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POLITICO Playbook: Crisis

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President Donald Trump is pictured. | Getty Images

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is essentially in open war with President Donald Trump. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

DRIVING THE DAY

IS THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT IN A STATE OF CRISIS? … There’s no doubt we have gotten accustomed to lurching from standoff to standoff, diplomatic row to global skirmish. But over the past few days, it feels as if the crisis in our government has hit a new inflection point.

— WE ARE NOW ON DAY 27 of a government shutdown centered on whether the U.S. should build a new barrier on the southern border with Mexico. Hundreds of miles of barriers already exist. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have been willing to blink, and both sides appear to be growing increasingly dug in. The shutdown is continuing ad infinitum. Ratings agencies and economic forecasters have warned Congress to shape up, or face huge consequences. Ben White on the growing number of recession warnings

— AT THE SAME TIME, the Trump administration is forcing some workers to come back to work with no pay. The agents whom the government has hired to ensure people don’t board our airliners with bombs and weapons — TSA employees — are working without pay. So are the people protecting the president of the United States. NYT’s Katie Rogers and Alan Rappeport on people coming back to work without pay

— SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI is in open war with PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, and has essentially rescinded her invitation for the president to speak to the nation from the Capitol in the annual State of the Union. The situation she lays out is quite dire: She expressed concern that the government cannot protect the building, which will be filled with almost the entire government. It also had the additional political benefit of being a kick to the groin to the president.

DHS SECRETARY KIRSTJEN NIELSEN said publicly DHS and the Secret Service are ready to protect the Capitol for this event. HOUSE MINORITY WHIP STEVE SCALISE (R-LA.) indicated if Trump shows up at the Capitol anyway, they’ll find a place for him to speak.

— MEANWHILE … A SENIOR HOUSE REPUBLICAN, Steve King of Iowa, was admonished by his leadership, and in some cases asked to leave Congress, because he voiced support for white supremacy. He has been stripped of his committee assignments. This comes after years of racist statements.

LOOK AT ALL OF THE AVAILABLE EVIDENCE, and ask yourself a simple question: Do you believe the government is poised to function over these next two years? Do you believe that these two parties are poised to pass the USMCA — the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico? Do you believe a big infrastructure package is right around the corner? How about the debt limit — will that be lifted easily?

Good Thursday morning. JOHN KASICH, who recently signed up as a CNN contributor, is raising money off of it. His email solicitation

NEW PBS NEWSHOUR/NPR/MARIS POLL: “With the 2020 presidential election already underway, 57 percent of registered voters said they would definitely vote against President Donald Trump, according to the latest poll from the PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist. Another 30 percent of voters said they would cast their ballot to support Trump, and an additional 13 percent said they had no idea who would get their vote.” PBS

A message from the National Retail Federation:

Tariffs imposed by Washington are having a negative impact on Main Street retailers in communities across the country. Scroll down to learn more. http://bit.ly/2TJDuvH

THE PELOSI-VS.-TRUMP STORIES …

— JOHN BRESNAHAN, HEATHER CAYGLE and RACHAEL BADE: “‘She’s satin and steel’: Pelosi wages war on Trump”: “Donald Trump may have finally met his match in Nancy Pelosi. As the partial government shutdown grinds on with no end in sight, the struggle between the president and the speaker is becoming an unprecedented political fight — with the fallout likely to extend far beyond this episode.

“Pelosi privately refers to Trump as the ‘whiner in chief.’ She’s questioned his manhood. She calls out Trump’s lies to his face and openly wonders whether he’s fit for the job. She mocks Trump for his privileged upbringing and his lack of empathy for the less fortunate. She jokes with other senior Democrats that if the American public saw how Trump acts in private, they’d ‘want to make a citizen’s arrest.’” POLITICO

— WAPO’S PAUL KANE, PHIL RUCKER and JOSH DAWSEY: “‘She wields the knife’: Pelosi moves to belittle and undercut Trump in shutdown fight”

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — NYT’S MAGGIE HABERMAN and ANNIE KARNI, “In a West Wing in Transition, Trump Tries to Stand Firm on the Shutdown”: “President Trump has insisted that he is not going to compromise with Democrats to end the government shutdown, and that he is comfortable in his unbendable position. But privately, it’s sometimes a different story. ‘We are getting crushed!’ Mr. Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, after watching some recent coverage of the shutdown, according to one person familiar with the conversation. ‘Why can’t we get a deal?’ …

“Mr. Trump has told [his senior staffers] he believes over time the country will not remember the shutdown, but it will remember that he staged a fight over his insistence that the southern border be protected. … Unlike his predecessors, according to White House officials, Mr. Mulvaney is not interested in challenging what has revealed itself to be the one constant in the Trump White House: the special status reserved for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the president’s family members and senior advisers, in the West Wing.

“Mr. Mulvaney’s more hands-off approach to the family members has allowed Mr. Kushner to position himself among lawmakers on Capitol Hill as the person who can deliver to Mr. Trump what he wants. The dynamic, according to multiple White House officials, is similar to the opening days of the administration, when the staff to the new president was just beginning to meet with Washington officials and Mr. Kushner often told people that ‘everything runs through me.’” NYT

THE ATLANTIC’S ELAINA PLOTT on SHAHIRA KNIGHT: “Trump’s Chief Shutdown Negotiator Is Unknown to Most Americans”

SEXUAL HARASSMENT WATCH — HOLLY OTTERBEIN and ALEX THOMPSON: “Sanders faces former staffers about sexual harassment on 2016 campaign”: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) met Wednesday with a group of former staffers who have raised concerns about allegations of sexual harassment and violence during his 2016 presidential campaign and have urged him to make reforms if he runs again next year.

“Sanders did not respond to a reporter’s questions as he entered the meeting through a private door at a hotel in Washington. The former aides sought a meeting with Sanders to ‘discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign, for the purpose of planning to mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle,’ according to a copy of a letter first reported by POLITICO.” POLITICO

— BUZZFEED’S ZOE TILLMAN: “A Lawsuit Claims Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Retaliated Against A Staffer Who Planned To Sue The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Over An Alleged Rape”: “A former staffer for Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee claims in a new lawsuit that the lawmaker retaliated against her and fired her because she was planning to pursue legal action over an alleged rape by a former employee of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. The woman, identified in court papers by the pseudonym Jane Doe, alleges she was raped in October 2015, when she was a 19-year-old intern for the CBCF, by the foundation’s intern coordinator at the time, Damien Jones.” BuzzFeed

AOC UPDATE — “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a social media star, to school House Democrats on Twitter use,” by USA Today’s Eliza Collins: “The House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee is hosting a session Thursday morning with Ocasio-Cortez of New York (@AOC – 2.42 million followers) and Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut (@jahimes – 76,500 followers) ‘on the most effective ways to engage constituents on Twitter and the importance of digital storytelling.’” USA Today

THE INVESTIGATIONS … “Rudy Giuliani says Trump didn’t collude with Russia but can’t say if campaign aides did,” by CNN’s Caroline Kelly: “In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on ‘Cuomo Prime Time,’ Giuliani, a former New York mayor and Trump’s attorney, said he doesn’t know if other people in the campaign, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, were working with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential race.

“‘I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign,’ Giuliani said. He added, ‘I said the President of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the President of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspiring with the Russians to hack the DNC.’” CNN

— “GOP wants Mueller transparency — with caveats,” by Darren Samuelsohn: “Senate Republicans are sending signals they want it both ways on special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report: They are calling for transparency while still giving themselves an out if crucial parts are withheld. It’s a talking point that echoes the line William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, used in his confirmation hearing this week. Barr vowed to publicly release as much of Mueller’s findings as he can, ‘consistent with the regulations and the law.’” POLITICO

— ABC’S ELIANA LARRAMENDIA and JAMES HILL: “Michael Cohen fears Trump rhetoric could put his family at risk: Sources”: “Michael Cohen is having reservations about his highly anticipated public appearance before Congress next month, fearing that President Donald Trump’s frequent diatribes against him could put his family in danger, according to sources close to Cohen.” ABC

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CNN’S MANU RAJU and JEREMY HERB: “Effort to ease Russian sanctions boosted by former Louisiana senator”: “Former Republican Sen. David Vitter is lobbying on behalf of companies linked to a Russian oligarch with ties to President Vladimir Putin, aligning himself with Trump administration efforts to ease sanctions on his clients, according to documents filed with the Justice Department.”

“Vitter, who has registered as a foreign agent, lobbied with several countries’ ambassadors and the Treasury Department to ease punishing sanctions imposed on major aluminum firms tied to oligarch Oleg Deripaska. After the Treasury Department agreed last month and eased the sanctions, Vitter was spotted in the Senate ahead of critical votes taking aim at the Trump administration move.” CNN

TRUMP’S THURSDAY — The president will leave the White House at 10:45 a.m. to go to the Pentagon. At 11 a.m., Trump will participate in the missile defense review announcement. He will then return to the White House.

PLAYBOOK READS

A lunch for federal workers is pictured. | Getty Images

PHOTO DU JOUR: Furloughed federal employees get free lunch at a pop-up staged by chef José Andrés during the partial government shutdown Wednesday. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION — “Top HUD official’s departure follows disagreements over housing policy and Puerto Rico disaster funds,” by WaPo’s Tracy Jan, Arelis Hernández, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta: “Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude, second-in-command at the agency helmed by Ben Carson and widely regarded as HUD’s most capable political leader, is said to have grown frustrated by what a former HUD employee described as a ‘Sisyphean undertaking.’ …

“Trump told then-White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and then-Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney that he did not want a single dollar going to Puerto Rico, because he thought the island was misusing the money and taking advantage of the government … Patenaude told White House budget officials during an early December meeting in the Situation Room that the money had been appropriated by Congress and must be sent.” WaPo

— “Pentagon seeks to expand scope and sophistication of U.S. missile defenses,” by WaPo’s Paul Sonne: “The Trump administration is seeking to expand the scope and sophistication of American missile defenses on a scale not seen since President Ronald Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ initiative in a new strategy that President Trump plans to roll out personally on Thursday alongside military leaders at the Pentagon.” WaPo

BANNON WATCH — STEVE BANNON predicted Tuesday night that Trump will appoint four justices to the Supreme Court as president and that Clarence Thomas may retire so that the president could pick someone to replace him, according to two people at his speech at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.

He also said in front of the 250 people gathered at the Loews Hotel that Trump will run in 2020; but if he doesn’t, a Nikki Haley/Mike Pompeo slate would be a winning ticket. Bannon’s a fan of Ocasio-Cortez and said he admires her “grit.” He also said that the U.S. economic war with China is just starting (and that he believes the U.S. is winning) and will grow to encompass more than just trade disputes. Pic

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TRUMP INC. — “Federal agency ‘improperly’ ignored constitutional concerns before allowing Trump to keep lease to his hotel, internal watchdog says,” by WaPo’s Jonathan O’Connell and David Fahrenthold: “The General Services Administration ‘ignored’ concerns that President Trump’s lease on a government-owned building — the one that houses his Trump International Hotel in Washington — might violate the Constitution when it allowed Trump to keep the lease after he took office, according to a new report from the agency’s inspector general. Trump’s company won the lease several years before he became president.

“After Trump was elected, the agency had to decide whether his company would be allowed to keep its lease. At that time, the inspector general found, the agency should have determined whether the lease violates the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which bar presidents from taking payments from foreign governments or individual U.S. states. But it did not, according to the report issued Wednesday.” WaPo

CHINA WATCH — “Huawei Targeted in U.S. Criminal Probe for Alleged Theft of Trade Secrets,” by WSJ’s Dan Strumpf, Nicole Hong and Aruna Viswanatha: “Federal prosecutors are pursuing a criminal investigation of China’s Huawei Technologies Co. for allegedly stealing trade secrets from U.S. business partners, including technology used by T-Mobile US Inc. to test smartphones, according to people familiar with the matter.

“The investigation grew in part out of civil lawsuits against Huawei, including one in which a Seattle jury found Huawei liable for misappropriating robotic technology from T-Mobile’s Bellevue, Wash., lab … The probe is at an advanced stage and could lead to an indictment soon.” WSJ

MEDIAWATCH — NYT’s Michael Grynbaum: “David Haskell, a longtime deputy editor at New York magazine, will become its editor in chief on April 1, inheriting a glossy biweekly and a suite of websites devoted to pursuits like fashion, food, shopping and politics.” NYT

PLAYBOOKERS

SPOTTED: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife Louise Linton eating dinner with Bret Baier and his wife Amy at Prime Rib last night … Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) at Brothers and Sisters in Adams Morgan … Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) having dinner at the Monocle with a few other people.

HARVARD INSTITUTE OF POLITICS has named its spring 2019 fellows. Resident fellows include: former Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) and Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Andrew Gillum, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Catherine Russell and Michael Zeldin. The spring visiting fellows include: Gary Cohn, former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mitch Landrieu and Michael Nutter.

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Jim Durette, deputy COS for Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) (hat tip: Hank)

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Steve Rabinowitz, president and co-founder of Bluelight Strategies. How he got his start in politics: “Moved to Washington to volunteer, then work for my local congressman Mo Udall when he ran for president and I was but 18. Then worked, also nationally, for Presidents Jerry Brown, John Anderson, Gary Hart, Walter Mondale, Paul Simon, Mike Dukakis and Bob Kerrey’s presidential campaigns before finally working for that Bill Clinton guy. My non-political friends used to call me ‘the kiss of death.’ But I was the first among my political cohort to truly learn how a mult box worked and what the color temperature of light was.” Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: former first lady Michelle Obama is 55 … Rebecca Buck, CNN political reporter (hubby tip: Brendan) … Maury Povich is 8-0 … former FCC Chairman Newton Minow is 93 … Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is 65 … POLITICO’s Steve Shepard and Joanne Kenen … John Wagner, WaPo national political reporter, is 5-0 … Alyssa Franke of EMILY’s List … Al Shofe … Nikki Schwab, Washington reporter at The Daily Mail … NBC News’ Alex Moe … POLITICO Europe’s Alba Pregja … Jim Free is 72 … David Avella, chairman of GOPAC … Chris Jones, SVP/senior director of U.S. talent acquisition at BCW Global … Cynthia Kroet … Stephen Gilmore … Bill Galston is 73 … Jeremy Pelofsky of Finsbury … Julie Alderman of Planned Parenthood (h/t Londyn Marshall) …

… Tommy Joyce (h/ts Lauren Ehrsam and Ed Cash) … Kousha Navidar … Robert E. Lewis Jr. is 4-0 … photographer Steven Purcell is 56 … Elizabeth Hays Bradley (h/t Jon Haber) … Dan Gilbert is 57 … Charlotte Rediker … Becca Sobel … Julie Barko Germany … John Seabrook is 6-0 … Mary Clare Rigali, analyst at Albright Stonebridge … Edelman’s Katherine Wiet and Kurt Hauptman … Haris Alic … Karlygash Faillace … Doug Wilder is 87 … Alyssa Roberts … Barbara Riley … YouTube alum Vadim Lavrusik … Taylor Barden … Warren Cathedral is 58 … Robbie Hughes is 37 … Amit Jani … John M. Gillespie … Noelani Bonifacio … Tegan Millspaw Gelfand … Mark Pieschel … John Hoyt (h/t Teresa Vilmain) … Mike Spahn, COS to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), is 4-0 (h/t Maureen Knightly)

A message from the National Retail Federation:

Tariffs imposed by Washington are coming directly out of the pocketbooks of American small business owners and consumers. As the owner of a Texas luggage shop said, “This could be such a detrimental impact on our business.” Listen to the stories of local retailers impacted by tariffs at http://bit.ly/2TJDuvH.

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