HAPPY FRIDAY. There are 130 DAYS until Election Day.
SEAN HANNITY traveled with President DONALD TRUMP to Green Bay, Wis., for a Fox News town hall, and asked him this good question: “What’s at stake in this election as you compare and contrast, and what are your top priority items for a second term?” This is as standard a question as a sitting president can get — why should we give you another four years, and compare yourself to your opponent.
HERE IS HOW TRUMP RESPONDED: “Well, one of the things that will be really great, you know, the word experience is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. I’ve always said that. But the word experience is a very important word. It’s a very important meaning. I never did this before — I never slept over in Washington. I was in Washington I think 17 times, all of the sudden, I’m the president of the United States. You know the story, I’m riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our first lady and I say, ‘This is great.’ But I didn’t know very many people in Washington, it wasn’t my thing.
“I WAS FROM MANHATTAN, from New York. Now I know everybody. And I have great people in the administration. You make some mistakes, like you know an idiot like Bolton, all he wanted to do is drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to kill people.”
DOES TRUMP have any idea why he wants another term in office? The crux of this answer is that he knows people in D.C. now — as in, the first four years were practice? Huh?
— WSJ ED BOARD: “The Trump Referendum”: “As of now Mr. Trump has no second-term agenda, or even a message beyond four more years of himself. His recent events in Tulsa and Arizona were dominated by personal grievances. He resorted to his familiar themes from 2016 like reducing immigration and denouncing the press, but he offered nothing for those who aren’t already persuaded.
“Mr. Trump’s advisers have an agenda that would speak to opportunity for Americans of all races—school choice for K-12, vocational education as an alternative to college, expanded health-care choice, building on the opportunity zones in tax reform, and more. The one issue on which voters now give him an edge over Mr. Biden is the economy. An agenda to revive the economy after the pandemic, and restore the gains for workers of his first three years, would appeal to millions.
“Perhaps Mr. Trump lacks the self-awareness and discipline to make this case. He may be so thrown off by his falling polls that he simply can’t do it. If that’s true he should understand that he is headed for a defeat that will reward all of those who schemed against him in 2016. Worse, he will have let down the 63 million Americans who sent him to the White House by losing, of all people, to ‘Sleepy Joe.’”
TOP TALKER … NYT, A1: “Inside Barr’s Effort to Undermine Prosecutors in N.Y.,” by Benjamin Weiser, Ben Protess, Katie Benner and William Rashbaum: “Shortly after he became attorney general last year, William P. Barr set out to challenge a signature criminal case that touched President Trump’s inner circle directly, and even the president’s own actions: the prosecution of Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer.
“The debate between Mr. Barr and the federal prosecutors who brought the case against Mr. Cohen was one of the first signs of a tense relationship that culminated last weekend in the abrupt ouster of Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney in Manhattan. It also foreshadowed Mr. Barr’s intervention in the prosecutions of other associates of Mr. Trump. …
“Mr. Barr spent weeks in the spring of 2019 questioning the prosecutors over their decision to charge Mr. Cohen with violating campaign finance laws, according to people briefed on the matter.
“At one point during the discussions, Mr. Barr instructed Justice Department officials in Washington to draft a memo outlining legal arguments that could have raised questions about Mr. Cohen’s conviction and undercut similar prosecutions in the future, according to the people briefed on the matter. The prosecutors in New York resisted the effort, the people said, and a Justice Department official said Mr. Barr did not instruct them to withdraw the case.”
BARR to NPR’s STEVE INSKEEP on why he canned BERMAN: “Geoffrey Berman was interim. He was appointed by the court as a temporary U.S. attorney holding the fort. He was living on borrowed time from the beginning. And when a really strong, powerful candidate raised his hand, that is Jay Clayton, currently the chairman of the S.E.C., a prominent New York lawyer from Sullivan and Cromwell, and, well, very well-known and highly regarded and independent.
“And he said that he was prepared to leave the government, was going back up, wanted to go back up to New York, but very much would desire this job. I view that as an opportunity to put in a very strong person as a presidential appointment to that office.”
DRIVING TODAY: The House will vote on D.C. statehood — sorry, we said it was Thursday! … Speaker NANCY PELOSI’S presser is 10:45 a.m.
CUE THE MOOD MUSIC: WASHINGTON SUCKS — “Amid national crisis on police brutality and racism, Congress flails,” by John Bresnahan, Sarah Ferris, Heather Caygle and Marianne LeVine: “As the United States faces its biggest crisis over civil rights in decades, Congress is poised to do nothing. Again.
“What could have been a searing, soul-searching moment where America’s political leaders helped establish a new national accord on race and the role of police in society has instead devolved into a frenzy of political posturing, campaign sloganeering and ugly partisan fights.
“The House on Thursday passed a sweeping police reform bill that would ban chokeholds, end the use of ‘no-knock’ warrants, create a national registry for officers accused of misconduct, and make it easier to prosecute officers. Yet Democrats picked up only a few GOP votes, guaranteeing the proposal has no chance of moving in the Senate.
“And the Senate can’t even agree to begin debate on a police reform bill, with Democrats blocking efforts to take up a proposal drafted by Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), one of only two Black Republicans on Capitol Hill. ‘It’s really unfortunate,’ Scott said. ‘You’d like to think that we’re all willing to get together on something as consequential as police reform in a moment like this.’” POLITICO
THE WHITE HOUSE spent much of Thursday on Capitol Hill, trying to convince Republicans to vote against the House Dem bill. Three Republicans gave the administration the middle finger: Reps. Will Hurd (Texas), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) and Fred Upton (Mich.). There was healthy division inside the White House about the decision to weigh in against the Dem bill — and this is exactly why. It shows the limits of the administration’s power.
BEHIND THE SCENES — “Police Groups Wield Strong Influence in Congress, Resisting the Strictest Reforms,” by NYT’s Luke Broadwater and Catie Edmondson: “As Americans were clamoring in the streets last week to defund the police and as Democrats in Congress were drafting legislation to make it easier to track and prosecute officer misconduct, Larry Cosme, a leader of the police lobby, was at the White House making a direct appeal to some of President Trump’s top advisers against some of the most consequential reforms.
“At a meeting in the State Dining Room that included Mr. Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, Mr. Cosme and about two dozen others listened as families of victims of police violence spoke emotionally of the need for a different approach, and pledged that they were ready to make some changes.
“But afterward, Mr. Cosme, the president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, pulled aside Mr. Scott, who was putting the finishing touches on Republicans’ policing bill, and Mr. Barr to push back against two of the most aggressive ideas under consideration: peeling back qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that shields police officers from lawsuits, and building a national database of civilian complaints against them.
“He left the meeting unworried. ‘Attorney General Barr assured us it wouldn’t go that far,’ Mr. Cosme recalled.” NYT
RYAN LIZZA and LAURA BARRÓN-LÓPEZ: “Why Joe Biden is Keeping the Black Lives Matter Movement at Arm’s Length”
CORONAVIRUS RAGING …
— BIG PICTURE … BURGESS EVERETT: “Coronavirus spike rattles Senate Republicans”: “As coronavirus cases spike across the country, President Donald Trump and his top officials say everything is mostly under control. But Senate Republicans are pressing them to show a little urgency.
“The latest outbreaks are also reshaping the GOP’s political and legislative strategy, with Republicans planning to focus more on health care in the next coronavirus relief bill. And they’re flashing rare frustration at the Trump administration for its decision to wind down federally supported testing sites.
“‘Frankly I didn’t really understand what they were thinking. … At a time cases are spiking, we’re gonna pull back?’ said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who wrote a letter to the administration along with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) urging them to change course. He predicted a reversal: ‘I’d be surprised if there’s a good reason not to continue it.’
“Meanwhile Trump is still downplaying the virus’ impact, questioning the value of testing and ridiculing the idea of wearing a mask despite holding large-scale campaign rallies. While touring an auto plant last month in Michigan, Trump rejected using a mask, saying it was ‘not necessary.’ But mask-wearing has become virtually ubiquitous among GOP senators and some are now urging Trump to set an example by wearing a face covering, which medical experts say helps slow the spread of the virus.
“‘We’re going to be required to wear it. … I think he should be leading that effort, yeah,’ said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). ‘Should he be wearing a mask? In certain situations, yes.’”
— NYT: “Texas Pauses Reopening as Virus Cases Soar Across the South and West,” by Manny Fernandez in Houston and Sarah Mervosh in Pittsburgh: “Just 55 days after reopening Texas restaurants and other businesses, Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday hit the pause button, stopping additional phases of the state’s reopening as new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations soared and as the governor struggled to pull off the seemingly impossible task of keeping both the state open and the virus under control.
“The announcement by Mr. Abbott — which allows the many shopping malls, restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses already open to continue operating — was an abrupt turnaround and came as a growing number of states paused reopenings amid rising case counts.
“The latest developments call into question any suggestion that the worst of the pandemic has passed in the United States, as rising outbreaks in the South and the West threaten to upend months of social distancing meant to help keep the virus at bay.
“The nation recorded a new high point with 36,975 new cases on Wednesday, nearly two months after many states began to reopen with the hope of salvaging the economy and the livelihoods of millions of Americans. Alabama, Missouri, Montana and Utah all hit new daily case records on Thursday.”
— BIDEN told KDKA in Pittsburgh he would force Americans to wear masks.
— THIS SEEMS BAD … WAPO: “CDC chief says coronavirus cases may be 10 times higher than reported,” by Lena Sun and Joel Achenbach: “The number of people in the United States who have been infected with the coronavirus is likely to be 10 times as high as the 2.4 million confirmed cases, based on antibody tests, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. CDC Director Robert Redfield’s estimate, shared with reporters in a conference call, indicates that at least 24 million Americans have been infected so far.”
— TOTAL reported cases of coronavirus in the U.S.: 2.37 million; death toll: 121,809.
MEANWHILE — “Trump sidesteps grim coronavirus surge to sell a happier message,” by Nancy Cook: “Top political officials in Florida, Arizona, Texas and numerous other states are grappling with a rapid surge in coronavirus cases, facing the threat of an out-of-control outbreak that washes over their citizens and overwhelms their health care systems.
“Top political officials in the White House say it’s business as usual from their perspective. President Donald Trump and his top aides sought Thursday to minimize the threat of the coronavirus to the public’s health and the U.S. economy despite alarms blaring across two dozen states — including many overseen by Trump-friendly leaders.
“Aides insisted there would be no change in White House strategy to fight the pandemic, and no additional money or new resources given to states dealing with spikes in cases.” POLITICO
WHO WOULD’VE THUNK … BLOOMBERG: “Lobbyist Jack Abramoff Charged in Crypto-Currency Case, U.S. Says,” by Joel Rosenblatt: “Jack Abramoff, the onetime Washington insider who went to prison in a lobbying scandal, was charged by the U.S. with illegally lobbying for a fraudulent cryptocurrency project.
“Abramoff has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act and faces as long as five years in prison, according to a court filing and U.S. Attorney David Anderson in San Francisco. …
“The two men claimed the security was an improvement on the original Bitcoin because it had encoded security features, including to prevent money laundering, according to the SEC’s complaint against Abramoff. They raised at least $5.6 million from about 2,400 investors, mostly in the U.S., from August 2017 through December 2018, the SEC said. The agency separately sued Andrade and NAC. …
“In June 2017, Abramoff arranged through a person who turned out to an undercover FBI agent to lobby a member of Congress for a legislative measure, but decided not to register as a lobbyist with the Secretary of State and House of Representatives out of concern it would have a negative impact on his client, according to a plea agreement filed in court. Abramoff agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of the plea.”
INTERESTING 2020 PLAY — “Trump administration asks Supreme Court to overturn Obamacare,” by Susannah Luthi: “The Trump administration on Thursday night urged the Supreme Court to strike down Obamacare, pushing forward with its attack on the health care law as millions of newly jobless Americans may come to depend on its coverage.
“The Justice Department in a new legal brief argues Obamacare in its entirety became invalid when the previous Republican-led Congress axed the unpopular individual mandate penalty for uninsured people. The filing comes weeks after President Donald Trump confirmed his administration would continue to press for Obamacare’s elimination, ignoring warnings from top aides about the risk of voter backlash in November.
“‘No further analysis is necessary; once the individual mandate and the guaranteed-issue and community-rating provisions are invalidated, the remainder of the ACA cannot survive,’ the Justice Department stated.” The government’s filing
— DEMOCRATS would love nothing more than to run against Republicans wanting to cut Americans’ health care benefits in the 2020 election. WaPo’s Matt Viser and Amy Goldstein on how Biden is already on the attack over Obamacare
TRUMP’S FRIDAY — The president will deliver remarks at the American Workforce Policy Advisory board meeting at 2:40 p.m. in the East Room. Ivanka Trump is chairing the meeting. At 3:15 p.m., Trump will depart the White House en route to Morristown, N.J. He will arrive at Bedminster at 4:50 p.m.
TV TONIGHT … PBS’ “Washington Week” with Bob Costa: Abby Phillip, Kasie Hunt, Dan Balz and Jonathan Lemire.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
“State of the Union”: John Bolton.
“Meet the Press”: John Bolton. Panel: Eddie Glaude Jr., Hugh Hewitt and Kasie Hunt.
“This Week”: Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Panel: Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, Sara Fagen and Yvette Simpson.
“Fox News Sunday”: Tom Frieden. Panel: Marc Thiessen, Gillian Turner and Mo Elleithee. Power Player of the Week: Lonnie Bunch.
“Face the Nation”: Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) … Scott Gottlieb.
“America This Week with Eric Bolling”: Raz Simone … Kellyanne Conway … Peter Navarro … Rudy Giuliani … Ja’Ron Smith … Tim Murtaugh. Panel: Ameshia Cross and Sebastian Gorka.
“Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren”: Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.).
JOSH GERSTEIN and KYLE CHENEY: “Feds: Delay in Roger Stone sentence is following coronavirus-era policy”: “The Justice Department won’t oppose a bid by Roger Stone, the longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, to delay an upcoming prison sentence until September, federal prosecutors said in a court filing Thursday night, citing department-wide policies implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“‘Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is currently the U.S. Department of Justice’s policy … to not oppose a defendant’s request to extend a voluntary surrender date for up to 60 days, unless the defendant poses an immediate public safety or flight risk,’ the U.S. attorney’s office for Washington D.C., said in a late-night filing. ‘For that reason—and that reason only—the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia does not oppose defendant Roger J. Stone’s request to extend his voluntary surrender date for up to 60 days.’” POLITICO
PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — “Protesters denounce Abraham Lincoln statue in D.C., urge removal of Emancipation Memorial,” by WaPo’s Hannah Natanson, Joe Heim, Michael Miller and Peter Jamison: “Police in the nation’s capital were bracing Thursday night for protesters who planned to denounce and urge the removal of a statue of Abraham Lincoln, paid for by people who had been enslaved, that celebrates emancipation and depicts the president standing over a kneeling African American man.
“Federal and D.C. law enforcement patrolled and erected barriers earlier in the day around the Emancipation Memorial, which stands in Lincoln Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Protesters had announced plans to gather at the statue both Thursday and Friday nights, though it was unclear whether they would seek to topple it or simply rally in favor of a more orderly removal.
“D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) argued for the latter approach at a news conference Thursday, saying the city should debate the fates of statues and ‘not have a mob decide they want to pull it down.’ On Monday, police broke up an effort to tear down a statue of President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square.” WaPo
BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “Oakland moves to bar police from schools as bigger cities reject change,” by The Guardian’s Lois Beckett: “A growing movement to get police officers out of US schools saw a major victory this week when Oakland’s school board voted to eliminate the school district’s dedicated police department. But in Chicago and Los Angeles, despite protests by youth activists, support from teachers’ unions, and an outpouring of public support, school boards voted to keep police in public schools, at least for now.” Guardian
DAVID HERSZENHORN: “Pompeo says U.S. ready to team up on China, but EU eyes a post-Trump world”: “Donald Trump is finally ready to join forces with the EU against China — but his offer to link arms comes just as many European leaders are hoping U.S. voters will soon ditch the president, and after three years in which trust in Washington has all but evaporated.
“U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday unexpectedly declared that the U.S. had accepted a proposal to create a new U.S.-EU dialogue on China that was put forward last week by the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, during a videoconference.
“Pompeo, in a speech to the Brussels Forum, an annual event held by the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., laid out a litany of complaints and grievances with Beijing, referring repeatedly to ‘the threat of the Communist Party in China’ and hammering especially hard on allegations that China covered up information about the outbreak of the coronavirus.” POLITICO
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].
TRANSITIONS — Aharon Friedman is now senior adviser to the assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy. He previously was senior Republican tax counsel for the House Ways & Means Committee. … John “Wolf” Wagner has been detailed to the FDA to work on comms as a senior adviser. He most recently was principal deputy assistant secretary at the VA.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Rachel Gantz, comms director for the National Pork Producers Council. What she’s been reading: “I just finished ‘Notes from a Young Black Chef’ by Kwame Onwuachi. I didn’t know much about him beyond the headlines. It’s a beautiful, painful and insightful read about his experiences in New York City, Nigeria, Louisiana and Washington, D.C., addressing racial and economic inequality in the culinary world. It’s an honest and frankly overdue conversation that deserves attention.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Chuck Robb is 81 … WaPo’s Juliet Eilperin … Emily McBride, director of agency outreach for the Office of Cabinet Affairs in the White House … Elizabeth Wilner, director of global narrative and data at Airbnb … Kathleen Falk (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … POLITICO’s Scott Bland … WSJ’s Mike Bender and Louise Radnofsky … Dave Brown, director at Brunswick Group … Mark Kadesh (h/t Jon Haber) … Adam Goers … Bloomberg’s Emma Kinery … Oubai Shahbandar … Jon McHenry … Mark Ritacco … Betsy Goldin … former Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie is 82 … Emmalee Kalmbach, deputy comms director for Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) … Rutgers’ Ross Baker is 82 … Mickey Leibner, associate at Mayer Brown … Joe Durheim … Lucy Silver … NYT’s Daniel Victor … Philip Lajaunie …
… Matthew Fery, COS to Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) (h/t Mitchell Rivard) … Robert Siegel is 73 … Trevor Cornwell, president of government affairs at Merit (h/t Chris Lapetina) … Icelandic President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson is 52 … Haitian President Jovenel Moise is 52 … Carly Hagan, PR manager for the Washington Examiner, is 24 (h/ts Alex Rosenwald and Nihal Krishan) … Chris Weideman, general counsel at Apollo Global Management … WME’s Mark McGrath is 31 … Elizabeth Pipko … Strauss Zelnick is 63 … Robert E. Levin … Ross Feinstein, director of operations comms at American Airlines … Judy Havemann … Alex Hayden DiLalla of Global Citizen … Graeme Zielinski … Julie Norton … Alan Solow is 66 … Elisabeth Cholnoky … Joannie Braden … Jan Burmeister … Preeya Noronha Pinto, partner at King & Spalding