POLITICO Playbook: Get ready for the circus


WE TEXTED A DEMOCRAT ON TUESDAY who is on the HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE and asked what the biggest challenge is for the panel as they pick up the impeachment mantle from House Intelligence Chairman ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.). This person texted us back a gif of clowns dancing in a circle.

THAT IS AN APT DESCRIPTION of one of the big dynamic shifts going into today. The Intelligence Committee is a tight panel of 22 lawmakers who have been hand-selected by their leadership to oversee the agencies involved with the nation’s deepest secrets. The JUDICIARY COMMITTEE is nearly twice as big — 41 lawmakers — and is chockablock with some of both parties’ most colorful and partisan figures.

REPUBLICANS have a ranking member in Rep. DOUG COLLINS (R-Ga.) who is vowing to use procedural tactics and verbal flourishes to slow the whole thing down. Privately, COLLINS’ allies are saying he won’t dive down the clownish conspiracy rabbit holes that some of his colleagues on Intel did.

DEMOCRATS PREVIEWED THE HEARING TUESDAY, and said it’s going to be pretty academic. They’ll talk about the roots of impeachment, and its historical context. The people who are testifying today have written academic textbooks. If you’re looking for the fire of a Fiona Hill or a Marie Yovanovitch, you won’t get it. The most TV-friendly character will be NORM EISEN, the Democratic attorney who is now working for the panel.

BUT WE KNOW HOW THESE HEARINGS ARE GOING TO GO. Right? It’s now perfectly clear that both sides are working from different fact sheets. Republicans refuse to stipulate to any of the facts Democrats have dredged up, and won’t even acknowledge if they are facts in any way, shape or form. AS OUR FRIEND KATY TUR said on MSNBC the other day, “It’s snowing outside, but they’re saying it’s sunny and 90 degrees.” More from Melanie Zanona on the Republican bomb throwers on the committee

THE BIG NEWS OUT OF THE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE’S REPORT … NYT: “The phone records also detail at least half a dozen calls between Mr. Giuliani and a number associated with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. At the president’s request, beginning in early July — if not sooner — that office froze $391 million in military assistance, congressional witnesses testified.

“Mr. Giuliani insisted on Tuesday that he had nothing to do with withholding funding for Ukraine, and any conversations he had with the budget office involved other matters. ‘I never discussed military assistance,’ he said. ‘I am expert on so many things it could have been some very esoteric subject.’” NYTPOLITICO’s highlightsThe 300-page report

— RIGHT, BUT … Giuliani was the president’s lawyer. He had no role in budgeting — which is OMB’s chief charge. We’ve known lots of people who have cycled in and out of OMB over the years. None of them has ever said they worked with Giuliani on anything. If he wanted to clear this up, he could — and quickly.

WHAT’S ON JERRY NADLER’S MIND … HEATHER CAYGLE and SARAH FERRIS: “House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler had a blunt message as he privately addressed Democrats the day before his panel assumes a starring role in the impeachment inquiry.

“‘I’m not going to take any shit,’ Nadler said in a closed-door prep session Tuesday morning — a rare cuss word from the lawyerly Manhattan Democrat that prompted some lawmakers to sit up in their chairs, according to multiple people in the room.

“Nadler’s warning shot referred to likely GOP antics to try to undermine the first impeachment hearing in the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. But it wasn’t lost on Democrats that Nadler’s message could also apply to those in his own party who have closely scrutinized his role in the House’s impeachment probe.

“While President Donald Trump may be under investigation, Nadler will be on the hot seat. The veteran lawmaker has at times struggled to balance the competing interests and expectations of his caucus and leadership on an impeachment push that once sharply divided the party. Those internal tensions have largely faded, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her caucus unified around evidence that Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukrainian leaders for his own political gain.” POLITICO

“Dems launch next impeachment phase: The case for Trump’s removal,” by Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio

SENATE PUSHBACK …

“Folksy John Kennedy gets serious pushback on Ukraine mess,” by Marianne LeVine and Burgess Everett

— WAPO’S BOB COSTA and KAROUN DEMIRJIAN: “GOP embraces a debunked Ukraine conspiracy to defend Trump from impeachment”: “Much of the Republican Party is pressing ahead with debunked claims about Ukraine as they defend President Trump from possible impeachment, embracing Russian-fueled conspiracy theories that seek to cast blame on Kyiv rather than Moscow for interference in the 2016 U.S. election.” WaPo

ANITA KUMAR and DARREN SAMUELSOHN: “Trump’s impeachment participation strategy: Insult, sit out, wait”

Good Wednesday morning. NEW … House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY will sit down with JAKE and ANNA next Thursday morning for a Playbook Breakfast in D.C. The event is exceedingly timely, since the House is likely to be in the middle of the government funding and impeachment debates. The event will bet at 9 a.m. at the W Hotel downtown. RSVP

FROM LONDON … POLITICO EUROPE’S EMILIO CASALICCHIO: “Boris Johnson holds late-night chat with Donald Trump”: “Boris Johnson and Donald Trump snuck in a quick private meeting Tuesday evening with little fanfare ahead of a NATO leaders’ meeting in London Wednesday. The U.K. prime minister and U.S. president discussed the importance of the military alliance and the need for unity to address evolving threats during a head-to-head in Downing Street.

“Johnson wants to avoid appearing too close to his U.S. counterpart, who is deeply unpopular in Britain, for fear it could scupper his chances in the country’s general election next week. That could explain why the meeting was not announced in advance.”

— “As impeachment inquiry rages at home, Trump unsettles the world stage at NATO,” by WaPo’s Ashley Parker, Phil Rucker and Michael Birnbaum in London: “On the first day of the NATO 70th anniversary summit in London, Trump pronounced, prodded and pushed America’s allies into a state of unbalance — seizing the global stage to both bully and banter, all while keeping himself at the center of attention. To watch Trump perform alongside other world leaders was to witness his use of disequilibrium as political strategy, deployed throughout his presidency to keep everyone slightly off-kilter.

“Over the course of three one-on-one meetings with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, [Emmanuel] Macron and [Justin] Trudeau, Trump turned what were expected to be brief photo opportunities into his own personal daytime cable show. As the other leaders largely bore witness, the U.S. president — frequently affable, occasionally bored — held forth for a collective two hours, fielding questions on topics ranging from the impeachment investigation he left at home to the British election campaign he flew into here.” WaPo

— CLIP DU JOUR: Johnson, Macron and Trudeau caught on camera mocking Trump. Via Ian Bremmer

2020 WATCH …

— “The spectacular collapse of Kamala Harris,” by Christopher Cadelago: “Kamala Harris’ pummeling of Joe Biden in the first Democratic debate was a career highlight-reel moment that no candidate has matched in the campaign. Those five minutes, like the Senate committee hearings where Harris stared down bumbling Trump officials, captured the promise of the let-it-rip ex-prosecutor who’d launched her run five months before in front of 22,000 supporters with moving rhetoric and great expectations.

“On Monday, hemorrhaging cash and way down in polls — and with autopsies of her failing campaign being performed on the live body — Harris mercifully decided to drop out. She told her staff in a call Tuesday, sounding clearly disappointed, according to one participant, as she shared her decision to bow out.

“Even when the hype around Harris was at its apex, her advisers and confidants wondered if the freshman senator was ready for a presidential run. In each of her past campaigns — first for district attorney of San Francisco, then California attorney general and the Senate in 2016 — Harris improved immensely, rising to the moment and giving her best performances when her back was against the wall.

“This time, the moment — and the stage — proved too large. Kamala the campaigner couldn’t live up to Kamala the idea. And her campaign let her down.” POLITICO

— MORE KAMALA POST-MORTEMS: “Home-state skepticism of Kamala Harris foretold trouble,” by AP’s Steve Peoples, Kathleen Ronayne and Errin Haines in Sacramento, Calif. … L.A. TIMES’ GEORGE SKELTON in Sacramento: “Kamala Harris should have never run for president”

— THE LOCAL FALLOUT: “California up for grabs as Harris exits race,” by Carla Marinucci and Jeremy B. White in San Francisco: “Kamala Harris could never personally lock down California as a presidential contender. But the senator’s supporters are warning that her former rivals would be foolish to underestimate Harris’ clout in her home state.

“‘Where do Californians who supported Kamala go now? First, they go into mourning. And then, they go into watching how people are reacting — because the rest of the field just got a big boost,’ says Christine Pelosi, the daughter of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chair of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus, which cheered Harris’ entry into the 2020 race. ‘If they’re gleeful about it, that will be a real turnoff.’” POLITICO

— NATASHA KORECKI and MARC CAPUTO in Mason City, Iowa: “Biden struts as rivals bite the dust”: “Joe Biden’s feeling awfully confident these days. The former vice president thinks he doesn’t need Barack Obama to win the primary. He seemed to mock the idea that there’s enthusiasm for Elizabeth Warren or that Pete Buttigieg came up with his own plans. And he professed to be untroubled by the possibility of Mike Bloomberg dropping $1 billion to beat him out for the nomination.

“Biden is dripping with confidence as he tours through Iowa two months before the state’s caucuses, after endless predictions his candidacy would crumble by now. Instead, the candidates who pitched themselves as Biden alternatives are the ones dropping.” POLITICO

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: AMY KLOBUCHAR has hired veteran Iowa political operative NORM STERZENBACH as her campaign’s Iowa caucus adviser. The former executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party most recently served as Beto O’Rourke’s Iowa state director.

TRUMP’S WEDNESDAY — The president participated in an official welcome with Stoltenberg and Johnson at 9:20 a.m. local time. He also participated in a NATO plenary session. Trump is scheduled to have a bilateral meeting at 12:30 p.m. with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Afterward he will have a working lunch with what the White House calls the “NATO 2%ers.”

TRUMP will participate in a bilateral pull-aside with Danish PM Mette Frederiksen at 2 p.m. Afterward, he will meet with Italian PM Giuseppe Conte. Trump will participate in a press conference at 3:30 p.m. He and first lady Melania Trump will depart at 4:20 p.m. en route to Washington.

MUELLER FALLOUT — “Prominent Political Donors Charged in Campaign Finance Scheme,” by NYT’s Daniel Victor: “An influential political power broker who was a witness named in the Mueller report was among eight people charged with conspiring to conceal the source of excessive contributions to groups supporting Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

“Prosecutors say George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who was a cooperating witness in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, conspired with Ahmad ‘Andy’ Khawaja, the owner of an online payments company, to conceal more than $3.5 million in donations to the groups. The donations let Mr. Khawaja gain access to Mrs. Clinton during the campaign, and he also visited with President Trump in the Oval Office, according to an investigation by The Associated Press last year.” NYTThe DOJ announcement

— DOJ’s other catch of the day: “Former CEO Convicted of Fixing Prices For Canned Tuna”

VALLEY TALK — “Larry Page steps down as CEO of Alphabet, Sundar Pichai to take over,” by CNBC’s Lauren Feiner: “Alphabet CEO Larry Page announced Tuesday that he will step down from the position. Google CEO Sundar Pichai will take over as CEO of the parent company in addition to his current role. Co-founder Sergey Brin will also step down as president of Alphabet and the role will be eliminated.” CNBCPage’s announcement

MEDIAWATCH — Michele Norris is now a contributor and consultant at WaPo’s opinion section. She previously founded the Race Card Project and was a host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Announcement Vincent Manancourt is now a tech reporter for POLITICO Europe in Brussels. He previously was deputy editor at Global Data Review, Law Business Research. Talking Biz News

… Nicole Bamber is now director of communications at the Smithsonian Channel. She previously handled comms for Vox Media. … Paola Ramos is joining Vice News as a correspondent. She previously “hosted Latin-X, a Vice series focused on under-reported stories about the Latinx community.” Deadline

— NUNES SUES CNN … CNN’s VICKY WARD and KATELYN POLANTZ: “Rep. Devin Nunes is disputing claims made by the lawyer of an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani regarding an alleged trip he made last year.

“The lawyer, Joseph Bondy, said his client, Lev Parnas was told by a former Ukrainian prosecutor about a meeting with Nunes in Vienna last year to discuss efforts to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Nunes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, denied the claim in a defamation lawsuit filed in federal court in Virginia against CNN, which first published the assertions made by Bondy. The suit was filed on the same day that the House Intelligence Committee issued a report on its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.” CNN

— “Fox News personalities continue to stump for GOP candidates,” by WaPo’s Paul Farhi: “[B]ehind the scenes, the network appears to have to gone to considerable effort to stop its on-air personalities from promoting Republican events and causes. Network executives have intervened to cancel a long string of fundraising appearances that were to have featured Fox News figures, according to people at Fox, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe its internal operations.”

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at politicoplaybook@politico.com.

SPOTTED: Sean Spicer in an Orangetheory class in Alexandria on Tuesday. … Aaron Schock working on his biceps at the Gold’s Gym in Arlington on Monday. Pic

SPOTTED at a party for Rick Stengel’s new book, “Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It” ($17.69 on Amazon), hosted at Katherine and David Bradley’s house Tuesday night: Sam Feist, Michael Crowley, Heather Podesta, Josh Lipsky, Linda Douglass and John Phillips, Carol Joynt, Margaret Carlson, Molly Ball, Patrick Steel, Fred Kempe, Graham Brookie and Rainesford Stauffer, Sofia Rose Gross, Sally Quinn, Neera Tanden and Jane Harman.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — INTERIOR ARRIVAL LOUNGE: Kevin O’Scannlain is joining the Interior Department as counselor, covering energy and environment issues. He previously was senior associate counsel in the White House counsel’s office.

TRANSITIONS — Danielle Kantor is joining the Hub Project as managing director of digital. She previously was director of battleground comms at Priorities USA and is a Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaign alum. … Ryan Thompson is launching Live Oak Strategies, a boutique government relations shop. He previously was COS to Rep. Ron Wright (R-Texas) and former Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), and has organized the Congressional Baseball Game for years. …

… Peter Albrecht is now an SVP at A|L Media. He most recently was VP at DSPolitical and is a Bully Pulpit Interactive and New Partners alum. … Sydney Fincher is joining Anheuser-Busch as manager of federal government affairs. She previously worked for Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on the Senate Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee. … Ellen Valentino is joining Cornerstone Government Affairs as a senior consultant in Annapolis. She previously was president of Valentino-Benitez & Associates.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Bree Raum, VP of federal affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, and Dan Turton, senior adviser for the House Rules Committee majority, welcomed Beck Brady Turton on Monday. He came in at 8 lbs, 13 oz and 21 inches, and joins older siblings Shaw, Lane, Mason and Smith. Pic Another pic

BIRTHWEEK (was Tuesday): Hope Harvard of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Kevin O’Neill, Arnold & Porter partner and co-chairman of the legislative group, is 5-0. How he’s celebrating: “A quiet, school-night dinner with Patty, John and Kate. My wife, Patty, and I share a birthday week, so Saturday night we are having an ’80s costume party with friends in Williamsburg that I hope will keep me out well past my normal bedtime.” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief of The Daily Beast and a CNN political analyst … Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) is 66 … Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) is 83 … Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) is 58 … Al Hunt, columnist and co-host of the “2020 Politics War Room” podcast, is 77 … NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben … “PBS NewsHour” senior coordinating producer Anne Davenport … Bill Murat, COS for Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) … Lis Buck … Nate Beecher … Mike Stratton (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Koch Industries’ Nick Gass is 3-0 … Craig Brownstein … Rachael Lighty of Amazon … Peter Freeman … CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux … Ashley (Nerz) Levey, comms at LinkedIn … Tyquana Henderson-Parsons … CNBC’s Whitney Ksiazek … Cesi Covey … Colin Rogero, partner at 76 Words, is 41 … Claire Lucas … McDermott Will & Emery’s Sarah Schanz, who recently married Jeremy Iloulian — pic

… Meghan Patenaude Bauer is 29 (h/t husband Zach Bauer) … Sarah Paulos … Jennifer Taub … Campbell Marshall … Marina McCarthy (h/t Jeff Solnet) … former Transportation Secretary Mary Peters is 71 … Richard Hohlt … Jennie Westbrook Courts, VP at the Information Technology Industry Council … Andrew Shult, digital director at the American Investment Council, is 32 … Yesenia Chavez … Jon Fleischman … Bain’s Matthew Bevens … Shelbi Warner … Louisa Keeler … Sarah Baron, deputy director of the states team for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign … Kate Folmar, deputy secretary for external affairs at the California Health and Human Services Agency … Joe Britton … Leigh Strope … WaPo’s Jennifer Hurley … Nancy Rose Senich … Leslie Rhode … Laura Derby … Brian Svoboda … Steen Hambric … Meg Badame, communications specialist at the VA … Sean Gagen

CORRECTION: An earlier version of Playbook misspelled Rachael Lighty’s name.



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