WE PROMISED YOU A FEW MONTHS BACK that we would keep you up to date on the progress of USMCA, the tweaked NAFTA, which the White House has told us is President DONALD TRUMP’S single biggest legislative priority this Congress.
REPUBLICANS INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS LAY OUT THIS TIMETABLE: a deal announcement before Thanksgiving, and a vote before the end of the year. Democrats don’t necessarily disagree with this timetable, but caution that it could change. Substance will determine timeframe, they say. Dems do say they are down to figuring out a handful of issues, as Ways and Means Chairman RICHIE NEAL (D-Mass.) said on a caucus call earlier this week. Both sides are working well together, and, despite the din of impeachment-fueled madness, this process is moving along in a very non-Trump-like normal fashion.
OF COURSE, all sides caution there are many ways this process can go off the rails. Republicans are privately frustrated that Democrats still seem to have some issues with labor. Some in the TRUMP administration are at their wits’ end with the Dems and want them to schedule a vote soon. SENATE REPUBLICANS are quite bearish and think the calendar is working against the whole process, given the oxygen impeachment and government funding will take up in the next six weeks.
DRAIN THE WHAT? SINCE LEAVING FLORIDA STATE GOVERNMENT, PAM BONDI — who is now helping the White House on impeachment — has been registered to lobby the federal government on behalf of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, Balsam Brands Inc. …
… Bakers Financial Corp., Carnival North America, General Motors, KGL Investment Company, Major League Baseball, Republic Services Procurement, the Geo Group and the Children’s Hospital Association. She has also been a foreign agent for the Qatari government.
Good Thursday morning. OBAMA ALUMNI turned out in force for Joe Biden on Wednesday night, with more than 50 attending a fundraiser at the home of Jeff Zients, former Obama White House national economic director. SPOTTED, via pooler Isaac Dovere of The Atlantic: Pete Rouse, Kathy Ruemmler, Tom Daschle, Bill Daley, Anthony Foxx, Mike Froman, Bob Bauer, Anita Dunn and Steve Ricchetti.
NEW … WAPO: “Trump wanted Barr to hold news conference saying the president broke no laws in call with Ukrainian leader,” by Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey and Carol Leonnig: “President Trump wanted Attorney General William P. Barr to hold a news conference declaring that the commander in chief had broken no laws during a phone call in which he pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate a political rival, though Barr ultimately declined to do so, people familiar with the matter said.
“The request from Trump traveled from the president to other White House officials and eventually to the Justice Department. The president has mentioned Barr’s demurral to associates in recent weeks, saying he wished Barr would have held the news conference, Trump advisers say.” WaPo
FROM 30,000 FEET … ANDREW DESIDERIO: “Impeachment transcripts reveal a consistent, damaging narrative for Trump”: “Rudy Giuliani was President Donald Trump’s enforcer, circumventing official channels and bewildering professional diplomats as he pressured Ukraine to target Trump’s political opponents.
“Along the way, career foreign service officers became collateral damage — and questions of a Trump-authorized quid pro quo emerged, blowing up into a scandal that now imperils the Trump presidency.
“Those are the unchallenged details revealed so far in five transcripts of depositions released this week as part of the House impeachment inquiry. And as Democrats prepare for public hearings next week, they are underscoring the common thread running through the witnesses’ accounts.”
WAPO’S PAUL KANE: “Election results reassure House Democrats as they pursue impeachment inquiry of Trump”: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was not on the ballot Tuesday in state and local elections across the country, but she and her Democratic majority were among the biggest winners.
“The results ratified the 2018 midterm election map, in which Pelosi’s Democrats won back the House majority by storming through the suburban blocs that were onetime GOP strongholds and tapping into the energy there of a massive backlash against President Trump. On Tuesday voters sent the same message outside Philadelphia, throughout Virginia’s suburbs and in parts of northern Kentucky, reassuring Democrats of the path they are on and strengthening their political spines as they grow closer to impeaching the president.
“One key sign of strength in their strategy came in the special election for a state legislative seat outside Houston, where a Democrat gained the most votes and heads into a runoff election as a possible favorite. This comes in a region where early last decade a GOP enforcer, then-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), carved up the state’s map to bolster the Republican majority on Capitol Hill, only to now see that terrain slip away.” WaPo
IMPORTANT STORY … BURGESS EVERETT and JOHN BRESNAHAN: “Trump’s impeachment trial hinges on McConnell and Schumer”: “Before the Senate can deliver a verdict on whether to oust Trump from office, the ‘world’s greatest deliberative body’ must first set ground rules on the president’s impeachment trial. At issue is what kind of amendments or witnesses to consider, as well as how long the proceedings will go on and what kind of evidence can be introduced, all of which will shape the trial and its fallout.
“It’s a process fraught with uncertainty and political peril, particularly with an impeachment trial to come right in the heat of a Democratic presidential primary in which six senators are running to defeat Trump. Whether the Senate can show some semblance of unity before plunging into what’s sure to be a deeply acrimonious trial will depend on McConnell and Schumer and their ability to keep their caucuses in line.
“‘There’s no reason we can’t come up with an agreement. … I’m open to trying to be fair and down the middle and letting the facts come out and be nonpartisan,’ Schumer said in an interview on Wednesday. ‘There’s no reason we can’t come up with good, fair and honest rules.’ …
“Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has quietly met with McConnell and Schumer to ask for a senators-only meeting — similar to the famous session that occurred in the Old Senate Chamber on Jan. 8, 1999 — to hash out a deal on how to proceed with a Trump trial, if it comes to that. The 1999 impeachment rules package, crafted by then-Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Phil Gramm (R-Texas), passed on a 100-0 vote, which was hailed by senators as a momentous achievement, yet seems nearly impossible to imagine occurring in today’s Senate.” POLITICO
RUDY’S WOES … NYT’S MAGGIE HABERMAN, WILLIAM RASHBAUM and MICHAEL ROTHFELD: “President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said on Wednesday that he had assembled a legal team to represent him in the criminal investigation into his activities related to Ukraine, an announcement that came after weeks of sputtered attempts to find a lawyer willing to take him on as a client.
“Mr. Giuliani said on Twitter that he would be represented by three lawyers, including his longtime friend, Robert J. Costello. The hires show how serious Mr. Giuliani is treating the inquiry by federal prosectors in Manhattan, who are investigating whether he violated lobbying laws in his efforts to dig up damaging information about Mr. Trump’s rivals. …
“[A]t least four prominent attorneys declined for various reasons, according to people familiar with the matter. They included Mary Jo White, who also once led the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District, as well as Theodore V. Wells Jr., a trial lawyer at Paul, Weiss, according to people familiar with those discussions.
“Another was Daniel L. Stein, a former senior prosecutor who recently held top posts in the Southern District, where he oversaw the prosecutions of public officials including Sheldon Silver, the former speaker of the New York State Assembly, and Dean Skelos, the State Senate majority leader.” NYT
— NYT: “Behind the Deal That Put Giuliani Together With a Dirt-Hunting Partner,” by Ken Vogel, Ben Protess and Sarah Maslin Nir
ABOUT LAST NIGHT …
— AP/MONROE, LA.: “President Donald Trump worked up a sweat in a steamy Louisiana arena Wednesday night as he attempted to boost Republican businessman Eddie Rispone’s effort to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in the nation’s last governor’s race of the year. …
“The gubernatorial runoff election in Louisiana offers Trump an opportunity to pick up a win in a rare Democratic-held governor’s seat in the Deep South and change the narrative after a pair of apparent setbacks this week for the Republican party in Kentucky and Virginia. ‘You’re going out to replace a radical, liberal Democrat as your governor,’ Trump said. ‘John Bel Edwards has not done the job.’” AP
— THE BACKSTORY: “Trump races to avoid a second electoral debacle in Louisiana,” by Alex Isenstadt: “Donald Trump couldn’t save Matt Bevin in Kentucky. Now, the pressure is on the president to avoid a second black eye in Louisiana next week.
“Trump is thrusting himself into the state’s gubernatorial contest: He [rallied] there on Wednesday evening … for Republican candidate Eddie Rispone, who is trying to unseat Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, and will make another visit two days before the Nov. 16 election. The president is also expected to record get-out-the-vote videos and robocalls, and on Wednesday morning he called into a popular Louisiana morning radio show to talk about the race.
“Trump also plans to attend the Louisiana State vs. Alabama college football game on Saturday. Though the game is Alabama, the marquee match-up is expected to draw wide viewership among Louisianans. The blitz underscores the importance of the race to the president. Trump has been heavily focused on the Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana gubernatorial contests this fall, gambling that a sweep would bolster his political standing in the face of impeachment and heading into 2020.” POLITICO
BUT, BUT, BUT … NOT GOING DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT … “Bevin cites ‘irregularities’ in asking for Kentucky recanvass,” by Steven Shepard: “Matt Bevin isn’t going quietly. Kentucky’s Republican governor is broadly casting doubt on the results of Tuesday’s election, with the unofficial tally showing him trailing Democrat Andy Beshear by just over 5,000 votes, or about four-tenths of a percentage point.
“Speaking before reporters Wednesday night in Frankfort, the state capital, Bevin said his campaign would be seeking an official recanvass of the results — but it is also compiling evidence of ‘irregularities’ in the voting process to be investigated. ‘What we know is that there really are a number of irregularities,’ he said, adding that ‘there’s more than a little bit of history of vote fraud in our state.’” POLITICO
TRUMP’S THURSDAY — The president will participate in a greeting to recognize the National Day for the Victims of Communism in the Oval Office at 2:15 p.m. He will present the Presidential Citizens Medal at 6 p.m. in the East Room. Trump will leave the White House at 7:35 p.m. en route to the Trump International Hotel. He will give a speech at a fundraising reception at 8 p.m. before returning to the White House.
JOSH GERSTEIN and DARREN SAMUELSOHN: “5 takeaways from Roger Stone’s first major day in court”: “Call it the Cliff Notes version of the Mueller report. That’s what a new panel of Washington, D.C., jurors heard Wednesday morning as federal prosecutors delivered a tight synopsis of how Roger Stone came to be a defendant in the last indictment to come from the special counsel’s office.
“It was a powerful moment delivered exclusively to a courtroom audience. Anyone who’s been following Robert Mueller’s work closely would recognize all the pieces of the story. But to the 12 jurors who might be coming in cold, it was a stark and concise opening narrative explaining how the colorful characters in Trumpworld gossiped and plotted around Russia’s digital thefts of Democratic emails during the 2016 election — and the role Stone played in that story.” POLITICO
HAPPENING TODAY — Former A.G. Jeff Sessions is expected to announce his candidacy for his old Senate seat. He’s also expected to appear on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, a Trump favorite, this evening. AP’s Brian Slodysko in D.C. with Kim Chandler in Montgomery
— AL.com: “Sessions would join a Republican primary field that includes U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne of Fairhope, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, Secretary of State John Merrill, state Rep. Arnold Mooney of Birmingham, and businessman Stanley Adair of Haleyville.”
— NOTE: Trump is heading to Tuscaloosa to watch Saturday’s Alabama-LSU game. ELIZABETH CRISP, The Advocate’s D.C. correspondent, notes that Trump said he’d stay neutral between the two SEC powerhouse teams.
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: Here’s an exchange between Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his former deputy Tom Watson, who just resigned his seat amid a dispute over the leftward lurch of the party under Corbyn.
— WATSON: “Our many shared interests are less well known than our political differences, but I will continue to devote myself to the things we often talk about: gambling reform, music and arts, stopping press intrusion, obesity and public health and of course horticulture and cycling.” CORBYN: “I hope the horseradish plants I gave you thrive.” More on Labour’s leadership shakeup from London Playbook
WHAT THE LEFT IS READING — “Joe Biden: An Anti-Endorsement,” by The Nation: “His long record of poor judgment and cozying up to bankers make him the wrong candidate to take on Donald Trump.”
THE TV-WATCHER-IN-CHIEF … CNN: “As Democrats move toward the public phase of their inquiry with an eye to boosting support for Trump’s impeachment, White House officials are gripping for another consequence: a President consumed by the developments.
“Trump has already found the specter of impeachment hard to ignore, interspersing references to the ‘scam’ he believes Democrats are pursuing into nearly every White House meeting and set of unrelated public remarks.” CNN
VALLEY TALK — “Google Weighs Changes to Political Ad Policy,” by WSJ’s Emily Glazer: “Alphabet Inc.’s Google is in discussions about changing its political ad policy, according to people familiar with the matter, about a week after Facebook and Twitter publicly diverged on how to handle those ads amid the spread of misinformation.
“Google has been holding internal meetings about changing its political ad policy and is expected to share more information with employees this week, the people said, though it is unclear what the changes will be. Some Google employees are speculating the changes could be related to what type of audience targeting the company allows ad buyers to place.” WSJ
— “Former Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi Arabia by digging into the accounts of kingdom critics,” by WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima and Greg Bensinger: “The Justice Department has charged two former Twitter employees with spying for Saudi Arabia by accessing the company’s information on dissidents who use the platform, marking the first time federal prosecutors have publicly accused the kingdom of running agents in the United States.
“One of those implicated in the scheme, according to court papers, is an associate of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA has concluded likely ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year.” WaPo … The complaint
— AP: “The complaint also alleged that the employees — whose jobs did not require access to Twitter users’ private information — were rewarded with a designer watch and tens of thousands of dollars funneled into secret bank accounts. Ahmad Abouammo, a U.S. citizen, and Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi citizen, were charged with acting as agents of Saudi Arabia without registering with the U.S. government.”
MEDIAWATCH — “Fox News brass to network hosts and personalities: Do not identify the whistleblower,” by CNN’s Oliver Darcy and Brian Stelter: “[O]n October 31, a Fox executive sent an email to staffers that said the network had not ‘independently confirmed [the] name or identification of the anonymous whistleblower.’ A copy of the email was obtained by CNN Business. The executive further advised production staffers to ‘NOT fulfill any video or graphic requests’ related to the whistleblower’s identity.” CNN
— VANITY FAIR’S JOE POMPEO: “News Outlets Grapple With Unmasking the Whistleblower”: “Don. Jr. may not have been able to corner the mainstream press into a position where it had no choice but to acknowledge the information he was putting out into the world. But his tweet did seem to alter the landscape a bit. What happens if, say, his father, or someone else unignorable, were encouraged to do the same thing?” Vanity Fair
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SPOTTED: Rod Rosenstein at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon for a lecture. … Ted and Lynn Leonsis and Chris Wallace and Lorraine Smothers at BLT Steak on Wednesday night.
TRANSITIONS — Former Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) is now chief commercial officer at Leading Edge Power Solutions. … Departing New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill will be SVP and global head of physical security at Visa. AP
K STREET WATCH — Erik Smith’s Seven Letters communications and public affairs shop is expanding again. The firm is acquiring Tessio Labs, which is headed up by John Corrigan and Michael Treon, and will expand its digital strategies offering with Seven Letter Labs.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Liz Allen, SVP at the Glover Park Group and former Obama White House deputy comms director, is 35. What she thinks deserves more attention: “Less a trend than something I hope we start talking more about is elder care and end-of-life preparation — from both the personal and systemic perspectives. Especially the tragedy of dementia and Alzheimer’s touches families regardless of geography, race, class or politics — including my own — and I want to see a greater collective discussion about how to tackle it and make people feel less alone in caregiving for loved ones.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) … Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) is 56 … Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) is 53 … Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.) is 68 … former CIA Director David Petraeus, now a partner at KKR and chairman of the KKR Global Institute … Sheila Nix … POLITICO’s Elena Schneider … Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care … Jen Friedman, SVP for global public affairs at Blackstone … Caroline Tabler, comms director for Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) … Adams Nager … ABC’s Kaylee Hartung … Jonathan Tannenwald … Meghan Roh, director of public relations at Epic … Ben Golnik … former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.) is 89 … POLITICO Europe’s Agathe Legris …
… Siobhan Gorman, partner at Brunswick Group (h/ts Tim Griffin and George Little) … Facebook’s Erin Green … Avi Zvi Zenilman is 35 … Jeff Bjornstad is 52 … Trey Graham … Daniel Libit … Olivia Lucas … Phil LaRue … Max Viscio … Perry Goffner … Kate Murphy … Betsy Bourassa … Burson Taylor Snyder, deputy COS for Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) … George Thompson, partner at Banner Public Affairs (h/t Jon Haber) … Jamila Bey … Liz Llorente … Kathy Killeavy … Kyle Kerchaert … Jeanneane Maxon … Adnaan Muslim, partner at Deliver Strategies (h/t Gabby Adler) … Jackie Lemaire … Glennis Meagher … Pat Devlin … Democracy Partners’ David Grossman … Tory Mazzola
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