POLITICO Playbook: Trump weighs in on Cohen tapes, and the DNC taps leader for 2020 convention selection

 In Politics

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: DNC PICKS TEAM FOR 2020 CONVENTION SITE SELECTION: Former DNC CEO Jess O’Connell will be leading the DNC’s 2020 convention site selection process, according to multiple Democratic sources familiar with the effort. Brynne Craig, Lavora Barnes and Jaime Harrison will also be involved in the effort. Cities in the mix include: Houston, Milwaukee and Miami Beach.

THE DNC has not yet named its CEO for the convention.

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THE RNC will hold its convention in Charlotte. … CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: “The show must go on somewhere’: How Charlotte police are prepping for RNC protests” http://bit.ly/2LqNjOxA1 http://bit.ly/2uRFIOE

THE PRESIDENT on the MICHAEL COHEN TAPES at 8:10 a.m.: “Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) — almost unheard of. Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!”

— YESTERDAY, Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, called the tapes “powerful exculpatory evidence.”

— AP’S ERIC TUCKER: “An attorney for President Donald Trump’s former lawyer says ‘any attempt at spin cannot change what is on’ a recording of Trump discussing a potential payment for a former Playboy model’s account of having an affair with him years ago. Attorney Lanny Davis said Friday the recording won’t hurt his client, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

“Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani says the payment was never made. Giuliani says what’s important is Trump said that if it were made it should be properly documented. A person familiar with a federal investigation into Cohen tells The Associated Press that Cohen made the recording two months before Trump’s 2016 election. The person wasn’t authorized to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.” https://bit.ly/2mzeHfl

HOW IT PLAYED … CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER: “Attorney taped Trump in 2016” http://bit.ly/2uSDVJk … STAR TRIBUNE, banner headline: “Trump knew of Playmate payoff” http://bit.ly/2uUklfJ

TICK TOCK … WAPO’S ASHLEY PARKER, PHIL RUCKER, JOSH DAWSEY and CAROL LEONNIG: “[R]oughly an hour into the flight [to D.C. from Helsinki] Trump’s mood darkened and grim reality set in as he consumed almost universally negative cable news coverage and aides began reviewing pages upon pages of printed-out statements from fellow Republicans lambasting the president. Trump called his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to gripe, and he also huddled with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in his cabin at the front of the plane to strategize. …

“Trump himself was flummoxed. He waxed on about his impressions of Putin up close — strong, smart and cunning, in Trump’s assessment — and told associates that he viewed the Russian as a formidable adversary with whom he relishes interactions. He also was furious with the negative media coverage of a summit that he felt had been a clear success. And he complained to some about what he viewed as an undercovered angle of the election controversy: That the [DNC] allowed its server to be hacked. …

“Meanwhile, in a senior staff meeting, [Kellyanne] Conway pointed out to the team that [DNI Dan] Coats would be sitting down for an interview with NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell before a gathering of thought leaders and media elite in Aspen. Conway warned her colleagues that Coats could generate headlines — and she was prescient.

“The White House had little visibility into what Coats might say. The intelligence director’s team had turned down at least one offer from a senior White House official to help prepare him for the long-scheduled interview, pointing out that he had known Mitchell for years and was comfortable talking with her.

“Coats was extraordinarily candid in the interview, at times questioning Trump’s judgment — such as the president’s decision to meet with Putin for two hours without any aides present beyond interpreters — and revealing the rift between the president and the intelligence community. The spectacle was all the more surprising considering that Coats is nicknamed ‘Marcel Marceau,’ after the French mime, in national security circles because the director so rarely opines as he did with Mitchell.” https://wapo.st/2O7rD8M

— FOR GOOD MEASURE … POST AND COURIER: “Accused Russian spy was guest at U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford’s Thanksgiving BBQ last year” http://bit.ly/2JIimAj

— “Bad Debts, Fraud Claims Trail Boyfriend of Alleged Russian Agent,” by WSJ’s Mark Maremont, Julie Bykowicz and James Grimaldi: Paul “Erickson also attempted to cultivate ties to the GOP on Russia’s behalf, according to court papers. Prosecutors cite an email he sent to an acquaintance that read in part, ‘I’ve been involved in securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin’ and GOP leaders via the NRA.” https://on.wsj.com/2NBiCUq

SCOOP – “Broidy accuses ex-diplomat of being secret Qatari agent,” by Ben Schreckinger: “Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy accused a former high-ranking United Nations diplomat of serving as an undeclared agent of Qatar in a court filing in California this week. In the filing, Broidy also claims that the Persian Gulf state maintains an entire ‘network’ of undisclosed agents operating inside the U.S. … Former United Nations Under Secretary-General Jamal Benomar, the alleged agent named in the filing, did not respond to requests for comment.

“Benomar, a U.K. citizen, was born in Morocco, where he was arrested and tortured for his opposition to the country’s government. He went on to work for 25 years at the U.N., where he served as a special envoy for Yemen and a special adviser to former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.” http://bit.ly/2Lyia8F

Good Saturday morning. PRESIDENT TRUMP is in Bedminster. He has no public events scheduled.

BACK TO HIS COMFORT ZONE — @realDonaldTrump at 6:17 p.m.: “The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again — can’t believe it! Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!”

****** A message from the Alzheimer’s Association: Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in the country. Every hour, Alzheimer’s costs taxpayers $21 million dollars. Today, Alzheimer’s costs the country $277 billion a year and that will quadruple to more than $1 trillion over the next generation. Funding for Alzheimer’s research must increase. Learn more at alz.org/askcongress ******

MORE HELSINKI FALLOUT … “Coats faces greater scrutiny as fallout from Russia summit spreads,” by Chris Cadelago and Martin Matishak: “As the fallout from his Russia summit spills into the weekend and spreads among his staff, President Donald Trump is retreating to the site of his most consequential personnel decision, the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey last spring.

“Trump’s return to his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey, where he often surrounds himself with close friends and family, follows a calamitous week, beginning with the news conference in Finland with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and ending with news that the president’s longtime personal attorney made a recording of Trump talking about payments related to a former Playboy model.

“Trump loyalists have come to see the White House staff’s response as insufficiently supportive, as officials inside struggle to explain the president’s seesaw statements about Putin and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The hair-trigger situation culminated in an on-brand yet off-message remark by his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, stirring further angst among some in the president’s inner circle.” https://bit.ly/2LsDe3t

— “Russia continues to shape narrative of Helsinki summit,” by WaPo’s Karen DeYoung: “Russia provided additional details Friday of what it said were agreements made at the presidential summit in Helsinki this week, shaping a narrative of the meeting with no confirmation or alternative account from the Trump administration. Not surprisingly, the Russian story line tended to favor the Kremlin’s own policy prescriptions, at times contradicting stated administration strategy.

“Russia already has sent formal proposals to Washington for joint U.S.-Russia efforts to fund reconstruction of war-ravaged Syria and facilitate the return home of millions of Syrians who fled the country, following ‘agreements reached’ by President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, the three-star head of the Russian National Defense Management Center, said Friday.” https://wapo.st/2NyYQsu

— MIKE MCFAUL (@McFaul): “I did not ask Putin to attack me in Helsinki to raise book sales. Please stop with these cynical quips. Having Putin accuse me of committing crimes as a USG official is a serious matter that will complicate my travel and work for a long long time.”

— CNN’S RYAN BROWNE (@rabrowne75): “In a move likely to irk Moscow, the Pentagon has released $200M in new security assistance to Ukraine days after the Trump-Putin meeting, according to U.S. & Ukrainian officials. The funds will go toward counter-artillery radars, vehicles, night vision, comms, & medical equipment”.

TRADE WARS — “Trump’s new midterm threat: A trade war smacking voters,” by Megan Cassella: “President Donald Trump’s trade wars could become a major political drag for Republicans, with job losses and price increases piling up just as voters head to the polls in November.

“Trump jolted markets once again early Friday when he said he’s prepared to impose penalties on some $500 billion in Chinese goods regardless of the consequences that might ensue, economic or political. ‘Look, I’m not doing this for politics,’ the president said on CNBC. ‘I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country.’

KEY GRAPH: “But market analysts, industry experts and economists warn that the economic fallout of the president’s tariffs — those that are already in effect and those he’s threatening to impose — is only going to intensify over the coming months and could reach a peak around election time.” https://bit.ly/2LxR3dN

FOR YOUR RADAR — “Exclusive: U.S. open to lifting sanctions off aluminum giant Rusal — Mnuchin,” by Reuters’ David Lawder in Sao Paulo: “The U.S. Treasury is open to removing Russian aluminum producer Rusal from a U.S. sanctions list, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday, adding the objective was ‘not to put Rusal out of business.’” https://reut.rs/2O5fMYF

2018 WATCH — WAPO’S PAUL KANE: “Midterm history 101: Trump’s win a boost to chances for Senate Democratic incumbents”: “In 2012, Sen. Sherrod Brown faced more than $24 million in ads from conservative groups opposing his first reelection. Six years later, the Democrat has been forgotten as outside groups have almost entirely abandoned the Ohio airwaves, vastly improving his chances to win a third term in November. Brown’s comfortable position comes as something of a surprise given President Trump won Ohio by more than 8 percentage points in 2016.

“But a new study, by a Republican strategist, suggests it should not be a surprise at all. Bruce Mehlman, a former Bush administration official, surveyed the past 10 midterm elections — covering 333 Senate races dating to 1978 — and discovered Brown’s standing is actually the norm for a midterm election. And it is all because of Trump. ‘The single most important factor is whether your party occupies the White House. If you are out of power and an incumbent, you just rarely lose,’ said Mehlman, now a partner at a bipartisan lobbying firm.

“Consider other Senate Democrats in similar states. Brown is one of five running in a state Trump won by single digits. Four other members of the Democratic caucus are seeking reelection from states Trump narrowly lost. Of those nine contests, Florida is the only toss-up, according to independent handicappers. Republicans are trailing in the other races, at this point, reducing the amount of defense Democrats will have to play this fall.” https://wapo.st/2LuCV8yMehlman’s study http://bit.ly/2uSJzLw

K FILE — “GOP congressman said blacks have ‘entitlement mentality’ and view themselves as victims,” by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, Nathan McDermott and Christopher Massie: “Republican Rep. Jason Lewis has a long history of racist rhetoric about African-Americans, pushing claims of a ‘racial war’ by blacks on whites and arguing that violence regularly occurs at black gatherings. … Lewis made those comments on ‘The Jason Lewis Show,’ a syndicated radio program Lewis hosted from 2009 until 2014 with the tagline ‘America’s Mr. Right.’” https://cnn.it/2NANgwP

— JUST WONDERING: When will GOP leaders address Lewis and his comments?

THE INVESTIGATIONS …

— “Russian operatives blasted 18,000 tweets ahead of a huge news day during the 2016 presidential campaign. Did they know what was coming?” by WaPo’s Craig Timberg and Shane Harris: “On the eve of one of the newsiest days of the 2016 presidential election season, a group of Russian operatives fired off tweets at a furious pace, about a dozen each minute. By the time they finished, more than 18,000 had been sent through cyberspace toward unwitting American voters, making it the busiest day by far in a disinformation operation whose aftermath is still roiling U.S. politics. The reason for this burst of activity on Oct. 6, 2016, documented in a new trove of 3 million Russian tweets collected by Clemson University researchers, is a mystery that has generated intriguing theories but no definitive explanation.

“The theories attempt to make sense of how such a heavy flow of Russian disinformation might be related to what came immediately after, on Oct. 7. This was the day when Wikileaks began releasing embarrassing emails that Russian intelligence operatives had stolen from the campaign chairman for Democrat Hillary Clinton, revealing sensitive internal conversations that would stir controversy for weeks.” https://wapo.st/2JGkPvn

— “A Top Bernie Sanders Adviser Is Named In The Evidence List For Paul Manafort’s Trial,” by BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer: “Emails and documents from Tad Devine, a political operative who served at the highest levels of the Bernie Sanders campaign, could be presented as evidence in the Special Counsel’s Office’s prosecution of Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chair. In a list of government exhibits released this week, at least 16 items relate to work by Devine or his consulting firm, Devine Mulvey Longabaugh.

“The documents referenced — including emails, invoices, and memos — date from 2006 to 2014. … Devine did not return a request for comment about his involvement in the case, including a question about when he stopped working with Manafort. His firm declined to comment.” http://bit.ly/2A05Ahe

— “Facebook Suspends Analytics Firm on Concerns About Sharing of Public User-Data,” by WSJ’s Kirsten Grind: “Facebook Inc. suspended another company that harvested data from its site and said it was investigating whether the analytics firm’s contracts with the U.S. government and a Russian nonprofit tied to the Kremlin violate the platform’s policies. Crimson Hexagon, based in Boston, has had contracts in recent years to analyze public Facebook data for those and other clients.” https://on.wsj.com/2LqLHV3

CLICKER – “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 11 keepers http://bit.ly/2muFWay

HOLLYWOODLAND — per Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva and Denise Petski: “In [Shonda] Rhimes’ return to Washington and the White House where her Scandal was set, she is producing ‘The Residence,’ [for Netflix] based on Kate Andersen Brower’s 2016 nonfiction book ‘The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House,’ an inside look into the lives of the First families — from the Kennedys to the Obamas — through the eyes of their staffers.” http://bit.ly/2NB0aLB

AT LANGLEY — “CIA watchdog withdraws nomination after allegations of retaliation against colleagues,” by CNN’s Jenna McLaughlin: “Christopher Sharpley, the acting Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency, is withdrawing his nomination after former colleagues alleged he retaliated against them for blowing the whistle on CIA IG officials’ alleged mishandling of evidence. According to two sources familiar with the matter, and confirmed by the CIA, Sharpley sent an email to staff on Wednesday telling them he was pulling back his nomination to be CIA Inspector General and would be retiring from CIA within 30 days to seek other opportunities.” https://cnn.it/2LCe3bF

FIRST PERSON — NYT’S MAGGIE HABERMAN, “Why I Needed to Pull Back From Twitter”: “After nearly nine years and 187,000 tweets, I have used Twitter enough to know that it no longer works well for me. I will re-engage eventually, but in a different way. Twitter has stopped being a place where I could learn things I didn’t know, glean information that was free from errors about a breaking news story or engage in a discussion and be reasonably confident that people’s criticisms were in good faith.

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