Playbook: Trump’s doctor and VA nominee faces problems on the Hill

 In Politics

CONFIRMATION WATCH — JACKSON ON THE RAILS … “Ronny Jackson’s VA nomination on the rocks,” by Burgess Everett and Elana Schor: “Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson’s nomination to be Veterans Affairs secretary may be in trouble, according to senators and aides in both parties.

“Republicans are considering postponing his confirmation hearing this week as senators pour over potentially new negative information that committee members have received, according to GOP sources familiar with the matter. And Senate Democrats are digging into his record after being made aware of potential new problems with the nomination. …

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“Republicans and Democrats alike have been talking over the weekend and in person on Monday about the potential for allegations to derail Jackson’s nomination, senators said. But the nature of discussions now going on about the material is ‘conversational,’ said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).”

— WAPO’S SEUNG MIN KIM, LISA REIN and JOSH DAWSEY: “In addition to Jackson’s lack of management experience, the former combat surgeon had come under fire for his glowing appraisal of Trump’s health following his annual physical in January. Jackson said then that the president might live to the age of 200 with a healthier diet. In recent days, fresh concerns arose about Jackson’s management of the White House medical office, said the officials, who declined to provide details.”

CBS’S STEVE DORSEY (@steve_dorsey): “Just In: 2 sources confirm to @nancycordes and @edokeefe Sen Vet Affairs Comm is reviewing allegations against Ronny Jackson which include a hostile work environment, excessive drinking on the job and improperly dispensing meds.” Story

— @jdawsey1: “There was no vetting on Ronny Jackson. No formal interview. No process. Now his nomination will be held up amid a probe into his behavior.”

REPUBLICANS have been wary of new Cabinet-level confirmation battles. Now they’ll have to deal with this Jackson situation, which looks like it could turn into a mess.

Good Tuesday morning. VOTERS in Arizona’s eighth congressional district will go to the polls to replace Republican Rep. Trent Franks. Republicans have been spending a fair amount of money to boost Debbie Lesko in an effort to ensure there isn’t another Democratic upset after their shocking losses in Pennsylvania and Alabama. Elena Schneider with more details on the race.

— ARIZONA REPUBLIC breaks it down: “It has been decades since Phoenix’s western suburbs have seen a congressional election with any real suspense.

“Since 1977, only two people — Bob Stump and Trent Franks — have represented the area in the U.S. House of Representatives. Because of the 8th Congressional District’s reputation as a Republican stronghold, Democrats haven’t even bothered to put a candidate on the ballot since 2012.

“On Tuesday, voting ends in the special election to replace Franks, the veteran House Republican who resigned in December amid a sexual-misconduct scandal. Republican Debbie Lesko is the favorite to replace him because of her party’s 17-percentage-point registration advantage in the district. But at a time when independents, and even some Republicans, nationally are increasingly wary of the GOP, Democrat Hiral Tipirneni has mounted a serious challenge to Lesko.”

TO BE CLEAR, this is a seat that Republicans should have no problem winning. Franks ran unopposed in his last two general election races and Trump won the district by 21 points.

TRAGEDY IN TORONTO … TORONTO STAR: “Sunny spring day turns to unforgettable tragedy as van driver kills 10 and injures 15”: “A curb-jumping Ryder van turned the first truly gorgeous spring day into a nightmare unlike anything Toronto has ever known Monday, cutting a high-speed swath through pedestrians along Yonge St., ending at least 10 lives and wounding at least 15 others. …

“By nightfall, online rumour, confusion and baseless conjecture gave way to little besides this one firm fact: a single suspect, Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, was in custody, police confirmed.”

ABOUT TONIGHT’S STATE DINNER … MATT NUSSBAUM sent a dispatch from the media preview of the State Dinner: “Guests will enter down a hallway lined with fresh-smelling, still-pink cherry blossoms, passing beneath portraits of Presidents Kennedy and Reagan and, fittingly, a bust of Marquis de Lafayette.

“Within the ornately decorated State Dining Room are 13 white-tableclothed round tables, with three candles and a bouquet of white flowers in the center of each. A small podium for the toast is set up next to the head table, which sits beneath a portrait of a contemplative-looking President Lincoln.” Pic of the menu … pic of the room

— WOW … NYT’s Katie Rogers: “Stephanie Grisham, Mrs. Trump’s communications director, was characteristically defensive on behalf of the first lady, saying the small team had learned to weather negative feedback as part of the job. ‘We’re probably not going to get the credit we deserve,’ she said in an interview. ‘But I know this team is great and she knows this team is great. We have not failed, and she has not failed.’”

AT 1600 PENNSYLVANIA — “Trump ramps up personal cell phone use,” by CNN’s Pamela Brown and Sarah Westwood in her first byline on “President Donald Trump is increasingly relying on his personal cell phone to contact outside advisers, multiple sources inside and outside the White House told CNN, as Trump returns to the free-wheeling mode of operation that characterized the earliest days of his administration. ‘He uses it a lot more often more recently,’ a senior White House official said of the President’s cell phone.

“Sources cited Trump’s stepped-up cell phone use as an example of chief of staff John Kelly’s waning influence over who gets access to the President. During the early days of Kelly’s tenure, multiple sources said, Trump made many of his calls from the White House switchboard — a tactic that allowed the chief of staff to receive a printed list of who Trump had phoned.”

****** A message from AARP: POLITICO AND AARP ANNOUNCE PARTNERSHIP: The 6-month partnership will launch this June with “The Deciders” editorial series focused on 50-plus voters and their impact on the 2018 midterms. Learn more. ******


— THE COUNTER NARRATIVE: JOSH GERSTEIN: “Flipping Cohen against Trump may not be so easy”: “Getting Michael Cohen to rat out President Donald Trump may not be as simple as it sounds. Although Trump’s detractors are rooting for Trump’s personal attorney to ‘flip’ on the president and cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller to escape a potentially harsh prison sentence, legal obstacles make it difficult for lawyers to expose their clients’ guarded secrets.

“Even if Cohen is determined to break his confidences with Trump, legal ethics might deter federal prosecutors from coaxing him to betray his professional confidences with Trump, legal veterans and experts say. ‘This idea of “flipping” Cohen—they can’t just flip a lawyer to testify against a client,’ longtime defense attorney Harvey Silverglate said. ‘Even if Cohen doesn’t know better, one would think the FBI and the prosecutors would know better.’

“Silverglate said not only Cohen but prosecutors could be disbarred for overstepping the well-established ethical boundaries.”

— “Trump’s false claims to Comey about Moscow stay could aid Mueller,” by Ben Schreckinger:

CHARLES KUSHNER SPEAKS — “Charles Kushner: ‘I pushed Jared to do the deal’ for 666 Fifth Ave.,” by CNN’s Cristina Alesci: “Jared Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, is shouldering the blame for the family’s highest-profile miscalculation. In 2007, Charles’s firm, Kushner Companies, paid a record $1.8 billion for a New York skyscraper at 666 Fifth Avenue. The purchase was meant to elevate the family’s business from its roots buying middle-income housing in the tri-state area. …

“‘I pushed Jared to do the deal,’ explained Charles, who said Jared expressed reservations about buying the office tower. In a wide-ranging interview with CNN at his company’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan, the elder Kushner didn’t mince words, calling the decision ‘bad timing and bad judgment.’ … The elder Kushner said he’s nearing a deal that will resolve questions about whether Kushner Companies keeps control of the gleaming office tower. …

“On the transition to the White House, Charles, who said he speaks to Jared every day, declined to say whether he advised Jared to take the job. ‘Jared thought he could make a positive impact. In the end, I gave him my blessing.’ Kushner Companies has made several adjustments since then.

“‘The question in our company today is not ‘what’s the best deal?’ said Charles Kushner recently in his office, which he has adorned with wall-to-wall pictures of his family. Among the photos of his parents, children and grandchildren is one of his daughter-in-law, Ivanka Trump, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. ‘We shy away from anything that could have a negative impact on Jared,’ the elder Kushner said.”


— “Pruitt support in Senate erodes as GOP lawmakers seek hearings,” by Anthony Adragna: “Scott Pruitt’s wall of GOP support developed some new cracks on Monday, with three key Senate defenders calling for hearings into the embattled EPA administrator’s recent controversies. The three, including staunch Pruitt ally Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla), all said they supported hearings by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to look into the former Oklahoma attorney general’s actions.

“‘I think that a couple of us on the committee think it’s appropriate to have a hearing in so far as any accusation having to do with his office is concerned,’ Inhofe told POLITICO. … Joining his call for a Senate hearing were two other senior GOP members of the EPW panel, Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and John Boozman (Ark.).”

— “White House Deterring Republicans From Defending Pruitt, Sources Say,” by Bloomberg’s Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Jennifer Jacobs: “White House officials are cautioning Republican lawmakers and other conservative allies to temper their defense of Scott Pruitt, according to two people familiar with the discussions, in a sign that administration support for the embattled EPA chief may be waning.

“Pruitt’s performance in front of two congressional committees this week could be key in determining how long he remains at the agency’s helm. The back-to-back House hearings scheduled for Thursday — nominally on the EPA budget — are set to be Pruitt’s first public appearance on Capitol Hill since the deluge of damaging revelations that began late last month.”

EMBARRASSING … DENVER POST: “U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn should be kept off the 2018 ballot, Colorado Supreme Court rules: Doug Lamborn was first elected to the U.S. House in 2006 and has been in Congress for six terms,” by Jesse Paul, Mark Matthews and John Frank: “While the decision — that Lamborn’s re-election campaign improperly gathered voters’ signatures to land a spot on the ticket — is unlikely to mean his 5th Congressional District seat leaves GOP hands, it injects the very real prospect that a fresh face will take over after years of unsuccessful challenges to Lamborn’s reign.

“Reached by phone on Monday, Lamborn said ‘we’re still digesting the opinion’ and then he hung up. Contacted a second time, Lamborn said ‘we’re still looking at the language,’ urged a reporter to contact his press secretary and then hung up again. His campaign later issued a statement that indicated he would challenge the ruling in federal court.”

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — DAMON MARTINEZ, a former U.S. attorney who was one of the 46 fired by Trump, is up with his first ad in his bid to replace outgoing Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.). The ad by Putnam Partners features Martinez taking on Trump by using “Apprentice” boardroom footage to create a faux conversation between the two. The ad ends with Martinez saying “when I’m in Congress, you’re next to get fired.” The ad will run on broadcast TV in Albuquerque and also on “Fox & Friends” ahead of the June 5 primary. The ad

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