BEHIND THE SCENES … CAMPAIGN COMMITTEES IN WASHINGTON pay lots of money to get an edge on their opponent. They have research teams, conduct detailed and pricey polls and dispatch trackers across the country to catch members of the other party in unscripted and damaging moments.
BUT ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, THE NRCC walked across the street to the DCCC’s headquarters on Capitol Hill to stake out some Dem candidates, and stumbled upon what they consider a quite fortuitous find. Dems say it represents tactics that are totally out of bounds, and downright creepy.
THE DCCC was holding a polling meeting with the blinds wide open, all their information on display for passersby to see. The meeting was billed as part of their Red to Blue program — the GOP seats Democrats are trying to flip. The NRCC aides snapped photos, and you can see their photo document here.
REPUBLICANS SAY THEY GLEANED a wealth of valuable intel on the state of key House contests. For example, the NRCC learned that Democrats’ internal polling shows the special election in California’s 25th District — Katie Hill’s former seat — as just a 4-point race, with Republican former Rep. Steve Knight trailing Chrissy Smith 30-26. They also had slides that appeared to show the DCCC’s favorites in contested Democratic primaries.
THE NRCC AND DCCC have disagreed on where to draw the line when it comes to opposition research. The Republican committee, for example, has declined to sign an agreement to not use hacked information in its campaigns.
THE NRCC AND DCCC have both had quite colorful cycles. The NRCC seems to delight in invective. Just Thursday, the NRCC Twitter account was at war with a local Buffalo reporter, and called Rep. LUCY MCBATH (D-Ga.) a “lyin’” “hypocrite” and suggested she endorsed MIKE BLOOMBERG for president because he spent money on her behalf in 2018. The DCCC, meanwhile, fired much of its senior staff last summer after a POLITICO report about lawmakers’ concerns about diversity at the top of the party committee. The DCCC has far outraised the NRCC.
COLE LEITER of the DCCC sent us this comment: “When you have no ideas or accomplishments to run on, you creep in the bushes, take pictures through people’s windows, and invade their privacy. The next time the NRCC is looking for tips on running winning campaigns, all they have to do is call us — we’ll be more than happy to explain why Kevin McCarthy is the Minority Leader.”
BARR VS. POTUS … THE PRESIDENT is waking up this morning to these FRONT PAGES: NYT, 2 col.: “BARR SAYS ATTACKS FROM TRUMP MAKE WORK ‘IMPOSSIBLE’ … Rare Rebuke by a Sitting Cabinet Member — ‘I’m Not Going to Be Bullied’” … N.Y. POST, banner on the bottom of the cover: “AG BARR TO TRUMP: ‘STOP TWEETING!’” … WSJ: “Attorney General Criticizes Trump’s Tweets” …
— WAPO, via Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey: “People close to Barr said that in recent months he has become increasingly frustrated with Trump’s tweets about the Justice Department. The president, they said, seemed not only to be undercutting his own political momentum but also to be fostering doubts about the department’s independence.
“Barr was comfortable not being universally loved by career employees, but he felt the tweet Tuesday raised a bigger problem, giving people reason to wonder whether the department had been corrupted by political influence and decided he could no longer remain silent about the president’s public denunciations, these people said.
“Behind that public fight, according to people familiar with the discussions, is a deeper tension between Trump and Barr’s Justice Department over the lack of criminal charges against former FBI director James B. Comey and those close to him.”
— NYT’S KATIE BENNER: “The attorney general had been contemplating how to respond since he became aware of Mr. Trump’s attacks on the department, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Speaking up could have put Mr. Barr at risk of losing the backing of the president, but remaining silent would have permitted Mr. Trump to continue attacking law enforcement and all but invited open revolt among the some 115,000 employees of the Justice Department. Ultimately, Mr. Barr concluded that he had to speak out to preserve his ability to do his job effectively, the person said.”
— JOSH GERSTEIN and CAITLIN OPRYSKO: “‘The President wasn‘t bothered by the comments at all and he has the right, just like any other American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions,’ [Stephanie] Grisham said. ‘President Trump uses social media very effectively to fight for the American people against injustices in our country, including the fake news. The President has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law.’
“The benign response from the White House prompted speculation from some quarters that Barr‘s message was aimed more at calming the furor at the Justice Department over the episode than actually scolding Trump.” POLITICO
WSJ ED BOARD BACKS BARR: “Trump’s Worst Enemy: He needs to stop tweeting about cases and let Barr do his job.”
Good Friday morning. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
FOR THE RECORD: If you find yourself in West Palm Beach over the next six or so weeks, go visit the World Series champion Washington Nationals — they’ve started spring training.
SPOTTED: Chief Justice John Roberts out for lunch with a large group at Tosca on Thursday.
TRAIL NOTES … JOE BIDEN, Thursday night in New York, via pooler Chris Sommerfeldt of the N.Y. Daily News: “Biden said he’s confident he will win the South Carolina primary and place first or second in the Nevada caucuses. … Biden also defended his work to root out corruption in Ukraine while serving as vice president, saying he acted in accordance with U.S. policy by pushing for the ouster of the Viktor Shokin, the country’s ex-top prosecutor. ‘I did my job in Ukraine,’ Biden said.” … “Poll: Majority says Biden son’s Ukraine job was inappropriate,” via Marc Caputo
— NYT’S KATIE GLUECK at a second fundraiser: “‘People are still trying to figure out what language the Iowans spoke,’ he said to laughter, an apparent reference to the confusion surrounding the initial results from the caucuses, in response to a question about where he goes from here. ‘It’s kind of in disarray right now and most people acknowledge that it was less than discernible. But 2 percent of the, of the public has spoken. And no Democrat has ever won the presidency without overwhelming support from the African American community.’ …
“Mr. Biden detailed some of the challenges the Obama administration faced. ‘When it was all over, we still hadn’t talked at all about the Recovery Act, I mean, excuse me, all about the health care bill we passed, Obamacare,’ Mr. Biden said. ‘He said, “I don’t have time.” And so what happened? That next Congress, in ’16 we lost the Congress, from ’16 to ’18. And every pundit accurately said the reason we lost it is that because we passed Obamacare, that’s what everybody was saying if you remember.’ [Note: Democrats lost the House in 2010 and re-took it in 2018.]”
ALEX THOMPSON: “Warren on the ropes”: “Elizabeth Warren convened a conference call Tuesday night after her fourth-place finish in New Hampshire and delivered some straight talk to demoralized staffers. ‘I don’t kid myself,’ Warren said, according to a source on the call. ‘I know that when the pundits and naysayers criticize us, I know it gets hard. And I know your jobs get hard, but these are the moments we find out who we are. … These are the moments when we dig deep.’
“The moment is an enormous test not just for the Warren team, but for the candidate herself. After betting big on the first two states and netting no delegates from neighboring New Hampshire, the Massachusetts senator is at a low point in her White House bid — and trying to find some way to come back.
“She’s proceeded cautiously. But the hyper-disciplined Warren is inching toward drawing more contrasts with her opponents, after sticking to an ‘I’m not here to attack other Democrats’ approach for most of the campaign.” POLITICO
— NYT, via Reid Epstein and Lisa Lerer in Arlington, Va.: “Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Thursday that Michael R. Bloomberg should not be the Democratic presidential nominee because of newly surfaced comments he made 12 years ago in which he said the end of a discriminatory housing practice had helped contribute to the 2008 financial crisis.
“Ms. Warren’s comments, made at an event here in Northern Virginia, were a strikingly direct broadside against a rival as she tries to reignite enthusiasm for her campaign after her fourth-place finish in New Hampshire this week.” NYT
THINGS ARE GETTING UGLY — “Trump allies take aim at Buttigieg’s sexuality, a possible sign of things to come,” by WaPo’s Amy Wang and Chelsea Janes
HOW BLOOMBERG’S PLAYING … HOUSTON CHRONICLE: “Mike Bloomberg uses Houston rally to apologize for stop and frisk,” by Jeremy Wallace and Jasper Scherer: “Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg used a rally at Houston’s Buffalo Soldiers National Museum to tell a predominately black audience that he ‘deeply regrets’ ever supporting the controversial stop and frisk policy he employed while mayor of New York City.
“Bloomberg told the audience that he knows now he was wrong to defend the policy that targeted black and Hispanic residents for pat downs to see if they had weapons. That program has become a major stumbling block for many Democratic voters as they weigh Bloomberg’s run for the White House.”
WHERE THEY ARE: BIDEN is in Nevada today for an early vote rally in Henderson. … PETE BUTTIGIEG has a 10 a.m. rally at the Mirage in Las Vegas (he’s joining by livestream). … AMY KLOBUCHAR is holding events in Las Vegas and Reno, Nev.
WAPO’S JOSH DAWSEY and MICHELLE YE HEE LEE: “Trump to headline a $580,600-per-couple fundraiser, the most expensive of his reelection bid”: “President Trump will be the guest of honor at a Saturday fundraiser at the palatial Palm Beach estate of billionaire Nelson Peltz. Trump’s fellow guests: donors who gave $580,600 per couple to support the president’s reelection, making it the most expensive such fundraising event since Trump took office.”
THIS IS TRUMP’S 30TH VISIT to Mar-a-Lago since 2017, per the Palm Beach Post: “A highlight of Trump’s Presidents Day weekend stay will be a stopover at the Daytona 500 on Sunday before returning to Washington.” Palm Beach Post … POLITICO on Trump’s Daytona plans
STATE OF THE UNION = FAIRYTALE TIME? … AP: “Trump’s story about veteran’s comeback was not quite true,” by Bernard Condon in New York: “Tony Rankins, a formerly homeless, drug-addicted Army veteran, got a standing ovation at the State of the Union after President Donald Trump described how he turned his life around thanks to a construction job at a company using the administration’s ‘Opportunity Zone’ tax breaks targeting poor neighborhoods.
“But that’s not completely true. Rankins, who indeed moved out of his car and into an apartment since landing a job refurbishing a Nashville hotel two years ago, doesn’t work at a site taking advantage of the breaks and never has done so. In fact, he started that job four months before the Treasury Department published its final list of neighborhoods eligible for the breaks. And the hotel where he worked couldn’t benefit even now because it’s an area that didn’t make the cut.”
TRUMP’S FRIDAY — The president will deliver remarks to the National Border Patrol Council members in the South Court Auditorium at 2:30 p.m. He and first lady Melania Trump will leave the White House at 4 p.m. en route to West Palm Beach. They will arrive at Mar-a-Lago at 6:55 p.m.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
“Face the Nation”: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) … Tom Steyer … Anthony Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Panel: Ed O’Keefe, Paula Reid, Eliana Johnson and Amy Walter.
“This Week”: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) … House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.).
“Meet the Press”: Panel: Peter Alexander, María Teresa Kumar, Danielle Pletka and Eugene Robinson.
“Fox News Sunday”: Kellyanne Conway. Panel: Guy Benson, Donna Brazile, Michael Anton and Charles Lane. Power Player: Ben Folds.
“State of the Union” (guest host: Dana Bash): Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Panel: Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Ken Blackwell, Andrew Gillum and Amanda Carpenter.
“Inside Politics” (guest host: Nia-Malika Henderson): Margaret Talev, Tarini Parti, Phil Mattingly and Lisa Lerer.
“America this Week with Eric Bolling”: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) … Rep Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) … Peter Schweizer … Greg Miller … Jose Aristamuño.
“Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren”: Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.
HOUSE REPUBLICANS PUSH BACK ON CLIMATE CHANGE — “Kevin McCarthy faces uneasy right flank over climate push,” by Melanie Zanona, Anthony Adragna and Eric Wolff: “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is eagerly pushing a new conservative effort to combat climate change. But not everyone in the GOP is racing to embrace the plan just yet — and it’s already facing blowback from some groups on the right.
“McCarthy (R-Calif.) and a cross-section of House Republicans on Wednesday unveiled a package of narrow environmental bills — the first phase of the GOP’s modest effort to combat global warming, a top priority for young voters and an opportunity for Republicans to draw a contrast with some of the proposals on the left.
“There’s wide consensus among Republicans that they need to do something to address climate change, and McCarthy’s election-year push has already attracted support from a broad mix of lawmakers, from conservatives such as Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona to members representing coal states like Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia.
“But some GOP lawmakers aren’t on board yet: In fact, several Republicans were concerned about the effort being branded as a GOP-wide initiative, with lawmakers cautioning that they hadn’t read the new bills and weren’t even aware that they were being released on Wednesday.” POLITICO
ALLY MUTNICK: “Inside the crazy race to replace Mark Meadows”
HOT IN VEGAS … ATTACK OF THE BERNIE BROS — “Nevada’s powerful Culinary Union declines to endorse a 2020 candidate,” by Marc Caputo, David Siders and Natasha Korecki: “Nevada’s powerful Culinary Workers Union will not endorse in the presidential primary, while criticizing Bernie Sanders’ signature Medicare for All proposal. … The mobilization of service employees, many of them in Las Vegas, are critical to the Nevada caucuses. And the focus on Culinary’s dispute with Sanders has been watched closely ahead of voting there.”
— Nevada Independent’s @meganmesserly: “@Culinary226’s spokeswoman tells me they have received ‘hundreds’ of attacks, in the form of mentions, DMs, calls and emails, including threats to their personal safety. She says she and Geoconda Arguello-Kline have been doxxed, their personal addresses shared.” Bernie denounces the attacks
BIG NYT BACKSTORY — “How Months of Miscalculation Led the U.S. and Iran to the Brink of War,” by Mark Mazzetti, Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi: “What happened over the past several months, based on interviews with officials from the United States, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries as well as outside analysts, is a story of miscalculations by both sides and of violence that spilled into nations across the Middle East — from Syria to Saudi Arabia to Iraq.
“The Trump administration escalated a campaign of financial warfare — so-called maximum pressure — to suffocate Iran’s economy in hopes of forcing its government back into negotiations over its nuclear program and its military operations throughout the region. Instead, Iran lashed out with brazen attacks on oil installations in the Saudi desert, tankers docked off the Emirati coast and American forces in Iraq.
“The decision by President Trump to authorize the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful military commander, might ultimately deter future Iranian aggression. Yet a recent C.I.A. analysis concluded that Iran, while struggling to continue funding its military activities under American sanctions, appears no closer to entering direct talks over its nuclear program, according to American officials familiar with the assessment.” NYT
HUAWEI OR THE HIGHWAY — “China’s Huawei Charged With Racketeering, Stealing Trade Secrets,” by WSJ’s Corinne Ramey and Kate O’Keeffe: “Huawei Technologies Co. and two of its U.S. subsidiaries were charged with racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets in a federal indictment unsealed Thursday, opening another front in the Trump administration’s battle against the Chinese telecommunications firm.
“The new charges amp up pressure on Huawei from the U.S., where Trump administration officials are fighting to persuade allies to lock the telecommunications giant out of their next generation mobile networks because of national security concerns. The U.S. has long said Huawei could be coerced by Beijing into using its equipment to spy on, or disrupt, foreign networks, which the company denies.
“The new indictment, filed in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., builds on allegations the U.S. leveled in January 2019 accusing Huawei of financial fraud and violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said the new charges related to a decadeslong effort by Huawei and its subsidiaries, in the U.S. and China, to steal intellectual property, including from six U.S. technology companies.” WSJ … DOJ announcement … The indictment
MEDIAWATCH — Patrick Garrigan will be global head of Bloomberg Live. He previously was executive director of business development for AtlanticLIVE and is a POLITICO alum. Talking Biz News
WHITE HOUSE DEPARTURE LOUNGE — Caitlin Welsh has left the White House, where she was director for global economic engagement for the NEC/NSC, and been named director for the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Global Food Security Program. She previously worked at the State Department for more than seven years.
PENTAGON ARRIVAL LOUNGE — Chris Miller is now deputy assistant secretary of Defense for special operations and combatting terrorism. He previously worked on counterterrorism issues at the NSC.
TRANSITIONS — Tom Dobbins will be president and CEO of the Aluminum Association. He most recently has been the longtime head of the American Composites Manufacturers Association. … Tim Kobosko is now chief information officer of Shatterproof, a new nonprofit focused on combating the addiction crisis. He previously was CIO for the Special Olympics. …
… Amanda Fischer will be policy director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. She most recently has been COS to Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.). … In the wake of Chad Mizelle’s promotion, DHS is tapping John Gountanis to become acting chief of staff and Scott Erickson as a deputy COS.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Mike Bloomberg is 78. A trend he thinks doesn’t get enough attention: “I’ve always been passionate about public health, and I think the maternal health crisis in our country is a tragedy that we should not tolerate. Black women are nearly four times more likely than white women to die during childbirth — and a big reason is that black women are far less likely to have access to affordable, quality care. It’s unacceptable that this is happening in America today.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Richie Neal (D-Mass.) is 71 … Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) is 79 … Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) is 48 … Carl Bernstein is 76 … Hugh Downs is 99 … Martha Raddatz, ABC News’ chief global affairs correspondent and “This Week” co-anchor … Stephen A. Schwarzman is 73 … Michio Aida … Amanda Litman, co-founder and executive director of Run for Something, is 3-0 (h/t Emily Slatkow) … Ed Patru, principal at Direct Communications Co. … former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) is 73 … Karen Anderson, senior director for policy, comms and external affairs at UChicago’s Becker Friedman Institute for Economics (h/t husband Lyndon Boozer) … POLITICO’s Kat McKibben … Katie Childress … Andrew LaCasse is 34 … Dave Cuzzi … Marty Markowitz is 75 … “Fresh Air’s” Terry Gross is 69 … Jacob Luneau … Oriana Pawlyk … Scott Will, founder of Attorney General Strategies (h/t Zack Roday) … VA’s Caitlin Patenaude Vannoy …
… Jon Sawyer, executive director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting … Jaime Horn, principal at New Heights Communications (h/t Josh Cohen) … Ryan Blake, legislative director at the Consumer Bankers Association … Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies’ Paul Miller and Mitch Moonier … Dutch PM Mark Rutte is 53 … NYT’s Alan Blinder … Brittany Candrian Richman … Erik Potholm, a partner at SRCP Media … Brooke Lierman … Evan Kraus … Pete Solecki … Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, is 4-0 … Dan Walsh … Hannah VanHoose … Bobby Honold … Cristina Marcos … Rod Lamkey … Mark Elliot … Sharon Daniels … Matt Angle … Galen Main … Carlos Sanchez … Colin Van Ostern … Jenny Nielsen … Daniel Stublen … John Vockley … Neal Mann … William Beach, commissioner of labor statistics at BLS … Griff Hathaway … Mike Inganamort … Brianne Carter … Kate Sullivan … Jen Pihlaja