FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — W.H. HEALTH CARE PUSH NOT OVER … NANCY COOK: “White House acting chief-of-staff MICK MULVANEY is convening a meeting at Camp David this weekend with top White House staffers and key Cabinet members to talk through the administration’s direction on health care, according to a senior administration official.
“The meeting is not intended to produce a proposal or plan but instead is a chance for top officials to brainstorm ideas roughly two weeks after Trump ordered his administration to ask a federal court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. Senate Republicans have little interest in developing any type of replacement plan before the 2020 election, but several administration officials say Trump sees it as a campaign issue Republicans should not shy away from.”
NEW: 2020 WATCH — ON THE GROUND: NATASHA KORECKI tells us that there is a behind-the-scenes staffing tug-of-war in IOWA between JOE BIDEN and PETE BUTTIGIEG that likely will happen in other states as well. As both near officially entering the race, they are late to the operative game.
SENS. ELIZABETH WARREN and CORY BOOKER laid the earliest organizational groundwork and others who have joined the field have scooped up top flight hires. One Democratic consultant told her that while Buttigieg is capturing a new wave of excitement, Biden could have the upper hand because of long-term loyalties and relationships.
MORE BIDEN … NYT’S JONATHAN MARTIN and ALEX BURNS: “Biden Didn’t Rush Into 2020. The Race Came to Him Anyway.”
— THE DAILY MAIL — “EXCLUSIVE: ‘He was always holding my hand, putting his arm around me, brushing the hair from my face.’ Jill Biden admits Joe — and his VERY handsy family — made her feel ‘strange and uncomfortable’ when they first began dating in new memoir”.
TRUMP ON THE BORDER — L.A. TIMES’ NOAH BIERMAN, MOLLY O’TOOLE and RUBEN VIVES: “Trump visits Calexico a day after retreating from threats to close U.S.-Mexico border”: “President Trump argued Friday that the nation is suffering an immigration emergency, visiting the town of Calexico and inspecting a reconstructed border fence a day after he abruptly backed down from his threats to seal the lengthy border between Mexico and the United States.
“With those threats behind him, Trump shifted gears and promised to construct 400 miles of border wall in the next two years, an unlikely benchmark for a president who has yet to build a single new mile of wall along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico. The section Trump visited Friday was a replacement of existing barrier planned during the Obama administration and paid for during Trump’s first year in office.
“‘It’s better, faster and less expensive,’ he said as he stood before a slatted 30-foot-high fence. Trump nonetheless conceded that getting money from congressional Democrats for any new wall construction was ‘like pulling teeth’ even as he projected victory in his bitter funding battles with Congress.” LA Times
MEANWHILE … “House sues Trump administration over border wall,” by Matthew Choi: “The House sued members of President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday over his emergency declaration to force funding for a border wall. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., asserts Trump’s emergency acts in direct disregard of Congress’ will and disputes the president’s ability to access certain funds for the wall simply by declaring an emergency.
“It names Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the departments they oversee. It does not name Trump as a defendant.” POLITICO
— AND A FACT CHECK: AP’S ZEKE MILLER and JONATHAN LEMIRE: “Trump has yet to complete any new mileage of fencing or other barriers anywhere on the border, though he declared Friday that at least 400 miles of the border barrier would be erected over the next two years. His administration so far has only replaced existing fencing. Construction for that small chunk of fencing cost about $18 million, began in February 2018 and was completed in October. Plans to replace that fence date back to 2009, during President Barack Obama’s tenure.” AP
SPRINKLED IN WITH A LITTLE MIXED MESSAGING — GABBY ORR: “Trump’s border threats jam up Pence’s trade tour”: “President Donald Trump’s announcement Thursday that he would be willing to sideline a new trilateral trade pact with Canada and Mexico — a move that would allow him to impose the auto tariffs he has been threatening to unveil — couldn’t have come at a worse time for Mike Pence.
“As Trump sat in the Oval Office, telling reporters that border security ‘is more important to me than the USMCA,’ the administration’s proposed replacement for NAFTA, his vice president was hours away from kicking off a multi-state tour to promote the renegotiated trade deal.
“The tour, which targets states that will be crucial to the president’s re-election bid, would begin in Pence’s home state of Indiana at Lamb Farms Inc., a family-run business producing a trio of crops — corn, wheat and soybeans — that have been swept up in Trump’s trade wars.” POLITICO
Good Saturday morning. IT WASN’T ALL BORDER TALK yesterday for the president. ANITA KUMAR has the goods on Trump’s evening activity: fundraising. She emailed us that health care exec LEE SAMSON hosted the event at his Beverly Hills home where tickets were $15,000 for dinner, $50,000 for a photo op and $150,000 for participation in a roundtable discussion, according to someone familiar with the event.
“About 170 people attended the event, which raised money for Trump Victory, a joint committee of his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee, but as usual the first cut of the money goes toward his re-election campaign, which he launched earlier than any president in modern history. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, was in California frequently to raise money. But Friday only marks his third visit to the state as president.” The invite
KYLE CHENEY: “Congress’ new Mueller fight: Do Dems need to begin impeachment to see secret files?”: “Do Democrats have to begin the process of impeaching President Donald Trump in order to access special counsel Robert Mueller’s secrets? That legal debate began raging inside the House Judiciary Committee on Friday after a new federal court ruling suggested that Congress’ access to some confidential evidence — like the kind obtained by Mueller — hinges on lawmakers launching a ‘judicial proceeding.’
“Republicans on the committee say the only ‘judicial proceeding’ Congress can lead is an impeachment inquiry — a claim they say is backed up by legal precedent and history. Democrats would have to launch one against Trump if they want Mueller’s grand jury evidence, Republicans say. That interpretation would be problematic for Democratic leaders in Congress, who have little interest in launching a politically explosive impeachment process at the moment.
“Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said it’s not worth the House’s time and other top Democrats have said it’s premature while they conduct their own investigations and await the details of Mueller’s findings.” POLITICO
THE TAX BATTLE — “Trump lawyers issue letter fighting tax return request,” by CNN’s Pamela Brown, Jim Acosta, Betsy Klein and Jeremy Diamond: “President Donald Trump continues to hold his ground against Democratic efforts to obtain his tax returns, with one administration official telling CNN that the President and his team are willing to fight the House Democratic request all the way to the Supreme Court. …
“The official added that the administration is ‘not going to set the precedent’ of turning over tax returns for future occupants of the Oval Office, slamming the House Democrat request from Neal as ‘abuse and overreach by Congress’ and asked what’s stopping Senate Republicans from seeking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s returns. ‘They have zero right to it,’ the official said, who added Trump has also made it clear he’s not releasing his tax returns.
“Trump has retained Arlington, Virginia-based law firm Consovoy McCarthy Park PLLC to represent him on the matter. Lawyer William Consovoy argued in a statement on Friday that the requests for Trump’s tax information ‘are not consistent with governing law, do not advance any proper legislative purpose, and threaten to interfere with the ordinary conduct of audits.’” CNN … Trump lawyers’ letter to Treasury
— THE DOG THAT CAUGHT THE CAR? — BRIAN FALER: “Democrats face minefield if they get Trump’s tax returns”
TREASURY DEPARTURE LOUNGE – “Mnuchin losing two senior Treasury aides,” by Nancy Cook: “Eli Miller, chief of staff at Treasury and a former Trump campaign official, will leave the department next week, according to a staffwide email sent Friday afternoon. Close Treasury observers say Miller is expected to join the private sector. … Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Public Affairs Tony Sayegh has also planned for months to leave by the end of May and is interviewing candidates for his replacement as the agency’s top communications official.
“Among them is Monica Crowley, a Fox News commentator who was spotted in the building Thursday afternoon. Before Trump’s inauguration, Crowley was tapped for a senior position on the National Security Council but withdrew herself from consideration after news reports surfaced about instances of plagiarism.” POLITICO
— “U.S. Ethics Office Declines to Certify Mnuchin’s Financial Disclosure,” by NYT’s Alan Rappeport
2020 WATCH: WAPO’S SEAN SULLIVAN and DAVE WEIGEL in New York: “With the most diverse presidential field ever, black voters ponder the best odds against Trump”: “More than a third of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president are women. There are two black men, a Mexican American man, a Taiwanese American man and a gay man.
“Yet, in the initial phase of the 2020 race, two straight white men have emerged as the fastest fundraisers, and another has jumped to a lead in recent polls, before even announcing his candidacy. The rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), ex-congressman Beto O’Rourke and former vice president Joe Biden in a field with historic diversity has caused dismay among some Democrats, particularly African Americans and women hoping for a mold-breaking nominee who reflects the changing face of the party and the country.
“Black voters, particularly black women, have the potential to play a decisive role in the Democratic Party’s attempt to defeat President Trump in 2020. An inability to earn their support has dealt severe blows to past candidates — most recently Sanders in the 2016 primaries and to a lesser extent Hillary Clinton in the general election.” WaPo
— SF CHRONICLE’S TAL KOPAN: “2020 Democrats grapple with immigration message as border crossings surge”
TRUMP’S SATURDAY — The president will head to the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas at 10 a.m. PST. He will participate in a roundtable of supporters at 10:35 a.m. followed by remarks he will give at the Republican Jewish Coalition 2019 annual leadership meeting. Trump will then leave for the airport at 12:10 p.m. en route back to Washington, D.C.
CLICKER – “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 11 keepers
SECURITY WATCH — ERIC GELLER: “Lack of security clearances hampers federal election panel”: “Only half the members of a federal commission advising states on election threats have security clearances, raising questions about whether it can effectively help local and state officials defend against adversaries such as Russian hackers. And no members of the four-person Election Assistance Commission had clearances during the past two election cycles, including the period when Kremlin-linked hackers are suspected of mounting a range of cyberattacks against state election offices, the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.
“The delay in issuing security clearances for commission members is part of a massive backlog of application approvals throughout the entire federal government. But it’s a particularly acute problem for the EAC, one of the key agencies offering guidance to state and local officials about how to protect themselves from security risks.” POLITICO
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION — “Education Department Has Stalled on Debt Relief for Defrauded Students,” by NYT’s Erica L. Green: “The Education Department failed to approve a single application for federal student loan relief in the second half of last year, according to new department data that signals that students who claim they were cheated by their colleges cannot count on help from Washington anytime soon. The department neither approved nor denied any relief claims filed by students under the so-called borrower defense program from June to December 2018, even after a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration’s foot-dragging was illegal.
“In October, the judge ordered the Education Department to enforce a long-delayed Obama-era rule that expanded and expedited loan relief for defrauded students, many of whom attended for-profit colleges. Amid that inaction, the number of pending claims has swelled to more than 150,000 — over double the number of applications the department inherited from the previous administration.” NYT
FOR YOUR RADAR — “U.S. to Designate Iranian Guard Corps a Foreign Terror Group,” by WSJ’s Michael R. Gordon, Warren P. Strobel and Nancy A. Youssef: “The Trump administration is preparing to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, U.S. officials said, a step that would vastly escalate the American pressure campaign against Tehran but which has divided U.S. officials. The decision, which could be announced as early as Monday following months of deliberation, would mark the first time that an element of a foreign state has been officially designated a terrorist entity.
“National security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been strong proponents of the move, which is intended to help the U.S. crack down on businesses in Europe and elsewhere controlled by the IRGC, the officials said. But Pentagon officials, including Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have cautioned against the move, several U.S. officials said, fearing it could lead to a backlash against U.S. forces in the region without inflicting the intended damage to the Iranian economy. Central Intelligence Agency officials have also had reservations about consequences of the decision.” WSJ
REMEMBER HER? – “Ex-spy Valerie Plame eyes run for Congress in New Mexico,” by AP’s Russell Contreras in Albuquerque: “Former CIA operative, author and activist Valerie Plame said Friday she is considering a 2020 run for an open U.S. congressional seat in New Mexico. Plame told The Associated Press she is spending time with residents and will make a decision soon. The seat is currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who is stepping down to run for U.S. Senate.” AP
MEDIAWATCH – “Exclusive: CBS News President Tells People She Regrets Accepting the Job,” by Yashar Ali in his newsletter: “Six sources who spoke to me said that Susan Zirinsky, the newly installed CBS News president, has been telling people that she regrets taking the job as the network’s news division chief. I asked my sources if she made these remarks jokingly, as there is no doubt that Zirinsky has her hands full remaking a news division that has been ‘taking on water,’ as ‘CBS This Morning’ co-anchor Gayle King recently put it.
“Perhaps she joked, understandably, in a moment of frustration? But I was told that Zirinsky has expressed her regrets in serious tones. In an email, Zirinsky wrote: ‘I have ZERO regrets about taking this job. This is a great job and my way of dealing with the pace is with humor. Obviously, some people don’t get it. Check back with me in a year and I’ll let you know how it’s going.’” Yashar Ali
GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman, filing from Savannah, Georgia:
— “The Challenge of Going Off Psychiatric Drugs,” by Rachel Aviv in The New Yorker: “Millions of Americans have taken antidepressants for many years. What happens when it’s time to stop?” The New Yorker
— “What Remains,” by Daniel Duane in California Sunday: “For the past 148 years, Yosemite’s Lyell Glacier has taught us about the Earth — how it was created, where it was going, and now, how it might end.” California Sunday
— “The New German Question,” by Robert Kagan in Foreign Affairs – per TheBrowser.com’s description: “How can a restless Germany be contained, when Germany is so much larger and more powerful than any of its neighbours? It may seem now as though Germany has ceased to pose any threat, thanks to its thoroughgoing transformation into a liberal democracy after World War II. But is this Germany the only conceivable Germany?” Foreign Affairs
— “In Defense of Joe Biden: A Hug When I Needed One,” by Jeannie Etchart in Medium: “At age 33, I had been a life-long Republican. I worked for, what many might describe as the ‘dark side and/or Darth Vaders of politics,’ including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Sarah Palin. … Many of the local Democrats remarked ‘what are YOU doing here?’ when I showed up in line at his photo opportunity. I explained my affection for VP Biden because of what I had been through, and no one blinked an eye, everyone understood.” Medium
— “Heaven or High Water,” by Sarah Miller in Popula – per Longform.org’s description: “How Miami’s real estate industry turns a blind eye to climate change.” Popula
— “William Burns’s Memoir Is a Wild Ride Through Decades of Diplomacy,” by James Rosen in National Review, reviewing “The Back Channel”: “From ‘The Back Channel,’ one comes away understanding clearly that Burns believes that the American people must be better educated, or simply persuaded by a larger, better-funded cadre of Foreign Service officers, that they are wrong about globalism. The ostensibly benign paternalism of such a view is reminiscent of Henry Kissinger’s exclamation about Chile in 1970: ‘I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.’” NR … $20.69 on Amazon
— “What It’s Like to Grow Up With More Money Than You’ll Ever Spend,” by Sarah McVeigh in The Cut – per Longreads.com’s description: “An interview with filmmaker, activist and heiress Abigail Disney, in which she speaks very frankly about how inheriting a fortune can compromise one’s moral compass and corrupt the soul’” The Cut
— “Whatever happened to the Navy midshipman who gave President Bush a bear hug? Discipline. Then redemption,” by The Virginian-Pilot’s Brock Vergakis: “As [Bobby Rashad Jones] walked toward Bush, the excitement was too much to contain. He jumped up and down. His head shook. He pumped his right fist in the air. A presidential handshake simply wouldn’t do. The former linebacker grabbed Bush’s hand, pulled him in and hugged the commander-in-chief. And not just any hug; a bear hug that briefly lifted Bush off the ground as part of what Jones would later describe as an ‘out-of-body experience.’” The Virginian-Pilot
— “The Colors of Our Dreams,” by Jesse Russell in Claremont Review – per TheBrowser.com’s description: “The Romans associated blue with savagery; it was the colour with which woad-loving barbarians daubed themselves. By the early Middle Ages blue and green were the colours of Satan; red and white were the colours of virtue. But in the 12th century a new reading prevailed: Blue was the colour of the heavens. Blue became the colour of the Virgin Mary’s garments, and of the robes of the kings of France. With a few interruptions, blue has since maintained its ascendancy as the colour of coolness, calm, and peace.” Claremont Review
— “Inside The Trader Joe’s Black Market — Where Everything Bagel Seasoning Costs $22,” by Eliza Brooke in Refinery29: Refinery29
— “The Reporter Who Wrote About Layoffs at the Cleveland Plain Dealer After He Was Laid Off,” by Charles Bethea in NewYorker.com: “Back in the eighties, the paper’s arts-and-entertainment staff was about as large as the entire newsroom is now: some thirty reporters and editors. As of this week, [Tom] Feran, who is sixty-six, is no longer among them. He hadn’t been planning to retire, but he volunteered to be laid off in order to save a job for a younger staffer. Feran’s last contribution to the paper was a news item about the layoffs themselves.” New Yorker
REMEMBERING FRITZ HOLLINGS — Post and Courier’s Brian Hicks and Schuyler Kropf: “Ernest Frederick ‘Fritz’ Hollings, the charismatic and quick-witted former U.S. senator and South Carolina governor who became one of the state’s most important national political figures, died early Saturday after a period of declining health. He was 97. …
“In a career that spanned more than half a century, Hollings steered South Carolina through the civil rights era, established a program to feed poor pregnant women, enacted legislation to protect the environment and brought home millions of dollars as he also fought to balance the federal budget.” Post and Courier
SPOTTED: Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Washington Concert Opera’s performance of Rossini’s “Zelmira”
HAPPY 22ND ANNIVERSARY to Andrea Mitchell and Alan Greenspan (hat tip: Samantha Vinograd)
BIRTHDAYS: Charles Rivkin, chairman and CEO of the MPAA, is 57 … WSJ’s Keach Hagey … Scott Reed … Ron Brownstein is 61 … Matt Flynn, special assistant to the president and senior director of WH cabinet affairs … Joyce Meyer … HHS’ Juliana Darrow is 3-0 … John Santucci … Steve Antosh … POLITICO’s Tucker Doherty and Alejandra Waase … Michele Bachmann is 63 … Ann Castagnetti (h/t Jon Haber) … Casey Farrington … Richard Coolidge (h/t Nick Massella) … Seth Lucia … Natalie Villacorta … Anthony Bernal … Lucy Westcott … CNN’s Sunlen Serfaty … Alexandra Traber … TNR executive editor Ryan Kearney … NYT’s Glenn Thrush … Clo Ewing … Kalee Kreider, a senior adviser at the UN Foundation (h/t Monica Millman) … Lisa Ellman … Aaron Short … Tim Briseno of Targeted Victory (h/t David Pasch) … Sheila Nevins … Mary Fisher … Jeff Smulyan is 72 … Richard Rosenblatt is 5-0 … Asaf Shariv … Matthew Dzieciolowski (h/t Andrew Bates) …
… Olivia Perez-Cubas, comms director at Winning for Women (h/t Jeremy Adler) … Kivvit’s Andy Oare … Rayna Farrell, BRT’s senior director for comms (h/t Matt Moon) … Megan Bartley … Lisa Li … John Lechner … Justine Sarver … Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) is 66 … Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is 55 … Amy Schultz Berman … Melissa Carlson Kelly (h/t Tim Burger) … Richard Kim, enterprise director at HuffPost … ESA’s Kevin O’Hanlon (h/t NIka Nour) … Boeing’s Alex Tripiano … Carolina V. Valencia … Jeanie Schottenstein … Jay Haberman … Doug Ellin is 51 … Jerah Smith … Mike Raia … Mike Johnson … Caroline Fawcett … Phil Paule … Donna Caudill … Asher Dickens … Jill Schroeder Vieth … Melissa Schwartz … Todd Beeton … Gabrielle Birkner … Jesus Gonzalez … Remy White … Suzanne O’Malley … Todd Klukow is 58 … Cindy Terrell … Mike Berland is 51 (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Stacie Maass … Drew Baney … Barry Levinson is 77 (h/t AP)
THE SHOWS, by @MattMackowiak, filing from Austin:
“Meet the Press”: Pete Buttigieg … Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). Panel: Hugh Hewitt, Heather McGhee, Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman
“Fox News Sunday”: Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.). Panel: Charles Hurt, Katie Pavlich, Marie Harf and Juan Williams
“State of the Union”: Larry Kudlow … Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) … Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). Panel: Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Rick Santorum, Symone Sanders and Amanda Carpenter
“This Week”: Jay Sekulow … Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) … Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) … Andrew Yang. Panel: Matthew Dowd, Cokie Roberts, Lanhee Chen and Yvette Simpson
“Face the Nation”: Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) … Rudy Giuliani … Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) … Larry Kudlow. Panel: Amy Walter, Molly Ball, David Nakamura and Ben Domenech
“Sunday Morning Futures”: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) … Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.)
“MediaBuzz”: Rudy Giuliani … Gillian Turner … Mo Elleithee … Mollie Hemingway … David Martosko
“Inside Politics”: Panel: Dan Balz, Julie Pace, Shawna Thomas and Manu Raju
“Fareed Zakaria GPS”: David Frum … NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg … Tina Brown … Michael Lewis
“Reliable Sources”: Finnish investigative journalist Jessikka Aro … Jim Rutenberg … Joseph Azam … panel: Katie Rogers, Katie Glueck and David Axelrod … Laura Bassett and David Zurawik
“Al Punto”: Lucy Flores … Pedro Rojas and Pedro Ultreras … CBP agent Ramiro Cordero … Carmen Yulin … undocumented workers detained during an ICE raid in Allen, Texas Ana Moratoya and Angelica Quintanilla … Francisco Martin Moreno
“The Communicators”: Tim Wu … “Newsmakers”: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), questioned by Susan Ferrechio and Kyle Cheney … “Q&A”: Doug Brinkley
“Kasie DC”: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) … Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) … Israel’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. Danny Danon … Rev. Al Sharpton … Ken Dilanian … Michael Steele … Lanhee Chen … Karine Jean-Pierre … Guy Cecil … Carol Leonnig … David Drucker … A.B. Stoddard … Jeff Mason … Katie Rogers
“Mack on Politics” weekly politics podcast with Matt Mackowiak (download on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or Stitcher or listen at MackOnPoliticsPodcast.com): Susan Page