GAMING OUT THE JIM JORDAN SWAP … Republicans have said they plan to put Rep. JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio) on the House Intelligence Committee. Here are some lingering things to watch out for with this swap, which will probably come Tuesday.
— 1) Will they make him the ranking member, so he’s leading the hearing? That would mean pushing aside Rep. DEVIN NUNES (R-Calif.), who is the top Republican at the moment.
— 2) Who will they remove from the panel to make room for Jordan? Texas Reps. WILL HURD and MIKE CONAWAY are both retiring after this term, so some of the attention has gravitated toward them.
TALKER … JOHN HARRIS’ NEW COLUMN … “ALTITUDE” … “One Big Thing the Dems Get Wrong About Warren”: “It’s awkward to admit — would you want a loved one to date a ‘Democratic operative’? —but what these cynics and hacks and bed-wetters say makes sense to me. With the stakes so high in 2020, why wouldn’t Democrats play it safe? With Trump becoming more divisive by the day in positions and rhetoric, why wouldn’t Democrats run as uniters? Why not try to own the center? …
“Meanwhile, a quarter-century covering national politics has convinced me that the more pervasive force shaping coverage of Washington and elections is what might be thought of as a centrist bias, flowing from reporters and sources alike.” POLITICO
IMPEACHMENT NEWS — “Trump’s Top Aides Clash Over Impeachment as House Probe Expands,” by Bloomberg’s Saleha Mohsin and Jordan Fabian: “Two of Donald Trump’s most senior aides, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, are clashing over who should direct the president’s response to the House impeachment inquiry, according to people familiar with the matter.
“Cipollone sees impeachment as his domain because he views it as a legal matter and has privately complained to colleagues that Mulvaney is trying to wrest control, the people said. Mulvaney believes he’s in charge because impeachment is political and expects Cipollone to report to his office, they said.
“Complicating the dispute between the officials, Mulvaney has fallen out of favor with some of the president’s allies after high-profile stumbles handling the impeachment inquiry and Trump last month privately tested the idea of replacing him. By contrast, Cipollone enjoys the support of Trump and senior adviser Jared Kushner, positioning the lawyer to outlast Mulvaney.” Bloomberg
— KYLE CHENEY: “House Republicans want to call whistleblower to testify in public impeachment hearings”: “Republicans say they’ve been told to submit a list of witnesses they’d like to call in the impeachment inquiry by Saturday — and one of President Donald Trump’s top defenders says at the top of the list will be the whistleblower who first sounded the alarm about the president’s posture toward Ukraine.
“Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said he doesn’t know the identity of the whistleblower but said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the leader of the impeachment inquiry, should call the person to testify. ‘We’ll see if he gives us any of our witnesses,’ Jordan told reporters on Thursday, declining to identify others that GOP lawmakers intend to request.” POLITICO
— HATE TO SPOIL IT, but they won’t be getting the whistleblower to testify. Less than 1% chance — unless he or she decides on her own to come forward. But, luckily for Republicans, those who will be testifying have testified to the same information that the whistleblower put in the original complaint that launched this whole inquiry.
— NYT’S ANDREW KRAMER in Kyiv: “Ukraine’s Zelensky Bowed to Trump’s Demands, Until Luck Spared Him”: “[I]nterviews in Kiev with government officials, lawmakers and others close to the Zelensky government have revealed new details of how high-level Ukrainian officials ultimately decided to acquiesce to President Trump’s request — and, by a stroke of luck, never had to follow through.
“Aides were arguing in favor of ‘bowing to what was demanded,’ said Petro Burkovskiy, a senior fellow at the Democratic Initiatives Foundation who has close ties to the Ukrainian government. They were willing to do so, he said, despite the risk of losing bipartisan support in the United States by appearing to assist Mr. Trump’s re-election bid. …
“Nearly all Mr. Zelensky’s top advisers favored his making the public statement, said one of the officials who participated in the debate. … Finally bending to the White House request, Mr. Zelensky’s staff planned for him to make an announcement in an interview on Sept. 13 with Fareed Zakaria, the host of a weekly news show on CNN.” NYT
VP MIKE PENCE’S NSC aide JENNIFER WILLIAMS is in with impeachment investigators. She’s a career foreign service officer who has been detailed from State to the NSC.
JOHN BOLTON, who didn’t appear for scheduled testimony this morning, sent an email solicitation earlier today to his PAC list with the subject line of the century: “My Opening Statement” … Turns out, all he wants is people to take a survey — and probably donate cash. Screenshot of the email
… HOWEVER: “Bolton willing to defy White House and testify if court clears the way, according to people familiar with his views,” by WaPo’s Carol Leonnig and Tom Hamburger: “Bolton, a longtime GOP foreign policy adviser, does not want to comply with the Democratic inquiry without a court ruling on the ongoing constitutional dispute between the Trump administration and Congress, the people said.
“It remains unclear how quickly that could happen — and whether it would be in time for Bolton to be called as a witness in the public House impeachment hearings, which are scheduled to begin next week. On Wednesday, House Democrats said they are awaiting a key test case involving former White House counsel Donald McGahn, in which a district-court decision could come by the end of this month.” WaPo
— @AndrewDesiderio: “NEW: House Intel official says Bolton’s lawyer informed the committee that they’d take the House to court if he’s subpoenaed. Committee views a lawsuit as a delay tactic, so instead they’ll use his refusal to appear as evidence of obstruction.”
Good Thursday afternoon.
SPOTTED: Reince Priebus having lunch with Trump at the White House on Wednesday.
WHAT’S ON THE PRESIDENT’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 7:28 a.m.: “Bill Barr did not decline my request to talk about Ukraine. The story was a Fake Washington Post con job with an ‘anonymous’ source that doesn’t exist. Just read the Transcript. The Justice Department already ruled that the call was good. We don’t have freedom of the press!”
… at 10:16 a.m.: “It was just explained to me that for next weeks Fake Hearing (trial) in the House, as they interview Never Trumpers and others, I get NO LAWYER & NO DUE PROCESS. It is a Pelosi, Schiff, Scam against the Republican Party and me. This Witch Hunt should not be allowed to proceed!”
… at 10:27 a.m.: “The Amazon Washington Post and three lowlife reporters, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, and Carol Leonnig, wrote another Fake News story, without any sources (pure fiction), about Bill Barr & myself. We both deny this story, which they knew before they wrote it. A garbage newspaper!”
— FWIW … The NYT and WSJ separately confirmed WaPo’s original reporting, and all three reports note that a DOJ spokesperson declined to comment.
TRADE WARS — WSJ/BEIJING: “U.S., China to Remove Tariffs Bit by Bit if Partial Deal Clinched, Says Beijing”: “China’s Commerce Ministry said China and the U.S. have agreed to lift some tariffs on one another in stages if the two countries reach a partial trade deal, a goal both have been building toward since October.
“‘If the phase-one deal is signed, China and the U.S. should remove the same proportion of tariffs simultaneously based on the content of the deal,’ spokesman Gao Feng said at a regular press briefing Thursday. ‘This is what [the two sides] agreed on following careful and constructive negotiations over the past two weeks,’ he said.
“Beijing has typically declined to characterize the amount of progress on trade talks, but the officials on Thursday depicted a phasing out of tariffs as a hard-won result. What’s unclear is whether what the Chinese officials described can be considered a compliance mechanism, as the White House has said it demands.” WSJ
MACRON TAKES AIM — “French leader laments NATO’s ‘brain death’ due to U.S. absence,” by AP’s Lorne Cook and Geir Moulson in Brussels: “[French President Emmanuel] Macron’s public criticism of the state of the world’s biggest military alliance was rejected by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, setting the scene for a possible showdown in London next month when U.S. President Donald Trump joins his counterparts.
“‘What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,’ Macron told The Economist magazine. He said the United States under Trump appears to be ‘turning its back on us,’ notably by pulling troops out of northeast Syria without notice.” AP
WHAT’S GOING ON IN IRAQ — “An uprising in Iraq is the broadest in decades. It’s posing an alarming threat to Baghdad and Tehran,” by WaPo’s Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim in Baghdad: “Iraq’s streets are no stranger to power struggles. They’ve been a stage for sectarian conflict and for the Islamic State’s emergence. But the crowds are different this time, and so is the threat now posed by the largest grass-roots movement in Iraq’s modern history: a new generation raised in the shadow of the U.S.-led invasion is rising, and politicians from Baghdad to Tehran have been caught on the back foot.
“Although the unrest is confined to mostly Shiite areas, leading clerics for once have not marshaled it, and Shiite-dominated Iran, a powerful political and security force here, has been openly excoriated. The Iranian Consulate in Karbala has been torched, and its national flag ripped down. In scenes reminiscent of the fall of Saddam Hussein, protesters have also used their shoes to beat photographs of Tehran-backed militia leaders.” WaPo
2020 WATCH — AP’S ALEXANDRA JAFFE in Des Moines: “Steyer aide offered money for endorsements”: “A top aide to Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer in Iowa has privately offered campaign contributions to local politicians in exchange for endorsing his White House bid, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the conversations.
“The overtures from Pat Murphy, a former state House speaker who is serving as a top adviser on Steyer’s Iowa campaign, aren’t illegal — though payments for endorsements would violate campaign finance laws if not disclosed. There’s no evidence that any Iowans accepted the offer or received contributions from Steyer’s campaign as compensation for their backing.” AP
— “Warren wins 2020 backing of influential group of black women,” by AP’s Errin Haines: “A group of more than 100 black female activists is endorsing Elizabeth Warren for president, saying her stances on a range of issues speak directly to black voters. In a letter released on Thursday, the group Black Womxn For says its endorsement is an extension of activism that has helped shape a progressive agenda in the 2020 Democratic primary.
“The group calls Warren a ‘leader’ and ‘partner’ with a proven track record and understanding of structural racism and inequality who is willing to be held accountable. The group’s director, Angela Peoples, says she hopes the letter will encourage other black women to support the Massachusetts senator publicly.” AP
— KNOWING REBECCA PEARCEY: “The Woman Behind Elizabeth Warren’s Rise,” by Ozy’s Nick Fouriezos: “Having already visited 27 states with the candidate herself, Pearcey is overseeing a flood-all-zones strategy that has Warren surging in the polls and seen by many as the Democratic front-runner.”
AD WARS — “Sanders to Spend More Than $30 Million on Advertising in Early States,” by NYT’s Reid Epstein and Sydney Ember: “Bernie Sanders’s campaign plans to spend more than $30 million on TV advertising alone in the first four presidential nominating states and California, according to several people familiar with the strategy, a financial show of force that also suggests he needs to reach outside the traditional sphere of Democratic primary voters and caucusgoers for support. …
“The campaign has so far largely flouted traditional politicking, wagering instead on robust on-the-ground organizing to bring new voters into the political process. But in earmarking tens of millions of dollars for television advertising between now and Super Tuesday in early March, the campaign is following a more established and analog path to accomplish what it says is the same aim.” NYT
POST-POTUS PLANNING — “Trump and ‘Apprentice’ Creator Mark Burnett Are Discussing Their Next TV Show,” by The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Lachlan Cartwright: “According to three people with knowledge of the situation and another source close to Trump, Apprentice creator Mark Burnett and the president have sporadically kept in touch, mostly over the phone, since Trump won the election.
“The pair remain friends, these sources say, and have discussed reviving their creative partnership, pitching each other details on potential TV projects to be filmed after the Trump presidency. One of the ideas kicked around by Burnett and the president was shooting a new version of the Trump-branded Apprentice, tentatively titled The Apprentice: White House, and to produce it shortly after the president leaves office.” Daily Beast
MEDIAWATCH — “Veteran NBC News Producer Madeleine Haeringer Returns to Run Quibi Partnership,” by The Hollywood Reporter’s Marisa Guthrie: “She rejoins NBC as senior executive producer reporting to NBC News president Noah Oppenheim. She’ll produce NBC’s two daily news programs (morning and evening) and two weekend shows for Quibi; the mobile streaming service is set to launch in April. She’ll also manage and produce additional NBC News-branded content on the platform, working closely with Liz Cole, the Dateline executive producer and president of NBCUniversal’s news and doc shingle Peacock Productions.”
TRANSITIONS — Ryan Leavitt is now a partner at the newly formed Barker Leavitt, joining Jim Barker’s firm. He previously was legislative director for Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). … Patrick Newton will be director of advocacy communications at the National Association of Realtors. He previously was press secretary for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
BONUS BIRTHDAYS: Michael Kratsios, U.S. chief technology officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who is celebrating by giving a speech at WebSummit in Lisbon, Portugal. (h/t Kristina Baum) … Kate O’Connor, chief counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republicans (h/t Zack Roday)