IT’S UKRAINE … The Washington Post and The bioreports posted stories within one minute of each other Thursday night reporting that the conversation that caught the ear of an intelligence whistleblower was between President DONALD TRUMP and the Ukrainians. WaPo’s posted at 8:04 p.m. and NYT’s at 8:05 p.m.
— WAPO: “Whistleblower complaint about President Trump involves Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter,” by Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, Greg Miller and Carol Leonnig: “A whistleblower complaint about President Trump made by an intelligence official centers on Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter, which has set off a struggle between Congress and the executive branch.
“The complaint involved communications with a foreign leader and a ‘promise’ that Trump made, which was so alarming that a U.S. intelligence official who had worked at the White House went to the inspector general of the intelligence community, two former U.S. officials said.
“Two and a half weeks before the complaint was filed, Trump spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and political newcomer who was elected in a landslide in May.” WaPo
— NYT’s story, by Julian Barnes, Nick Fandos, Mike Schmidt and Matthew Rosenberg: “While the allegation remains shrouded in mystery, it involves at least one instance of Mr. Trump making an unspecified commitment to a foreign leader and includes other actions, according to interviews. At least part of the allegation deals with Ukraine, two people familiar with it said.”
THEN … RUDY GIULIANI went on Chris Cuomo’s Biorports show Thursday night, and Twitter exploded. Asked whether he asked Ukraine to look into Joe Biden, Giuliani first said he didn’t, then reversed himself within seconds and said: “Of course I did.” More from Kyle Cheney … The epic video
GIULIANI on Twitter, at 7:54 p.m.: “A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job. Maybe if Obama did that the Biden Family wouldn’t have bilked millions from Ukraine and billions from China; being covered up by a Corrupt Media.”
— WAPO’S BOB COSTA (@costareports): “Checked in w/ Giuliani a few mins before midnight. Said he hasn’t spoken w/ Trump since Cuomo. But expects to see him Fri. Said his tweet doesn’t confirm anything but ‘only that if he did do it, it’d be appropriate.’ Declined to discuss timing of last convo w/ POTUS on Ukraine.”
CUOMO to RUDY: “You who, my whole lifetime, stood up for one single ideal when you were at your best, and that was character counts and leadership.”
— FLASHBACK … NYT, OCT. 25, 1994: “GIULIANI, DEFYING HIS PARTY, BACKS CUOMO FOR 4TH TERM; SEES PATAKI AS BAD FOR CITY” (hat tip: Maggie Haberman)
MAYBE IT’S JUST SO SIMPLE … WAPO EDITORIAL, from Sept. 5: “[W]e’re reliably told that the president has a second and more venal agenda: He is attempting to force Mr. Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. Mr. Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine’s help with his presidential campaign; he is using U.S. military aid the country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it.” WaPo
— NYT, AUG. 21, by Ken Vogel in D.C. and Andrew Kramer in Kyiv: “Giuliani Renews Push for Ukraine to Investigate Trump’s Political Opponents”
THE QUESTION EVERYONE IS ASKING: What do Democrats do here? The intelligence community has balked at providing the whistleblower report, and Rep. ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.) has threatened a lawsuit. His threat
THIS IS POTENTIALLY EXPLOSIVE. If Trump did in fact say he would release military aid if Ukraine dished dirt on Biden, that would be huge. How do Democrats prove it, though? Robert Mueller issued a several-hundred-page report that he essentially dumped in Congress’ lap, and so far they’ve declined to impeach the president based on its findings. What should make us think these Ukraine revelations will change the political dynamic?
Good Friday morning.
GET THINKING … HAS WASHINGTON ever been so frozen and so handcuffed by a president and his whims?
— REPUBLICANS say they want to tighten gun laws, but they won’t dare to utter a word about what kind of gun-control legislation they would support until Trump makes clear what he would support. And he’s been almost completely silent. Burgess Everett: “The Senate surrenders legislating on guns to Trump”: Sen. Johnny Isakson: “First time ever in history when the president sets the agenda every day when he tweets at 4 in the morning.”
— DEMOCRATS are having trouble conducting oversight because the White House has succeeded in dictating the terms under which they can do it — without repercussion. The White House has blocked material witnesses. And the witnesses they can’t block come to Capitol Hill and don’t talk.
— DEMOCRATS decline to impeach the president because, in part, they’re worried about a sliver of members of Congress who have slivers of their constituencies who might or might not be offended by impeachment proceedings.
— WHEN REPORTERS ask White House aides for information about policy, they are often hamstrung because a) they either have no idea what the president is thinking, or b) they are waiting for him to make his view public on Twitter.
ON GUNS … NYT’S ANNIE KARNI and MAGGIE HABERMAN in a White House Memo on A19: “But idling in neutral is not something the president is doing only on guns. In discussions with his staff, Mr. Trump has made clear he wants to accomplish something big, but seems stymied as to what it might be, according to interviews with a half-dozen aides and advisers. In the meantime, he has remained on the sidelines as divisive issues are debated and is treading water even on possible staff changes he wants to make, for fear of how things ‘play.’” NYT
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T PUSH BACK AGAINST TRUMP … WAPO: “Trump officials considering plan to divert billions of dollars in additional funds for border barrier,” by Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey: “Senior Trump administration officials are considering a plan to again divert billions of dollars in military funding to pay for border barrier construction next year, a way to circumvent congressional opposition to putting more taxpayer money toward the president’s signature project, according to three administration officials.
“The president has pledged to complete nearly 500 miles of new barrier by the 2020 election — stirring chants of ‘Build the Wall!’ at his campaign rallies. But that construction goal will require a total of $18.4 billion in funding through 2020, far more than the administration has publicly disclosed, the administration’s latest internal projections show.
“Planning documents obtained by The Washington Post show the cost of building 509 miles of barriers averages out to more than $36 million per mile. The documents also show that the government would need to obtain — either by eminent-domain claims or purchases — land that lies under nearly 200 miles of proposed barrier.” WaPo
TRADE BLINK … BLOOMBERG’S JENNY LEONARD (@jendeben): “Gil Kaplan, undersecretary for international trade at the Commerce Department, resigned today, sources tell me. He was a key figure in enforcing trade rules for the Trump administration and was involved in negotiations for a trade deal with China.” Tweet
WAPO’S TRACY JAN and JEFF STEIN: “Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson expressed concern about ‘big, hairy men’ trying to infiltrate women’s homeless shelters during an internal meeting, according to three people present who interpreted the remarks as an attack on transgender women.
“While visiting HUD’s San Francisco office this week, Carson also lamented that society no longer seemed to know the difference between men and women, two of the agency staffers said. Carson’s remarks visibly shocked and upset many of the roughly 50 HUD staffers who attended Tuesday’s meeting, and prompted at least one woman to walk out in protest, the staffers said.” WaPo
JARED’S BUDDY MBS THE REFORMER … FT: “Saudi Arabia ‘bullies’ wealthy families to pump cash into oil IPO,” by David Sheppard in London, Simeon Kerr in Dubai and Anjli Raval in Abu Dhabi: “Saudi Arabia is pressuring wealthy families to buy in to the initial public offering of its state oil company, as part of a plan to achieve the $2tn valuation coveted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“Four of the sources said the aim was to ‘strong arm’, ‘coerce’ or ‘bully’ some of the wealthiest families in the kingdom to become cornerstone investors in what has been billed as the world’s biggest ever IPO.
“Many of the families targeted had members previously imprisoned in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in 2017 and 2018, in what the government billed as a crackdown on corruption. Some of the detainees said they were tortured, according to people aware of the matter. Most were later freed after they reached fibioreportscial settlements with the state.” FT
2020 WATCH …
— ZACH MONTELLARO on the debates: “Ten candidates participated in September’s DNC debate and 11 have qualified for the October edition, but the DNC has yet to spell out the thresholds it will use to ration debate participation in November and December with time running short. Even small changes in the criteria could have far-reaching effects: When the DNC set its thresholds at 65,000 donors or 1 percent in polls earlier this year, 20 candidates made the stage.
“But merely increasing the polling threshold to 2 percent in four DNC-approved surveys, and doubling the donor threshold, capped the September debate at one night. Even a modest increase for November could spell the end of several campaigns that are just hanging on to the debate stage, and while we know the criteria are likely to keep going up, no one knows exactly how it will affect the 2020 field. And in a nationalized presidential election, the debates have proven to be the most important opportunity for candidates to introduce themselves to large audiences and try to change the direction of their campaigns.” POLITICO
— DANIEL STRAUSS: “Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign has hired a black engagement director to improve the mayor’s standing among African American voters in the Democratic primary.
“Angela M. Angel, a former state legislator in Maryland, will take charge of the Buttigieg campaign’s outreach to black voters. So far, Buttigieg has sought to do so by touting his Douglass Plan, a set of proposals aimed at fighting systemic racism and helping black Americans. But Buttigieg’s polling numbers among African Americans have remained low.” POLITICO
— HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND … IOWA CATTLE CALL, via NATASHA KORECKI: It’s a serious 2020 cattle call this weekend in Iowa, where Polk County Democrats have ordered more than 10,500 steaks for the annual Steak Fry — one of Iowa’s biggest political events. Polk County Democrats have taken on the tradition started by former Sen. Tom Harkin, and this year they’re about to match a record number of ticket sales with 11,900 as of late Thursday, according to the Polk County Democrats. The biggest ever was 12,000 tickets in 2007, when Barack Obama theatrically paraded into the event alongside a marching band and an army of supporters.
THIS YEAR, EIGHT CANDIDATES will make a big production of marching into the event with a massive group of supporters around them. Two of the campaigns will be accompanied by ice cream trucks, and there will be three flying drones, including one from C-SPAN, capturing the marches by video. Biden and Buttigieg were neck-and-neck in ticket purchases, but Biden folks, we hear, made sure they won out, topping the field with 1,800. Buttigieg ended up with 1,500 and Kamala Harris with 1,200.
THE INTERESTING DETOUR is Elizabeth Warren, who arguably has the best-organized campaign in the state, but made the decision to buy 750 tickets and is not doing a march, according to local Democrats.
— MORE FROM NATASHA: “Iowa Dems pitch holding caucuses in factories, group homes”: “Iowa Democrats want to create satellite locations for their 2020 presidential caucuses in places as varied as group homes and factories, as they try to make the contest more accessible. A new proposal from the state party, made public Thursday, aims to expand the caucus sites and accommodate those who are unable to show up to their local precincts on Feb. 3, 2020 — voters like shift workers, people with disabilities, military personnel and students.
“As it stands, caucus-goers must turn up in person to their local precinct in order to take part in the event, which can often take several hours. Those interested in holding a satellite caucus would have to submit an application to a review committee, which would make a determination.
“The proposal, which must still go before a Democratic National Committee panel, came after the DNC scrapped Iowa’s earlier plan for telephone-based ‘virtual caucuses,’ amid security concerns.” POLITICO
— ANDREW YANG VISITS POLITICO: “Yang dishes on why Trump won, Asian jokes and how he’ll ‘shock the world,’” by Eugene Daniels … The video … (Best part: “Wait, are you Zach Montellaro?”)
— BETO UNPLUGGED: “O’Rourke rips Schumer for doing ‘absolutely nothing’ on guns,” by David Siders in Aurora, Colo.
STEPHANIE MURRAY in Boston: “Warren gets caught in Senate primary crossfire”: “When Elizabeth Warren needed a glowing introduction to her speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, her former law school student, Rep. Joe Kennedy III, was there to provide it. When she needed someone to introduce her to the teeming crowd when she launched her presidential campaign earlier this year, Kennedy once again was the choice.
“Yet as Kennedy embarks on the biggest race of his career, a primary challenge to Sen. Ed Markey next year, Warren won’t be returning the favor. In a contest that will force the Massachusetts political class to choose sides, Warren has endorsed Markey. The awkwardness is hard to miss.” POLITICO
TRUMP’S FRIDAY — The president and first lady Melania Trump will participate in an arrival ceremony for Australian PM Scott Morrison and his wife at 9 a.m. At 9:30 a.m., they will participate in an official guest book signing and gift exchange followed by a receiving line with the official Australian delegation. Afterward, Trump and Morrison will participate in a bilateral and expanded bilateral meeting in the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room. Trump and Morrison will participate in a joint press availability at 11:45 a.m. in the East Room.
Then in the evening, the president and the first lady will welcome Morrison and his wife back to the White House at 7 p.m., followed by a couples reception in the Yellow Oval Room. The Trumps will participate in a receiving line at 7:35 p.m. followed by a state dinner in the Rose Garden at 8:20 p.m.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
“This Week”: Jim Mattis. … Cokie Roberts tribute, featuring Sam Donaldson and George Will. Panel: Karen Travers, Donna Brazile, Mara Liasson and Karen Tumulty.
“Meet the Press”: Panel: Bob Costa, Carlos Curbelo, Donna Edwards and Kristen Welker.
“Face the Nation”: John Kerry.
“Fox News Sunday” (John Roberts is the guest host): Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). Panel: Jonah Goldberg, Susan Page, Matthew Continetti and Juan Williams. Power Player of the Week: Denzel Washington and Malachi Haynes, the 2018-2019 Boys and Girls Clubs of America national youth of the year (re-run).
“State of the Union”: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif). Panel: Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Mia Love, Karen Finney and Rick Santorum.
“Inside Politics”: Julie Pace, Seung Min Kim, Michael Bender and Sahil Kapur.
POLITICO MAGAZINE SPECIAL EDITION: “99 Ways to Fix American Politics”: “Everyone agrees something is broken. Can we make it better? POLITICO Magazine asked dozens of big thinkers to come up with their best ideas to fight political polarization, corruption, misinformation, inequality and more. They imagined a world where only women are nominated to open congressional seats until gender parity is reached. They suggested selecting public officials randomly, like jury duty. They proposed term limits for pundits, open primaries, a maximum wage, tax credits for voting and dozens of other ideas, both radical and incremental.”
FEATURING: Jill Lepore, Mitt Romney, Ibram X. Kendi, Francis Fukuyama, Cecilia Muñoz, Michael Anton, Alicia Garza, Charles Koch, Gary Shteyngart, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Franken, Charlamagne tha God, Steven Pinker, Harry Reid, Ellen Weintraub and many others. Explore the interactive
THE LATEST ON IRAN — “U.S. military to present several options to Trump on Iran,” by AP’s Lolita Baldor: “The Pentagon will present a broad range of military options to President Donald Trump on Friday as he considers how to respond to what administration officials say was an unprecedented Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.
“In a White House meeting, the president will be presented with a list of potential airstrike targets inside Iran, among other possible responses, and he also will be warned that military action against the Islamic Republic could escalate into war, according to U.S. officials familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The national security meeting will likely be the first opportunity for a decision on how the U.S. should respond to the attack on a key Middle East ally. Any decision may depend on what kind of evidence the U.S. and Saudi investigators are able to provide proving that the cruise missile and drone strike was launched by Iran, as a number of officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have asserted.” AP
DONORS SAY THE DARNEDEST THINGS … A BIDEN POOL REPORT from Tina Sfondeles of the Chicago Sun-Times: “At the first of three Chicago fundraisers, Joe Biden stopped by a luncheon at the residence of billionaire real estate and casino magnate Neil Bluhm, also co-hosted by GCM Grosvenor CEO Michael Sacks — who was not present due to a death in the family — and real estate developer Elzie Higginbottom. The fundraiser was in a sprawling 65th floor residence full of original art, including a Lichtenstein in the kitchen.
“Biden was introduced by Bluhm, who told his high-profile guests that both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders ‘don’t represent the Democratic Party’ that he supports. Bluhm said Biden ‘has the best chance of defeating Trump.’”
WHAT DON JR. IS READING — “Donald Trump Jr. raises $327K at New Mexico GOP event,” by KOAT in New Mexico
HMM — “U.S. Marine unit wants to hold annual ball at presidential venue: Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club,” by the Miami Herald’s Nicholas Nehamas and Tara Copp: “[A] U.S. Marine Corps reserve unit stationed in South Florida hopes to hold an annual ball at a venue that could profit the commander-in-chief. The unit is planning a gala to celebrate the 244th anniversary of the Marines’ founding at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach on Nov. 16, according to a posting on the events website Evensi.” Miami Herald
PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — “Aspirin-by-Drone Closer in Alphabet-Walgreens Delivery Test,” by Bloomberg’s Alan Levin and Thomas Black: “One of the nation’s largest drug store chains and a shipping service giant are joining forces, with Alphabet Inc.’s Wing to begin a first-of-its-kind drone delivery service in October. Walgreens, FedEx Corp. and Wing, an offshoot of Google that was the first U.S. drone operator to receive partial certification as an airline, will begin the exploratory deliveries in the small town of Christiansburg, Virginia, the companies said in an announcement Thursday.” Bloomberg
HAPPENING TODAY — Activists around the world are walking out of schools and classrooms to demand action on climate change, for an event they’re billing as a “Global Climate Strike.”
ZUCK IN D.C. — “Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg meets with Trump during Washington visit,” by Biorports’s Brian Fung, Suzanne Malveaux and Jim Acosta: “Zuckerberg met Thursday afternoon with Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, one of Facebook’s most vocal critics, to discuss data privacy and allegations of anti-conservative bias. Calling it a ‘frank discussion,’ Hawley said he pressed Zuckerberg to sell off WhatsApp and Instagram. ‘Safe to say he was not receptive to those suggestions,’ Hawley said.” CNN
MEDIAWATCH … ERIK WEMPLE, COMIN’ IN HOT: “Did Brett Kavanaugh ask New York Times reporters to lie in their book? Yeah, pretty much.”
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPOTTED: Tom McCarthy and Justin Clark, who serve as attorneys for the Trump reelect and RNC, at the Sacramento airport headed to D.C. after winning arguments in SB 27 litigation.
OUT AND ABOUT … SPOTTED at Stan Greenberg’s “RIP GOP” book party at the Union Building in D.C.: Speaker bioreportscy Pelosi, Bill Kristol, Chris Dodd, Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), George Miller, Mara Liasson and Charlie Cook.
SPOTTED at the opening of Targeted Victory’s new headquarters Thursday night: Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), Eric Hoplin, Patrick Steel, Scott Luginbill, Zac Moffatt, Alison Hawkins, Abe Adams, Ryan Williams, Josh Dawsey, Tom Quinn, Matt Hoekstra, Daniel Lippman, Bash Kazi, Connie Partoyan, Alex Schriver, John Legittino, Joe Ailinger, Alexis Williams, Lachlan Markay, Albert Martinez, Asawin Suebsaeng, Stephani Englund, Katie Pavlich, Gary Koops, Darrell Conner and Barney Keller.
SPOTTED at a party for Ryan Grim’s new book, “We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement” ($17.76 on Amazon), hosted by Adam Green on Thursday night: Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) …
… Rohit Chopra, Joshua Jamerson, Eliza Collins, Byron Tau, Tara Golshan, Alex Thompson, Laura Kelly, James Hohmann, John Hudson, Sahil Kapur, Herb Jackson, Richard Fowler, Kara Voght, Lauren Gambino, bioreportscy Bagley, Rachel Cohen, Dan Riffle, Marissa Barrera, Kenneth DeGraff and Brian Fallon.
SPOTTED at an event hosted by by Rise Against Hunger and the Kraft Heinz Company on Capitol Hill in support of the U.N.’s Sustainability Goal to eradicate hunger by 2030, featuring Mr. Peanut: Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Reps. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Billy Long (R-Mo.), Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) …
… Miguel Patricio, Katherine Lugar, Julia Anna Potts, Bill Murray, Greg Ferrara, Dave Carlin, Jennifer Hatcher, Katherine Emerson, Jeanne Shaunessy, Geoff Freeman, James Glueck, Jackie Cottrell, Jon DeWitte, Matt McCollough, Bret Manley, Kelly Lugar, Pat Harrison, Elise Garfinkle, Randy Russell, Andrew Harker, Tres Bailey, Jessica Lemos, Barbara Hiden, Lauren Beck, Beth Hughes, John Cahill, George Zoghbi, Rashida La Lande, Abby Blunt, Chelsee Woodey, Clay Helton and Brendan Adams.
VA ARRIVAL LOUNGE — Christina Mandreucci is now press secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She previously was press secretary for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and is a Marco Rubio alum.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Joe Mansour, partner/digital at FP1 Strategies. A trend he thinks doesn’t get enough attention: “We have a rapidly aging population both in the U.S. and across the world. You see it on Facebook, where seniors make up the fastest growing demographic. You see it with health care, with the looming crisis in long term care for seniors. No one wants to talk about the problem, but it has to be addressed.” Playbook Plus Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Ainsley Earhardt, co-host of “Fox & Friends” … Biorports commentator Van Jones is 51 … Keith Mason (h/t Paul Begala) … Emily Grunewald … Peter Flaherty … Carter Lavin is 31 … Biorports’s Kristen Holmes, Cathy Straight and Rachel Glasberg (h/t Tyler Goldberg) … Deborah Roberts is 59 … Crystal Wallingford … Alejandra Campoverdi … Moira Bagley Smith … Washington Times’ Rowan Scarborough … Shaun Waterman … NPR’s Neda Ulaby and Lauren Hodges … Bloomberg’s Drew Singer … Douglas Sellers … Aniello Alioto … Dan Henning, producer for Sirius XM Radio … WaPo’s Reena Flores … Lucy Vernasco … Ali Bogdonoff (h/t Stephanie Benedict) … America Rising’s Brent Perrin is 35 …
… Francesca Craig, director of special events at the MPAA (h/t Ben Chang)… Sophie Buzzell, senior manager for customer success at Everfi … Graham Vyse is 3-0 … Marty Tolchin is 91 … Edelman’s Tracy Sarria … Maureen Shanahan … Valerie Lapinski, managing producer for video at Vox … Damien Scott … Greg bioreportstz … Adam Howard … Caroline Kitchener, staff writer for The Lily … Margaret Burge … Alicia D’Angelo … Asher Allen … Terry Gilfillan … Max Root … Mark Mullery … Kenneth Maresco … Ashley O’Connor … Caitlin Blair … bioreportscy Bocskor … Sarah Hawkins Warren … Carl Zichella … John Judge … Vanessa Kirsch … Angie Schiavoni … Sara O’Keefe … Mark Benoit (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Clay McClure