POLITICO Playbook: Inside Richard Spencer’s ouster


WAPO’S DAVID IGNATIUS, whose father was secretary of the Navy from 1967-1969, weighs in on the firing/dismissal of Navy Secretary RICHARD SPENCER — and seems to have some good inside reporting.

— IGNATIUS: “In firing Richard Spencer, Trump recklessly crosses another line”: “Spencer had tried to find a compromise, sources tell me, after Trump tweeted Thursday, ‘The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin.’ Spencer feared that a direct order from Trump to protect Gallagher, who is represented by two former partners of Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, would be seen as subverting military justice.

“After that Trump tweet, Spencer cautioned acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney that he would not overturn the planned SEAL peer review of Gallagher without a direct presidential order; he privately told associates that if such an order came, he might resign rather than carry it out. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with the White House late Thursday to try to avert this collision.

“Milley’s de-escalation efforts initially appeared to be successful. A Pentagon official messaged me Friday morning: ‘Missiles back in their silos … for the time being.’ But the truce was short-lived. By Saturday, the White House was demanding to know whether Spencer had threatened to resign; the Navy secretary issued a statement denying that he had made any such public threat and continued to seek a deal that would protect the Navy from a direct showdown with Trump.

“‘It was a hold-your-nose solution,’ said a source close to Spencer about his effort to broker an arrangement that would allow Gallagher to retire at the end of November with his former rank, an honorable discharge and his Trident pin, as Trump wanted, but without direct presidential interference in the SEAL review process. As so often happens with attempts to work with Trump’s erratic demands, this one ended in disaster. ‘The president wants you to go,’ Esper told Spencer on Sunday, according to this source. Esper then toed the White House line and announced Spencer’s dismissal.” WaPo

— NYT’S HELENE COOPER, MAGGIE HABERMAN and DAVE PHILIPPS: “A Defense Department official said Chief Gallagher would now keep his Trident pin, the symbol of his membership in the SEALs, at Mr. Esper’s direction because of concerns that the events of the past few days would make it impossible for him to get an impartial hearing.” NYT

Good Monday morning.

OH MY … ABC: “House Intelligence Committee in possession of video, audio recordings from Giuliani associate Lev Parnas,” by Katherine Faulders, John Santucci and Allison Pecorin: “The House Intelligence Committee is in possession of audio and video recordings and photographs provided to the committee by Lev Parnas, an associate of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who reportedly played a key role in assisting him in his efforts to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

“The material submitted to the committee includes audio, video and photos that include Giuliani and Trump. It was unclear what the content depicts and the committees only began accessing the material last week.” ABC

IS THE PRESIDENT GONNA BE THANKING MULVANEY FOR HIS SERVICE SOON? … WAPO: “White House review turns up emails showing extensive effort to justify Trump’s decision to block Ukraine military aid,” by Josh Dawsey, Carol Leonnig and Tom Hamburger: “A confidential White House review of President Trump’s decision to place a hold on military aid to Ukraine has turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the delay was legal, according to three people familiar with the records.

“The research by the White House Counsel’s Office, which was triggered by a congressional impeachment inquiry announced in September, includes early August email exchanges between acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials seeking to provide an explanation for withholding the funds after the president had already ordered a hold in mid-July on the nearly $400 million in security assistance, according to the three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

“One person briefed on the records examination said White House lawyers are expressing concern that the review has turned up some unflattering exchanges and facts that could at a minimum embarrass the president. It’s unclear whether the Mulvaney discussions or other records pose any legal problems for Trump in the impeachment inquiry, but some fear they could pose political problems if revealed publicly.”

WSJ: “Ukraine Energy Official Says Giuliani Associates Tried to Recruit Him,” by Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Christopher Matthews: “Two associates of Rudy Giuliani tried to recruit a top Ukrainian energy official in March in a proposed takeover of the state oil-and-gas company, describing the company’s chief executive and the then-U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as part of ‘this Soros cartel’ working against President Trump.

“‘You’re a Republican, right?’ Andrew Favorov, the head of natural gas for state-run Naftogaz, recalled the men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, asking him, after their reference to investor and Democratic donor George Soros. ‘We want you to be our guy.’

“Mr. Favorov said he met voluntarily this week with New York federal prosecutors as part of an investigation into the activities of Messrs. Fruman, Parnas and Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney. Prosecutors last month arrested Messrs. Fruman and Parnas on campaign-finance charges stemming from alleged efforts to leverage political connections and campaign donations—some from foreign donors—to benefit their own business interests and to assist Mr. Giuliani in efforts to oust Ms. Yovanovitch.” WSJ

NYT’S ANNIE KARNI talks to Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Her Battles With the Press Corps Behind Her, Sanders Plans a Political Future”: “President Trump’s former press secretary has returned to Arkansas a bona fide star eager to play a new role in a post-Trump Republican Party.” NYT

BURGESS EVERETT and SARAH FERRIS: “Bumbling Congress gives Trump the budget freeze he wanted”: “White House budget hawks who have failed to rein in government spending in the Trump era might get a major win — by default.

“Top Republicans and Democrats are fumbling in their attempts to clinch a deal to fund the government over the next year. The result could be a governmentwide spending freeze — exactly what Mick Mulvaney and the rest of President Donald Trump’s negotiating team sought months ago.

“With no agreement in sight and impeachment captivating the Capitol, it’s increasingly likely Washington will be forced to accept another temporary funding bill in December. Lawmakers are already eyeing a monthslong stopgap to stave off a Christmastime shutdown. In the worst-case scenario, a full-year extension could follow.” POLITICO

STATE OF THE ART … HERB WESSON, the president of the Los Angeles City Council, is running to be L.A. County supervisor, and has a new ad — made by Mark Putnam — that shows him looking for his son on the streets. His son is addicted to crack cocaine. Two 30-second spots

2020 WATCH …

— NYT: “Biden Is Struggling in Iowa and His Supporters There Know Why,” by Katie Glueck and Sydney Ember: “Since late summer, Mr. Biden, the early front-runner in the Democratic primary, has faced an increasingly difficult path in Iowa — dropping in the polls and struggling with an enthusiasm gap and an inclination among undecided caucusgoers to consider all options. Now, 10 weeks before the Iowa caucuses, even his own supporters in the state are growing more worried about his prospects.

“The heightened anxiety comes as the candidate and campaign are raising expectations, through new investments of time and resources, about his ability to compete here, an implicit acknowledgment that a substantial loss could be a significant early setback. …

“[V]oters at Mr. Biden’s events, along with county chairs and party strategists, characterize his on-the-ground organization as scattershot, visibly present in some counties but barely detectable in others. His events are often relatively small and sometimes subdued affairs, and in a state where enthusiasm can make or break a candidate on caucus night — a big part of caucusing centers on persuading friends and neighbors — Mr. Biden’s operation has found it difficult to build contagious excitement, these Democrats say.” NYT

— NATASHA KORECKI with an IOWA CAUCUS UPDATE: After the DNC scrapped Iowa’s proposal for virtual caucuses, Iowa Democrats offered an alternative to make their 2020 contest more accessible to those who can’t show up to their local precincts on caucus night — allowing people who work the late shift, for example, to caucus at a factory or community center.

Iowans, including those living temporarily around the country — and even outside of the United States — want to take them up on it. Iowa Democrats have received 173 applications for individuals or groups to hold satellite caucuses, including more than 100 within Iowa, 47 out of state (including 10 in Florida, seven in Arizona and four in both Illinois and California) and six countries: New Zealand, Georgia, Japan, Scotland, France and Mexico, Iowa Democrats tell us.

Some Iowa Democrats have quietly expressed nervousness about the expansion of satellite caucuses this cycle, worried they interject an unknown into the process just months before the contest. (All locations will be determined by Dec. 18.)

— DAVID SIDERS, CHRIS CADELAGO and LAURA BARRÓN-LÓPEZ: “Racial politics inflame Democratic primary”

TRUMP’S MONDAY — The president will have lunch with VP Mike Pence at 12:15 p.m. in the private dining room. Trump will host Bulgarian President Rumen Radev at 2 p.m., and will have a meeting. Trump will participate in a signing ceremony for the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act at 4:15 p.m. in the Oval Office. Afterward, he will sign the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act.

BLAKE HOUNSHELL and BRYAN BENDER in Halifax: “Democracies on the verge of a nervous breakdown”: “If there’s a word that sums up the current mood of the West’s high command, it’s this: despair.

“That’s the clearest and most alarming takeaway from discussions with the assorted diplomats, military officials and security wonks who assembled this weekend for the annual Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, a clubby gathering of leading democracies.

“But the conversation centered less on fears about enemy capabilities, and much more on signs of the West’s own deepening malaise: a U.S. electorate riven over a volatile president on the brink of impeachment, European leaders squabbling among themselves, and everywhere a leadership void filled increasingly by populist insurgents and radicals.” POLITICO

MASSIVE LOSS FOR BEIJING … HONG KONG ELECTIONS — “Tsunami of disaffection washes over city as pro-Beijing camp left reeling by record turnout and overwhelming defeat,” by South China Morning Post’s Jeffie Lam, Sum Lok-kei and Ng Kang-chung: “The anti-establishment reverberations from almost six months of street protests swept through polling stations across Hong Kong on Sunday, as voters in record numbers roundly rejected pro-Beijing candidates in favour of pan-democrats.

“The tsunami of disaffection among voters was clear across the board, as pan-democrats rode the wave to win big in poor and rich neighbourhoods, in both protest-prone and non-protest-afflicted districts and, in downtown areas as well as the suburbs.” SCMP

— FP’S JAMES PALMER (@BeijingPalmer): “So according to state media contacts, Beijing genuinely thought they were going to win big in the elections today, to the point of having pre-written the stories … now, of course, it’s also *politically impossible* to prepare the ‘we lost’ story, but they seem to have been really convinced they would need the win ones.”

TRADE WARS … REUTERS: “An ambitious ‘phase two’ trade deal between the United States and China is looking less likely as the two countries struggle to strike a preliminary ‘phase one’ agreement, according to U.S. and Beijing officials, lawmakers and trade experts. …

“Officials in Beijing say they don’t anticipate sitting down to discuss a phase two deal before the U.S. election, in part because they want to wait to see if Trump wins a second term. ‘It’s Trump who wants to sign these deals, not us. We can wait,’ one Chinese official told Reuters.”

MEET LEV AND IGOR — CNN’s @KateBennett_DC: “In (way) other news, the official White House turkeys have arrived. They’re staying @WillardHotel. Their names will be revealed tomorrow and on Tuesday @realDonaldTrump will do the pardon.” Pic

MEGATREND — “OK Boomer, Who’s Going to Buy Your 21 Million Homes?” by WSJ’s Laura Kusisto and Cassidy Araiza: ”The U.S. is at the beginning of a tidal wave of homes hitting the market on the scale of the housing bubble in the mid-2000s. This time it won’t be driven by overbuilding, easy credit or irrational exuberance, but by an inevitable fact of life: the passing of the baby boomer generation.” WSJ

VALLEY TALK … TIM BERNERS-LEE OP-ED in the NYT: “I Invented the World Wide Web. Here’s How We Can Fix It”: “The web needs radical intervention from all those who have power over its future: governments that can legislate and regulate; companies that design products; civil society groups and activists who hold the powerful to account; and every single web user who interacts with others online.

“We have to overcome the stalemate that has characterized previous attempts to solve the problems facing the web. Governments must stop blaming platforms for inaction, and companies must become more constructive in shaping future regulation — not just opposing it.” Berners-Lee’s proposal, Contract for the Web

MEDIAWATCH — Former Bloomberg Businessweek editor and Washington bureau chief Megan Murphy, reacting on Twitter to John Micklethwait’s memo to Bloomberg News staff on how they plan to handle their boss’ candidacy: “For the record, I was present[ed] with a near identical ‘memo’ during his 2016 flirtation. And I was very clear that I would quit the second it ever saw the light of day.”

— “It is truly staggering that *any* editor would put their name on a memo that bars an army of unbelievably talented reporters and editors from covering massive, crucial aspects of one of the defining elections of our time. Staggering.”

— THE DAILY BEAST’S ASAWIN SUEBSAENG: “Trump Privately Frets ‘What’s Going on With Drudge?’ During Impeachment, Asks Jared Kushner to ‘Look Into It’”: “Publicly, Trump hasn’t said a peep about the highly popular news aggregator run by right-wing media impresario Matt Drudge. But privately, he has simmered over the critical coverage that the site has run and linked to, with regards to the impeachment proceedings.

“‘What’s going on with Drudge?’ Trump has been asking allies since Democratic lawmakers launched the impeachment probe in late September, according to a person with knowledge of his private remarks. Two other sources who’ve heard the president complain told The Daily Beast that Trump has asked those close to him why they think Drudge and his website have seemed “so anti-Trump” lately.

“In recent weeks, Trump has even asked Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and a top White House official—who has had a friendly relationship with the site’s creator—to ‘look into it’ and reach out to Drudge, the sources said.” Daily Beast

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].

SPOTTED: Tom Steyer at the San Francisco airport before boarding a Delta flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul on Sunday. Pic … Seb Gorka at The Nation’s Gun Show at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va., on Sunday. … Don McGahn on stage playing lead guitar with ’80s rock band Winger at MGM National Grand Harbor on Friday. Video

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Paul Wood, writer for the U.S. edition of the British Spectator magazine and a BBC alum, and Ruth Sherlock, an international correspondent for NPR covering the Middle East, recently welcomed Rosa Lucia Wood. Pic

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) is 45. How he’s celebrating: “Honestly, I totally forgot my birthday was coming up until my staff reminded me, so I don’t have any plans. I’m just going to be spending it with my wife in Los Angeles. She always has something fun in store for us.” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Barbara Pierce Bush and Jenna Bush Hager are 38 … Abby Phillip, CNN political correspondent … Mark Bloomfield, president and CEO of the American Council for Capital Formation, is 7-0 (h/t Mike Burita) … Lee Dunn, director of cloud policy for the Americas at Google Cloud … WaPo’s Brent Griffiths … Rachel Holt, VP/head of new mobility at Uber … David Almacy, founder of CapitalGig (h/t Blake Waggoner) … Lisa Borders … Stuart Yael Gordon … Bill Dauster (h/t Jon Haber) … Jason Rae … Shilpa Phadke … Robert Steurer … Jason Huffman … Charly Norton … former New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch is 67 …

… Sarah Lynch, Justice Department reporter for Reuters … Colin Crowell … former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich is 62 (h/t Edward Booher) … Keith Sonderling, deputy administrator at DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, is 37 … The Appeal’s Kira Lerner … Loully Saney, deputy press secretary for Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) … Douglas Troutman … Adam Zeplain … Kendrick Lau … Steph Dodge … Amanda (Gross) Kenzitt … Leah Regan … Emilie Jackson … Isaac Wright … Alexandra Givens … Mark Schleifstein … Sean Durns … Jenn Jacques … Christine Isett … Donna Zaccaro … Robin Brand … Eric Oginsky … Gillian Drummond (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Joe Gibbs





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