TRUMP’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment – POLITICO

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PRESIDENT TRUMP’S “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” MOMENT … 8:21 a.m. Saturday … After a night of bombing in Syria: “A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”

U.S. ATTACKS SYRIA — AP’s Robert Burns, Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller: “Allied missiles struck at the heart of Syrian chemical weapons arsenal in a show of force and resolve aimed at punishing the Assad government for a suspected poison gas attack against civilians and deterring the possible future use of such banned weapons. …

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“Syria’s chief allies, Russia and Iran, called the use of force by the United States, Britain and France a ‘military crime’ and ‘act of aggression’ with the potential to worsen a humanitarian crisis after years of civil war. The U.N. Security Council planned to meet later Saturday at Moscow’s request.”

MICHAEL CROWLEY and ANDREW RESTUCCIA: Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph “Dunford said that the strikes began at 9 p.m. Eastern Time and involved both cruise missiles and manned aircraft. The U.S. struck three different targets in the attack, Dunford said: a scientific research center outside Damascus, a chemical weapons facility west of Homs and an equipment storage facility and command post.

“Other Syrian chemical weapons facilities were not struck, Dunford said, due to concerns about harming civilians. Asked if the strike will be part of prolonged military action in Syria, [Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis said ‘that will depend on Mr. Assad.’”

— NYT: “Seven Takeaways From the Airstrikes on Syria”: “The strikes were intense but restrained. … The U.S. chose not to wait. … Assad absorbed another blow. … Capitol Hill remained divided. … Russia responded with angry rhetoric, so far. … Britain’s leader avoided a conflict at home. … France saw a chance to act after a red line was crossed.”

THE PRESIDENT SPEAKS on the U.S. attack in SYRIA Friday night: “The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons. Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States. The combined American, British, and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power — military, economic, and diplomatic. We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.

“I also have a message tonight for the two governments most responsible for supporting, equipping, and financing the criminal Assad regime. To Iran, and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?” Full text of Trump’s remarks

THE NEW YORKER’S SUSAN GLASSER (@sbg1): “I remember Clinton’s strikes in Sudan and Afghanistan amid Starr grand jury testimony fallout in 98. Today in Washington similarly rich in contrasts: Trump’s ‘slime ball’ tweet, Cohen investigation frenzy vs somber rhetoric, attacks on Syrian CW sites.”

BOSTON GLOBE’S MATT VISER (@mviser): “Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis: ‘I’ve never seen refugees as traumatized as coming out of Syria. It’s got to end.’ Number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States: 2016: 15,479 … 2017: 3,024 … 2018: 11”.

THE PRESIDENT has nothing on his schedule today.

Good Saturday morning. KEVIN MCCARTHY hasn’t said a word about whether he wants to be the next Republican leader. STEVE SCALISE and PAUL RYAN have endorsed MCCARTHY. RYAN said it to Chuck Todd on a pre-tape for “Meet the Press,” which was taped Friday in a room just off the House floor.

— THE RYAN ENDORSEMENT OF MCCARTHY, which will air tomorrow on “Meet the Press”: TODD: “Do you have a preference? Kevin McCarthy?” RYAN: “Yeah I think Kevin – Look, I think we all believe that Kevin is the right person when it’s all —-” TODD: “To be the next leader?” RYAN: “Yeah. We all think that Kevin is the right person.” TODD: “You say ‘we all.’ Are you speaking — RYAN: “We all – our leadership team I’m saying. I’m not saying every single person in Congress.” TODD: “So Steve Scalise – it’s your understanding that he believes that Kevin McCarthy should be the heir apparent, whether it’s leader or speaker.” RYAN: “That’s right. That’s right. Well I fully anticipate handing the gavel over to the next Speaker of the House –”

AFTER THIS, Scalise had no choice but to endorse McCarthy. Ryan did it for him! Chris Bond made the endorsement official to Rachael Bade.

BUT, BUT, BUT … JIM JORDAN, the conservative Ohio Republican who floated a run for the speakership, has ensured that this race for the next GOP leader will not happen until after the election.

ALMOST EVERYONE we talk to thinks the who-will-be-the-next-speaker talk is silly. There might not be another Republican speaker until 2020 — at the earliest.

BUT … THE DRAMA ISN’T OVER: “Jordan fires warning shot at McCarthy,” by Rachael Bade and Kyle Cheney: “Conservative firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan’s step toward a long-shot bid for House speaker Friday was most notable for the stern warning it delivered to the top contender for the post, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy: You don’t have the votes yet. The House Freedom Caucus founder and his allies know he’s unlikely to ever garner the 218 votes needed to win the gavel. But Jordan’s declaration is likely less about winning than leverage.

“The Ohio Republican could easily rally several dozen conservatives to support him, blocking any other candidate — including McCarthy — from becoming speaker. Jordan could then use their
votes to extract concessions from whoever is seeking the position, in this case, likely McCarthy.”

FOR THE RECORD: Now that Scalise has thrown in with McCarthy, Jordan and the HFC are more emboldened. They don’t want a one-man race. Don’t underestimate the Jordan for speaker thing. He’s as competitive as they come, and if he gets in, he’s going to want to win. But the HFC really does want to extract some wins next Congress.

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MANU RAJU (@mkraju): “Trump former campaign chairman: indicted … Trump WH national security adviser: pleads guilty … Trump former deputy campaign chairman: pleads guilty … Trump campaign foreign policy adviser: pleads guilty … Trump personal lawyer and close confidant: under criminal investigation”.

— SCOOP: PETER STONE and GREG GORDON in MCCLATCHY: “Sources: Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier”: “The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

“It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. … Cohen has vehemently denied for months that he ever has been in Prague or colluded with Russia during the campaign. Neither he nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment for this story.

“[I]nvestigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016 … said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is confidential. He wouldn’t have needed a passport for such a trip, because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders.”

— NYT’S MIKE SCHMIDT, MAGGIE HABERMAN and EILEEN SULLIVAN: Trump Sees Inquiry Into Cohen as Greater Threat Than Mueller”: “President Trump’s advisers have concluded that a wide-ranging corruption investigation into his personal lawyer poses a greater and more imminent threat to the president than even the special counsel’s investigation, according to several people close to Mr. Trump.

“As his lawyers went to court in New York on Friday to try to block prosecutors from reading files that were seized from the personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, this week, Mr. Trump found himself increasingly isolated in mounting a response.

“He continued to struggle to hire a new criminal lawyer, and some of his own aides were reluctant to advise him about a response for fear of being dragged into a criminal investigation themselves. … Mr. Trump called Mr. Cohen on Friday to ‘check in,’ according to two people briefed on the call. Depending on what else was discussed, the call could be problematic, as lawyers typically advise their clients against discussing investigations.”

— “Inspector general report faults Andrew McCabe for unauthorized disclosure of information, misleading investigators,” by WaPo’s Matt Zapotosky: “The Justice Department Inspector General alleges in a damaging report made public Friday that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe inappropriately authorized the disclosure of sensitive information to a reporter and then misled investigators and former FBI Director James B. Comey about it on several occasions.

“The report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz is remarkable for its level of detail, casting McCabe as a man who repeatedly lied to investigators and his own boss about his role in a disclosure of information, even while he lashed out at others who he thought might be responsible for leaks. It accuses McCabe of lying at least four times, three of them under oath, and says that while he had the power to approve disclosures of information to the media, his doing so in this instance violated policy because it was done ‘in a manner designed to advance his personal interests at the expense of Department leadership.’” … The full report

— “FBI seized recordings between Trump’s lawyer and Stormy Daniels’ former lawyer,” by CNN’s Gloria Borger, Sara Sidner and Scott Glover: “The FBI seized recordings President Donald Trump’s attorney made of his conversations with a lawyer representing two women who had alleged affairs with Trump, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN. The recordings could prove valuable to the government’s criminal investigation of Michael Cohen.”

PETER CARR PROFILE — “Mr. No Comment: Meet the Utahn who speaks for the special counsel’s Russia-Trump probe, but don’t expect him to say too much,” by the Salt Lake Tribune’s Tommy Burr:

DEPT OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES — DARREN SAMUELSOHN on COMEY: “His book, ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ represents an official statement on key parts of the federal Russia probe-including the question of whether Trump may have sought to obstruct justice, a question Mueller is investigating. Legal experts warn that Comey’s own words could complicate court proceedings or a Congressional impeachment debate triggered by Mueller’s findings.

“Prosecutors like Mueller generally cringe when a witness speaks at length in public before a case has wrapped up. Comey’s blockbuster book and accompanying media tour, which kicks off in primetime on Sunday, will also expose him to the watchful eye of Trump allies and defense lawyers ready to exploit any inconsistencies in his accounts to their clients’ benefit.”

CLINTON WORLD … “Longtime Clinton Adviser Doug Band Pays $20 Million for David Rockefeller’s New York Townhouse,” by WSJ’s Katherine Clarke and Candace Taylor: “Doug Band, President Bill Clinton’s longtime adviser, has paid $20 million for the Manhattan townhouse of the late banking chief David Rockefeller, according to two people familiar with the transaction. The house on East 65th Street originally came on the market for $32.5 million last June. It served as the home to Mr. Rockefeller and his wife Peggy for almost seven decades, according to the listing. …

“The house, which has a Colonial Revival-style facade, was built in 1924 and includes 9,777 square feet of space on four levels in addition to a basement, according to the listing. The sitting room and the dining room both overlook the garden. There are eight bedrooms, a library and six staff rooms. The home also has a rear planted garden with silver birch trees and rhododendrons.” With a pic

— “Hillary Clinton Will Headline A Major DNC Fundraiser,” by BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer: “A set of likely presidential candidates will join their party’s last nominee, Hillary Clinton, to raise money for the [DNC] next month at its annual Women’s Leadership Forum. California Sen. Kamala Harris, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and former Missouri secretary of state Jason Kander will speak at the May event in Washington, the second major fundraising effort by the DNC this year, following last month’s ‘IWillVote Gala.’ …

“Clinton’s presence at the forum, a likely draw for some of the major donors who supported her campaign against President Trump, will come about two months after she held a New York fundraiser for her post-2016 political group, Onward Together … The event will mark Clinton’s first fundraiser for the DNC since the 2016 campaign.”

K-FILED – “HHS official shared post saying ‘forefathers’ would have ‘hung’ Obama, Clinton for treason,” by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, Chris Massie and Nathan McDermott: “A political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services shared an image in 2017 that said ‘our forefathers would have hung’ Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason, a CNN KFile review has found. Ximena Barreto is a far-right political pundit who in December 2017 joined the Trump administration as deputy director of communications at the department. Barreto was placed on leave by the department on Monday after the liberal watchdog Media Matters reported that Barreto called Islam ‘a cult’ and pushed the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory.”

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CLICKER – “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 14 keepers

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