POLITICO Playbook: A monumental week for Trump



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WE ARE BEGINNING what is a pivotal week for DONALD TRUMP and his presidency. Most notably: the public impeachment proceedings, which begin Wednesday and continue Friday. On Tuesday, we expect the release of a second transcript of a phone call between the president and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Also: The president of Turkey — a country some in the Trump administration said was responsible for war crimes — will come to the White House and appear alongside the president for a news conference. Talks resume this week to avoid a government shutdown in 10 DAYS. And if the administration is to complete the USMCA, progress needs to be made in short order.

HOW REPUBLICANS ARE RESPONDING — “Republicans plot counterattack for impeachment hearings,” by Melanie Zanona: “The transcripts released last week from closed-door interviews with impeachment witnesses also provide a window into how the GOP plans to approach the high-stakes hearings. Republicans will try to paint the Democratically led process as politically motivated and minimize Trump’s role in the quest to persuade Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. And they will also try to keep the heat off Trump by attacking the Bidens and pushing other conspiracy theories about the elections.” POLITICO

THE FULL FLIP? … “Giuliani Associate Says He Gave Demand for Biden Inquiry to Ukrainians,” by NYT’s Ben Protess, Andrew Kramer, Michael Rothfeld and William Rashbaum: “Not long before the Ukrainian president was inaugurated in May, an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s journeyed to Kiev to deliver a warning to the country’s new leadership, a lawyer for the associate said.

“The associate, Lev Parnas, told a representative of the incoming government that it had to announce an investigation into Mr. Trump’s political rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and his son, or else Vice President Mike Pence would not attend the swearing-in of the new president, and the United States would freeze aid, the lawyer said.

“The claim by Mr. Parnas, who is preparing to share his account with impeachment investigators, challenges the narrative of events from Mr. Trump and Ukrainian officials that is at the core of the congressional inquiry. It also directly links Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to threats of repercussions made to the Ukrainians, something he has strenuously denied.

“But Mr. Parnas’s account, while potentially significant, is being contradicted on several fronts. None of the people involved dispute that the meeting occurred, but Mr. Parnas stands alone in saying the intention was to present an ultimatum to the Ukrainian leadership.” NYT

Good Monday morning. Happy Veterans Day. Former Defense Secretary JIM MATTIS is featured in an online video out this week for the Call of Duty Endowment about hiring veterans. The video

NYT’S PETER BAKER: “Nikki Haley Describes Rebuffing Internal Scheme Against Trump”: “Nikki R. Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations, says in a new book that she resisted entreaties by other top aides to President Trump to undermine his policies, revealing more about the fractious world of loyalty and betrayal around the president.

“Ms. Haley writes in her new memoir that John F. Kelly, then the White House chief of staff, and Rex W. Tillerson, then the secretary of state, tried to recruit her to join them in circumventing policy decisions by the president that they viewed as dangerous and reckless, an outreach she said she rebuffed.” NYTCBS’ Norah O’Donnell’s interview with Haley


— WAPO: “Mulvaney’s move to join impeachment testimony lawsuit rankles Bolton allies,” by Tom Hamburger, Carol Leonnig and Josh Dawsey: “People close to [John] Bolton and [Charles] Kupperman said the two were flabbergasted by Mulvaney’s surprise request to join the lawsuit because they and others on the national security team considered Mulvaney a critical player in the effort to get the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations into Trump’s political opponents.

“Their objection is twofold: Bolton views Mulvaney as a key participant in the pressure campaign, a situation that the then-national security adviser referred to derisively as ‘a drug deal,’ according to congressional testimony by his aides. The two men were barely on speaking terms when Bolton left his post in September, according to White House officials.

“And they believe Mulvaney’s goal is to avoid testifying by joining a suit involving officials whose attorney has argued they may be limited in what they can share with Congress because of their role advising the president on national security matters.” WaPo

— DEEP DIVE … NYT’S GLENN THRUSH and KEN VOGEL: “What Joe Biden Actually Did in Ukraine”: “A look at what the former vice president actually did in Ukraine (he visited six times and spent hours on the phone with the country’s leaders) tells a different story, according to interviews with more than two dozen people knowledgeable about the situation. It casts light on one of Mr. Biden’s central arguments for himself in the primary: his eight years of diplomacy as Mr. Obama’s No. 2.

“Mr. Biden dived into Ukraine in hopes of burnishing his statesman credentials at a time when he seemed to be winding down his political career, as his elder son, Beau, was dying and his younger one, Hunter, was struggling with addiction and financial problems. It turned out to be an unforgiving landscape — threatened by Russia, plundered by oligarchs, plagued by indecisive leaders and overrun by outsiders hoping to make a quick buck off the chaos.” NYT

ANITA KUMAR: “Republicans used to ignore Trump’s resorts. Now they’re spending millions”: “In total, nearly 200 campaigns and political groups — virtually all conservative — have spent more than $8 million at President Donald Trump’s resorts and other businesses since his election in 2016, according to a yet-to-be-released report from the liberal-leaning consumer rights group Public Citizen obtained by POLITICO. That wasn’t the case before the real estate mogul and reality TV star got into politics.

“Between 2012 and 2014, campaigns and political groups spent a combined $69,000 at Trump businesses, according to the report. But since June 2015, when Trump announced he was running for the White House, political spending at the president’s properties has topped $19 million. Some of the initial surge was related to the Trump campaign’s using a Trump company plane during the 2016 election, but much of the uptick comes from conservative candidates and groups.” POLITICO

2020 WATCH …

— BEN WHITE and DANIEL STRAUSS: “‘The new candidate of the young elite’: Buttigieg battles Biden and Bloomberg for the center lane”: “Pete Buttigieg was quickly locking down a solid lane in the Democratic primary: a young, vibrant, gay, midwestern, war veteran mayor with progressive ideas and plenty of money — but both feet planted in fiscal prudence.

“Young Wall Street and tech-entrepreneur types were starting to fall in love — with his poll numbers and fundraising totals underscoring the Buttigieg boomlet. He was the ‘Parks and Recreation’ candidate in the Democratic field and an alternative to seventy-somethings Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders who are both looking to lock down the hyper-online progressive, anti-Wall Street crowd as well as blue collar workers across the Midwest. …

“But then a funny thing happened last week: Another 70-something candidate beloved on Wall Street — billionaire mogul Michael Bloomberg — made an unexpected splash by suggesting he may still enter the race.

“Bloomberg will not steal Buttigieg’s momentum with younger, wealthier Democratic voters and donors, people close to the South Bend mayor say. But the former NYC mayor does give Big Finance, Big Tech and other more corporate-friendly Democrats another progressive prospect as an alternative to Biden, Sanders and Warren.” POLITICO

— NATASHA KORECKI and MARC CAPUTO: “Why Biden is crushing it nationally — but slipping in Iowa and N.H.”: “Joe Biden is the clear frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic race for president.

“Or he’s faltering, slipping into fourth place as he loses ground to Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and an ascendant Pete Buttigieg.

“Those alternate realities are playing out in real time — reflected in Biden’s solid standing atop national polls versus his middling performance in Iowa and New Hampshire surveys on the other. The disparity is at once a source of frustration to Biden’s team and one of hope to rivals holding out for an utter collapse by the former vice president in the two earliest nominating states.

“The explanations for the discrepancy run the gamut. The white Iowa and New Hampshire electorates play against Biden’s strength among ideological moderates and African Americans, some defenders argue. Skeptics say it shows that the voters watching him most closely are underwhelmed. There’s the fact that Biden pulled back on early state ad spending — both on TV and digitally — while competitors ramped up. Finally, the Trump factor: The president’s reelection campaign has been running anti-Biden ads on TV in Iowa and more broadly over social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube.”

“AOC brings star power to Iowa for Sanders,” by Holly Otterbein in Council Bluffs, Iowa

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