Monday, August 20News That Matters

POLITICO Playbook PM: Live from Central Ohio


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JAKE’S DISPATCH … HAPPY ELECTION DAY from Westerville, Ohio — the heart of Ohio’s 12th congressional district, where TROY BALDERSON and DANNY O’CONNOR are dashing from town to town, looking to drum up the vote. It’s a bit overcast, but overall the weather is nice — rental car thermometer says 80 degrees. A completely unscientific observation: The parking lot of the Genoa Baptist Church, where Balderson came around noon, was pretty crowded as of mid-morning. A steady stream of cars flowed in and out of the lot. An official at Genoa Baptist Church said they went through 58 dozen donuts by 9 a.m.

— BALDERSON showed up at the Genoa church around 12:20 p.m. He was surrounded at nearly all times by two aides. Ben Jacobs of the Guardian asked Balderson about his comment last night — that someone from Franklin County shouldn’t be representing this district in Congress — and Balderson’s aide stepped in and said he was talking about O’Connor, who is a Franklin County Democrat. Balderson thanked voters for coming out, but didn’t introduce himself as the candidate they might — or might not — be voting for. “Thank you for coming out today to vote,” he said. At one point, he noted — correctly — that “at least it didn’t rain, right?” When a voting official came to say hi, Balderson said, “Nice polling location here.”

ALL TOLD, Balderson spent less than five minutes at the Westerville church before moving on to his next stop, per Jacobs’ iPhone recorder. The two candidates have lots of stops to make today. Photo of Balderson and an aide

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK … VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN recorded a robocall for O’Connor.

— BIDEN SCRIPT: “Hi, this is Vice President Joe Biden. There’s a special election for Congress in central Ohio tomorrow, Tuesday, August the 7th. And working families need you to vote for a Democrat, the Democrat Danny O’Connor. Ohioans need leaders like Danny, who will stand up for working families, protect critical services that help folks get ahead and work together to find common ground in Congress.

“Danny’s the only candidate on the ballot who will fight to lower the cost of health care, create good jobs and refuse to raise the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare. Electing Danny to Congress puts us one step closer to taking back the House and making sure we have leaders in Washington who will fight for our values — Ohio values. The American people are counting on you to vote for Danny tomorrow, Tuesday, August the 7th. Thank you for your time. Please vote.” Audio of the call

— THE PRESIDENT’S CLOSING ARGUMENT … at 6:46 a.m.: “Ohio, vote today for Troy Balderson for Congress. His opponent, controlled by Nancy Pelosi, is weak on Crime, the Border, Military, Vets, your 2nd Amendment – and will end your Tax Cuts. Troy will be a great Congressman. #MAGA.”

HOUSE REPUBLICANS still think they’re going to pull this thing out. They say Republicans will come home and support Balderson, and they’ll win by two or three points. They’re already spinning the heck out of this race, saying that it’s a special election, so we shouldn’t read too much into it. One senior Republican called this morning to say there are no moral victories in politics, so who cares if Democrats come close.

— WHAT THE NRCC IS READING … CHARLIE COOK: “Why the Ohio Special Election Won’t Tell Us Much About November.”

OF COURSE, Democrats disagree. Even if they don’t win, it’s been an energizing few weeks for the party. The race has showed Democrats that they can play in red districts, and throw Republicans back on their heels — not to mention make them spend money in what should be safe areas. One of the key factors here is going to be independent voters — do they turn out, and do they turn out for a Democrat.

Good Tuesday afternoon. BREAKING — “Former Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Under Investigation for Tax Fraud,” by WSJ’s Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Nicole Hong: “Federal authorities are assessing whether Mr. Cohen’s income from his taxi-medallion business was underreported in federal tax returns … Prosecutors also are looking into whether any bank employees improperly allowed Mr. Cohen to obtain loans for which he didn’t provide adequate documentation …

“Convictions for federal tax- and bank-fraud may carry potentially significant prison sentences, which could put additional pressure on Mr. Cohen to cooperate with prosecutors if he is charged with those crimes, according to former federal prosecutors.” WSJ

MANAFORT TRIAL UPDATE … from Josh Gerstein and Darren Samuelsohn: “Hundreds of people descended on Alexandria’s U.S. District Courthouse Tuesday morning, hoping to get a glimpse of Rick Gates testifying against his former boss, Paul Manafort.

“While the prosecution’s star witness was eventually called to the stand Monday afternoon, his appearance wasn’t a sure thing up until that point, so that diminished the crowd a bit yesterday. Today folks (both media and general public) were out in force because word was out that Gates would definitely be on the stand again. Some onlookers said they arrived by 6 a.m. By about 7:15 a.m. the line snaked around the corner of the building in advance of the court’s doors opening at 8 a.m. and the scheduled start time of 9:30 a.m.

“‘We’ve never had a case where they were lining up at 6 A.M.,’ said line member and former Alexandria federal prosecutor Gene Rossi. He called it the biggest case in the court in 30 years.

“Interest was so intense Tuesday that the lobby outside Judge T.S. Ellis’ ninth-floor courtroom became clogged with a serpentine line whose end wound up just about where the beginning was, near the courtroom door.

“A would-be courtwatcher, Northern Virginia actress and makeup artist Jjana Valentiner, took it upon herself to act as line marshal after a less-insistent effort by a couple of intrepid POLITICO reporters to politely redirect the snake yielded only modest results. Valentiner helped redirect those coming off the elevator to the end of the huge queue—a point not easy to discern. ‘Lines are the only democratic thing we have left in this country,’ she exclaimed.

“Ellis has said there are no reserved seats in the public gallery of the courtroom. One result is an interns’ row outside the courtroom where about 10 seatfillers wait until they are called on Oscars-style to replace a journalist who has jumped up to file a dispatch. The interns then vacates the seat when the person returns. (Despite the judge’s comment, at least one seat has been saved during Gates’ testimony: a spot for the lawyer who helped him cut his plea deal with the prosecution, Tom Green.)

“Gates indeed took the stand again Tuesday morning delivering mostly dry testimony about how Manafort used ‘shelf companies’ to move and hide his money in offshore accounts in Cyrpus and later the Grenadines. The incriminating testimony is key to the bank and tax fraud case against the former Trump campaign chairman, but the real fireworks are expected this afternoon when Gates is subjected to what’s expected to be a withering cross-examination by one of Manafort’s defense attorneys.”

STORY OF THE DAY — “New Details About Wilbur Ross’ Business Point To Pattern Of Grifting,” by Forbes’ Dan Alexander: “Over several months, in speaking with 21 people who know Ross, Forbes uncovered a pattern: Many of those who worked directly with him claim that Ross wrongly siphoned or outright stole a few million here and a few million there, huge amounts for most but not necessarily for the commerce secretary. At least if you consider them individually.

“But all told, these allegations—which sparked lawsuits, reimbursements and an SEC fine—come to more than $120 million. If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history. …

“Those who’ve done business with Ross generally tell a consistent story, of a man obsessed with money and untethered to facts. ‘He’ll push the edge of truthfulness and use whatever power he has to grab assets,’ says New York financier Asher Edelman. One of Ross’ former colleagues is more direct: ‘He’s a pathological liar.’” Forbes

WHAT STEPHEN MILLER IS PLANNING … “Now the Trump administration wants to limit citizenship for legal immigrants,” by NBC’s Julia Ainsley: “The Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare, four sources with knowledge of the plan told NBC News. …

“The move, which would not need Congressional approval, is part of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller’s plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.

“Details of the rulemaking proposal are still being finalized, but based on a recent draft seen last week and described to NBC News, immigrants living legally in the U.S. who have ever used or whose household members have ever used Obamacare, children’s health insurance, food stamps and other benefits could be hindered from obtaining legal status in the U.S.” NBC

GETTING RESULTS — “Daimler abandons its Iran plans over U.S. sanctions,” by CNN’s Charles Riley: ‘The maker of Mercedes-Benz cars confirmed Tuesday that it has suspended its activities in the country ‘until further notice according to applicable sanctions.’” CNN

TRADE WARS — “When It Comes to a Trade War, China Takes the Long View,” by Brook Larmer in NYT Magazine: “Even if Americans differ on the wisdom of a trade war, there is widespread agreement that China needs to be pushed to play by free-market rules. That rationale, though, is hard to find behind China’s Great Firewall, where censorship and state-controlled media reign. For Chinese observers … the American tariffs look like an unprovoked act of aggression against their innocent homeland — yet another Western attempt to contain China and prevent its rise as a superpower. …

“President Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao, has staked his legitimacy on restoring China’s greatness. Backing down is not an option for him; he can’t afford to look weak in a face-off with China’s biggest rival. Xi may hope the trade war eases up after the midterm elections, but he seems ready to dig in.” NYT Magazine

— “Trump’s ‘Great Deal’ With South Korea Jeopardized by Car Tariff Dispute,” by WSJ’s Kwanwoo Jun in Seoul: “South Korea is threatening to block a revised free-trade agreement with the U.S. unless its cars win an exemption from proposed American tariffs, putting at risk the only free-trade deal the Trump administration has successfully renegotiated. …

“The Trump administration’s push for new auto tariffs has put all car manufacturing nations in the crosshairs, including Germany, Japan and Canada, but policy makers in Seoul are feeling particularly bitter because the U.S. threat came on the heels of their earlier concessions on auto trade.” WSJ

SCOOP — “White House confronts tech’s tariff jitters,” by Axios’ David McCabe: “White House officials sought to reassure tech industry representatives at a private meeting last week that the Trump administration’s pugnacious trade policies will ultimately aid their businesses.” Axios

ON THE BORDER — NYT MAGAZINE Q&A with AUDIE CORNISH: “Kevin McAleenan Says the Border Patrol Doesn’t Make the Laws”: “‘I don’t think if a policy is implemented and then you have recalibration from the presidential level that it can be called a success. …

“‘ICE does critical work for the American people: protecting children from exploitation, investigating narcotics seizures. I don’t think the proposals so far have articulated reforms that they are seeking. They’ve just been against an entire organization, which is not fair.’” NYT Magazine

FOR YOUR RADAR — “Yemen Civil War: U.S. Lawmakers Raise Alarm Bells About Pentagon’s Role in ‘World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis,’” by Newsweek’s Jonathan Broder: “[L]awmakers have become deeply troubled over the Pentagon’s role in Yemen’s civil war—a conflict that has eviscerated the civilian population, provoked a deadly famine and ignited what health officials are calling the worst cholera outbreak in recorded history.

“For the first time since the war began in 2015, U.S. lawmakers are taking concrete steps to halt or tightly restrict weapons sales to their allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.” Newsweek

NYT’S RUKMINI CALLIMACHI: “A Dream Crushed on a Mountain Road: The Cyclists and the ISIS Militants”: “[T]he couple was biking in formation with a group of other tourists on a panoramic stretch of road in southwestern Tajikistan. It was there, on July 29, that a carload of men who are believed to have recorded a video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State spotted them. …

“Two days later, the Islamic State released a video showing five men it identified as the attackers, sitting before the ISIS flag. They face the camera and make a vow: to kill ‘disbelievers.’ It was a worldview as diametrically opposed as imaginable to the one [Jay] Austin and [Lauren] Geoghegan were trying to live by. Throughout their travels, the couple shared Instagram posts about the openheartedness they wanted to embody and the acts of kindness reciprocated by strangers.” NYT

YIKES — STAT DU JOUR — “New Poll: 43% of Republicans Want to Give Trump the Power to Shut Down Media,” by The Daily Beast’s Sam Stein: “[A] plurality of Republicans want to give President Trump the authority to close down certain news outlets, according to a new public opinion survey conducted [by] Ipsos …

“All told, 43 percent of self-identified Republicans said that they believed ‘the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.’ Only 36 percent disagreed with that statement. When asked if Trump should close down specific outlets, including CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, nearly a quarter of Republicans (23%) agreed and 49 percent disagreed.” The Daily Beast

SCOTUS WATCH — “Could hard-right Supreme Court haunt GOP? History says maybe,” by AP’s Alan Fram: “The past century is replete with cautionary tales for political parties that rejoice when the Supreme Court’s ideology turns their way. That track record, coupled with today’s intensifying partisanship, suggests that when it comes to high court nomination fights, both sides should be careful what they wish for. …

“In a 2014 study, [Joseph] Ura used computer modeling to compare five decades of important court decisions to the public mood. He concluded that there is a quick backlash against shifts in the court’s ideology that lasts about two years before eroding, followed by a slight, longer-term swing toward the justices’ viewpoints.” AP

FLOTUS WATCH — “The White House Won’t Stop Melania From Contradicting Trump,” by The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng and Sam Stein: “With the aid of a trusted Trump operative handling the media, Melania is often left to craft her own messaging—and the result has been a number of apparent breaks with the president.

“For those close to Melania Trump, the motive is simple and benign. The first lady speaks her mind from time to time, and the president and his team accept that his wife will, on occasion, disagree with—and even appear to rebuff—him publicly.” The Daily Beast

THE OBAMAS ON THE VINEYARD — @vineyardgazette on Instagram: “Tonight Circuit avenue filled with folks waiting to greet Michelle and Barack Obama after the former POTUS and FLOTUS joined friends for a belated birthday dinner at The Cardboard Box, Ben and Erica Deforest’s new restaurant.” Instapic

MEDIAWATCH — Michelle Bloom, a senior designer, is temporarily leaving POLITICO for a nine-month stint as a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow, where she’ll be studying visual storytelling on social media.

— Edward Wong will cover foreign policy in Washington for NYT. He previously spent more than a dozen years reporting on China and Iraq for the paper. … Jamie Tarabay will be a NYT correspondent in Sydney. She is currently a CNN International senior producer in Hong Kong.

— Audie Cornish is now hosting an interview show, Profile, on BuzzFeed News. It airs Sundays at 8 p.m. This weekend’s guest will be Tom Steyer.

TRANSITIONS — WHITE HOUSE ARRIVAL LOUNGE — Joe Russo started Monday at the White House Office of Public Liaison. He was previously coalitions director at the House Judiciary Committee.

— Adrienne Karecki is now chief development and marketing officer at Mercy Corps. She was previously regional director for West, Central and North Africa. … Brandon Pollak is now director of global civic engagement and strategy at Bird, an electric scooter startup. He is a co-founder of startup incubator 1776, where he also was previously head of global affairs.

SPOTTED: Al Franken reading a book while riding the Metro (pic) … Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) at a PDX deli on his way to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

ENGAGED — Ryan Barber, a reporter at The National Law Journal, proposed to Tarini Parti, White House reporter for BuzzFeed News, in Cape Cod on Saturday. They first met in 2008 while working for UNC’s college paper The Daily Tar Heel.

WEEKEND WEDDING — BUSH ALUMNI: Amber Cottle, who runs public policy and government affairs for Dropbox and is an Apple alum, wed Justin McCarthy of Akin Gump and a Bush WH alum, in a ceremony at Dublin’s Dean Hotel. Pool report: “The wedding, expertly officiated by Ambassador Demetrios Marantis, included a fantastic array of readings ranging from James Joyce to the Pogues and was followed by cocktails, dinner and dancing as guests feted the newlyweds.” Pic

SPOTTED: Chelsea and Luca Thomas, Michael Smart, Bruce Hirsh, Marney Cheek, Lisa Pearlman, Brian Pomper, Scott Mulhauser and Kara Carscaden, Elissa Alben, Kristin Smith, Christophe Jouenne, David Ross, Meaghan Smith, Victoria Espinel and John Stubbs, Bryant and Amy Hall, Becky Tallent, Howard Waltzman, Melika Carroll, Kirsten Chadwick and former Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Anne Anderson.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Aimee Steel Lubin, director of political affairs and media at Holland & Knight, and Josh Lubin, director of application development at Crowell & Moring LLC, welcomed Huckleberry (Huck) Eugene Lubin. Pic

— Annie Baker Hoar, co-founder of the Republican fundraising firm The Morning Group, and Richard Hoar, SVP at Banner Public Affairs, welcomed Charles William Hoar, who came in at 7 lbs. 9 oz. PicAnother pic

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