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POLITICO Playbook: Trump compares impeachment to ‘The Apprentice’


As Republicans get ready to beat back a DONALD TRUMP impeachment conviction for the second time, sources close to the former president say he’s already imagining his comeback.

“He’s compared it to that time in between seasons of ‘The Apprentice,’ building anticipation and wonderment for what’s to come,” one adviser told us of the period between his White House exit, eventual acquittal and his second act.

Other Trump advisers said he has revelled in his silence on Twitter — expressing amazement at how much coverage his few public statements have garnered.

“He finally realizes less is more,” one of them said.

IVANKA TRUMP and JARED KUSHNER have warned Trump that while he has the votes for acquittal, he can still screw this up. “Snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” is the phrase Kushner has been heard using most frequently to describe the worry.

Trump has actually taken the advice, spending most of his days golfing when he’s not tossing out bad legal advice to his lawyers, advisers said.

“Right now Trump is thinking, ‘I’ve got 45 votes, all I have to do is go golfing and not do anything,’” one of the aides told us.

As for the actual impeachment programming, expect it to start with Trump’s lawyers laying out an argument that the trial itself is unconstitutional.

After that, they will “roll the tape” — video that one source likened to “the first three segments of a Hannity monologue.”

The montage will include:

— Democrats objecting to the results of elections, including Rep. JIM MCGOVERN (D-Mass.) in 2016 objecting to certifying Trump’s electoral votes in Alabama; Congressional Black Caucus members protesting the legitimacy of the 2001 presidential election (which AL GORE rebuffed); STACEY ABRAMS’ refusal to concede in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race; and this tweet from Speaker NANCY PELOSI.

— Democrats such as Rep. MAXINE WATERS (D-Calif.) and Sen. CORY BOOKER (D-N.J.) encouraging aggressive political tactics against Trump supporters. Sen. RAND PAUL (R-Ky.) previewed this on “Fox News Sunday.”

— Sound bites of Democrats pushing to impeach Trump before he even took office.

Trump’s aides said he plans to spend the week in front of the TV watching his trial, rather than hitting the links.

More here on Trump and his team’s belief “that he’ll come out of it with his influence over the Republican Party all but cemented,” via Meridith McGraw and Gabby Orr.

AS FOR THE PRESIDENT — “Biden’s strategy for Trump’s impeachment: Sit back and STFU,” by Natasha Korecki: “Washington may be consumed by Donald Trump’s impeachment trial this week but the White House has a decidedly different view of it: Impeachment? What impeachment?

“The Biden team has shut down question after question about where [Joe] Biden stands on this week’s trial, even with its massive historical, constitutional and political ramifications. On Monday, press secretary Jen Psaki wouldn’t even say whether the president would receive daily updates on the trial’s progress.”

BIDEN’S TUESDAY — The president and VP KAMALA HARRIS will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. At 1:45 p.m., they and Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN will meet with business leaders in the Oval Office to discuss the relief/stimulus bill. Harris will also swear in DENIS MCDONOUGH as VA secretary at noon.

— Psaki will brief at 12:45 p.m.

MORE IMPEACHMENT

WHAT TO WATCH FOR — Proceedings will begin at noon with a four-hour debate on whether it’s constitutionally permissible to impeach an ex-president. Then lawmakers will take a vote on the question.

Watch this vote carefully. It will give us a good indication right away about whether any Republicans beyond the usual suspects like MITT ROMNEY and SUSAN COLLINS are open to conviction.

Remember: Last week, 45 Senate Republicans led by Paul voted that it’s unconstitutional to try Trump now that he’s exited the White House. Since then, several conservative lawyers have pushed back on this argument. We’ll learn today if any Republicans have been persuaded.

MAKE IT HURT — “How to watch Trump’s second impeachment trial like a boss,” by Kyle Cheney: The Dems’ plan is to “exact as much pain as possible on Republicans …

“And the newly disclosed rules for the trial provide a road map of sorts for how they’ll do it. Here are the crucial flashpoints in the trial, key details to watch and how Democrats plan to squeeze Republicans ahead of Trump’s near-certain acquittal.”

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Late Monday night, Trump attorney DAVID SCHOEN, who had asked Senate leaders to suspend the trial on Friday evening and through Saturday so he could observe the Sabbath, penned a letter saying he changed his mind. This means we could see proceedings run straight through the weekend. Buckle up.

— WSJ’S @rebeccaballhaus: “Bruce Castor told @WSJ today that Schoen will present the defense’s case on Tues, but after that Castor and his associate Michael van der Veen are expected to handle the rest of the defense.”

A LONG TIME COMING — In a way, the House Democratic impeachment managers — or at least several of them — have been preparing for this moment for the better part of 20 months. Five of the nine House prosecutors were part of a band of House Judiciary Committee members who first started agitating to impeach Trump after the Mueller report was released way back in April 2019.

Trump’s subsequent vow to ignore “all the subpoenas” — which seems almost quaint compared to the current charges against him — triggered a movement led by Reps. JAMIE RASKIN (D-Md.), JOE NEGUSE (D-Colo.), DAVID CICILLINE (D-R.I.), TED LIEU (D-Calif.) and MADELEINE DEAN (D-Pa.) to build support among House Democrats to impeach Trump that summer, a time when Pelosi was adamantly opposed.

The group was sidelined during Trump’s first impeachment as Pelosi designated Intelligence Committee Chair ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.) and his panel to lead. But now they’re in the spotlight, prosecuting a president they viewed as dangerous to the nation before many of their colleagues were willing to utter the word “impeachment” out loud.

JOIN US! With the second impeachment trial against Trump beginning this week, join RACHAEL on Wednesday at 9 a.m. to discuss the ins and outs of the historic proceedings with NORM EISEN, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during Trump’s first impeachment trial. Sign up

TUESDAY LISTEN — It’s virtually impossible for Democrats to get the votes they need to convict Trump. So what’s the point of this week’s trial? On the latest episode of “Dispatch,” RACHAEL says it’s more about persuading the American public — not lawmakers — that Trump should never be able to hold office again. Plus, the final race of the 2020 election cycle finally ends. And the Biden administration drops a Trump-era lawsuit over California’s net neutrality law. Listen and subscribe

THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION

“DOJ to ask Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys to resign,” CNN: “The Justice Department, as soon as Tuesday, is expected to ask U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Donald Trump to submit their resignations, a turnover expected to spare two top prosecutors in Delaware and Connecticut overseeing two sensitive Trump-era investigations, a senior Justice Department official said.

“In a call Monday night, acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson asked Delaware US Attorney David Weiss to remain in office, where he is overseeing the tax probe of Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son. John Durham, appointed as special counsel by former Attorney General William Barr to reinvestigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, will also continue his work, but he is expected to resign as US attorney in Connecticut, the Justice official said.”

AP: “The Senate has overwhelmingly voted to confirm President Joe Biden’s pick to oversee the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate confirmed Denis McDonough as VA secretary by a vote of 87-7 on Monday. McDonough was President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.”

CONGRESS

THE THRESHOLD IS SET — “House Democrats settle income debate for direct payments,” by Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris: “House Democrats will move ahead with a coronavirus stimulus package that would keep the existing income limits for Americans who receive stimulus checks, while tightening eligibility for higher-earning Americans — a major win for progressives.

“The plan, which was unveiled Monday night, would keep $1,400 stimulus checks flowing to Americans making up to $75,000 a year — rather than the $50,000 threshold that some moderate Democrats had proposed. It would, however, tighten eligibility for those making over $75,000 as an individual — a higher-earning group that previously qualified for smaller checks. Couples making $150,000 would also qualify for direct payments.”

TOP-ED — GENE SPERLING in the FT: “Joe Biden’s $1.9tn plan is necessary as economic recovery insurance: History shows the risks of delivering too little stimulus far outweigh the costs of giving too much”

IMMIGRATION FILES — “Dems split as progressives rage over immigration vote,” by Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine: “An effort to restrict stimulus checks to undocumented immigrants is blowing a hole in Democrats’ unity in the Biden era, after a bloc of Democrats sided with Republicans over their more progressive colleagues last week. The immigration status of those seeking new stimulus payments is shaping up as a major point of contention among Democrats as the House and Senate write their coronavirus relief bills, presaging the tough fights ahead among the party’s tight majorities in Congress on a politically volatile issue.

“Eight Senate Democrats supported an amendment to the Senate’s budget during last week’s marathon vote-a-rama that would prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving checks, a cast that includes the No. 4 Democratic leader Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the chair of the party’s campaign arm Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and senators up for reelection. Some Democrats and activists worry that amendment could block children and spouses of undocumented immigrants from receiving checks, leading 42 Democrats to oppose the effort.”

PANDEMIC

TRACKER: The U.S. reported 1,309 Covid-19 deaths and 78,000 new coronavirus cases Monday.

FOR YOUR RADAR — “Buttigieg to quarantine after security agent gets COVID-19,” AP

“White House COVID-19 Adviser Andy Slavitt Says There Are No Vaccine ‘Silver Bullets,’” NPR: “Andy Slavitt, a White House senior adviser on the COVID-19 response, says ‘people are going to have to probably continue to be more patient than they want to be,’ as the government works to get more doses out.

“On All Things Considered, [he] said the government is working to make getting appointments easier and is considering mobile vaccination centers.”

MEDIAWATCH

“Twitter Considers Subscription Fee for Tweetdeck, Unique Content,” Bloomberg: “At least one idea being considered is related to ‘tipping,’ or the ability for users to pay the people they follow for exclusive content … Other possible ways to generate recurring revenue include charging for the use of services like Tweetdeck or advanced user features like ‘undo send’ or profile-customization options.”

“In China, an App Offered Space for Debate. Then the Censors Came,” NYT: “It was a rare moment of cross-border dialogue with people on the mainland of China, who are usually separated from the rest of the online world by the Great Firewall. For a short time, they found an open forum on the social media app, Clubhouse, to discuss contentious topics, free from the usual constraints of the country’s tightly controlled internet. By Monday evening, the inevitable happened: The Chinese censors moved in.”

OF COURSE — “Four Seasons Total Landscaping Feature Doc In The Works,” Deadline: “The doc promises to give a first-hand account of the bizarre sequence of events that saw the company become the stage for a key moment in the explosive aftermath of the election.”

TRUMP CARDS

“Using Connections to Trump, Dershowitz Became Force in Clemency Grants,” NYT: “Many of [Alan] Dershowitz’s clients got what they wanted before Mr. Trump left office, an examination by The New York Times found. The lawyer played a role in at least 12 clemency grants, including two pardons, which wipe out convictions, and 10 commutations, which reduce prison sentences, while also helping to win a temporary reprieve from sanctions for an Israeli mining billionaire.”

DESSERT

FOR THE SNEAKERHEADS — “Barack Obama’s Nike Hyperdunk PEs Are Going Up For Sale,” Sole Collector: “According to Sotheby’s listing, this is one of only two pairs in existence, with the other shoe presumed to be in the former President’s possession. … Fans interested in buying this rare Nike Hyperdunk ‘Barack Obama’ PE in a men’s size 12.5 will be able to do so on Feb. 12 at 4:44 p.m. ET on Sotheby’s Buy Now platform for a whopping price of $25,000.”

OPEN SECRET — Axios has allowed one of its reporters to continue to write about Joe Biden after she disclosed in November that she is dating his transition spokesman and now White House deputy press secretary, TJ DUCKLO.

ALEXI MCCAMMOND shifted in November to covering progressives, but some of her reporting has been more specific to Biden and his administration. One story billed as a scoop reported that Atlanta Mayor KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS turned down Biden’s offer to head the Small Business Administration. Another said GINA MCCARTHY of California was a leading candidate to become Biden’s climate czar.

McCammond, whose beat also includes Harris, reported that Biden’s transition team warned Harris’ niece that she can’t profit off her aunt’s image. After the Jan. 20 inauguration, McCammond participated in an Axios podcast in which she said, “What we’ve seen from Biden is compassion and empathy and a focus on unity in a way we certainly haven’t seen from President Trump.”

McCammond declined to comment. Ducklo and his boss, Psaki, also did not comment.

An Axios spokesperson initially said last month that McCammond had been taken off the Biden beat. In a later email, she said the reporter “has taken a backseat” on Biden coverage.

On Monday, the spokesperson said in a statement, “Alexi disclosed her relationship with TJ to her editors in November and asked to be taken off of the Biden beat. We reassigned her to cover progressives in Congress, the progressive movement, and Vice President Kamala Harris. Alexi is a valued member of the Axios team, and we stand behind her and her coverage.”

McCammond has posted about the relationship on Instagram, prompting chatter among media and political types.

POLITICO first contacted the White House in late January with questions about Ducklo and McCammond. On Monday evening, Playbook informed Biden’s comms staff that this item would be published today. Hours later, a glowing profile of McCammond and Ducklo’s relationship was published by People.

This isn’t the first time a reporter has been romantically intertwined with a source involved in his or her coverage area. Newsrooms have different policies to handle those situations. Axios was asked about its policy but did not describe it in its statement.

Reached by phone late last month, Axios co-founder JIM VANDEHEI, who also co-founded POLITICO, said he was “pretty removed from who [McCammond] dates.” When pressed, he said he did know “a little bit about it.” He added: “She’s not covering him. Well, maybe she talks about him on TV.”

DEPT. OF GLASS CEILINGS — The Daily Beast profiles NED PRICE, “the first out-gay spokesperson at the State Department.”

HOW LONG BEFORE THE REALITY SHOW PILOT? — CLAUDIA CONWAY, the daughter of KELLYANNE and GEORGE, is moving from TikTok teen rebel to … “American Idol.” After years of trying to keep their family drama out of the press, all three appeared in a new promo video for the show.

MEDIAWATCH — “Where Does Abby Phillip Go From Here?” Washingtonian: “[E]xpect to see a lot more of her on TV, especially now that she’ll be hosting Inside Politics on Sunday mornings. At a time when media outlets are trying to diversify and young women of color are a fast-growing political force, Phillip feels like the network’s future. ‘I’ve come to realize, especially since coming to CNN, how important it is for other people to see me where I am,’ she says.”

NBC announced several new roles among its D.C. team: Mike Memoli and Carol Lee as White House correspondents, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Garrett Haake and Marianna Sotomayor covering Capitol Hill, Josh Lederman covering climate policy, Heidi Przybyla covering pandemic response/vaccine rollout, Ali Vitali as political correspondent, Vaughn Hillyard as political reporter and Deepa Shivaram covering the VP, race and equity.

NEW CONVERSATION SERIES — The Washington Examiner and the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management are virtually launching “The New Influentials of the GOP: Gen Y & Gen Z.” First up: Alyssa Farah, talking with Kerry Picket, on Friday at noon. Details

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Ian Sams is now deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS, managing the agency’s comms on the Covid-19 response. He was previously a consultant and is a Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton alum.

Mary Elizabeth Taylor is joining Robinhood to lead the D.C. office as VP, head of external affairs. She previously was assistant secretary of State for legislative affairs in the Trump administration, but resigned in June over Trump’s handling of the George Floyd protests.

Lindsee Gentry is joining Rational 360 as a VP. She most recently was director of external affairs at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and is a Mitch McConnell alum/

STAFFING UP — “Harvard’s Sunstein Joins Biden’s DHS to Shape Immigration Rules,” Bloomberg: “[Cass] Sunstein is a senior counselor who will be responsible for making sure that the rules put forward by the department and its agencies are based on evidence and consistent with the law.”

TRANSITIONS — Paul E. Butler is now president and chief transformation officer at New America. He previously was COO of sparks & honey, a consulting firm. … The NRSC has added Lizzie Litzow as deputy comms director (previously at FEMA) and Jonathan Turcotte as war room director (previously at the Trump campaign). … The Republican Governors Association is adding three new regional press secretaries: Maddie Anderson (previously comms director for Elise Stefanik), Will Reinert (previously press secretary for Congressional Leadership Fund) and Chris Gustafson (previously Michigan comms director for the RNC). …

… Ariel Gonzalez is joining Chamber Hill Strategies as a principal. He most recently was head of government affairs for March of Dimes, and is an AARP alum. … Klon Kitchen is now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He previously was director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Technology Policy, and is a Ben Sasse alum. … Maggie Farry is now a policy analyst at New America’s Open Technology Institute. She previously was a policy adviser for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: POLITICO Pro (10) … Washington Gov. Jay InsleeTerry McAuliffe … CNN’s Manu RajuCharles Luftig, COS for ODNI … Roger Mudd (93) … former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) (75) … former Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Gary Franks (R-Conn.) … Nancy Reynolds BagleyAudrey Scagnelli … POLITICO’s Terrell MizellKelly Lungren Dom Bartkus of BCW Global … Dilpreet Sidhu … The Atlantic’s Joe Pinsker Joseph Stiglitz Gail Huff Abbe GoldmanKristen HayfordDavid SimonTom Szold Amanda Whiting Lauren McGaughyEliza Griswold Elana FirshtJohn Fletcher … AEI’s Chris GavinAlice Walker

Got a document to share? A birthday coming up? The play-by-play of Trump’s reaction to his impeachment trial? Drop us a line at [email protected] or individually: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike Zapler and producers Allie Bice, Eli Okun and Garrett Ross.





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