REPUBLICANS aren’t interested in Trump weighing in on domestic violence — PLANE CRASHES in Moscow — EXCLUSIVE from Bade: RSC executive director out, after he critiques GOP leadership
TRUMP’S WEEK AHEAD … MONDAY: The president is holding an infrastructure meeting with state and local officials, and having lunch with VP Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. TUESDAY: Trump will meet with members of Congress to talk trade. He’ll also hold a roundtable with the National Sheriffs’ Association and local law enforcement. And he will host a reception for African American History Month. WEDNESDAY: Trump hosts a signing ceremony for the DHS Blue Campaign Authorization Act, the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act.
BREAKING… AP: “Plane with 71 aboard crashes near Moscow; no survivors seen” http://bit.ly/2EvYDWi
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WHAT AMERICA IS READING … SUNDAY FRONTS — HOUSTON CHRONICLE: “Texas border businesses fear life without NAFTA” http://bit.ly/2nSqDJZ … ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: “For many, health care changes grim” http://bit.ly/2H32eJI … CHICAGO TRIBUNE: “As midterms near, more women have hats in ring” http://bit.ly/2G0Y03Z
Good Sunday morning. WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD — TRUMP MAKES REPUBLICANS JITTERY — “G.O.P. Squirms as Trump Veers Off Script With Abuse Remarks,” by NYT’s Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns: “The president’s seeming indifference to claims of abuse infuriated Republicans, who were already confronting a surge of activism from Democratic women driven to protest, raise money and run for office because of their fervent opposition to Mr. Trump. ‘This is coming, this is real,’ Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, said recently about the female-fueled wave of liberal energy. Mr. Trump’s remarks illustrated a broader problem: Republican congressional leaders and strategists have pleaded with lawmakers and candidates to stay focused on economic growth and December’s tax cuts, a message they hope will be their salvation before the elections in November.
“But that may be little more than fantasy in a campaign that will turn more on the president’s conduct than any policy issue. … In a revealing sign of the party’s anxiety about Mr. Trump, the [RNC] has taken to trumpeting the ‘Trump tax cuts’ and has urged campaigns and other Republican committees to credit Mr. Trump explicitly and often with enacting the new law, but has faced skepticism from Republicans wary of introducing Mr. Trump’s name into competitive elections.” http://nyti.ms/2EAcnzg
— ICYMI: WHERE THE PRESIDENT STANDS — @realDonaldTrump at 10:33 a.m. Saturday: “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
LEAD STORY ON BREITBART EARLY THIS MORNING — ATTN. JOHN KELLY: “Democrats Send Letter Probing White House Over Rob Porter Resignation, Security Clearance,” by Ben Kew: http://bit.ly/2nXP0p1
SUNDAY BEST … IMPORTANT — REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OHIO) to CHRIS WALLACE on “FOX NEWS SUNDAY” about SPEAKER PAUL RYAN: JORDAN: “Of course he’s got problems, but the key is let’s see what happens next in …” WALLACE: “You say he’s got problems Congressman, is it time for a change?” JORDAN: “Ah well look we’ll have that debate at the appropriate time, you asked me if he has—if there’s concerns with the Speaker, I think there are big concerns because he just presided over one of the biggest spending increases in the history of this country in a time where we were elected to do just the opposite.”
— NOTE: Jordan is speaking for the House Freedom Caucus, the small — but influential — conservative group. The vast majority of the House Republican Conference — 167 lawmakers — supported the budget agreement though. But just 20 Republicans can overthrow the speaker.
KELLYANNE CONWAY to JAKE TAPPER on CNN’s “STATE OF THE UNION”: “I spoke to the president last night, I told him I’d be with you today, and he said, ‘Please tell Jake that I have full faith in chief of staff John Kelly and that I’m not actively searching for replacements.’ He said, ‘I saw that all over the news today. I have faith in him.’ And he does.”
— CONWAY with GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS on ABC’s “THIS WEEK”: “Rob Porter no longer works at the White House. And you have to look at the result here, Rob Porter’s gone from one of the top aides to Donald Trump, our president, to no longer working there. I think the president, like the rest of us, was shocked and disturbed by the allegations.”
WHAT THE PRESIDENT THINKS ABOUT PORTER: “The president believes, as he said the other day, you have to consider all sides.”
— MARC SHORT to CHUCK TODD on NBC’S “MEET THE PRESS”: TODD: “Does the president believe Rob Porter is innocent?” SHORT: “I think the president is shaped by a lot of false accusations against him in the past, Chuck, but in talking to the president, he’s saddened about what happened with Rob. I think he’s very disturbed by it. And he’s very disappointed in it. And I think that he believes that the resignation was appropriate.”
— OMB DIRECTOR MICK MULVANEY to CHRIS WALLACE on FOX’S “FOX NEWS SUNDAY” via Victoria Guida: “‘I think all the stories about replacing Gen. Kelly are from people who are unhappy they’ve lost access to the president,’ Mulvaney told Chris Wallace on ‘Fox News Sunday.’ ‘It’s much ado about nothing,’ Mulvaney said. Kelly has most recently faced backlash after revelations that he failed to remove Rob Porter, an aide accused of domestic abuse, until the news about Porter was reported in the press. Mulvaney said it was a ‘very human reaction’ for Trump and Kelly to initially give Porter the benefit of the doubt. ‘As soon as Rob Porter was proven wrong, it was proven he was not telling the truth when the photos came out on Wednesday, he was gone almost immediately,’ he said. Photographs were published of one of Porter’s ex-wives with a bruised eye.”
— ON TRUMP’S TWEET: “Mulvaney also suggested that Trump’s tweet on Saturday, in which the president said, ‘Lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,’ was actually a reference to businessman and former RNC finance chairman Steve Wynn. The casino magnate resigned from the RNC on Jan. 27 after harassment allegations against him were reported by the Wall Street Journal. Wynn ‘has been accused and has been condemned without any due process,’ Mulvaney said.”
— CHRIS CHRISTIE to STEPHANOPOULOS: “I think, in the end, we’ve gotta hear from John Kelly as to what he knew. And we haven’t heard that directly from him yet. And I think the president needs to hear that before he can make an evaluation of competence. In the end, George, this is about competence. And you have to, as the chief of staff, be able to competently run the place. If there’s allegations against him, the president is going to have to make that call.”
— SEN. RAND PAUL on CBS’ “FACE THE NATION”: PAUL: “You know I think it’s difficult for me to get involved in theirs other than to say absolutely no place for domestic violence in our world and then beyond that I will say that there is complicated things. And somebody has to – I mean if you’ve ever been to family court with he said and she said – and I’m not saying that I’m denying what these women are saying. I’m just saying that these things are very, very complicated. If you go to family court and you’re a family court judge, you talk about a very, very difficult job. But that being said, I don’t want to think – I don’t want anybody to believe I’m making excuses. There is no excuse for domestic violence.”
NPR’S TAMARA KEITH: “‘I worry about John,’ said [Leon] Panetta in an interview with NPR. ‘Because look, he is first and foremost a Marine. He is not a politician.’ … Panetta said the mistakes of the last several days may be something a general could get away with. But now Kelly [who used to work for Panetta as his top military aide] is the White House chief of staff. ‘You’ve got to have political judgment and you’ve got to think ahead as to what can happen that could damage the president and, for whatever reason, that didn’t happen here and he’s now going to pay a price for that,’ said Panetta.” http://n.pr/2srHCI2
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THE BATTLE FOR CONTROL OF CONGRESS …
— PENNSYLVANIA’S NEW MAP: “Top Republicans in Pa. House, Senate submit congressional map to Gov. Wolf,” by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Liz Navratil in Harrisburg: “If approved, the map submitted by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) would result in significant changes for the areas surrounding Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The proposed map “complies fully” with the court’s order, the pair said in a joint statement.
“But within roughly an hour of its public release, top Democrats in the House and the Senate were urging Democratic Gov. Wolf to ‘reject it outright.’ ‘The Republican leadership in both chambers blocked this process, refused to negotiate, and have now submitted a map directly to your office that we have not even seen,’ Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny) and House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D., Allegheny) said in a joint letter to the governor released Friday evening. A spokesman for Wolf said Friday that while the map does not appear to comply with the letter of the court’s order, the governor would be willing to review it.” http://bit.ly/2nZvGHY
— SHOW ME THE MONEY: “Desperate Republicans turn to Adelson: Outraised by energized Democrats, the party is depending on mega-donors like the casino mogul to close the gap,” by Alex Isenstadt in Las Vegas: “Republicans made their annual sojourn to the lavish Venetian hotel here this weekend to kiss the ring of a benefactor they need more than ever: Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
“Confronting the potential loss of one or both chambers of Congress in the midterms, and struggling to raise money against an energized Democratic base, the party is desperate for Adelson’s millions. So the praise at the annual Republican Jewish Coalition conference he hosts overflowed, even though the billionaire wasn’t on hand, attending the funeral of a close friend in Israel. … With energized Democratic candidates raising fistfuls of cash, party officials say they are depending on major givers like Adelson, a longtime bankroller of GOP causes, to close the gap. …
“During a private appearance on Saturday, former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, the RJC’s chairman, delivered a call to arms in which he warned that the party in power faces historic hurdles during midterm years, according to several attendees. … South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who spent the weekend roaming the halls of the massive Venetian complex, said Adelson … was cautious in his political investments. … ‘He’s generous,’ said Graham. ‘But he’s smart — he doesn’t throw away his money.’ … As they hopscotched from meeting to meeting, some attendees remarked that the downfall of another Las Vegas casino mogul, Steve Wynn, had positioned Adelson as a donor of singular importance in the area.” http://politi.co/2nRcg8D
SCOOP — ANDREW RESTUCCIA: “Draft White House memo would speed up infrastructure project permitting”: “The White House is circulating a draft memo to more than a dozen federal agencies that would dramatically speed up the time it takes to secure environmental permits for infrastructure projects, according to a document obtained by POLITICO. The draft memorandum of understanding, which is being reviewed by 17 federal agencies and is expected to be finalized soon, would help implement an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in August that set a goal of completing the environmental review process for major infrastructure projects within two years.
“Faster permitting is expected to be one element of the infrastructure plan the White House is slated to unveil on Monday, though the inter-agency memorandum of understanding is not expected to be finalized in time for this week’s rollout.” http://politi.co/2Eeap3Z
— NOTE: We don’t think a $1.5-trillion infrastructure package is possible this Congress. But Republicans could bite off pieces of this plan and pass it. For example, it would be easy to peel back some regulations.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST — “Top official departs ‘rudderless’ railroad safety agency,” by Lauren Gardner: “A top official charged with overseeing the safety of the nation’s railroads has resigned ‘effective immediately,’ the Department of Transportation said Saturday after POLITICO raised questions about whether he was simultaneously working as a public relations consultant in Mississippi. The news comes at a time of strain for the Federal Railroad Administration, which hasn’t had a permanent leader for more than a year while it investigates a string of fatal train crashes and deals with a rising trend of rail-related deaths. Heath Hall became the Federal Railroad Administration’s acting chief after being appointed deputy administrator in June.
“But he subsequently appeared at least twice in local media reports last summer as a sheriff’s department spokesman in Madison County, Miss., where he has long run a public relations and political consulting firm. The firm also continued to receive payments from the county for its services from July through December, despite Hall’s pledge in a federal ethics form that the business would be ‘dormant’ while he worked at DOT. … This was during a period when Hall was in charge of an agency with a $1.7 billion budget, overseeing the safety of 760 railroads, a multibillion-dollar freight rail industry and the safety of millions of passengers.” http://politi.co/2BmvlqV
THE ADMINISTRATION — “Administration Imposes Sweeping Limits on Federal Actions Against Companies,” by NYT’s Robert Pear: “The Trump administration has adopted new limits on the use of ‘guidance documents’ that federal agencies have issued on almost every conceivable subject, an action that could have sweeping implications for the government’s ability to sue companies accused of violations. Guidance documents offer the government’s interpretation of laws, and often when individuals or companies face accusations of legal violations, what they have really violated are the guidance documents.
“Defense lawyers say the change in policy gives them a powerful tool to fend off allegations of wrongdoing against their clients. It also advances a goal declared by President Trump in his first days in office: to reduce the burden and cost of federal rules and requirements. But consumer advocates say the move will crimp enforcement of crucial protections.” http://nyti.ms/2G7e2JD
FAKE NEWS? — “Devin Nunes creates his own alternative news site,” by David Siders: “House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a relentless critic of the media, has found a way around the often unflattering coverage of his role in the Trump-Russia investigation — by operating his own partisan news outlet. Resembling a local, conservative news site, ‘The California Republican’ is classified on Facebook as a ‘media/news company’ and claims to deliver ‘the best of US, California, and Central Valley news, sports, and analysis.’
“But the website is paid for by Nunes’ campaign committee, according to small print at the bottom of the site. Leading the home page this week: A photograph of Nunes over the headline: ‘Understanding the process behind #ReleaseTheMemo.’ The story, like many others on carepublican.com, largely excerpts other publications, including both conservative and mainstream sources. Headlines include ‘CNN busted for peddling fake news AGAIN!,’ ‘California’s budget future isn’t as good as it looks’ and ‘Billions of dollars later, Democrats and the L.A. Times start to see the light on high-speed rail.’” http://politi.co/2BQGdhX
THE JUICE …
— FROM RACHAEL BADE: RSC STAFFER OUT OVER IMMIGRATION TENSIONS. Republican Study Committee executive director Scott Parkinson submitted his resignation and will be leaving the conservative caucus after an awkward run in with House GOP leadership — and his boss, RSC Chairman Mark Walker.