” by Ian Kullgren and Matt Nussbaum: “The White House on Wednesday will direct federal agencies to make deep personnel cuts over the next year, according to the White House budget chief and documents provided to POLITICO. Agency heads will receive a 14-page memorandum outlining changes. The memo, which replaces the federal hiring ban Trump enacted in January, outlines cuts based on Trump’s ‘skinny’ budget, released last month. The budget proposal called for deep cuts to domestic programs and an increase in military spending. The memo tells agencies to ‘begin taking immediate actions to achieve near-term workforce reductions.’
“It also instructs agencies to develop by June 30 a plan to ‘maximize employee performance’ — i.e., take steps to reward employees deemed effective while working to improve or dismiss weak performers. The memo also calls for delivery by September of an agency reform plan to shrink personnel to accommodate long term budget reductions outlined in the skinny budget.” http://politi.co/2orFMCX
THE JUICE …
— PETER COOK is joining the American Bankers Association. Our colleague Ben White emails that Cook, a long-time financial journalist and former Pentagon spokesman, will join the group as executive vice president and chief communications officer. Cook, formerly chief Washington correspondent for Bloomberg Television, spent 20 years in journalism before joining the Obama administration as assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs.
— SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER is out with a memo on Republicans’ first 100 days in office. His take: http://politi.co/2orS3r0
— HOT JOB: United Airlines seeks a government affairs representative to “respond to customers with best course of action based on company policy and the best interest of the customer.” http://bit.ly/2o5koka
TRUMP’S WEDNESDAY — Trump is meeting with House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. He’ll hold a joint press availability with Stoltenberg at 4 p.m.
HE’S BACK — “In surprise move, Iran’s Ahmadinejad to run for president,” by AP’s Amir Vahdat in Tehran and Jon Gambrell in Dubai: “Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday unexpectedly filed to run in the country’s May presidential election, contradicting a recommendation from the supreme leader to stay out of the race. Ahmadinejad’s decision will upend an election many believed would be won by moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who negotiated the nuclear deal with world powers. … [M]any hard-liners in Iran seek a tough-talking candidate to rally around who can stand up to U.S. President Donald Trump.” http://apne.ws/2nDwHYN
MANAFORT WATCH — “Records match some Ukraine ledger payments to ex-Trump aide,” by AP’s Jack Gillum, Chad Day and Jeff Horwitz: “Last August, a handwritten ledger surfaced in Ukraine with dollar amounts and dates next to the name of Paul Manafort, who was then Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. … Now, financial records newly obtained by The Associated Press confirm that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the ledger next to Manafort’s name were actually received by his consulting firm in the United States. They include payments in 2007 and 2009, providing the first evidence that Manafort’s firm received at least some money listed in the so-called Black Ledger.” http://apne.ws/2oy8hzj
FOGGY BOTTOM WATCH — “Why Tillerson has his hands full with Russian counterpart,” by Michael Crowley: “Tillerson’s counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, is a wily veteran of world diplomacy who has dueled — and routinely infuriated — no less than four of Tillerson’s predecessors as secretary of state. … An English-speaking lover of scotch, cigarettes and an acerbic joke, the 67-year-old Lavrov has spent years exasperating his U.S. counterparts with a mastery of detail, an unwavering promotion of the Kremlin line, and a jaundiced view of American power.” http://politi.co/2o5t0XW
— “UN peacekeepers’ child sex ring left victims, but no arrests,” by AP’s Paisley Dodds: “An Associated Press investigation of U.N. missions during the past 12 years found nearly 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers and other personnel around the world — signaling the crisis is much larger than previously known. More than 300 of the allegations involved children, the AP found, but only a fraction of the alleged perpetrators served jail time.” http://apne.ws/2p7lrkn
K ST FILES — “Plane mutiny unlikely to clip United’s wings,” by Kathryn Wolfe and Lauren Gardner: “The dragging of a battered, bloodied physician off a United Airlines flight ‘disturbed’ the White House, provoked outrage from political leaders in both parties and turned one of the world’s biggest air carriers into a social media pariah as far away as China — while wiping out a quarter-billion dollars of the company’s market value Tuesday. But don’t expect it to wreak much damage on the clout that United and other U.S. airlines wield in Washington, even as Sunday’s incident appeared to crystallize years of travelers’ discontent with cramped seats, luggage restrictions and bewildering fees.” http://politi.co/2o5tSM6
WOMEN RULE PODCAST: In a wide-ranging “Women Rule” exclusive, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao details her life as a child immigrant in America, including the experience of learning to use a fork instead of chopsticks. Chao also weighs in on her role in President Trump’s Cabinet, “It’s actually very reassuring to have been a cabinet member before, I’m a veteran … We’re very surefooted, we’re confident, we know what we’re doing and we know what’s important.” http://politi.co/2o67CBM … Listen to the podcast http://apple.co/2p6Tp8I
AMERICA’S HEARTLAND AND THE FUTURE OF HEALTH: If you want a glimpse into the future of American health, pay a visit to the rural heartland. The latest issue of Agenda 2020, POLITICO’s running project on America’s long-term policy future, looks at the residents of America’s farms, forests and hinterlands who are growing older, sicker and more isolated than people who live in the rest of the country. But there’s good news: necessity is the mother of invention, and many rural health providers have found ways to use technology and other innovations to meet those challenges. http://politi.co/2oy6Ssq
****** A message from JPMorgan Chase & Co.: “A lack of economic growth and opportunity has led to deep and understandable frustration among so many Americans,” writes JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon. Learn more about why we need “coherent, consistent, comprehensive and coordinated policies that help fix these problems” in his Letter to Shareholders: http://politi.co/2oKtc2G ******
VALLEY TALK — “Uber’s head of communications, Rachel Whetstone, is leaving: The longtime PR pro is being replaced by her deputy Jill Hazelbaker,” by Recode’s Kara Swisher: “According to an internal email from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, the company’s high-profile head of communications and policy Rachel Whetstone is departing after two years. … Sources close to the car-hailing company said that the decision to leave was multi-faceted, including Whetstone’s lack of appetite for even more drama after running comms at Google for many years before her stint at Uber. … Whetstone’s top deputy, Jill Hazelbaker, will take over as SVP global public policy and communications, heading a 300-person organization. She worked with Whetstone at Google and was more recently head of comms at Snap for a very short stint. Hazelbaker also has a deep political background, having worked for Sen. John McCain on his presidential campaign.” http://bit.ly/2p4Gzus
MEDIAWATCH – GABE SHERMAN in NYMag, “Bill O’Reilly Is Going on Vacation. Will His Show Return?”: “O’Reilly’s decision to go off the air in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal and advertiser boycott arguably has the appearance of a suspension, but O’Reilly worked to dispel that notion. He announced that he’d scheduled his trip ‘last fall’ — well before the New York Times reported he paid $13 million to settle harassment claims. A Fox News spokesperson confirmed O’Reilly will return on April 24. But according to four network sources, there’s talk inside Fox News that tonight’s show could be his last. Lawyers for the law firm Paul, Weiss, hired last summer by 21st Century Fox to investigate Roger Ailes, are currently doing a ‘deep dive’ investigation into O’Reilly’s behavior. …
“Fox News co-president Bill Shine has been working hard to keep O’Reilly, sources said. But O’Reilly’s future is in the hands of the Murdochs … [who] are presently divided over how to handle it. Two highly-placed Fox News sources say 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch would like O’Reilly to be permanently taken off the air, while his father Rupert and older brother Lachlan are more inclined to keep him.” http://nym.ag/2p4TRqZ
OUT AND ABOUT — After nine years on Capitol Hill, friends and colleagues feted Sarah Swinehart last night on the speaker’s porch. Swinehart, Speaker Paul Ryan’s director of media affairs, will be starting with Edelman next week as VP of media services and strategies. SPOTTED: Speaker Ryan’s press team, Alex Moe, Catherine Reynolds, Mary Bruce, John Parkinson, Tom Williams, Don Stewart, Antonia Ferrier, David Popp, Ali Rogin, Frank Thorp, Lauren Pratapas, Polson Kanneth, Ben Siegel, Mike Steel, Nate Hodson, Kara Hauck, Sage Eastman, Michelle Dimarob, and many more.
WEEKEND WEDDING – Lauren Hammond, digital director and press secretary at the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, married John Huston, senior policy adviser for the House Republican Policy Committee. An intimate ceremony was held at Lauren’s hometown church, Village Lutheran Church, in St. Louis. Lauren and John’s D.C. pastor officiated. Pics http://politi.co/2oy7Epn … http://politi.co/2oWXq2B SPOTTED: Jonathan Gallegos, Josh Webb, David Haines, Steph Gamache, Stephanie Hammond, Sam Pfister, Maddie Hoburg, Alex Robinson
BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Castlen Kennedy, proud Longhorn, DOE alum now VP of public and international affairs at Apache Corporation (h/t Joe Brettell)
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Peter Scher, chairman of the Washington, D.C. region and head of corporate responsibility at JPMorgan Chase & Co. He’s celebrating “at home with my wife and younger son — my older son is away at college — my niece and nephews and a couple of friends. We’ll be eating Back Alley Barbeque (best BBQ in town!!).” Read his Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2oWZDLK
BIRTHDAYS: Fred Ryan is 62 … Rita Braver (hat tips: Teddy, Connor, and Blair) … Amy Brundage, SVP at SKDKnickerbocker … Jedburghs founder Reed Galen is 41 … Rachel Overboe, almost HBS graduate and the pride of Kindred, N.D. … Mindy Myers … Amber Goodwin, founder and executive director of the Community Justice Reform Coalition and the pride of Midland, Texas … Henry Clay was born in 1777 — The Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship (@henryclaycenter) will be celebrating with trivia. Three weeks ago, after being name-dropped by POTUS, “the Great Compromiser” trended on Twitter … Brad Elkins, a Jason Kander and Martin O’Malley alum, is 29 … Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) is 66 … Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is 36 … Bruce “Uncle Boo” DeFrees … Katherine Rodriguez, director at DCI Group … Ashley Smith, the pride of Ridgewood, N.J., an MBA candidate at NYU Stern and a Hamilton Place Strategies alum … Sindy Benavides, director of civic engagement and community mobilization of the League of United Latin American Citizens … Anthony Bellmon … Meredith Friedman … Paula Helfer (h/ts Andrew Friedman) … RALLY principal Shayna Englin, celebrating with dinner (and plenty of bourbon) in DTLA … Jacob Hay, account manager at RALLY, celebrating at the Clippers-Kings game with his wife Stacey and daughter Hillary (h/ts Samuel Garrett-Pate) …
… Aaron Ament, an Obama Education Dept. alum, is 36 … Alessandra Grace, associate at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and a DOJ alum … Quantcast’s Tommy Schanzer, a Bloomberg alum … Ben Preis, associate at Lewis Burke Associates … CBRE SVP Chip Sutherland is 51 … Nick Campbell, budget and policy analyst at the City of LA … Karen Reaves, Bush 43 WH alum … Shalla Ross … Carrie Camillo, multiplatform/Sunday night editor at WashPost … Jack Pandol Jr., regional press secretary at the NRCC … Chris Harvey … Kimberly Casey … Corry Robb, former Bush 43 DHS Alum and Bush 43 alum and longtime GOP campaign operative … Eric Leckey, deputy chief administrative officer at FEMA, is 37 (h/ts Ed Cash) … Diane Crawford … AARP’s Timothy Gearan … Patricia Duff … Tariq Qalandarani … Iliana María Such … Darryl Cowherd Sr. … Karen Williams … Tim Waddell … Elizabeth Langer … Tamara Pogue (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Audra McGeorge, comms director for House Foreign Affairs … John Tracy, state director for Sen. Leahy … Eva Vrana, scheduler for Rep. John Moolenaar … Chris Gorud, senior LA for Rep. Carolyn Maloney … Nick Iacovella (h/ts Legistorm) … David Letterman is 7-0 … author Scott Turow is 68 … Claire Danes is 38 … actress Saoirse Ronan is 23 (h/ts AP)
****** A message from JPMorgan Chase & Co.: Optimistic about the future of America’s economy, Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon believes we need effective public policy and for business to play a role in developing solutions that spur economic growth and benefit every American. Learn more in his Annual Letter to Shareholders: http://politi.co/2nTquUG ******
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