Playbook scoop: Elizabeth Warren goes after Kushner Companies loans

 In Politics

THIS SCOOP MIGHT IRK TRUMP — SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN IS GOING AFTER JARED’S COMPANY … The Massachusetts Democrat — along with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) — sent letters to Apollo and Citigroup, asking about loans to Kushner Companies. from just after Jared joined the White House.

— THE LETTER asks for the dates the loans were offered, conditions of the loan and a description of the process by which the Kushner Companies got the loans. It asks for ALL MEETINGS between the two firms and Kushner, and various details about those meetings. They request ALL DOCUMENTS from the loan process and whether any of the loans included foreign financing. The letter to Citibank http://politi.co/2FryVPW … The letter to Apollo http://politi.co/2IekyQz.

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A BREAKTHROUGH … TRUMP TO MEET WITH KIM JONG UN BY MAY! … WAPO’S ANNA FIFIELD in Tokyo, DAVID NAKAMURA and SEUNG MIN KIM: “Kim has also committed to stopping nuclear and missile testing, even during joint military drills in South Korea next month, Chung Eui-yong, the South Korean national security adviser, told reporters at the White House on Thursday. Chung extended the invitation from Kim to meet while briefing Trump on the four-hour dinner he had with the North ­Korean leader in Pyongyang on Monday.

“After a year in which North Korea fired intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching all of the United States and tested what is widely thought to have been a hydrogen bomb, such a moratorium would be welcomed by the United States and the world.

“But there is also significant risk for Trump in agreeing to a meeting apparently without the kind of firm preconditions sought by previous U.S. administrations. There has never been a face-to-face meeting, or even a phone call, between sitting leaders of the two nations because American presidents have been wary of offering the Kim regime the validation of a leaders-level summit on the global stage.” http://wapo.st/2Ib9q78

— ANALYSIS, by FT’s Bryan Harris in Seoul: “Who stands to gain: On the surface, it is a win-win situation for all leaders. Mr. Trump demonstrates that his signature foreign policy initiative is making headway. Mr. Kim garners domestic prestige and the international spotlight from meeting a U.S. president for the first time. [South Korean President Moon Jae-in] reaps the rewards of successful diplomacy and the benefits of reduced tension on the Korean peninsula, which months ago appeared close to conflict. Trouble may arise later, however, if talks begin to flounder.

“Likelihood of success: For Mr. Kim, simply hosting the meeting will count as a success as it will generate prestige and legitimacy for the reclusive regime. For the U.S. leader, the equation is more complex. Experts are sceptical that Pyongyang will genuinely give up its nuclear programme, which it views as a deterrent to US aggression.

“The regime may promise to do so but history shows it has a poor record of upholding such pledges. In 1994 it signed the Agreed Framework to freeze its plutonium weapons programme in exchange for aid. The deal collapsed in 2002 amid US intelligence revelations that the regime was secretly pursuing a uranium enrichment programme. In 2005 Pyongyang committed to de-nuclearisation following multilateral talks; it tested its first nuclear device the very next year.” http://on.ft.com/2DaF94x

— STEPBACK … PETER BAKER in the NYT, “Trump’s Meeting With Kim Jong-un Is Another Pledge to Do What Nobody Else Can”: “When the establishment told him he should talk with North Korea, President Trump scorned the idea. …

“Five months later, Mr. Trump cast aside his skepticism and agreed to talk to North Korea with no more promise of success at negotiating an end to its nuclear and missile programs than his predecessors had. The main difference this time around is who will do the talking for the United States: Donald J. Trump. Shocking and yet somehow not surprising, Mr. Trump’s decision to do what no other sitting president has done and meet in person with a North Korean leader reflects an audacious and supremely self-confident approach to international affairs.

“Whether it is Middle East peace or trade agreements, Mr. Trump has repeatedly claimed that he can achieve what has eluded every other occupant of his office through the force of his own personality. So far, he has little to show for that.

“He has yet to successfully negotiate any new trade deals or renegotiate any old ones. A resolution between Israel and the Palestinians, which he once said would be ‘maybe not as difficult as people have thought,’ looks more distant than when he came into office.

“Beyond threatening ‘fire and fury,’ he has offered no original formula that suggests a path to unlock the North Korea puzzle. But in his penchant for unpredictability, his willingness to shift at a moment’s notice and his sense that only he can make the important decisions, Mr. Trump may find a kindred spirit in the man who would sit across the table, Kim Jong-un of North Korea.” http://nyti.ms/2oUURg0

WHAT WASHINGTON THINKS … Last night we were pinging some Republican aides about this, and many of them were too shocked to render judgment. THE GOOD: Trump has given himself a chance to strike a deal with North Korea, a dangerous global actor that has bedeviled many administrations. It’s a stunning development

THE RISKY: Trump likes to rely on no one but himself, and with a rogue state like North Korea, that could be risky. One can definitely see the wisdom of cutting out the middleman and having Trump deal directly with Kim Jong Un — the first time a U.S. president has spoken directly with a North Korean leader. But, at the same time, experts might also be useful in this situation. North Korea resumed nuclear efforts after the last round of talks. In short, Trump has to make sure he doesn’t get taken for a ride.

THIS ISN’T LIKE GUNS OR HEALTH CARE or immigration, where Trump can say one thing, believe another and let the issue fade to the background. This is a rogue nuclear state. The entire planet will be watching these talks. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

THE THEATER OF THIS ANNOUNCEMENT, was, unsurprisingly, pretty amazing. South Korean officials — fresh off their historic talks with the North Koreans — made the announcement from the White House after talks with the president.

WE’RE NOT SAYING THIS WAS THE GOAL, but Trump knocked Stormy Daniels and GOP opposition to his tariff plan off the front burner.

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BUCKLE UP — @maggieNYT: “Trump reaching out more directly to reporters – a la popping into briefing room, working phones – is likely in the post-Hicks era”.

THE REVOLVING DOOR — “The big challenge for Cohn’s successor: Staying close to Trump,” by Nancy Cook and Ben White: “White House economic adviser Gary Cohn has one more thing he wants to do before he leaves his post: help Trump pick his successor.

“Behind the scenes, one candidate Cohn is pushing is his deputy director of domestic policy, Shahira Knight – a former Hill staffer and ex-lobbyist – to replace him as director of the National Economic Council, according to two people familiar with the discussions. As the NEC’s resident tax expert, she was integral to working with lawmakers to develop the historic tax legislation and has allies throughout the Hill and downtown. One Republican lobbyist said she had ‘the inside track if she wants it.’ Knight did not respond to a request for comment.” http://politi.co/2Fmnhdd

THE TARIFF NEWS … WHAT REPUBLICANS ARE SAYING BEHIND THE SCENES: Yeah, this tariff deal is no good. We don’t like it. But Speaker Paul Ryan worked behind the scenes to convince Trump to issue exemptions — and senior Hill Republicans believe there will be more exemptions and say they are to thank.

— HEADS UP: MANY REPUBLICANS told us last night that they believe the tariffs will be knocked down in court due to the loose use of a national security exemption.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is sending a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross asking for details about the analysis that went into deciding to enact steel and aluminum tariffs. http://politi.co/2G9O0Xv

2018 WATCH — ONLY IN PLAYBOOK … FROM ALEX ISENSTADT: TEXAS BILLIONAIRE ANDY BEAL has cut a $500,000 check to a super PAC supporting Arizona Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward. The donation makes Beal, a banker and poker player, the single biggest contributor to Kelli PAC this cycle. Ward, a firebrand conservative, is running in the primary against former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and establishment-aligned Rep. Martha McSally.

— HELLER THE FORTUNE TELLER — “The endangered GOP senator who thinks Justice Kennedy could save him,” by Burgess Everett: “Dean Heller knows he’s the most vulnerable Republican senator in the country. But he thinks Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy might just help him hang on to his seat. ‘Kennedy is going to retire around sometime early summer,’ Heller predicted in Las Vegas last week, according to audio of an event he spoke at that was obtained by POLITICO. ‘Which I’m hoping will get our base a little motivated because right now they’re not very motivated. But I think a new Supreme Court justice will get them motivated.’

“The 45-minute recording of the media-shy Heller shows a senator defending President Donald Trump repeatedly, breaking only delicately with the president on issues like trade and gun control. It’s in line with the tightrope Heller has to walk to have any hope of winning reelection against a Trump-inspired Republican primary opponent and a highly touted Democratic general election challenger — in a state that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.” http://politi.co/2G8le9t

CAN’T STOP, WON’T STOP — “Obama in Talks to Provide Shows for Netflix,” by NYT’s Mike Shear, Katie Benner and John Koblin: “Former President Barack Obama is in advanced negotiations with Netflix to produce a series of high-profile shows that will provide him a global platform after his departure from the White House, according to people familiar with the discussions. Under terms of a proposed deal, which is not yet final, Netflix would pay Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, for exclusive content that would be available only on the streaming service, which has nearly 118 million subscribers around the world.

“The number of episodes and the formats for the shows have not been decided. Mr. Obama does not intend to use his Netflix shows to directly respond to President Trump or conservative critics, according to people familiar with discussions about the programming. They said the Obamas had talked about producing shows that highlight inspirational stories.” http://nyti.ms/2G8bHPV

THE LUXE ADMINISTRATION — “Interior spending $139K to fix doors in Sec. Zinke’s office,” by AP’s Michael Biesecker and Matt Daly: Interior Secretary Ryan “Zinke was not aware of the contract for the work prior to a request about it from The Associated Press, spokeswoman Heather Swift said. The project was planned by career facilities and security officials as part of the decade-long modernization of the historic building erected in 1936 a few blocks from the White House, she said.

“‘The secretary was not aware of this contract but agrees that this is a lot of money for demo, install, materials and labor,’ Swift said Thursday in an emailed statement. ‘Between regulations that require historic preservation and outdated government procurement rules, the costs for everything from pencils to printing to doors is astronomical. This is a perfect example of why the secretary believes we need to reform procurement processes.’ The current door from a hallway to the secretary’s sixth-floor office does not lock, so a security upgrade is needed, Swift said.” http://bit.ly/2Ft9sWm

— @SopanDeb: “this is such poor context-less reporting. The AP leaves out that the door leads to another dimension.”

SOMETHING TO WATCH — “Trump threatens veto over Gateway tunnel funding,” by John Bresnahan, Burgess Everett and Eliana Johnson: “President Donald Trump has threatened to veto a massive omnibus spending package if it includes money for the Gateway tunnel project in New York City, according to multiple sources. Trump’s threat has complicated the outlook for the $1 trillion-plus spending measure, which Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) want to pass before government funding runs out on March 23.

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