09192019What's Hot:

Power Briefing: Ryan tilts away from Trump

House Speaker Paul Ryan speaks during a news briefing on Capitol Hill. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Paul Ryan threw more cold water on President Donald Trump’s “Spygate” by saying he agreed with Rep. Trey Gowdy on the controversy. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

SPEAKER PAUL RYAN on whether the president has the power to pardon himself: “I don’t know the technical answer to that question but I think obviously the answer is, he shouldn’t because no one is above the law.”

— KYLE CHENEY: “Speaker Paul Ryan dealt another blow to President Donald Trump’s ‘Spygate’ theory Wednesday, saying he’s seen ‘no evidence’ to support claims that the FBI spied on Trump’s 2016 campaign for political purposes.

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“Ryan, speaking to reporters at the Capitol, endorsed what he called an ‘initial assessment’ by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who said last week that the FBI acted appropriately when it deployed an informant to make contact with Trump campaign associates. Ryan was one of four Republicans, including Gowdy, briefed last month by the Justice Department on the informant.

“‘I think Chairman Gowdy’s initial assessment is accurate,’ said Ryan, who was one of a handful of lawmakers, including Gowdy, briefed by the Justice Department on the FBI’s use of an informant. ‘I have seen no evidence to the contrary of the initial assessment Chairman Gowdy has made.’” https://politi.co/2JBUgvr

— CNN’s Jeremy Herb (@jeremyherb): “Intel Chair Richard Burr also sides with Gowdy over Trump’s ‘spygate’ claims. ‘I think that Trey Gowdy’s description of the process was correct,’ Burr said”

ELANA SCHOR and BURGESS EVERETT: “Schumer: Democrats could take Senate majority”: “In an interview with POLITICO on Tuesday, the New York Democrat said he sees an upside for his vulnerable incumbents in campaigning as a check against the president. … [F]ive months before the election, Schumer insisted he’s optimistic, touting internal Democratic polls that show even Trump backers in six deep-red states prefer a Democrat who can counter the president.

“‘As Trump’s going up, our senators are going up in the polling,’ Schumer said, crediting a crop of Democratic incumbents ‘who are identified with their own states, as opposed to identified with Washington and the national party.’

“Thought Democrats have a much better chance to win the House than the Senate, Schumer didn’t rule out a Democratic takeover of his chamber. On top of the strong position of many of his incumbents, he pointed to potential pickups in a handful of states.

“‘When you look race by race, we have a very good chance,’ Schumer said. ‘We are much, much closer than people would ever think.’” https://politi.co/2xRhOrq

AXIOS’ JONATHAN SWAN: “Trump has commuted Alice Johnson’s life sentence”: “Johnson’s cause was championed last week at the White House by Kim Kardashian West. … This is part of a broader effort led by Jared Kushner to highlight the issue of prison reform — particularly focused on nonviolent offenders.” https://bit.ly/2LtWBWl

— CNN’S KAITLAN COLLINS: “CNN Exclusive: Trump considers dozens of new pardons”: “The White House has assembled the paperwork to pardon dozens of people, two sources with knowledge of the developments tell CNN, signaling that President Donald Trump is poised to exert his constitutional power and intervene, in some instances, where he believes the Justice Department has overstepped.” https://cnn.it/2sKqw4N

Good Wednesday afternoon. A HEADLINE THE PRESIDENT WILL LIKE — “DOJ watchdog finds James Comey defied authority as FBI director, sources say,” by ABC News’ Mike Levine: “One source told ABC News that the draft report explicitly used the word ‘insubordinate’ to describe Comey’s behavior. Another source agreed with that characterization but could not confirm the use of the term.

“In the draft report, Inspector General Michael Horowitz also rebuked former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her handling of the federal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s personal email server, the sources said.” https://abcn.ws/2Hp6u5o

A HEADLINE THE PRESIDENT WON’T LIKE — “Ivanka Trump Was In Contact With A Russian Who Offered A Trump-Putin Meeting,” by BuzzFeed’s Anthony Cormier, Jason Leopold and Emma Loop: “[D]uring the campaign, she connected her father’s personal lawyer with a Russian athlete who offered to introduce Donald Trump to Putin to facilitate a 100-story Trump tower in Moscow, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News and four sources with knowledge of the matter.

“There is no evidence that Ivanka Trump’s contact with the athlete — the former Olympic weightlifter Dmitry Klokov — was illegal or that it had anything to do with the election. Nor is it clear that Klokov could even have introduced Trump to the Russian president. But congressional investigators have reviewed emails and questioned witnesses about the interaction, according to two of the sources, and so has special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, according to the other two.” https://bzfd.it/2JvHBKl

PIC DU JOUR — @JeffFlake: “.@SteveScalise back on the field this morning. This does my heart good.” http://bit.ly/2xOgsxB

ON THE PRESIDENT’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 9:16 a.m.: “Great night for Republicans! Congratulations to John Cox on a really big number in California. He can win. Even Fake News CNN said the Trump impact was really big, much bigger than they ever thought possible. So much for the big Blue Wave, it may be a big Red Wave. Working hard!” He also sent out a tweet saying “many more Republican voters” showed up than predicted and congratulated California GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.

— REALITY CHECK from The Sacramento Bee’s Alexei Koseff: Cox “will face an uphill battle in the coming months against [Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin] Newsom, who has vastly outraised Cox in liberal California.” https://bit.ly/2M0rBhE

at 9:48 a.m.: “The Fake News Media has been so unfair, and vicious, to my wife and our great First Lady, Melania. During her recovery from surgery they reported everything from near death, to facelift, to left the W.H. (and me) for N.Y. or Virginia, to abuse. All Fake, she is doing really well!” … at 9:54 a.m.: “…Four reporters spotted Melania in the White House last week walking merrily along to a meeting. They never reported the sighting because it would hurt the sick narrative that she was living in a different part of the world, was really ill, or whatever. Fake News is really bad!”

G7 LOOKAHEAD — “Trump plans confrontational approach with world leaders at economic summit,” by WaPo’s Damian Paletta and Anne Gearan: “President Trump plans to confront other world leaders at a summit in Quebec on Friday over what he believes is a global economic system tilted against the United States, several people briefed on the plan said, escalating tensions with U.S. allies who have expressed outrage at his pivot toward protectionism. …

“In a sign Trump is looking to stoke divisions, White House officials are discussing ways to impose additional economic penalties against Canada — the host nation for the summit — in retaliation for Ottawa’s threat to levy tariffs next month on roughly $ 13 billion in U.S.-made products. …

“White House officials are also considering whether to have Trump refuse to sign onto a customary joint agreement at the end of the G-7 summit, one senior administration official said, as a signal that the old ways of doing business are over.” https://wapo.st/2JgveCm

** A message from PhRMA: New analysis from IHS Markit shows providing access to discounted medicine prices at the pharmacy could save seniors with diabetes more than $ 350 annually. Sharing negotiated rebates could also save Medicare nearly $ 1,000 annually for every senior taking diabetes medication, reducing total health care spending by approximately $ 20B over the next 10 years. https://letstalkaboutmedicare.org/ **

CUE THE INVESTIGATIONS … “Obama-era license aimed to let Iran convert money in dollars,” by the AP’s Josh Lederman and Matthew Lee: “The Obama administration secretly sought to give Iran access — albeit briefly — to the U.S. financial system by sidestepping sanctions kept in place after the 2015 nuclear deal, despite repeatedly telling Congress and the public it had no plans to do so. …

“[A] report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations revealed that under President Barack Obama, the Treasury Department issued a license in February 2016, never previously disclosed, that would have allowed Iran to convert $ 5.7 billion it held at a bank in Oman from Omani rials into euros by exchanging them first into U.S. dollars. If the Omani bank had allowed the exchange without such a license, it would have violated sanctions that bar Iran from transactions that touch the U.S. financial system.

“The effort was unsuccessful because American banks — themselves afraid of running afoul of U.S. sanctions — declined to participate.” https://bit.ly/2sKsNgB

HENSARLING SPEAKS OUT ON TRADE — “‘I’m just dumbfounded when I pick up my newspaper to read that the administration is trying to negotiate higher wages for Mexican auto workers so that U.S. consumers have to pay more for cars! I mean, it’s just surreal to me,” the House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling told Bloomberg TV’s Kevin Cirilli. “… He’s going to wipe out economic growth.” Full video https://bloom.bg/2HowHkB

PYONGYANG UPDATE — “Trump’s North Korea diplomacy crashed by friends and foes alike,” by Nahal Toosi: “As Trump prepares to meet with Kim Jong Un on June 12, a growing list of foreign leaders is trying to influence the results. …

“The global jockeying may greatly complicate Trump’s plans for dealing with Kim, analysts warned. Some nations will want to shape any nuclear agreement, while others could seek to undermine a resulting deal.” https://politi.co/2Jjj4EJ

— JASON SCHWARTZ: “Will Trump stand up for free press in Singapore?”: “With only a week to go, the White House has yet to nail down what sort of access American reporters will receive, and whether Trump or, more tantalizingly, Kim, will take questions from the media. …

“Under normal conditions, these types of arrangements are made weeks and months in advance, with meticulous planning. But nothing about the North Korea summit has gone according to any normal plan. Complicating matters is the host country, which is one of the least hospitable to the media.” https://politi.co/2JmW4F5

— 38 NORTH’S JOSEPH S. BERMUDEZ JR.: “North Korea Razing Key Missile Test Stand” https://bit.ly/2JzW4oC “38 North” is a North Korea analysis site that uses satellite imagery.

HMM… — “Trump to sign veterans health bill as White House works against plan to fund it,” by WaPo’s Erica Werner and Lisa Rein: “The VA Mission Act authorizes new health care programs for veterans, but the bill does not reserve federal money to pay for those programs. A group of powerful Senate committee chairmen aims to remedy that by amending a separate measure to pay for the new $ 50 billion law, saying that adding the funds is the best way to ensure the new programs give veterans access to medical care.

“But the White House has engaged in a quiet effort to thwart the senators’ plan, encouraging lawmakers to vote it down and instead asking Congress to pay for the veterans programs by cutting spending elsewhere.” https://wapo.st/2Hpq8Oo

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE — “U.S. pushes NATO to ready more forces to deter Russian threat,” by Reuters’ Robin Emmott and Idrees Ali: “U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis will seek broad agreement for the plan in Brussels on Thursday when alliance defence ministers meet, laying the ground for endorsement by NATO leaders at a summit in July, four U.S. and NATO officials and diplomats told Reuters.

“Known as 30-30-30-30, the plan would require NATO to have 30 land battalions, 30 air fighter squadrons and 30 ships ready to deploy within 30 days of being put on alert. …

“That lays down a challenge for European governments, pilloried by U.S. President Donald Trump for slashing military spending after the Cold War, to remedy long-running problems with helicopters and jets that are grounded for lack of parts.” https://reut.rs/2LsvyL4

FOGGY BOTTOM UPDATE — “A Growing List of U.S. Diplomats Acting Undiplomatically,” by NYT’s Gardiner Harris: “There is nothing new about ambassadors making unfortunate remarks. But the growing list of top envoys who have provoked controversy even in posts of close allies, where diplomatic duties largely include party-giving and anodyne cheerleading, has been unusual — and, for the Trump administration, potentially perilous.” https://nyti.ms/2sLU8ia

STAT DU JOUR — “[A]lmost 20 percent of Americans would deny Muslims who are American citizens the right to vote,” from the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group survey on public perceptions of Muslims in the U.S. Full results https://bit.ly/2sBdIyl

AFTERNOON READ — “Murder with impunity: Where killings go unsolved,” by WaPo’s Wesley Lowery, Kimbriell Kelly, Ted Mellnik and Steven Rich: “The Post has mapped more than 52,000 homicides in major American cities over the past decade and found that across the country, there are areas where murder is common but arrests are rare. …

“The overall homicide arrest rate in the 50 cities is 49 percent, but in these areas of impunity, police make arrests less than 33 percent of the time. Despite a nationwide drop in violence to historic lows, 34 of the 50 cities have a lower homicide arrest rate now than a decade ago.

“Some cities, such as Baltimore and Chicago, solve so few homicides that vast areas stretching for miles experience hundreds of homicides with virtually no arrests. In other places, such as Atlanta, police manage to make arrests in a majority of homicides — even those that occur in the city’s most violent areas.” https://wapo.st/2M0lry5

MEDIAWATCH — @newyorkerunion: “We’re proud to announce that the editorial staff of @NewYorker has formed a union with @nyguild.” The details from New York magazine https://nym.ag/2HoidBf

— Facebook announced its inaugural lineup of funded news shows within Facebook Watch. The Facebook-exclusive shows will come from ABC News, Univision, CNN, Fox News and more. Full announcement https://bit.ly/2xLx34U

— Four new contributors are joining CNN as legal analysts: Renato Mariotti in Chicago, Jennifer Rodgers in New York and Ross Garber and Jack Quinn in D.C.

TRANSITIONS — Coleman Lamb is now a senior communications adviser for his brother Rep. Conor Lamb’s (D-Pa.) campaign in the new 17th district of Pennsylvania. He previously was communications director for Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.). … Lynn Good has been elected chairman of the board of the Edison Electric Institute. She is chairman, president and CEO of Duke Energy. Christopher Crane and Ben Fowke were elected vice chairmen.

— OBAMA ALUMNI: Sarah Horowitz is now account director in the D.C. office of the global communications firm LEWIS. She was previously at RH Strategic and is an Obama Commerce alum.

OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at a bipartisan homeland security reception at the Capital Yacht Club at the Wharf hosted by Ed Cash: DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who spoke to attendees (pics http://bit.ly/2kS3bKY … https://politi.co/2LtQDVF), Michael Jackson, Chris Krebs, Dan Kaniewski, Francis Cissna, Chad Wolf, Zach Fuentes, Brendan Shields, Eric Heighberger, Tim Manning, Jonathan and Anne Marie Hoffman, and Chad Sweet.

— SPOTTED at a book party last night at the home of John Jameson for Mike Lux’s “How to Democrat in the Age of Trump,” published by Strong Arm Press, founded by Ryan Grim, Jess McIntosh and Alex Lawson ($ 13.49 on Amazon https://amzn.to/2sL1ClO): Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Heather Booth, Chuy Garcia, Joel Silberman, Nihal Krishan, Avi Zenilman, Greg Sargent, Chris Harris, Nancy Altman, Laura Bernstein, Lauren Windsor, Anna Lefer Kuhn, David Hogg, Dave Freeman, Aida Chavez, David Halperin, and Soumya Gowda.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD – Matthew Walther, national correspondent for The Week, and Lydia Sherwood, recently welcomed John Henry Newman Walther, joining two big sisters, Thisbe, and Violet. Pic http://bit.ly/2JlZKaf

BONUS BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Dr. Matt Heinz, a Democratic candidate for Arizona’s 2nd congressional district and an Obama alum. A trend he thinks deserves more attention: “American citizens are treated much differently depending on where they live. The federal response to the 2017 hurricane season is the most recent and dramatic example of this trend. In Houston, authorities have declared the area fully recovered while Puerto Rican residents still face shortages in power and clean water. Most disturbing of all is that the official death toll for Puerto Rico was revised upward from several dozen to several thousand people just a few days ago.” Q&A: https://politi.co/2Lr49Jm

** A message from PhRMA: For more than 10 years, Medicare has provided prescription drug coverage for seniors. Competition continues to keep premiums low, but seniors are facing higher out-of-pocket spending. Insurers negotiate significant discounts for medicines in Part D. Giving seniors 80% of those discounts at the pharmacy counter could save a senior with diabetes more than $ 350 per year on their health care costs. The change could also save Medicare nearly $ 1,000 per year for every senior taking diabetes medication. How? By helping patients afford the drugs they need to stay healthy and stay out of the hospital. Seniors share the cost. They should share the savings. https://letstalkaboutmedicare.org/ **

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