ANOTHER WAY TO TRAVEL … SCOOP: OMB DIRECTOR MICK MULVANEY is in the Middle East — he was in the United Arab Emirates over the weekend, where he spoke to the American Business Council Dubai. He’ll also visit military installations on this trip. He is with his chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, no wife or family on this trip, according to a source familiar with the itinerary.
— SPOKESMAN COALTER BAKER: “Director Mulvaney is traveling on official business to the Middle East. He will visit troops stationed overseas, review assets, and meet with locally based American business leaders. He is accompanied on the trip with three staff and arrived on Saturday via commercial airline travel in coach.”
THE PRUITT TEST… MULVANEY, a former congressman who is now on television quite a bit, clearly doesn’t think he needs to fly business!
Good Tuesday morning. BIG NEWS FROM THE KEYSTONE STATE … NEW MAP FAVORS DEMOCRATS … ELENA SCHNEIDER: “Under the previous map, drawn by a Republican Legislature in 2011 and approved by the then-Republican governor, Republicans won 13 of the state’s 18 congressional districts in 2016, when President Donald Trump carried 12 of the 18 districts.
“But early estimates of the new, court-drawn map suggest there are now 10 Trump seats — opening the door for Democrats to inch closer to the House majority when voters go to the polls this November. The extra Democratic-leaning seats are primarily in the Philadelphia suburbs.
“‘This is pretty close to a Democratic wet dream,’ Christopher Nicholas, a Republican consultant based in Pennsylvania, said of the new map.” http://politi.co/2C78aCh
— PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER’S JONATHAN LAI and LIZ NAVRATIL: “The reconfigured map prompted a sharp rebuke from top Republican legislators, who said honoring it would create a ‘constitutional crisis.’ Extending a political clash that has roiled the state for months, they said they might challenge the map — or the justices’ authority to impose it — in federal court as early as Tuesday.
“‘This entire exercise, while cloaked in ‘litigation,’ is and has been nothing more than the ultimate partisan gerrymander – one brought about by the Democrat[ic] governor acting in concert with liberal politically connected litigants,’ Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) said in a statement.” http://bit.ly/2Fh4mwO
— NOTE: Good correction of Democrat to Democratic by the Inquirer.
LISTEN TO THIS MAN — DAVE WASSERMAN (@Redistrict): “The most accurate way to think about partisan impact of new PA map isn’t ‘Dems gain x seats from it.; It’s that the new map replaced 6 existing Dem pickup opportunities w/ 6 *much stronger* opportunities: (#PA01, #PA05, #PA06, #PA07, #PA10, #PA17).”
REPUBLICAN REP. TOM ROONEY OF FLORIDA is retiring after a decade in Congress. Twenty-eight Republicans are not seeking re-election next year.
SIREN!! … HEATHER CAYGLE: “Some Democrats worry a rerun of the Republican playbook employed in the past several cycles — painting House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as the GOP’s central villain — will again be successful in denying them the House majority.” http://politi.co/2ECHgzS
— REPUBLICANS have been nervous that Trump could take up all the oxygen on the campaign trail in the midterms leaving them sans their favorite foil — Pelosi. Look for outside groups and the NRCC to ramp up attack ads across the country featuring the California Democrat.
WHAT’S ON THE PRESIDENT’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 9:21 p.m.: “.@MittRomney has announced he is running for the Senate from the wonderful State of Utah. He will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!”
— ON THE ECONOMY: … at 9:29 p.m.: “The U.S. economy is looking very good, in my opinion, even better than anticipated. Companies are pouring back into our country, reversing the long term trend of leaving. The unemployment numbers are looking great, and Regulations & Taxes have been massively Cut! JOBS, JOBS, JOBS”.
WELCOME TO THE SWAMP! — “Trump to attend Gridiron Club Dinner,” by Matt Nussbaum: “President Donald Trump will attend the 2018 Gridiron Club Dinner, an annual confab of politicians and journalists, the White House announced on Monday. No decision has been made as to whether Trump will also attend the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
“Trump skipped the WHCD in 2017 and instead rallied with supporters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. While the WHCD is typically attended by the president every year, the Gridiron less frequently attracts the commander-in-chief. Former President Barack Obama attended the Gridiron in 2011, 2013 and 2015, though he attended the WHCD every year in office.” http://politi.co/2GsNyma
— MICHAEL CALDERONE: “David Lightman, a national correspondent for McClatchy and president of the Gridiron Club, framed President Donald Trump attending next month’s dinner as in keeping with well-worn tradition. ‘He’s the president of the United States, and we always invite the president,’ Lightman told POLITICO.” http://politi.co/2CxNmQ3
— THIS IS A LARGELY SYMBOLIC GESTURE, of course, but the decision by Trump to participate in one of the long traditions of the Fourth Estate in Washington could help thaw his often tenuous relationship with the press — even if only for a night. Don’t look to him to stop attacking the press anytime soon.
IN THE WEST WING — “For the weary White House, Florida shooting offered a ‘reprieve’ from scandals,” by WaPo’s Ashley Parker and Phil Rucker: “The White House was under siege. Domestic abuse allegations against a senior aide were ignored, pointing to a potential high-level coverup. Two Cabinet secretaries were caught charging taxpayers for luxury travel. A Playboy centerfold alleged an extramarital affair with the president. And the special counsel’s Russia investigation was intensifying.
“The tumult was so intense that there was fervent speculation that President Trump might fire his chief of staff. But a gun massacre at a Florida high school last Wednesday, which left 17 dead, seemed to shift the media glare away from the Trump scandals and gave embattled aides an opportunity to refocus on handling a crisis not of their own making. While the White House mourned the loss of life in Parkland, Fla., some aides privately acknowledged that the tragedy offered a breather from the political storm. …
“One White House official said the shooting forced the White House to focus on critical and serious issues — like consoling the victims and trying to heal the nation — rather than getting bogged down in what they view as more trivial West Wing drama. ‘For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve,’ said the White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect internal conversations. ‘A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.’” http://wapo.st/2EF3wwX
PALACE INTRIGUE … ELIANA JOHNSON: “Trump takes on McMaster. Again”: “For a few weeks in late November, as speculation over whether President Donald Trump would fire his secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, reached a fever pitch, Trump and his chief of staff, John Kelly, also considered pushing out another top national security official: H.R. McMaster.
“McMaster, the national security adviser who succeeded Michael Flynn … has never quite clicked with the president, according to six senior White House officials. He is disciplined and focused, and has frequently clashed with Trump, who loves small talk and meanders from one subject to another. Their strained relationship was on rare public display over the weekend when the president chastised his national security adviser for telling a crowd at the Munich Security Conference that evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 election was ‘incontrovertible.’ …
“Trump has continuously chafed at McMaster’s ‘rat-a-tat’ briefing style, according to a senior White House aide, who likened it to machine-gun fire. The president at one point gestured toward the general in the midst of a lengthy briefing and said to others in the room, ‘Look at this guy, he’s so serious!’ ‘McMaster is very much, “OK sir, here’s the point, here’s the takeaway, here’s my point of view, and here are the things you need to decide by the end of today,”’ said Tom Ricks.” http://politi.co/2EFPJq5
THE LATEST ON THE FLORIDA …
— BY THE NUMBERS: “Most Americans say Trump, Congress not doing enough to stop mass shootings, Post-ABC poll finds,” by WaPo’s Scott Clement and Emily Guskin: “More than 6 in 10 Americans fault Congress and President Trump for not doing enough to prevent mass shootings, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll …
— IMPORTANT STATISTIC… ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN INCREASINGLY UNPOPULAR ON RIGHT: “The falloff in support for restricting assault weapons has come from all partisan groups, but has been starkest among Republicans and independents. While more than 7 in 10 Republicans and independents supported banning assault weapons in 1999, the new Post-ABC poll finds 45 percent of independents supporting it now, dropping to 29 percent among Republicans. A 71 percent majority of Democrats support such a ban.” http://wapo.st/2BF8nLV
THINK ABOUT THAT … The assault weapons ban is getting less popular on the right, and more partisan overall.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN’S IDEA, on the Business Day cover… CREDIT CARD COMPANIES SHOULD BAN GUN-RELATED TRANSACTIONS: "What if the finance industry — credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express; credit card processors like First Data; and banks like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — were to effectively set new rules for the sales of guns in America?
"Collectively, they have more leverage over the gun industry than any lawmaker. And it wouldn’t be hard for them to take a stand. PayPal, Square, Stripe and Apple Pay announced years ago that they would not allow their services to be used for the sale of firearms." http://nyti.ms/2EHfTsA
— ISAAC DOVERE talks with NEW JERSEY DEMOCRATIC GOV. PHIL MURPHY in the latest “Off Message” podcast. “‘I’m all for the ‘thoughts and prayers’ and our hearts are with you, and symbols matter and words matter, but this is a time for action. And I completely reject this notion that there’s nothing we can do,’ Murphy said. ‘And I hope at the end of the day that New Jersey can actually be a model for, ‘You know what, there is something you can do. And they’ve done it.’” http://politi.co/2FfJg1R
JARED WATCH — CNN’S SHIMON PROKUPECZ, KARA SCANNELL and GLORIA BORGER: “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the inquiry. This is the first indication that Mueller is exploring Kushner’s discussions with potential non-Russian foreign investors, including in China. …
“Mueller’s investigators have been asking questions, including during interviews in January and February, about Kushner’s conversations during the transition to shore up financing for 666 Fifth Avenue, a Kushner Companies-backed New York City office building reeling from financial troubles, according to people familiar with the special counsel investigation. It’s not clear what’s behind Mueller’s specific interest in the financing discussions. Mueller’s team has not contacted Kushner Companies for information or requested interviews with its executives, according to a person familiar with the matter.” http://cnn.it/2sF8Iey
— ABBE LOWELL RESPONDS: “Another anonymous source with questionable motives now contradicts the facts — in all of Mr. Kushner’s extensive cooperation with all inquiries, there has not been a single question asked nor document sought on the 666 building or Kushner Co deals. Nor would there be any reason to question these regular business transactions.”
THE JUICE …
— CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO is joining POLITICO as a White House reporter. The San Diego Union-Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle alum joins from The Sacramento Bee.
FROM CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN: “Chris is a scoop artist who has spent the last year covering Gov. Jerry Brown, and chronicling California’s resistance to the Trump administration over immigration, climate and health care. He’s focused extensively on the state’s 2018 governor’s race as well, digging into the candidacies of leading Democratic hopefuls Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa. Chris also closely followed Sen. Kamala Harris’ 2016 Senate campaign, Democratic donor and billionaire Tom Steyer’s political ambitions and the state’s historic vote to legalize marijuana. …
“By all accounts, he is a classic POLITICO reporter. He’s obsessed with politics. Breaks tons of stories. Loves the palace intrigue. Always on the phone. Chris came to us on the strong recommendation of our own California aces, Dave Siders and Carla Marinucci, who wrote to us: ‘On any given day, he produces so many great stories, I suspect he’s almost an alien.’”
— FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: THE UCHICAGO INSTITUTE OF POLITICS is announcing its spring quarter 2018 Pritzker fellows, including former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Nneka Jones Tapia, executive director for the Cook County Department of Corrections, Vladimir Kara-Murza, chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom and vice chair of Open Russia and Gerrit Lansing, former chief digital officer for the White House.
MATT LEWIS, senior columnist at The Daily Beast, Mark Murray, senior political editor at NBC News, former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) and Dawn Turner, former columnist for the Chicago Tribune are also part of the spring fellows class. http://politi.co/2EFTrQp
TRUMP’S TUESDAY — The president is having lunch with VP Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He is meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and will later host a public safety “Medal of Valor” awards ceremony.
WAPO’S DAN BALZ: “Tom Ridge is lucky to be alive: ‘I’m told I flatlined three times’” http://wapo.st/2BEu52s
NYT’S MICHAEL TACKETT in BEAUMONT, TEXAS on A9: “The Lone Star Long Shot Who Wants to Topple Ted Cruz”: Beto “O’Rourke is favored to win his party primary next month and challenge Mr. Cruz. But his odds in November are beyond long. No Democrat has won a statewide office in Texas since 1994, the year before Amazon sold its first book.
“By the calculations of Mike Baselice, a Republican pollster in Austin, demographic changes might make Texas competitive in 2032, certainly not in 2018. Mr. O’Rourke’s quest, he said, is ‘same book, different chapter’ of other Democratic hopefuls. ‘This is not a level playing field here.’
“It has been so bleak for Democrats in Texas that they define victory in terms of the size of their losses. A running joke in Mr. O’Rourke’s speeches is that he has almost convinced his mother, Melissa, a Republican, to vote for him.
“If the hill weren’t steep enough, Mr. O’Rourke also has refused to hire outside consultants or pollsters, and he will only accept contributions from individuals. He has no interest in using big data. When he tells this to Democratic colleagues in the House, some have simply turned and walked away from him, unable to take him seriously.
“But there is power in the giant-killer narrative and signs that his anti-campaign playbook campaign is working. He raised $2.4 million in the last quarter, and gets applause when he notes that was $500,000 more than Mr. Cruz took in.” http://nyti.ms/2C7pwPr
METRO SECTION — “As Amazon competition heats up, D.C. mayor heads west to talk tech,” by WaPo’s Jonathan O’Connell in San Francisco. http://wapo.st/2onPqoX
ZINKE WATCH — “Ex-Interior Chief Sally Jewell: I Didn’t Even Know I Had A Special Flag,” by HuffPost’s Chris D’Angelo: “Sally Jewell, who led the Department of Interior for more than three years under President Barack Obama, says she first learned about her own special flag at the agency when her successor started flying it over the department’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. After taking over in March, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke revived an obscure military flag-flying tradition. … ‘I had no idea there was a secretarial flag,’ Jewell told HuffPost. ‘And if I had known there was a flag the last thing I would have done was to ever fly it.’” http://bit.ly/2Ffbnyk
MEGATRENDS — “Fat, unhealthy Americans threaten Trump’s defense surge,” by Bryan Bender: “The Trump administration’s ambitious new military buildup is at risk of being hobbled before it even starts — by a dwindling pool of young Americans who are fit to serve. Nearly three-quarters of Americans age 17 to 24 are ineligible for the military due to obesity, other health problems, criminal backgrounds or lack of education, according to government data. That’s a harsh reality check for the Pentagon’s plan to recruit tens of thousands of new soldiers, sailors, pilots and cyber specialists over the next five years.
“‘We all have this image in our mind of this hearty American citizen, scrappy, that can do anything,’ said retired Army Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr, co-author of a new Heritage Foundation paper on the military recruiting challenge titled ‘The Looming National Security Crisis.’ ‘That image we keep in our heads is no longer accurate.’” http://politi.co/2onuG0y
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Washington’s $500 Million Financial-Storm Forecaster Is Foundering,” by WSJ’s Ryan Tracy: “Congress created a brand new agency after the 2008 financial crisis with a gargantuan mission: Serve as the finance world’s version of the National Weather Service. The new Office of Financial Research wasn’t expected to prevent economic storms, but it was supposed to anticipate them and issue warnings to help authorities contain the damage. Almost a decade and nearly $500 million later, the agency has struggled to establish a place for itself in Washington. Major projects have been delayed or scaled back. Morale has suffered amid turf battles with other regulators and opposition from Republicans. And one of its most ambitious initiatives—developing a database for recording financial contracts—has progressed no further than a 16-page paper calling for ‘information gathering sessions’ among constituents.” http://on.wsj.com/2HwVvrR
YIKES — “In laws, rhetoric and acts of violence, Europe is rewriting dark chapters of its past,” by WaPo’s Griff Witte and Luisa Beck in Berlin and James McAuley in Paris and Warsaw: “In Poland, the president signs a law criminalizing anyone who dares suggest that the country’s citizens helped perpetrate crimes of the Holocaust. In Italy, a Mussolini-admiring neo-fascist goes on a shooting rampage targeting people with dark skin. And from Hungary to Britain, leading government figures and their allies promote dark theories about a Jewish financier plotting to subvert the national will. After President Trump in August blamed ‘both sides’ for violence in Charlottesville during ¬dueling protests by white supremacists and their opponents, critics pointed to American historical amnesia as a contributing factor.” http://wapo.st/2BF48Qv
MEDIAWATCH — “Fox News Plans a Streaming Service for ‘Superfans,’” by NYT’s Mike Grynbaum: “Fox News is plotting a leap into the uncertain digital future that rivals like CNN have so far put off. On Tuesday, Fox News is set to announce Fox Nation, a stand-alone subscription service available without a cable package. The streaming service, expected to start by the end of the year, would focus primarily on right-leaning commentary, with original shows and cameos by popular personalities like Sean Hannity. It would not overlap with Fox News’s 24-hour cable broadcast — not even reruns — because of the channel’s contractual agreements with cable operators. Instead, the network is planning to develop hours of new daily programming with a mostly fresh slate of anchors and commentators.” http://nyti.ms/2Fdl5kF
TRANSITIONS – TRUMP ALUMNI: George David Banks is heading back to the American Council for Capital Formation as EVP and joining the board of Clearpath Foundation starting March 1. He most recently was special assistant to the president for international energy and environment.
BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Brandon Ver Velde, press secretary for House Science, Space and Technology Committee, is 3-0 (hat tip: wife Rachel)
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large. A recent article he enjoyed: “I am obsessed with David Grann’s piece [http://bit.ly/2EEMzP0] in the New Yorker about Henry Worsley, a Brit who tried to walk across Antarctica to follow in the footsteps of his hero Ernest Shackleton. It’s an amazing read about human perseverance and how far we can push ourselves beyond what most people consider their limits.” Read his Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2objTai
BIRTHDAYS: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is 76 … Mark Knoller … NYT photographer Doug Mills … Michael Clemente … Trevor Noah (“The Daily Show”) is 34 … WSJ’s Bob Davis (h/t Jon Haber) … Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn … Politico’s David Cohen and Andrew Hanna … Aaron Wells, partner at Smoot Tewes and Minnesota native (h/t Andrew Bates) … Tyler Robinson … Hank Baumann … Andrew Baumann … RALLY director Manny Rivera … Haley Morris, policy comms at Waymo … Politico Europe’s Carmen Paun … David Blair, former USDA deputy press secretary now at the Leadership Institute … Dan Gross, former president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence … Stu Spencer … Vox’s Dylan Matthews is 28 …
… Rebecca Samuels, senior producer for CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” … Katie Frates, managing editor at Olympic Media, is 26 (h/t Ryan Coyne) … Amy Spitalnick, press secretary for NY AG Eric Schneiderman … Jason Moyer (h/t Heidi Obermeyer) … Miguel Rodriguez, SVP for government affairs at CAP and former Obama WH legislative director and former Hillary Clinton Senate chief counsel (h/t Traci Patterson) … Tamara Fucile … Jen Finn … Keosha Johnson … Peter Strauss … Peter and Matthew Slutsky … Tim Farley, host of “Morning Briefing” on POTUS on Sirius XM radio … Greg D’Angelo, analyst for Medicare and Medicaid on the Senate Budget Cmte. … Scott Tyre … Kate Henningsen … Natalie Spiess … Charlie Whitehouse … Tommy Kurz-Cosgrove … Zoe Barrett … Camila Balkin (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Tyler John … Burke Olsen of the Deseret News … Katherine Logan … Gloria Vanderbilt is 94 … former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is 67 (h/ts AP)