Playbook: Trump flubs endorsement of N.Y. congressman

 In Politics

AT 4:46 P.M. yesterday afternoon, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP delivered REP. DAN DONOVAN (R-N.Y.) an endorsement the lawmaker had long been waiting for. Donovan is running against MICHAEL GRIMM, a former House Republican who was recently in prison. The district they’re running in is Staten Island and Brooklyn, a narrowly Republican swath of New York City that voted for Trump overwhelmingly. Grimm has positioned Donovan as insufficiently supportive of Trump’s legislative agenda. Needless to say, this is one of the districts in America where Trump could be helpful.

— TRUMP, on Twitter: “There is no one better to represent the people of N.Y. and Staten Island (a place I know very well) than @RepDanDonovan, who is strong on Borders & Crime, loves our Military & our Vets, voted for Tax Cuts and is helping me to Make America Great Again. Dan has my full endorsement! … Very importantly, @RepDanDonovan will win for the Republicans in November…and his opponent will not. Remember Alabama. We can’t take any chances on losing to a Nancy Pelosi controlled Democrat!”

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THERE’S ONLY ONE PROBLEM. Donovan voted against the tax-cut bill. He voted against it three times. He voted against it in every incarnation. The only material reason Trump gave to support Donovan was incorrect. Not only did Donovan vote against it, he was vocally opposed to it. He called it a “tax hike on the people I represent.”

AN UNFORCED ERROR — and an embarrassing one at that for the leader of the Republican Party. YA GOTTA WONDER: What is going on in the White House? It’s tough to think of a mistake easier to avoid than whether a lawmaker voted for the largest legislative achievement of the past two years.

Good Thursday morning. The Washington Capitals tied the Stanley Cup finals, beating the Las Vegas Golden Knights in Nevada. The series moves home Saturday night. The Washington Nationals are the winners of six straight, and are in first place.

BIG NEWS ON THE TRADE FRONT — “Trump readies to hit U.S. allies with steel, aluminum tariffs,” by Megan Cassella and Ben White: “President Donald Trump is preparing to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union as soon as Friday, but conversations with his top advisers are still ongoing, a senior administration official said late Wednesday.

“The decision could be made final Thursday, and the official put the odds of the U.S. imposing tariffs on all three close trading partners at 75 percent. But the official added that a meeting Thursday morning could change that decision or slow it down. Any official document released by the White House is expected to include language saying that all decisions are subject to further negotiation, the official said, which leaves open the possibility that the countries could have some wiggle room to avoid the duties.”

— REMEMBER: The clock is ticking. Trump’s temporary exemption for Canada, Mexico and the EU is set to expire at midnight.

ANNIE KARNI: “Email snafu reveals White House outreach to Obama and Clinton alumni”: “President Donald Trump is better known for speaking directly to his base than trying to win over his critics.

“But when it comes to selling Trump’s Iran strategy and other foreign policy initiatives, the White House has been blasting out its talking points to an uncharacteristically inclusive list of foreign policy heavyweights – including former Obama administration officials, advisers to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and critics who have publicly accused Trump of being, across the board, ‘bad at playing president.’

“An unusual peek at the White House list of ‘influencers’ came courtesy of communications aide Kelly Sadler, who failed to blind-copy recipients in a May 22 email blast highlighting the administration’s new Iran strategy. The email, reviewed by POLITICO, suggested to its recipients ways to amplify the White House’s message and show support.”

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— NYT’S MATT APUZZO, ADAM GOLDMAN and MIKE SCHMIDT: “F.B.I. Official Wrote Secret Memo Fearing Trump Got a Cover Story for Comey Firing”: “The former acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, wrote a confidential memo last spring recounting a conversation that offered significant behind-the-scenes details on the firing of Mr. McCabe’s predecessor, James B. Comey, according to several people familiar with the discussion.

“In the document, whose contents have not been previously reported, Mr. McCabe described a conversation at the Justice Department with the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, in the chaotic days last May after Mr. Comey’s abrupt firing. Mr. Rosenstein played a key role in the dismissal, writing a memo that rebuked Mr. Comey over his handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton.

“But in the meeting at the Justice Department, Mr. Rosenstein added a new detail: He said the president had originally asked him to reference Russia in his memo, the people familiar with the conversation said. Mr. Rosenstein did not elaborate on what Mr. Trump had wanted him to say. To Mr. McCabe, that seemed like possible evidence that Mr. Comey’s firing was actually related to the F.B.I.’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and that Mr. Rosenstein helped provide a cover story by writing about the Clinton investigation.”

— NBC NEWS’ KELLY O’DONNELL — (@KellyO): “NEW: Rudy Giuliani tells me he is doing question and answer prep sessions regarding special counsel probe with the president in the evenings this week.”

— CNN’S “MOSCOW” MANU RAJU and JEREMY HERB: “Key Senate panel still divided on Trump-Russia collusion along partisan lines”: “The Senate Intelligence Committee remains deeply divided over whether there is evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia after a year-long investigation, the latest sign that Congress is unlikely to find consensus over a key question surrounding the 2016 elections.

“Republicans on the panel maintain they’ve seen no evidence of collusion, while Democrats say it’s clear that the Russians had found willing partners in the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 race. ‘There was clearly an intent to collude,’ said Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden. Asked if he believes there’s evidence to support the notion of collusion, GOP Sen. Roy Blunt said: ‘Not that I’ve seen.’

“Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine agreed. ‘Our investigation is not complete, but to this date and time I have not,’ Collins said when asked if she’d seen evidence of collusion. Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said that the committee has ‘a handful’ of witnesses remaining to interview. He was hopeful the interviews could be completed by June and the report itself could be done by Labor Day — but it’s unclear if the panel will be able to release an unclassified report before the midterms.”

— “Michael Avenatti Withdraws Bid To Appear Before Judge in Cohen Probe,” by WSJ’s Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Nicole Hong: “Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for former adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, withdrew a bid to participate in proceedings related to the criminal investigation into President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, shortly after other lawyers and a federal judge raised concerns in court about his behavior in the matter.

“Mr Avenatti withdrew his motion after U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood issued a stern warning, saying if she allowed him to participate in the case involving Michael Cohen, Mr. Avenatti would have to change his conduct and stop what she called his ‘publicity tour.’ ‘You will not be permitted to use this court as a platform for anything,’ Judge Wood said, adding that he wouldn’t be allowed to publicize private documents or to share his views of Mr. Cohen’s guilt—‘which you do,’ she said.”

— “Manafort allies launch defense fund,” by Josh Gerstein: “Self-described friends of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort are launching a defense fund to help pay the mounting legal bills he’s incurring as a result of two looming criminal cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

“A newly revealed website portrays the wealthy lobbyist and political consultant as struggling to cover his debts since prosecutors froze his bank accounts last year. ‘The Defense Fund is urging anyone who values civil liberties and wishes to show the ‘Deep State’ that they cannot exert their will on ordinary citizens, to join them in supporting the Manafort family as they grapple against the Special Counsel to clear their name,’ a statement announcing the fund said. ‘Special Counsel Mueller previously seized Manafort’s assets, effectively crippling his 6th amendment rights and leaving him and his family struggling to pay legal bills.’” … The fund’s website

PETER BAKER on BEN RHODES’ new book on A18 of the NYT: “How Trump’s Election Shook Obama: ‘What if We Were Wrong?’”: “Riding in a motorcade in Lima, Peru, shortly after the 2016 election, President Barack Obama was struggling to understand Donald J. Trump’s victory. ‘What if we were wrong?’ he asked aides riding with him in the armored presidential limousine.

“He had read a column asserting that liberals had forgotten how important identity was to people and had promoted an empty cosmopolitan globalism that made many feel left behind. ‘Maybe we pushed too far’ Mr. Obama said. ‘Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe.’ …

“The day Mr. Obama hosted Mr. Trump at the White House after the election seemed surreal. Mr. Trump kept steering the conversation back to the size of his rallies, noting that he and Mr. Obama could draw big crowds, but Mrs. Clinton could not, Mr. Rhodes writes” in “The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House,” out June 5. … $24 on Amazon

OUCH! — “Trump’s Net Worth Slides to $2.8 Billion, Lowest Since Campaign,” by Bloomberg’s Caleb Melby: “President Donald Trump’s net worth slipped to $2.8 billion, a decline of $100 million over the past year, as revenue at his namesake Fifth Avenue tower and golf courses fell.

“The drop, the second in two years, is based on figures compiled by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index from lenders, property records, annual reports, market data and a May 16 financial disclosure. It occurred as Trump began his second year in the White House and his name was stripped from buildings in Toronto, Manhattan and Panama.”


— ABC’S TARA PALMERI and CONNOR FINNEGAN: “Top U.S. diplomat for Asia on ropes ahead of North Korea summit”: “In one of his first major personnel moves as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo is expected to withdraw the nomination of Susan Thornton for Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, three sources with knowledge of the matter told ABC News.

“Thornton is a career Foreign Service officer with 20 years of experience in the region who has been the acting Assistant Secretary since March 2017. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was a fierce proponent of hers, battling China hawks in the administration and on Capitol Hill to get White House approval for her nomination in December.”

— A COMPLICATING FACTOR: “Taiwan event creates headaches for Trump amid North Korea talks,” by Andrew Restuccia: “As Trump administration officials scramble to pull off a high-stakes meeting with North Korea next month, they’re grappling with another diplomatic challenge in Asia: the opening of a new office building in Taiwan. Senior White House aides have for months been quietly weighing how to handle the June 12 opening of an office complex in Taipei that serves as a de facto U.S. embassy without enraging the Chinese government.

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