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POLITICO Playbook: GOP frets as Trump world implodes

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President Donald Trump is pictured. | Getty Images

Two men who had direct access to President Donald Trump — one of whom was his closest aide for upward of a decade — might be going to prison. | Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

DRIVING THE DAY

TICK … TOCK … The split-screen guilty verdict of PAUL MANAFORT and MICHAEL COHEN’s plea is, perhaps, the best evidence that ROBERT MUELLER is treating this investigation like an old-school organized crime probe. While PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP turns on the noise machine every day — shouting about what he sees as bias — Mueller is using the criminal-justice system to take out the people closest to the president.

DESPITE THE HUM OF every self-proclaimed expert crowing about what Mueller is up to, none of us have a damn clue what’s next. We don’t know when this is going to wrap up — won’t be Sept. 1, Rudy! — how Republicans will handle it, how Democrats will react, how the president will react or how it will impact the midterm elections. We don’t know if this will stretch past Election Day, or who else Mueller is going after.

IMPEACHMENT, of course, is top of mind for everyone in the White House and on the Hill. But without knowing the full gamut of what Mueller has, it’s impossible to know how likely impeachment is. Republicans, thus far, have brushed off impeachment. But there will certainly be pressure from some corners for the GOP to act. REMEMBER … House Democrats have already introduced articles of impeachment for lesser misdeeds. We have to imagine they’ll try again.

WAPO BANNER HEADLINE: “Convictions tighten squeeze on Trump” (h/t @seungminkim) … NYT: “PLEADING GUILTY, COHEN IMPLICATES PRESIDENT”WSJ: “Former Trump Advisers Guilty”

THE PRESIDENT’S saving grace, politically at least, is that he can say at the moment that the special counsel has not proven collusion with the Russians — and that’s true. But yesterday did reinforce that while Mueller is not interested in a shouting match, he has been stunningly efficient in getting results.

TWO MEN who had direct access to the president — one person who was his closest aide for upward of a decade — might be going to prison. COHEN said, with little ambiguity, that Trump instructed him to make illegal campaign payments to bolster his political future. And MANAFORT was found guilty on eight charges — and still faces another trial in Washington on other serious charges.

IF YOU THINK BACK to the Obama years, Republicans had their hair on fire for every scandal du jour. Republicans pushed for a full-blown investigation of the White House after they obtusely offered Joe Sestak an administration position to drop out of a Senate race. They thought Obama was in cahoots with ACORN to rig elections — and dealt with it legislatively. Can you imagine if two people who served as Obama’s top advisers either pleaded or were found guilty? There is no question at all that the GOP majority is handling this differently because it’s a president of their party.

THE BIG QUESTIONS: What do Cohen and Manafort know, and could they cooperate for a lesser sentence? … Do Republicans split from Trump when they get back to Washington? (Probably not, at least not for the time being) … The president had been planning campaign travel over the next six weeks. Is he politically helpful anywhere besides deep red states?

TWO VIEWS …

— NYT’S BRET STEPHENS (@BretStephensNYT): “I’ve been skeptical about the wisdom and merit of impeachment. Cohen’s guilty plea changes that. The president is clearly guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. He should resign his office or be impeached and removed from office.”

— WSJ ED BOARD: “We doubt Mr. Mueller will indict Mr. Trump as a sitting President, but the ultimate threat to Mr. Trump is political. Congress decides what is an impeachable offense, and if Democrats retake the House in November they will define ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ The Cohen and Manafort convictions raise the stakes for Mr. Trump and his Presidency, but voters may want to see more than evidence about payments to a porn star to overturn the results of a presidential election.”

JOSH GERSTEIN notes: “Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann opted out of the Alexandria trial. He showed up a few times to watch the proceedings but was not part of the prosecution team introduced to the jury in the Virginia case. That means Weissmann has had the last month or so to get ducks in a row for the D.C. case, while the defense will be scrambling to meet deadlines Judge Jackson has set in advance of that trial.”

THE PRESIDENT, in his interview with Reuters Monday evening, said he has chosen not to interfere in the Mueller probe, for the time being. Internal and public GOP polling consistently shows that voters want a check on presidential power — not for the president to unilaterally exercise power to end a federal criminal probe.

SO HOW DO REPUBLICANS HANDLE THIS POLITICALLY? The message that is most salient in marginal GOP districts is that the Republican candidate will act as a check on Trump. But, in ruby red Republican districts, watch for Republicans to say they’ll act as the bulwark against impeachment.

STILL DEVELOPING … REPUBLICANS say impeachment is seen by voters as extremely unpopular, and radical. Other senior party officials involved in the hand-to-hand combat to keep the majority believe that the argument of divided power might be more important than ever.

— IMPORTANT QUOTE, via one Republican aide involved in the fight to keep the majority: “I think there’s a credible case to be made that you actually want to hold Trump accountable it’ll take both parties to do it. Hence giving it all over to the Dems will just reinforce gridlock.”

REPUBLICANS are praying that Trump does not pardon either man.

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THE SCENE … FROM DARREN SAMUELSOHN and JOSH GERSTEIN … “Sitting here at the Politico Alexandria bureau (a table in the Westin’s lobby restaurant) at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday waiting for our final Manafort trial stories to be edited. The TV network tents are coming down outside in the courthouse plaza. Defense lawyers are shaking hands with reporters as they make their way out of the hotel where everyone has been working here for the last week during the jury deliberations.

“QUICK PROPS to the Westin and its staff in the hotel and the restaurant. They have been champs letting dozens of reporters pretty much take over the place.”

WHAT’S NEXT: “For Mueller and Manafort, the next trial starts Sept. 17 in Washington D.C. The now-convicted former Trump campaign chairman has pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent for his work in Ukraine and obstruction of justice over the allegations of witness tampering after his initial indictments.

THERE WILL BE FIREWORKS … “Expect Manafort’s lawyers to go after Rick Gates if and when the government brings him back to the witness stand. There’s a preliminary hearing in the D.C. trial next Tuesday, Aug. 28.

“THE MUELLER PROSECUTORS will be back before Judge Ellis on Aug. 29 in Alexandria to say whether they want to refile the 10 counts that the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on: failure to register his foreign bank accounts in three years, as well as seven of the bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy charges. Ellis also hasn’t yet set a sentencing date for the charges Manafort was convicted on.

“THE MANAFORT WORLD isn’t exactly expecting a Trump pardon anytime soon. And neither are several people who I talked with in the aftermath of the verdict. Here’s one comment on this from Mark Corallo, the former spokesman to the Trump legal team and George W. Bush Justice Department: ‘If the president is dead set on pardoning Paul Manafort, I’m sure he’ll wait until the proceedings in the District of Columbia has concluded and a verdict is rendered. If he’s going to pardon him I think that’s when he’d do it.’”

THE OTHER BIG STORY … THE CORRUPTION ELECTION … REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CALIF.) IS THE SECOND HOUSE REPUBLICAN INDICTED THIS MONTH …

— SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE’S MORGAN COOK and JEFF MCDONALD: “Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and his wife, Margaret, were indicted Tuesday on dozens of criminal charges including wire fraud and campaign finance crimes.

“The indictment, filed Tuesday in federal court in San Diego, accuses the couple of converting more than $ 250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses and filing false campaign finance records with the [FEC] to cover up the true nature of the expenses. The 60-count indictment accuses the couple of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, falsification of records and aiding and abetting in the prohibited use of campaign contributions.

“Within hours of its issuance, Hunter assailed the investigation as politically motivated just weeks before the fall campaign season gets underway. House Speaker Paul Ryan nevertheless announced that Hunter had been stripped of his committee assignments. Hunter, 41, has been under scrutiny since April 2016, when the FEC and then The San Diego Union-Tribune began questioning expenses of campaign funds on video games, private school tuition, oral surgery and a garage door for the couple’s Alpine home.” San Diego Union-Tribune

— THIS IS A BIG DEAL because Hunter, as of now, will remain on the ballot. That makes his seat a possible pickup opportunity for Democrats.

— SOME OF THE STUNNING ALLEGATIONS, via the indictment: “The HUNTERS illegally used Campaign funds, among other things, to purchase the following:

“Hotel rooms, airline tickets and upgrades, meals and food, and entertainment expenses for vacations for themselves and their friends and family, including more than $ 14,000 for a family Thanksgiving vacation in Italy in November 2015; more than $ 6,500 for a family vacation to Hawaii in April 2015; more than $ 3,700 for a family vacation to Las Vegas and Boise in July 2015; more than $ 2,400 for a Las Vegas couples vacation in August 2011; and more vacations to destinations such as Lake Tahoe, Pittsburgh, London, and Washington …

“On or about November 23, 2015, in an attempt to justify the use of Campaign funds to pay for the family’s trip to Italy, DUNCAN HUNTER attempted to set up a day tour of a U.S. naval facility in Italy. After Navy officials responded that they could only provide a tour on a particular date, DUNCAN HUNTER said he would discuss the proposed date with MARGARET HUNTER, then subsequently told his Chief of Staff, ‘tell the navy to go f*** themselves [no alteration in original],’ and no tour occurred.

“In or about late 2015, to conceal the illegal use of Campaign funds to pay for the Italy vacation, MARGARET HUNTER falsely told the Treasurer that the various charges related to this vacation ‘were mostly military/defense meet related’ despite emailing a friend that ‘Italy was amazing. Truly our best family trip so far. Like that saying ‘if traveling was free you’d never see me again’!”

STUNNING … BEHIND THE SCENES, HUNTER PUSHES BACK … HUNTER is refusing to resign from his committees, even though SPEAKER PAUL RYAN said he has to step off until this matter is resolved. Hunter is on Armed Services, Education and the Workforce and Transportation. HOUSE REPUBLICANS are now planning to remove him from his committees. The GOP steering committee is meeting Tuesday, Sept. 4, where this has been added to the docket. The full GOP conference is expected to ratify this on Sept. 5, and then it will go to the House floor, where it will be made official.

THE TRACK RECORD … Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal), former acting solicitor general under President Obama: “Hunter indicted today. He was the second member of Congress to endorse Trump’s candidacy. The first endorser was Chris Collins, who was indicted 2 weeks ago on federal insider trading charges. Feeling bad for whomever is No 3.”

— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict): “In case you’re wondering: the third member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump in ‘16 was then-Sen. Jeff Sessions.”

— THE BIG PICTURE: Two House Republicans have been indicted this month. Democrats — who were looking to turn this into a “corruption” election — are feeling good at the moment.

MORE ON COHEN/MANAFORT …

— “Cohen’s claim about Trump may spark calls for impeachment but is unlikely to lead to charges,” by WaPo’s Ros Helderman, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett: “The assertion by President Trump’s former lawyer that he broke campaign finance laws at the direction of then-candidate Trump could spark calls for impeachment hearings — but probably will not have any legal consequences for the president while he is in office, according to legal analysts. …

“Such an explosive assertion against anyone but the president would suggest that a criminal case could be in the offing, but under long-standing legal interpretations by the Justice Department, the president cannot be charged with a crime.” WaPo … DOJ press release on Cohen’s plea

— “‘It’s the only excuse they’ll need’: Legal blows fuel impeachment fears,” by Chris Cadelago, Andrew Restuccia, Nancy Cook and Daniel Lippman (which last night got the Drudge banner “IMPEACHMENT FEARS HIT DC”): “‘The verdict in the Manafort trial isn’t nearly as worrisome to me as the Cohen agreement and the Cohen statement,’ said former Trump adviser Michael Caputo. ‘It’s probably the worst thing so far in this whole investigation stage of the presidency.’ One Republican lawyer close to the White House worried that Cohen – with his unique access to Trump’s history of business dealings and scandalous personal entanglements – could ultimately prove more damaging to Trump, and give Democrats fodder for impeachment if they take the House in November.

“‘It’s the only excuse they’ll need,’ the lawyer said. ‘And believe me, they won’t need much of an excuse.’ The sheer force of the two stories breaking within minutes of each other left an unavoidable impression that the walls are closing in on a president facing serious accusations of wrongdoing, leaving some to worry what Trump will do next. …

“But Tuesday’s blockbuster news made the impeachment threat more real than ever. ‘This just underscores the importance of the midterms and keeping the House,’ a Republican close to the White House said. ‘If Nancy Pelosi is speaker, Donald Trump will face impeachment.’” POLITICO

— NYT’S MARK LANDLER, MIKE SHEAR and MAGGIE HABERMAN, “A One-Two Punch Puts Trump Back on His Heels”: “In two courtrooms 200 miles apart on Tuesday, President Trump’s almost daily attempts to dismiss the criminal investigations that have engulfed his White House all but collapsed. Mr. Trump has long mocked the investigations as ‘rigged witch hunts,’ pursued by Democrats and abetted by a dishonest news media. But even the president’s staunchest defenders acknowledged privately that the legal setbacks he suffered within minutes of each other could open fissures among Republicans on Capitol Hill and expose Mr. Trump to the possibility of impeachment. …

“A president who has labored under the cloud of investigations from almost the moment he took office, Mr. Trump now faces an increasingly grim legal and political landscape. Mr. Mueller is methodically investigating whether Mr. Trump and members of his campaign conspired with a foreign power to win the election — and whether the president tried to obstruct the investigation from the White House. And the president is months away from congressional elections that could hobble the second half of his presidency.” NYT

— @natemcdermott: “CNN’s Justice reporter @ShimonPro: ‘The president, quite frankly, is lucky he’s the president. Trump is lucky that he’s the president of the United States, because chances are, the U.S. attorney’s office would probably would have indicted him in this case.’”

PREPARING FOR AN IMPLOSION … “In case of Mueller firing, break glass: Democrats prep an emergency plan,” by NBC’s Josh Lederman and Mike Memoli: “It would start within minutes of special counsel Robert Mueller being fired: a torrent of activity ricocheting through the halls of Congress and over television airwaves, including nearly a thousand protests being prepped from the Virgin Islands to Alaska.

“Democrats have drafted a wide-ranging contingency plan should Mueller be fired or President Donald Trump take other steps to quash the Russia investigation, like firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or pardoning key witnesses. Of top concern in the first 24 hours of such a move would be preventing Mueller’s documents from being destroyed and his team disbanded, according to interviews with nearly a dozen lawmakers, congressional aides, Democratic operatives and attorneys involved in the planning.

“Almost immediately, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer would consult with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while Democrats would demand a floor vote on a bill retroactively protecting Mueller and protecting his materials. In both the Senate and House, rank-and-file Democrats would contact a list of sympathetic Republicans who have signaled privately that they’d be willing to act should Trump pull the trigger. …

“And in cities across the country, rallies would be hastily scheduled for 5 p.m., if Mueller is fired before 2 p.m. on any given day. If he’s fired in the late afternoon or evening, the protests would be set for noon the following day.” NBC

ON AIR FORCE ONE … “Inside the Trump bubble, ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ but no talk of Cohen,” by Lorraine Woellert: “My window seat on Air Force One was like a prison. It was late afternoon, and all day major news had threatened to come crashing down on President Donald Trump. But here we were, headed to a campaign event in West Virginia. Business as usual. … As the threat of major news simmered, thunderclouds rolled in over Washington and unleashed an epic downpour, flooding the roads around Joint Base Andrews, where we waited for the president.

“By the time Trump climbed the steps to the plane, the rain had slowed but the rumors had picked up. He gave a thumbs up as we shouted questions. The presidency seemed on some sort of brink. But I was trapped on a plane with a silent president, no phone and no Wi-Fi.” POLITICO

DARREN SAMUELSOHN and JOSH GERSTEIN: “Mueller wins more than a conviction in Manafort case”: “Special counsel Robert Mueller may have won only a partial courtroom victory against Paul Manafort, but Tuesday’s guilty verdicts against the former Trump campaign chief strengthen Mueller’s hand in his wider probe of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Blasted by Trump and his allies as a biased and out-of-control prosecutor, Mueller — through his deputies who argued the case in court — has convinced an Alexandria, Virginia, jury that Manafort is guilty of eight out of 18 federal charges of bank and tax fraud. Manafort faces a maximum of 80 years in jail.

“While some pro-Trump conservatives suggested Tuesday that Mueller had won a Pyrrhic victory because jurors deadlocked on a majority of the counts against Manafort, many legal experts called the outcome a clear success that will reassure Mueller’s defenders. … Even a former spokesman for Trump’s legal team conceded that the eight guilty verdicts were a victory for Mueller.

“‘I don’t think it’s ever a black eye to a prosecutor when they get eight guilty verdicts,’ said Mark Corallo, who also served as a Justice Department spokesman under President George W. Bush. ‘That’s a very serious conviction. There’s no defeat to a prosecutor when they get eight out of 10, 15 or 20 charges.’” POLITICO

NEW POLITICO/MORNING CONSULT POLL — “Poll: Trump trails several Democratic prospects in 2020 match-up,” by Steven Shepard: “The 2020 presidential election is still more than 800 days away, but a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows President Donald Trump with paltry levels of support when matched up with nearly a dozen would-be Democratic opponents.

“Against the two best-known candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — Trump trails 12 percentage points and is mired in the low 30s. Biden leads Trump, 43 percent to 31 percent, and Sanders’ lead over the president is virtually the same, 44 percent to 32 percent.

“Trump also trails Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — the first-term senator he has mocked as ‘Pocahontas,’ which Warren calls a racial slur — but by a smaller margin, 34 percent to 30 percent. A plurality of voters, 36 percent, are undecided.” POLITICO

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2018 WATCH — “Trump-backed Friess loses Wyoming governor’s primary,” by Daniel Strauss and Scott Bland: “Wyoming state Treasurer Mark Gordon won the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary Tuesday, defeating Trump-backed businessman and political donor Foster Friess.” POLITICO

TRUMP’S WEDNESDAY — The president is having lunch with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He will present the Medal of Honor in the afternoon.

JOIN US — Anna and Jake will be in Pennsylvania for a Playbook Elections event Friday, Aug. 31 at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia at 7:45 a.m. to discuss the 2018 midterm cycle and the issues that are shaping the races. RSVP

PLAYBOOK ON THE ROAD — Tweet or send us a photo of you, your friends and companions reading Playbook this August to @playbookplus using hashtag #PlaybookLoyal or email them to Daniel at daniel@politico.com for the chance to be featured on Friday each week this month.

PLAYBOOK READS

Cassie Semyon, an intern for NBC News, is pictured running out of federal court in Alexandria. | AP Photo

PHOTO DU JOUR: Cassie Semyon, a 21-year-old NBC News intern, runs out of federal court in Alexandria on Tuesday as Paul Manafort trial jury deliberations are announced. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

WAPO’S BOB COSTA SCOOP — “Trump adviser Larry Kudlow hosted publisher of white nationalists at his home”: “The publisher of a website that serves as a platform for white nationalism was a guest last weekend at the home of President Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow.

“Peter Brimelow attended the gathering, a birthday bash for Kudlow, one day after a White House speechwriter was dismissed in the wake of revelations that he had spoken alongside Brimelow on a 2016 panel. Brimelow, 70, was once a well-connected figure in mainstream conservative circles, writing for Dow Jones and National Review. But over the past two decades, he has become a zealous promoter of white-identity politics on Vdare.com, the anti-immigration website that he founded in 1999. …

“Kudlow said Tuesday that Brimelow was a guest at his birthday party at his Connecticut home and is someone he has known ‘forever,’ going back to their work in financial journalism. … ‘If I had known this, we would never have invited him,’ Kudlow said. ‘I’m disappointed and saddened to hear about it.’ Kudlow said that Brimelow’s views on immigration and race are ‘a side of Peter that I don’t know, and I totally, utterly disagree with that point of view and have my whole life. I’m a civil rights Republican.’ Kudlow said that Brimelow, who also lives in Connecticut, has been ‘coming to my dinner parties for years’ but that ‘none of this other stuff has ever come up.’” WaPo

WEDNESDAY LISTEN — ANNA talked with LEA MARQUEZ PETERSON, who is running to replace Arizona GOP Rep. Martha McSally, as part of our three-part podcast series, “Women Rule: Tracking the candidates,” which focuses on the gritty realities of running for office. Subscribe

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VALLEY TALK — “Sprawling Iranian influence operation globalizes tech’s war on disinformation,” by WaPo’s Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Tony Romm and Ellen Nakashima: “Iran was behind a sprawling disinformation operation on Facebook that targeted hundreds of thousands of people around the world, the social media company said Tuesday night, underscoring Silicon Valley’s increasingly global war on disinformation.

“The Iranian effort dated to 2011 and had ties to state media operations in that country, Facebook said, involving hundreds of accounts on both Facebook and its sister site, Instagram.

“It also spread to Twitter and YouTube, which both companies said they also removed. The fake Iranian accounts bought ads on Facebook and used it to organize events. Facebook also deleted some unrelated fake accounts originating in Russia.” WaPo

— “Facebook removes hundreds of accounts tied to Iran, Russia,” by Cristiano Lima: “Facebook said Tuesday it has taken down hundreds of accounts over ‘coordinated inauthentic behavior,’ the most sweeping acknowledgment of continuing influence campaigns on its platform headed into the U.S. midterm elections.

“The social network said it shuttered 652 pages and accounts originated in Iran and ‘targeted people across multiple internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, UK and U.S.’ Facebook separately removed an undisclosed number of accounts that ‘can be linked to sources the U.S. government has previously identified as Russian military intelligence services.’ Those accounts were most recently ‘focused on politics in Syria and Ukraine,’ according to the company.” POLITICO

TRADE WARS — “NAFTA ‘handshake’ deal with Mexico targeted for Thursday,” by Megan Cassella and Sabrina Rodríguez: “The Trump administration is planning to formally announce on Thursday that it has reached a breakthrough in NAFTA talks with Mexico, clearing the way for Canada to rejoin negotiations to modernize the free trade pact, three sources close to the talks told POLITICO.

“The sources said time has been cleared on the White House schedule for the announcement, where President Donald Trump is expected to be in attendance. Officials are expected to announce that the U.S. and Mexico, which have been meeting for the past several weeks, have made enough progress on various two-way issues to be able to announce what one source described as a ‘handshake’ deal.” POLITICO

MEDIAWATCH — “McClatchy announces staff reductions of 3.5%, among other cost-cutting measures,” by CNN’s Oliver Darcy: “McClatchy, the publisher of more than two dozen daily newspapers across the country, will reduce its staff by approximately three and a half percent, cut expenses across the company, and implement other measures to save money, the company announced in an internal memo obtained by CNN on Tuesday. … He placed blame, in part, on the decline in revenue from print advertising. … A spokesperson for the company told CNN that the staff reductions would affect nearly 140 employees.” CNN

— @maxwelltani: “Business Insider bosses told staff today that the site will be hiring ‘dozens’ of new employees and migrating all of its politics, general news, and mil-def coverage over to its sister site Insider, which has been best known for its food videos.”

PLAYBOOKERS

SPOTTED: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) having lunch with Howard Dean on Tuesday at NoPa Kitchen + Bar in Penn Quarter. Pic … Nikki Haley on a morning shuttle from LGA to D.C. She was seen peering toward the White House as the plane descended, according to our tipster. Pic

THE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS AND PUBLIC SERVICE at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy has named its 2018 fall fellows class: Erin Conaton, former undersecretary of the Air Force and former undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness; Ed Goeas, Republican pollster and president and CEO of the Tarrance Group; Suzanne Kianpour of BBC News; Tim Lim, Democratic digital strategist at Lim Consulting; and Josh Pitcock, former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence who is now at Oracle.

TRANSITIONS — Becky Beland McNaught has joined Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s team as chief of staff for Newsom’s gender equality-focused nonprofit, “The Representation Project.” McNaught previously served as Democratic counsel on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

— Ali Zaidi is heading to Kirkland & Ellis to be of counsel. He will focus on climate and environmental risk. He is the former associate director for natural resources, energy and science at the Obama White House OMB.

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Rachel Hirschberg Light … Amelia Penniman, deputy comms director at American Bridge (hat tip: Joshua Karp).

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Steve Kornacki, national political correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC whose book “The Red and the Blue” comes out in October, is 39. What he’s read recently: “I don’t read a ton of fiction, but Tom Wolfe’s death got me to pick up ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities.’ I’m a slow reader, but wow – I ended up devouring it in about six days. I’m fascinated with that period, the ’80s, when the country was turning around but it seemed like New York and other cities were just hopelessly lost. Just a riveting read. And since everything comes back to Trump these days, I think the book kind of works as a window into the shaping of his view of the world.” Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Luke Russert is ageless … National Review editor Rich Lowry is 5-0 … Brittany Baker of the West Wing, an aide to NEC Director Larry Kudlow … Jess Allen, a JD candidate at NYU Law and Obama WH alum, is 29 … Thomas Midanek … Paul Singer is 74 … Steve Kroft is 73 … Morton Dean is 83 … Jennifer Loven, managing director at Glover Park Group … Steve Brill, who is soon launching his new company NewsGuard (h/t wife Cynthia) … Tom Edsall is 77 … Sabrina Siddiqui, VP at Forbes Tate Partners … Tim Fox, Montana’s AG (h/t Zack Roday) … Jen Nedeau, client partner at Facebook … Robin Wright, joint fellow of the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Wilson International Center … Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is 44 … Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) is 54 … former Rep. Thad McCotter (R-Mich.) is 53 … Chris Smith … Fox Business News producer Natalie Apsell (h/t Steve Brusk) … Ryan Patmintra … AP’s Nebi Qena is 41 …

… Bill Miller, SVP at the Business Roundtable … Ken Farnaso, press secretary for Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) (h/t Alex Stroman) … Carolyn Harrold … Nick Mildebrath, VP at Convergence Targeted Communications, is 3-0 (h/t Chris Cooper) … Chris Lapetina (h/t David Bolger) … Bill Cortese … Jim Strader … Sward Tondoneh … Bill Turenne Jr. … Elizabeth Lubben … Eleanor Strom of Google … Sinclair’s AnnaMaria Di Pietro … WJLA anchor Nancy Chen (h/t AnnaMaria) … Selena Strandberg … Katie Gordon … Dustin Swensson … Morgan Canup … Matthew Barnes … Claire Stein-Ross … Pema Levy of Mother Jones … Gigi Sukin (h/t Gordon Bronson) … Chad Connelly, former director of faith engagement at the RNC … Lyle Roebuck … Alex Pellegrino … Adrian Slater … Mory Fontanez … Katie Bloodgood … Nick Greene … Jordan Goldes … Rob Borden … Charlotte Day-Reiss … former Rep. Bud Cramer (D-Ala.) is 71 … Megan Paulsen … Chris Pumphrey … Alyssa Palisi … Mac Flores … Brystol English … Julia Rothwax … Phoebe Link … Pat Eltman … Hailey Arends (h/ts Teresa Vilmain).

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