JUST ASKING … PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP keeps complaining that people are going “crazy” about his summit with VLADIMIR PUTIN in Helsinki, and not giving him enough credit for what he has achieved. BUT … he won’t tell anyone the specifics of what he talked about and what he has achieved!
NEW: WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE … NYT’S MATT APUZZO, MAGGIE HABERMAN and MIKE SCHMIDT: “Michael Cohen Secretly Taped Trump Discussing Payment to Playboy Model”: “President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording.
“The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.
“The recording’s existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors.
“Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Mr. Trump had discussed the payments with Mr. Cohen on the tape but said the payment was ultimately never made. He said the recording was less than two minutes and demonstrated that the president had done nothing wrong.” https://nyti.ms/2Nx6W4S
— HOW MANY PEOPLE tape just one single phone call? Are there more tapes?
JUST POSTED … NBC NEWS: “Iran has laid groundwork for extensive cyberattacks on U.S., say officials,” by Courtney Kube, Carol E. Lee, Dan De Luce and Ken Dilanian. https://nbcnews.to/2uRplBT
MUST READ … LUNCH WITH THE FT … EDWARD LUCE and HENRY KISSINGER: “‘I don’t want to talk too much about Trump because at some point I should do it in a more coherent way than this,’ Kissinger replies.
“But you are being coherent, I protest. Please don’t stop. There is another pregnant silence. ‘I think Trump may be one of those figures in history who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretences. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he knows this, or that he is considering any great alternative. It could just be an accident.’ …
“‘It is clear the direction I am going in,’ he replies. ‘Is it clear to you?’ Sort of, I reply. You are worried about the future. However, you believe there is a non-trivial chance that Trump could accidentally scare us into reinventing the rules-based order that we used to take for granted. Is that a fair summary? ‘I think we are in a very, very grave period for the world,’ Kissinger replies. ‘I have conducted innumerable summit meetings, so they didn’t learn this one [Helsinki] from me.’” https://on.ft.com/2L9kln0
LOUIS NELSON, VICTORIA GUIDA and ADAM BEHSUDI — “Trump threatens tariffs on all $500 billion worth of Chinese imports”: “President Donald Trump said Thursday that he is prepared to impose tariffs on all $500 billion worth of Chinese imports and will work to reset a trade relationship that he says is unfair, regardless of the implications it may have on the stock market or November’s midterm elections.
“Trump told CNBC in an interview that aired Friday morning that he wants China ‘to do well’ and that ‘I don’t want them to be scared,’ but said he will not tolerate Beijing imposing retaliatory tariffs as he tries to end the trade imbalance between the two nations.” https://bit.ly/2LzR5lw … The video https://cnb.cx/2mxnfU0
— Louis also reports that Trump said he would be Vladimir Putin’s “worst nightmare” if their relationship deteriorated: https://bit.ly/2JEHFTP
— WSJ’S SIOBHAN HUGHES: “Sen. Orrin Hatch Urges President to Rethink Trade Policies”: “Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch is ratcheting up pressure on President Donald Trump to reconsider his tariff policies, warning in a letter that GOP senators may be ready to risk a legislative confrontation with the president unless he reverses course on trade.
“‘As you are aware, members of the Senate are increasingly considering legislation to reduce trade authorities that Congress has delegated to the President,’ the Utah Republican wrote in a letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal. ‘I am sympathetic to those efforts. If the administration continues forward with its overreliance on tariffs, I will work to advance legislation to curtail Presidential trade authority.’ …
“In the hierarchy of messages from Capitol Hill to the White House, a letter like the one Mr. Hatch sent the president on Tuesday could be seen as the most potent, possibly a prelude to the legislation it threatens. And a number of lawmakers, especially on Mr. Hatch’s committee, are wondering if that is their next move—a bill that would ensure that Congress has its say over tariffs that could rebound in the form of retaliatory tariffs on farmers or manufacturers in their districts. … Hatch took a shot at some top White House officials, saying ‘I strongly urge you to reconsider the reckless guidance you have received on trade policy from some of your advisors.’” https://on.wsj.com/2uKQh66
Good Friday afternoon. WHAT’S ON THE PRESIDENT’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 8:31 a.m.: “My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those involved in the terrible boat accident which just took place in Missouri. Such a tragedy, such a great loss. May God be with you all!”
… at 8:43 a.m.: “China, the European Union and others have been manipulating their currencies and interest rates lower, while the U.S. is raising rates while the dollars gets stronger and stronger with each passing day — taking away our big competitive edge. As usual, not a level playing field…”
… at 8:51 a.m.: “….The United States should not be penalized because we are doing so well. Tightening now hurts all that we have done. The U.S. should be allowed to recapture what was lost due to illegal currency manipulation and BAD Trade Deals. Debt coming due & we are raising rates — Really?”
… at 9:04 a.m.: “Farmers have been on a downward trend for 15 years. The price of soybeans has fallen 50% since 5 years before the Election. A big reason is bad (terrible) Trade Deals with other countries. They put on massive Tariffs and Barriers. Canada charges 275% on Dairy. Farmers will WIN!”
THE INVESTIGATIONS — “Accused Russian agent says she was twice denied visas to travel to U.S.,” by Josh Meyer: “Mariia Butina, the Russian gun enthusiast who was accused this week of acting as an illegal foreign agent, said in 2014 that she was twice denied visas to travel to the U.S. and received permission only on her third attempt to go to a National Rifle Association conference. …
“Butina’s social media post shows that the U.S. government may have had concerns about her long before prosecutors formally accused her of acting as a foreign agent. That post, along with others reviewed by POLITICO, also offers a window into how Butina used her NRA ties to help establish her first inroads in the United States.” https://bit.ly/2JE8nfx
— KYLE CHENEY: “Dems plan longshot gambit to force action on Mueller protection bill” https://bit.ly/2LwAyyG
SCOTUS WATCH — “Russian firm indicted in special counsel probe cites Kavanaugh decision to argue that charge should be dismissed,” by WaPo’s Robert Barnes: “A Russian company accused by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III of being part of an online operation to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign is leaning in part on a decision by Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh to argue that the charge against it should be thrown out.
“The 2011 decision by Kavanaugh, writing for a three-judge panel, concerned the role that foreign nationals may play in U.S. elections. … It is the second issue related to Mueller’s investigation that is sure to receive attention at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing.” https://wapo.st/2muHIbV
NYT’s ELIZABETH DIAS in Avon, Indiana: “‘I’m Doing It for the Babies’: Inside the Ground Game to Reverse Roe v. Wade”: “Ahead of the midterm elections, the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion political group, has dispatched hundreds of these canvassers across six battleground states. They aim to galvanize Americans who oppose abortion but who rarely vote outside presidential races, and to pressure red state Democrats, like Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, to support Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
“Leaders of the anti-abortion movement believe they are closer than they have been in 50 years to achieving their goals, and local efforts like these are at the heart of their plan to get there.” https://nyti.ms/2Lauyj8
— GRAPHIC DU JOUR: “What It Takes to Get an Abortion in the Most Restrictive State in the U.S.,” by NYT’s Audrey Carlsen, Ash Ngu and Sara Simon: https://nyti.ms/2JEEtrm
GABE DEBENEDETTI in New York Magazine, “The Progressive Hawaii Senator Reshaping the 2020 Race, Without Even Running”: “There are 17 months before the first presidential nominating contests of 2020, and 27 months before Democrats could have a reasonable shot at taking back power in D.C. more broadly. But [Brian] Schatz is already pushing fellow senators to commit, on the record, to backing his proposals on issues from healthcare to climate, and college affordability to Social Security, before primary season explodes into a carnival of gauzy debate-stage promises and shifting goalposts.” https://nym.ag/2NtMF06
MEGATRENDS — “America’s Factory Towns, Once Solidly Blue, Are Now a GOP Haven,” by WSJ’s Bob Davis and Dante Chinni: “The Republican Party has become the party of blue-collar America. After the 1992 election, 15 of the 20 most manufacturing-intensive Congressional districts in America were represented by Democrats. Today, all 20 are held by Republicans. The shift of manufacturing from a Democratic stronghold to a Republican one is a major force remaking the two parties. It helps explain Donald Trump’s political success, the rise of Republican protectionism and the nation’s polarized politics. It will help shape this year’s midterm elections.” https://on.wsj.com/2L9JSfD
MINNPOST’S SAM BRODEY — “Rep. Rick Nolan’s legislative director left the office amid multiple sexual harassment accusations in 2015. Months later, he was hired by Nolan’s campaign”: https://bit.ly/2L8iu1D
AFTERNOON READ — THE ATLANTIC’S MEGAN GARBER: “The World Burns. Sarah Sanders Says This Is Fine”: “On Wednesday, two representatives of the United States government held press briefings, both of them touching on one of the most astonishing news stories of the Trump presidency—a series of events that had begun two days earlier, when Donald Trump traveled to Helsinki to meet, behind closed doors, with Vladimir Putin.
“It is a well-worn cliché of the Trump presidency … that, within a White House as vertically integrated as this one, loyalty counts above all. This is a White House that prioritizes the scoring of points over the complexities of compromise. Sanders, on behalf of the president she works for … takes for granted an assumption that would be shocking were it not so common in the American culture of the early 21st century: There are things that are more important than truth.” https://bit.ly/2uMQ42l
BANNON BEAT — “‘You Are Either With Trump or You Are Against Him,’ Says Bannon, as Putin Mayhem Tests President’s Grip on GOP”: For the most part, Trump’s outraged, aghast followers-turned-critics have all come home very quickly. It’s a play we’ve all seen before,” by The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Sam Stein: https://thebea.st/2zS6PPk
FOR YOUR RADAR — BILL BROWDER is speaking on a panel about Europe’s relationship with Vladimir Putin at the Aspen Security Forum today at 3:20 p.m. EST. NBC News’ Courtney Kube is moderating. Watch the livestream https://bit.ly/2ufiT6Y
— “Vietnam Orders American Protester Deported,” by WSJ’s Jake Maxwell Watts: “The U.S. had lobbied hard for Mr. Nguyen’s release, and the case had strained ties between two countries that have been working more closely together to counter China’s rising influence in the region.” https://on.wsj.com/2uRTtNp
— AP/NEW YORK: “NYC releases documents connected to Central Park 5 case”: “New York City has started releasing about 100,000 pages of documents connected to the notorious case of the five men whose convictions for raping and beating a Central Park jogger were overturned after they served more than a decade behind bars.” https://bit.ly/2LoRgDq
HMM … Rev. Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl): “Just spent an hour w/ Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney. I bet you’re wondering what we could be talking about! Stay tuned.”
ON THE WORLD STAGE — “Afghan Taliban claims indirect talks are underway with U.S.,” by NBC News’ Mushtaq Yusufzai, F. Brinley Bruton, Abigail Williams and Linda Givetash: https://nbcnews.to/2JEh4GC
MEDIAWATCH — “Guilfoyle to leave Fox to work for pro-Trump super PAC,” by Alex Isenstadt: “Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle is expected to leave the network to join the pro-Trump America First super PAC, according to a person with direct knowledge of the hire.” https://bit.ly/2LqUwOr
— FUTURE OF NEWS: “BuzzFeed ditches native, goes all programmatic with BuzzFeed News,” by Digiday’s Max Willens: http://bit.ly/2LaOuT0
— PBS’ “Washington Week” is debuting a new set Friday for the first time in two decades, with host Bob Costa and guests Margaret Brennan, Dan Balz, Yamiche Alcindor and Jonathan Swan. Pic https://bit.ly/2LrFVSQ
IMPRESSIVE — @ChuckGrassley: “2day marks 25YRS W/OUT MISSING A VOTE in the US Senate My last missed vote was July 14 1993 when I was home touring the flood damage w Sen Harkin & Pres Clinton My job is to represent the ppl of Iowa in the US Senate every day 1 way of doing that is not missing a vote!”
TRANSITIONS — Josh Althouse is now public policy manager at Facebook. He previously was conservative outreach director for Speaker Paul Ryan. … Kerri Kupec has been temporarily detailed from DOJ to the White House to be the WH spokesperson for Kavanaugh’s confirmation team. At DOJ, she was the spokesperson for the Solicitor General’s Office and Civil Division.
SPOTTED: Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) all in front of gate C7 yesterday at Charlotte Douglas International Airport … Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) last night at Montmartre on Capitol Hill.
OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at a dinner last night in honor of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, hosted by French Ambassador Gérard Araud: James O’Brien, Philip Gordon, Ian Brzezinski, Toni Verstandig, Damon Wilson, Karen Donfried, Irene Braam, Tom Wright, Fred Hiatt, Edward Luce, Jacob Freedman, Adrien Frier and Jean-Pierre Montégu.
— SPOTTED at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C. at a summer party last night for new Harvard President Lawrence Bacow and Mark Gearan: Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Dan Balz, Joy Lin, Bob Schieffer, John Della Volpe, Amy Howell and Alex Rosenwald.
ENGAGED — Hayden Haynes, chief of staff for Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), proposed to Jennifer Lauterbach, senior legislative assistant for Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), at Bluejacket Brewery in Navy Yard, the site of their first date. “Hayden popped the question during a private brewery tour Thursday night. … The two met at the Washington Hilton during the 2017 Washington Mardi Gras festivities.” Pics http://bit.ly/2Lrrle4 … http://bit.ly/2LqNidn
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Alyssa Betz, senior director of public policy at Oath and a former Mel Watt staffer, and Jonathan Betz, a senior tax consultant at Deloitte, on Tuesday welcomed Catherine Joy Betz, who came in at 9 lbs 6.5 ounces and 21.5 inches long. She joins big brother Jack, who’s two and a half years old. Pic http://bit.ly/2Nw2t2j
BONUS BIRTHDAY: Will Johnson, SVP of advertising strategy for DailyKos, is 37 (h/t Tim Lim)