Playbook scoop: Trump-aligned political group spending 1M to push red-state Dems to back Haspel

 In Politics

NEW … END OF AN ERA … BOB BAUER, long-time top Democratic political law expert, is leaving Perkins Coie. He has been with the law firm for more than 35 years. The former White House Counsel to President Barack Obama plans to do more teaching at the New York University School of Law and continue his writing and speaking about constitutional law, legal ethics and political reform. He will still continue to represent a number of clients as a solo practitioner and will co-counsel with Perkins Coie for some of those clients.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK … AMERICA FIRST POLICIES, the political group designed to boost President Donald Trump’s policies, is spending nearly $1 million on TV and digital ads to try to pressure Democratic senators to vote to confirm Gina Haspel as CIA director.

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THE SENATORS that are being targeted are CLAIRE MCCASKILL in Missouri, HEIDI HEITKAMP in North Dakota and DOUG JONES in Alabama — all senators from red states. They were going to go up in Indiana, but Joe Donnelly announced he would vote for Haspel’s nomination.

THE AD SCRIPT: “ISIS, al Qaeda, foreign adversaries. To combat America’s enemies, we need proven leadership at the CIA. That’s why President Trump nominated Gina Haspel, a decorated intelligence officer admired by allies around the globe. With bipartisan support, Gina Haspel is the leader our clandestine service needs. Because she has the experience to defend America in a dangerous world. Call Senator McCaskill, tell her to support Gina Haspel for CIA director.” The 30-second spot

THE GROUP is estimating it will spend $255,850 on TV, digital and phone calls in North Dakota (Bismarck and Fargo markets) … $314,000 in Alabama (Birmingham and Huntsville) … and $364,500 in Missouri (St. Louis and Kansas City.)

BRIAN O. WALSH, the president of America First Policies: “At this point, Senators Heitkamp, McCaskill and Jones can join their bipartisan colleagues in supporting Gina Haspel, a qualified nominee that will put America’s security first, or side with 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in opposing her.”

MORE SPENDING IN W.VA … SENATE MAJORITY PAC just disclosed $492,700 on a media buy in West Virginia to boost Joe Manchin. They’ve spent $2.3 million there already.

Good Tuesday morning. The New York Yankees come to town for a two-game set against the Nationals. The first game is tonight at 7:05 p.m. It’s supposed to rain all week — let’s hope they can get these games in. Nats have won eight of their last 10 games.

AND HAPPY PRIMARY DAY — “POLITICO’s guide to Tuesday’s primary elections,” by Steven Shepard, Elena Schneider, and Daniel Strauss:

MUST READ … ALEX ISENSTADT in Fenton, Missouri: “GOP golden boy mails it in”: “As GOP Rep. Ann Wagner prepared to introduce candidates in a Republican Senate debate here Friday, she took a pointed jab at one contender who didn’t make it — front-runner Josh Hawley.

“‘I try not to tell candidates how to run their races. I don’t know where some of the other candidates are,’ she told POLITICO before taking the stage in a high school auditorium, referring specifically to Hawley. ‘Perhaps they have conflicts. But you gotta show up to win. And I’m going to tell that to the crowd tonight.’

“Moments later, Wagner followed through, declaring to the raucous applause of Republican voters on hand that ‘showing up matters.’ The scene encapsulated widespread concerns about Hawley. Star-struck Senate Republican leaders anointed the 38-year-old, Stanford-and-Yale educated state attorney general as their top recruit of 2018 – a squeaky-clean figure they saw as the future of the party and an ideal opponent to take on the endangered Democratic incumbent, Sen. Claire McCaskill.

“Yet as the campaign season kicks into high gear, many Republicans worry that Hawley — who openly admits he had no intention of running for Senate until he was pressured into it — is squandering his shot.”

TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN? — “Trump puts Pence in a corner,” by Matt Nussbaum: “President Donald Trump wasn’t planning to attend the recent [NRA] convention – that is, until he learned that Vice President Mike Pence would be giving the keynote address. That led to a change of plans in the West Wing, according to two people familiar with the arrangement, and nearly a week after the NRA announced Pence would speak, the president was added to the schedule to speak moments after Pence.

“It wasn’t the first time Trump has changed his plans to one-up the veep. It was originally Pence, not Trump, who planned to travel to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But upon seeing who else would be attending, Trump decided to make the trip himself instead, bumping Pence off the schedule, according to a person familiar with the matter. A White House official said that neither scheduling decision was based on the vice president’s plans.”

— V.P. MIKE PENCE is headlining a fundraiser Friday in Indianapolis honoring Mike Braun, the GOP candidate for the Senate in Indiana; Josh Hawley, the GOP senate candidate in Missouri and Rep. Jim Renacci, who won the primary to run against Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio. For $25,000, you’ll get a spot at a roundtable, a photo with Pence and four tickets to the reception.

— CHAIRMEN OF THE FUNDRAISER: David Bockorny, Bob Grand, John Hammond, Danny Huston, Jeff Miller, Marty Obst and Victor Smith. HOSTS include August Busch III, Ambassador Sam Fox, Majida Mourad, and Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield.


NYT JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF DAVID HALBFINGER: “Death in Gaza, New Embassy in Jerusalem, and Peace as Distant as Ever”: “Across the Gaza Strip on Monday morning, loudspeakers on minarets urged Palestinians to rush the fence bordering Israel, where they were met by army snipers. At least 58 were killed and thousands injured, local officials said — the worst day of carnage there since Israel invaded Gaza in 2014.

“Hours later, a beaming Ivanka Trump helped unveil a stone marker etched with her father’s name on the new American Embassy in Jerusalem, keeping his campaign promise to officially acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. An audience of 800 religious conservatives and right-wing politicians from both countries sang Hallelujah.’

“‘What a glorious day,’ exulted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two scenes, only an hour’s drive apart, illustrated the chasm dividing Israelis and Palestinians more than at any moment in recent history.”

— Michelle Kosinski (@MichLKosinski): “When we asked SecState Pompeo if he had anything to say – anything — on the violence in Israel right now… he turned his back, and walked away.”

SPOTTED AT THE DAVID CITADEL HOTEL IN JERUSALEM at a reception hosted by Christians United for Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition following the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. Embassy: U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Joe Lieberman, Sheldon Adelson, Jason Greenblatt, Alan Dershowitz, Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), Tom Rice (R-S.C.), Steve Knight (R-Calif.), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Scott Taylor (R-Va.) George Holding (R-N.C.), Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), Mario Diaz Balart (R-Fla.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Mike Huckabee, Michael Oren, Daniel Ayalon, Israeli Ministers Naftali Bennett, Haim Katz, Ze’ev Elkin and Yuval Steinitz, Gregg Roman, Josh Block, Mark Levin, Ralph Reed and Jay Sekulow.

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FOR YOUR RADAR — “As U.S. Demands Nuclear Disarmament, It Moves to Expand Its Own Arsenal,” by NYT’s David E. Sanger and William J. Broad: “For the White House, these have been dramatic days for nuclear disarmament: First President Trump exited the Iran deal, demanding that Tehran sign a new agreement that forever cuts off its path to making a bomb, then the administration announced a first-ever meeting with the leader of North Korea about ridding his nation of nuclear weapons.

“But for the American arsenal, the initiatives are all going in the opposite direction, with a series of little-noticed announcements to spend billions of dollars building the factories needed to rejuvenate and expand America’s nuclear capacity. The contrast has been striking. On Thursday evening, hours after Mr. Trump announced that his meeting with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, would take place on June 12 in Singapore, the Pentagon and the Energy Department announced plans to begin building critical components for next-generation nuclear weapons at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.”

THE STORY THAT THE W.H. REFUSES TO STOP — “Senate GOP chides Trump over McCain treatment,” by Burgess Everett and Eliana Johnson: “Senate Republicans are openly seething over the White House’s treatment of John McCain, casting a pall over the party ahead of a rare lunch with President Donald Trump the caucus is hosting on Tuesday.

“The White House’s refusal to apologize for an aide joking about the Arizona senator’s failing health is threatening to undermine what should be a feel-good moment for the caucus. ‘Just out of common decency they should apologize. And the person who said it should apologize. It’s wrong,’ said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

“With a potential deal with North Korea in the works, the economy humming and Trump following through on his vow to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, Republicans were feeling more upbeat about the administration than they had in months. But the morbid joke by communications aide Kelly Sadler last week, delivered at a staff meeting and promptly leaked to the press, made them wonder when the administration is going to start treating McCain with more respect.”

— SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL (@SenateMajLdr): “This weekend, I had the pleasure of traveling to the beautiful hills outside Sedona, Arizona and spending time with John and Cindy McCain on their back porch. I shared my gratitude — all of our gratitude — for his service and his sacrifice. … We all know John McCain doesn’t exactly have a relaxed bone in his body. He still had plenty to say about work, I assure you. He misses his colleagues. He misses the Senate. And we sure miss him.”

NEW WIRED COVER STORY — GARRETT GRAFF, “The Making of Robert Mueller: The untold story of the special counsel’s time in combat, and how it prepared him to take on the digital saboteurs of American democracy”: “[T]he face-off between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and President Donald Trump stands out, amid the black comedy of Trump’s Washington, as an epic tale of diverging American elites: a story of two men—born just two years apart, raised in similar wealthy backgrounds in Northeastern cities, both deeply influenced by their fathers, both star prep school athletes, both Ivy League educated—who now find themselves playing very different roles in a riveting national drama about political corruption and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

“The two men have lived their lives in pursuit of almost diametrically opposed goals—Mueller a life of patrician public service, Trump a life of private profit.”

THE INVESTIGATIONS – “Ukrainian politician behind controversial peace proposal to appear in Mueller probe,” by David Stern in Kiev and Josh Meyer: “A Ukrainian politician who communicated with Trump associates about a controversial plan to resolve Ukraine’s conflict with Kremlin-backed rebels said Monday that he has been called to testify before a grand jury connected to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“Andrii Artemenko said he could not provide details of his upcoming appearance before the grand jury, which he said is scheduled for Friday. But he said he assumed he would be asked about the peace plan, about which he communicated with Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, in early 2017.

“‘I received the subpoena last week,’ Artemenko told POLITICO by telephone, adding that he intended to comply with the request. He said he would appear in person.”

— “Michael Avenatti is using Trump tactics to battle Trump, a strategy that comes with risks,” by WaPo’s Emma Brown and Beth Reinhard: “To become one of Trump’s chief adversaries, Avenatti has carved a Trumpian path. He taunts his opponents. He uses Twitter to make explosive accusations. And he is omnipresent on cable news. Yet Avenatti’s tactics and visibility may carry risks that could undermine his ability to represent his client, who is suing longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen and the president to be released from a non-disclosure agreement.

“Scrutiny of his business record and of his motives has provided grist for distracting headlines in recent days. And his publication last week of Cohen’s banking history — hard-to-get information touching on some of the most sensitive issues before the White House — could jeopardize his ability to represent [Stormy] Daniels in court, some experts say.”

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