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POLITICO Playbook: Pelosi returns

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House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is pictured. | Getty Images

Nancy Pelosi returns to the speakership in a uniquely powerful position, especially when considering that many Democrats just waged a campaign that included sharp criticisms of her. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

DRIVING THE DAY

NANCY D’ALESANDRO PELOSI will become the 63rd speaker of the House today, a triumphant return to the third-ranking position in American government after eight years in the political wilderness.

THE POWER … PELOSI returns to the speakership in a uniquely powerful position, especially when considering that many Democrats just waged a campaign that included sharp criticisms of her. The 78-year-old California Democrat just vanquished a group of her challengers with precision and speed that shocked many longtime Hill watchers. Most House insiders expected that today she’d be in the middle of a brawl for the speakership on the House floor. Instead, she’s waltzing toward grabbing the gavel.

— ONE OF PELOSI’S skills is grinding down the opposition. Whether it was lawmakers in 2009 and 2010 agitating for the public option in health care reform, or more recently the group of 17 Democrats who signed a letter saying they’d never vote for her, Pelosi is patient, and is able to bring people to her side.

AND SHE IS NOW going toe-to-toe with PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP in the middle of a partial government shutdown that has entered its 13th day.

PELOSI’S PLACE IN HISTORY … PELOSI is the first member of Congress to return to the speakership since Sam Rayburn returned for a third stint atop the chamber in 1955.

THE CHALLENGES … PELOSI, of course, will have challenges. She has a fiery left wing, which is already beginning to tug at her shirt sleeve. At least two back-bench Democrats — Ro Khanna of California and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — are threatening to vote against the rule package, traditionally a party-line measure that lays out how the chamber will be governed. They do not like pay-go rules, which mandate the government pay for spending. (The House rules are routinely waived.) Just wait until fights over Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, “Medicare for all” and governing with Trump break out.

— RACHAEL BADE and HEATHER CAYGLE:Dems face opportunity — and pitfalls — in new House majority”

FIRST UP … REP. JOHN SARBANES (D-MD.), chair of the party’s Democracy Reform Task Force, is expected to file House Democrats’ first major legislative item — H.R. 1, which they’ve named the “For the People Act,” immediately after being sworn in. The goals include: improving voters’ access to the ballot box, reducing the influence of money and strengthening ethics rules for public servants. Democrats will unveil the package at an 11 a.m. Friday press conference in the Rayburn Room in the Capitol.

THE SCENE … PELOSI was feted Wednesday night at a dinner hosted by Italian Ambassador Armando Varricchio at the Italian Embassy. Tony Bennett closed out the evening by singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” SPOTTED: Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State John Kerry, California Lt. Gov.-elect Eleni Kounalakis, Cindy Horn, Kathryn Hall and Craig Hall, Liz Naftali, Alan Solomont and Dennis and Karen Mehiel.

PELOSI will be on the “Today” show at 7:05 a.m. Savannah Guthrie taped an interview with her.

IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T HEARD THIS ENOUGH … @TODAYshow: “‘Are you willing to come up and give him some of this money for the wall?’ -@SavannahGuthrie ‘No.’ -@NancyPelosi ‘Because apparently that’s the sticking point.’ -Guthrie ‘No, no. Nothing for the wall.’ -Pelosi Full exclusive interview [this morning] on TODAY.” 17-second video

SHUTDOWN UPDATE … “Source: Trump tells Schumer he can’t accept Dems’ offer because he’d ‘look foolish,’” by CNN’s Maegan Vazquez and Phil Mattingly

CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS will go to the White House tomorrow for another meeting, as the shutdown hits its 14th day.

Good Thursday morning. Happy swearing-in day!

AP’S ANNABELLE LIANG in Singapore: “World shares retreat on growth fears after Apple warning”: “European and Asian indexes slipped on Thursday after Apple, the world’s largest technology company, downgraded its sales projections citing lackluster Chinese demand. The Japanese yen, seen as a relatively safe asset, surged as traders awaited developments on the U.S. government shutdown and Brexit.” AP … Tim Cook’s letter to Apple investors

THE SCHEDULE … THE FIRST DAY: THE HOUSE will begin a vote for speaker toward the end of the noon hour. It’s quite a spectacle. Each member recites the name of the person he or she is voting for aloud from the House floor. Members can vote for anyone they want, including people who are not even in Congress. Voting should wrap just before 2 p.m.

INCOMING HOUSE MINORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CALIF.) will give his speech presenting PELOSI as House speaker around 2 p.m., then Pelosi will address the House. DON YOUNG (R-ALASKA) — the dean of the House — will swear Pelosi in around 2:20-2:30 p.m.

JUST OFF EMBARGO … PELOSI SPEECH EXCERPTS …

— NEW FRESHMAN CLASS: “When our new members take the oath, our Congress will be refreshed, and our democracy will be strengthened by the optimism, idealism and patriotism of this transformative freshman class. Working together, we will redeem the promise of the American dream for every family, advancing progress for every community.”

— CLIMATE CHANGE: “We must also face the existential threat of our time: the climate crisis — a crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions. … The entire Congress must work to put an end to the inaction and denial of science that threaten the planet and the future. This is a public health decision for clean air and clean water; an economic decision for America’s global pre-eminence in green technology; a security decision to keep us safe; and a moral decision to be good stewards of God’s creation.” The full set of embargoed excerpts

THE NEW WORLD ORDER … For years, Congress and K Street have worked in concert. Candidates run for office, lobbyists and K Streeters contribute to their campaigns through individual or corporate PAC checks, and when they are sworn in, they often work together as lobbyists bring clients into their office and members try to legislate.

BUT … Downtowners are increasingly nervous about how the incoming class of House Democrats will deal with lobbyists. Several have sworn off taking money from lobbyists. Others are making their name as members of the resistance, going against the grain of how things have traditionally been done in Washington.

THE FEAR … New members, or their staff, will tape conversations with lobbyists and release them to the press — even seemingly innocuous meetings of companies just looking to chat with aides.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION … PARALLEL REALITY — @EricLiptonNYT: “As of Thursday, DOD will be run by a former senior Boeing executive. EPA is run by a former coal lobbyist. HHS is run by a former pharmaceutical lobbyist. And Interior will be run by a former oil-industry lobbyist. Welcome to 2019.”

A message from the American Petroleum Institute:

Welcome to America’s Generation Energy, led by the women and men of the natural gas and oil industry, who are meeting unprecedented consumer demand for affordable and reliable energy while reducing the U.S. carbon footprint to its lowest level in a generation. See how we’re doing it and join us at PowerPastImpossible.org.

PELOSI’S WORLD …

— JOHN BRESNAHAN, HEATHER CAYGLE and RACHAEL BADE: “The survivor: Nancy Pelosi makes history — again”: “The past seven speakers of the House have lost their majority, been forced out by their own colleagues, or stepped down amid personal scandal. One of them — Nancy Pelosi — now has a second chance to rewrite her legacy.

“On Thursday, the 78-year-old Pelosi will be the first person in more than six decades, since the legendary Texas Democrat Sam Rayburn, to return to the speaker’s chair after losing it. She will be surrounded by children as she does so, a replay of an iconic moment from her January 2007 swearing-in ceremony as the first female speaker in history.

“But Pelosi will also tie Rayburn on another front by becoming the oldest person ever elected speaker and the oldest to hold the post, a testament to both her staying power and the fact that her return engagement to the speakership will be limited.” POLITICO

— NYT’S SHERYL GAY STOLBERG: “Nancy Pelosi, Icon of Female Power, Will Reclaim Role as Speaker and Seal a Place in History”: “There was a brief moment in Nancy Pelosi’s life when she worried she had too much power. She had so many titles in the California Democratic Party, including chairwoman, that she told Lindy Boggs, a Louisiana congresswoman, that she was thinking of giving some up. That was in 1984, and Ms. Boggs ‘said, “Darlin’, no man would ever think that. Don’t you give anything up,”’ Ms. Pelosi said in a recent interview, leaning forward as she mimicked Ms. Boggs’s Southern accent.

“‘And then she said, “Know thy power.”’ More than three decades later, Ms. Pelosi is all but assured on Thursday of reclaiming her former title as speaker of the House, the first lawmaker in more than half a century to hold the office twice. With the gavel in hand, she will cement her status as the highest-ranking and most powerful elected woman in American political history.” NYT

— WAPO’S MIKE DEBONIS: “Pelosi fills role as Trump’s sparring partner, respecting the office but not the man”: “Rep. Nancy Pelosi is set to regain the House speakership Thursday and instantly cement her place as the most powerful woman in American politics. It is a job she has done before, even during a Republican presidency, but Pelosi faces a novel challenge in her new role as President Trump’s chief adversary — how to balance her esteem for the presidency against her barely veiled contempt for the man who holds it.

“‘I respect the office that he holds and the agencies of government that he appoints to — I think I respect them more than he does, looking at who he has appointed to those offices,’ she told The Washington Post in an interview as she prepared to take the speaker’s gavel.” WaPo

ON ROMNEY … JOHN HARRIS in POLITICO Magazine, “Why Guys Like Mitt Romney Don’t Scare Donald Trump: The president has taken the measure of his rivals and found them wanting”: “At important junctures of his public career Romney—like many or perhaps most politicians—has revealed himself as a supremely transactional figure, flexible in altering his words and his positions to align with self-interest as the occasion demands. If Trump is the more transactional figure—boasting about his deal-making savvy rather than trying to defend his gyrations as rooted in some higher morality—this is only a difference in degree, not a difference in kind.

“Once the debate leaves the field of principle and moves to the field of results, there is no denying which of the two transactional figures is better at the game. … In all his campaigns Romney has emphasized his record of professional achievement and business success more than his ideological consistency—a pattern that has also marked Trump’s rise to the presidency.” POLITICO

— ALEX ISENSTADT, “Romney broadside stokes Trump camp’s suspicions about 2020”: “[RNC] Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel connected with President Donald Trump by phone on Tuesday evening with some alarming news: Mitt Romney, her uncle, was about to publish an op-ed savaging him.

“McDaniel, who had gotten a heads-up about the missive directly from Romney, was frustrated and knew she wanted to push back forcefully. That evening, she wrote a tweet defending the president. The next morning, as Romney’s op-ed took hold of the news cycle, McDaniel, Trump’s handpicked party chairwoman, sent out an even more strongly worded tweet scolding her uncle. …

“[The op-ed] immediately fueled suspicions among the president’s top aides that the incoming senator is up to something — maybe even keeping the door open to a 2020 primary challenge. At a time when talk of a 2020 GOP primary has simmered, Trump aides said Romney, on the eve of his swearing in to the Senate, was seeking to define himself as the new leader of the Never Trump movement.

“They noted that Romney had taken steps in recent weeks to reactivate the national fundraising network he’d established in his 2012 presidential bid: This fall, long before being sworn in, the new senator hosted a fundraiser for his political action committee.

“Two senior Trump aides said they were convinced that Stuart Stevens, a longtime top Romney adviser and an outspoken Trump critic, had played a role in drafting the op-ed. (‘Mitt wrote this. I didn’t do a thing,’ Stevens responded when reached for comment Wednesday evening.) And former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon argued that Romney had launched a ‘direct challenge to Trump for leadership.’” POLITICO

2020 WATCH … NYT’S SYDNEY EMBER and KATIE BENNER: “For Bernie Sanders, Claims of Sexism in 2016 Campaign Hang Over 2020 Bid”: “In February 2016, Giulianna Di Lauro, a Latino outreach strategist for Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential operation, complained to her supervisor that she had been harassed by a campaign surrogate whom she drove to events ahead of the Democratic primary in Nevada.

“She said the surrogate told her she had ‘beautiful curly hair’ and asked if he could touch it, Ms. Di Lauro said in an interview. Thinking he would just touch a strand, she consented. But she said that he ran his hand through her hair in a ‘sexual way’ and continued to grab, touch and ‘push my boundaries’ for the rest of the day. …

“When she reported the incident to Bill Velazquez, a manager on the Latino outreach team, he told her, ‘I bet you would have liked it if he were younger,’ according to her account and another woman who witnessed the exchange. Then he laughed. Accounts like Ms. Di Lauro’s — describing episodes of sexual harassment and demeaning treatment as well as pay disparity in Mr. Sanders’s 2016 campaign — have circulated in recent weeks in emails, online comments and private discussions among former supporters.

“Now, as the Vermont senator tries to build support for a second run at the White House, his perceived failure to address this issue has damaged his progressive bona fides, delegates and nearly a dozen former state and national staff members said in interviews over the last month. And it has raised questions among them about whether he can adequately fight for the interests of women, who have increasingly defined the Democratic Party in the Trump era, if he runs again for the presidential nomination in 2020.” NYT

— AP’S STEVE PEOPLES: “Sanders allies contrite, defiant amid harassment allegations”: “Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and his chief lieutenants are offering contrition and defiance as they face allegations of sexual harassment that plagued his last presidential campaign and now threaten to derail a second White House bid before it begins. …

“Sanders apologized late Wednesday ‘to any woman who felt that she was not treated appropriately.’ ‘Of course, if I run again, we will do better next time,’ Sanders told CNN.” AP

STAFFING UP — “Warren hires Iowa aides, including top Sanders and Obama alums, ahead of visit,” by CNN’s MJ Lee and Gregory Krieg: “Emily Parcell, who worked as then-Sen. Barack Obama’s Iowa political director for the 2008 caucus and as a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton in the state eight years later, has signed on with Warren, along with Janice Rottenberg, according to two sources. Rottenberg was an Ohio organizer for Clinton in 2016 and ran the Iowa Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign during the 2018 midterm elections. …

“Kane Miller, who was campaign manager for Abby Finkenauer, has also joined Warren’s Iowa team, according to a source familiar with the development. Finkenauer defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Rod Blum in November. Warren has also nabbed Brendan Summers, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Iowa caucus director in 2016, according to a source familiar with the matter.

“Summers will help Warren on both Iowa and national efforts, the source said, and has already been involved in planning her visit to Iowa this weekend, when she will hold events in Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Storm Lake and Des Moines.” CNN

A message from the American Petroleum Institute:

Welcome to America’s Generation Energy, led by the women and men of the natural gas and oil industry, who are meeting unprecedented consumer demand for affordable and reliable energy while reducing the U.S. carbon footprint to its lowest level in a generation. See how we’re doing it and join us at PowerPastImpossible.org.

SEN. JOHN THUNE’S WHIP TEAM … Brendon Plack will be chief of staff. … Nick Rossi will be deputy chief of staff and general counsel. … Geoffrey Antell and Cynthia Herrle will be policy advisers. … David Cole and Scarlet Doyle Samp will be liaisons to leg directors. … Chandler Smith will be comms director. The full list

PLAYBOOK READS

A trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange is pictured. | AP Photo

PHOTO DU JOUR: A trader on the New York Stock Exchange floor talks on his cellphone as markets tried to endure a trade war and other concerns Wednesday. | Richard Drew/AP Photo

DEPT. OF FLAG PLANTING … TERRY MCAULIFFE in WaPo: “To beat Trump, Democrats must counter his lies with realistic solutions”: “For example, some senators have started to discuss a ‘federal jobs guarantee’ — a promise that, in certain formulations, means that anyone who wants could have a government job paying $ 15 an hour with great benefits. Sound too good to be true? It is. Proponents of a jobs guarantee are smart people with good motives, but they surely recognize that it is not a realistic policy.

“Similarly, a promise of universal free college has an appealing ring, but it’s not a progressive prioritization of the educational needs of struggling families. We need to provide access to higher education, job training and student debt relief to families who need it. Spending limited taxpayer money on a free college education for the children of rich parents badly misses the mark for most families.” WaPo

CHRIS WHIPPLE in POLITICO Magazine, “Can Anyone Succeed As Trump’s Chief of Staff?: It’s a near-impossible job. But here are a few basic rules Mick Mulvaney can follow to avoid disaster.”

COURT WATCH — “Trump’s judicial nominees face setback,” by Marianne LeVine: “Mitch McConnell’s winning streak on judicial nominees is hitting a speed bump. The fate of 70 of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees is in limbo after McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer failed to agree on a way to move them forward at the close of the 115th Congress. …

“The pending judicial nominations will be sent back to the White House, where a majority of them are expected to be re-nominated in the coming days. Following their re-nomination, the Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to hold a marathon session in the next few weeks for the nominees that were pending on the Senate floor or waiting for a committee vote, according to George Hartmann, a spokesperson for the Senate Judiciary Committee under outgoing Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.). Democrats can delay a scheduled markup by one week.” POLITICO

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ALICE MIRANDA OLLSTEIN: “Blackburn, Ernst become first GOP women to serve on Senate Judiciary”: “Freshman Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa will become the first Republican women to serve on the Judiciary Committee when the new Congress is seated this week, according to a roster obtained by POLITICO and confirmed by a Capitol Hill source.

“The appointments solve a longstanding optics problem for Republicans — there are four Democratic women senators on the influential panel, including ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), in contrast to the previously all-male GOP slate — while putting Blackburn and Ernst in a position to preside over judicial nominations and certain women’s issues including the Violence Against Women Act.” POLITICO

FOR YOUR RADAR — “The Pen Proves Mighty for an Unlikely Trump Correspondent,” by NYT’s Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman: “Mr. Trump delights in sharing with visitors the correspondence he has received from North Korea’s leader since they began writing to each other last year. Typically, according to people who have witnessed such displays, Mr. Trump calls to an assistant sitting just outside the Oval Office to bring him ‘the letters,’ which he then fans out across the Resolute Desk so the people facing him can get a glimpse. They are translated into English and filled with flowery references to Mr. Trump as ‘Your Excellency.’” NYT

MEDIAWATCH — Per Morning Media’s Michael Calderone: “Former New York Times editor Jill Abramson says Fox News host Howard Kurtz took her forthcoming book, Merchants of Truth, ‘totally out of context’ in his Wednesday report headlined, ‘Former NY Times editor rips Trump coverage as biased.’ Kurtz, who obtained a copy of the book in advance, reported Abramson having written that the Times’s news pages under her successor, Dean Baquet, were ‘unmistakably anti-Trump.’

“‘His article is an attempt to Foxify my book, which is full of praise for The Times and The Washington Post and their coverage of Trump,’ Abramson told me in an email. Abramson, who was fired from the paper in 2014, chronicles in the book how the Times, Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and Vice struggle in the digital era ‘to keep honest news alive.’” POLITICO … $ 19.49 on Amazon

— “NBC News veteran warns of ‘Trump circus’ in 2,228-word farewell,” by CNN’s Brian Stelter: “There are goodbye notes — and then there’s William Arkin’s frustrated farewell to NBC News. … [H]e bluntly expresses his displeasure with the ‘Trump circus,’ U.S. foreign policy failures, and the state of television news. ‘In our day-to-day whirlwind and hostage status as prisoners of Donald Trump, I think — like everyone else does — that we miss so much,’ Arkin says. …

“Arkin has worked for NBC on and off for three decades, sometimes as a military analyst, sometimes as a reporter and consultant. … Friday will be his last day at NBC, according to his internal memo on Wednesday.” With the full memo, CNN

PLAYBOOKERS

TRANSITIONS … FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Brett McGurk, the former anti-ISIS special envoy, is joining Carnegie as a nonresident senior fellow in the Middle East program. He’s also joining Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute as a lecturer. … Dara Cohen will be chief of staff for Sen.-elect Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.).

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Kyle Gazis, a litigation associate in Davis Polk’s Washington office (hat tip: wife Olivia)

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: David Fahrenthold, WaPo reporter and MSNBC contributor. How the Trump presidency is going: “It’s going, I’m told. I only cover the Trump businesses, which seem to be doing less well than when Trump got into politics (and then began attacking the urban elites who were at the heart of his businesses’ customer base).” Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Brad Parscale is 43 … Daniel Fisher of the White House … “Chef” Geoff Tracy is 46 … Betty Rollin, NBC News alumnus, is 83 … Marcie Ridgway Kinzel (h/t Katie Waldman) … Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas) is 47 … David Margolick is 67 … Noam Levey, national health care reporter for the L.A. Times D.C. bureau … Jenna Golden, founder and president of Golden Strategies and a Twitter alum … Thomas Walton-Cale … L.D. Platt, VP for external affairs comms at UnitedHealth Group … Neal Zuckerman of Boston Consulting Group … POLITICO’s Matt Woelfel and Maggie Chan … Tony Chauveaux … Rep.-elect Katie Porter (D-Calif.) is 45 … former Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal is 93 … Richard Ben-Veniste is 76 …

… Al Cardenas, senior partner at Squire Patton Boggs … POLITICO Europe’s Laura Kayali … Zach Gates of Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-Mo.) office … Chris DeBosier, VP of federal gov’t affairs for Verizon … NYT’s Marc Tracy … Melanie Garunay, managing principal at Precision Strategies … Roger Kay … Taylor Bolton … John Sargent III … Sarah Lenti … Carolyn Fiddler, political editor and senior communications adviser at Daily Kos … Joe Lenoff … RoMina Boccia … Igor Volsky, founder and director of Guns Down, is 33 … McKinsey’s Jonathan Spaner … Grant Gottesman … Shane Montalban … James Hunter … Michele Soresi … Tim Rieser

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