Trump’s ‘renewed confidence’ in the Freedom Caucus — Rising W.H. stars: Stephen Miller, Gary Cohn — ANNIE KARNI’S Bob Barnett profile — SAMANTHA POWER to Harvard — B’DAY: Nick Merrill

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Happy Friday. The Capital Weather Gang says we’re in for a generally beautiful next few days.

DEEP SPLIT — PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, said he believes he’ll get a deal on health-care reform and has a “renewed confidence” in the House Freedom Caucus, the conservatives who helped torpedo his first attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. “They want to do the right thing and they do like me and they do like their president,” Trump told the Journal.

— BUT … Indeed, people in and around the Freedom Caucus feel confident they can strike a deal with Trump. Other Republicans involved in the talks are not as confident, and say the two sides are no closer to a deal than when they left town for recess. The negotiations are still centered on Obamacare’s “Title I” provisions — a list of baseline coverage requirements. After a handful of raucous town halls this recess, any uptick in Freedom Caucus votes could be matched by moderates abandoning the bill.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Whether Freedom Caucus members like Trump — some do, some don’t — has little bearing on whether they’ll be able to cut a deal. Lots of people liked John Boehner — until they didn’t. This is a numbers game.

ONE WASHINGTON WISE MAN suggested to us that Trump stop negotiating and tell the Freedom Caucus to craft a deal that could pass the House.

SOME IMPORTANT foreign policy stories out this morning:

— “N. Korean official: U.S. more vicious, aggressive under Trump,” by AP’s Eric Talmadge in Pyongyang, North Korea: “North Korea’s vice foreign minister on Friday blamed President Donald Trump for escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula through his tweets and expansion of military exercises, saying the U.S. was becoming ‘more vicious and more aggressive’ under his leadership than it had been under President Barack Obama. In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Pyongyang, Vice Minister Han Song Ryol also warned the U.S. against provoking North Korea militarily. ‘We will go to war if they choose,’ he said.”

— SOMETHING TO WATCH: Escalating tensions between Trump and North Korea come as Vice President Mike Pence heads to South Korea this weekend for a 10-day trip in the Asia-Pacific region.

— “China is suddenly leaning on North Korea — and it might be thanks to Trump,” by John Pomfret in WaPo: “North Korea will celebrate the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung, on Saturday, and some type of military show of force is expected. In an editorial in the semi-official Global Times on Wednesday, Pyongyang was put on notice that it must rein in its nuclear ambitions, or else China’s oil shipments to North Korea could be ‘severely limited.’ It is extraordinary for China to make this kind of threat. For more than a decade, as part of its strategy to prop up one of its only allies, China refused to allow the U.N. Security Council to even consider cutting oil shipments to North Korea. Beijing’s calculus was that the maintenance of the North Korean regime took precedence over everything. Now Beijing seems to be reconsidering its position.”

— “Trump Said No to Troops in Syria. His Aides Aren’t So Sure,” by Bloomberg’s Eli Lake: “Senior White House and administration officials tell me Trump’s national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, has been quietly pressing his colleagues to question the underlying assumptions of a draft war plan against the Islamic State that would maintain only a light U.S. ground troop presence in Syria. McMaster’s critics inside the administration say he wants to send tens of thousands of ground troops to the Euphrates River Valley. His supporters insist he is only trying to facilitate a better interagency process to develop Trump’s new strategy to defeat the self-described caliphate that controls territory in Iraq and Syria.”

A GOOD DETAIL from NYT’s Peter Baker in an A1’er on PRESIDENT TRUMP’s shifting positions: “Mr. Trump sometimes cloaks his evolving positions by declaring victory before retreating. For instance, he had criticized NATO for not fighting terrorism and leaving the financial burden to the United States. As he met with NATO’s secretary general on Wednesday, Mr. Trump asserted that the alliance had changed. …

“But the alliance has hardly changed in three months. Just three more members out of 28 have committed to raise military spending to target levels by next year, and the only shift in NATO’s approach to terrorism was to create a new intelligence office before Mr. Trump’s inauguration.”

PRESIDENT TRUMP is at Mar-a-Lago with no public events scheduled. VP PENCE also has no public events scheduled for the fourth straight day.

WHITE HOUSE AIDES RISING — JOSH DAWSEY and ELIANA JOHNSON answer the question that’s been hanging out there since Steve Bannon’s downfall — Where in the world is Stephen Miller?: “Trump’s got a new favorite Steve”: “President Donald Trump once affectionately called them ‘my two Steves,’ a reference not only to their ideological kinship but to their central role in his administration. But while Steve Bannon is on the ropes in Trump’s fractious White House, Stephen Miller has managed to endear himself to the man emerging as the president’s most indispensable adviser: son-in-law Jared Kushner.

“As the relationship between Kushner and Bannon has deteriorated, Miller has made sure his colleagues know he’s not on Bannon’s team. In interviews, seven White House officials described the emerging dynamics. The 31-year old speechwriter is now working closely with Kushner’s Office of American Innovation, as well as on family leave, childcare and women’s issues with Kushner’s wife Ivanka Trump, according to several people involved.”

— WAPO’S DAMIAN PALETTA on GARY COHN: “Within Trump’s inner circle, a moderate voice captures the president’s ear”: “In a White House short on experienced personnel, Cohn has found an edge by hiring two dozen policy experts, most with government experience. His team produced detailed proposals on overhauling the tax code, rebuilding infrastructure, cutting back financial regulations and restructuring international trade deals. He is widely considered a future candidate to be chief of staff. …

“While friends say he loves his new job, they say Cohn also holds the traditions of Washington in low regard. At a recent dinner with friends in New York, he called Washington a ‘s—show,’ according to a person familiar with the exchange.

“Cohn has not tried to shirk his past at Goldman Sachs or hide his lavish lifestyle. He recently had drinks at the Four Seasons with Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, and shortly after the failure of the House GOP health-care legislation, he went on vacation in the Bahamas.”

THE MILLION-DOLLAR QUESTION — “If Trump Fired Bannon, Would He Seek Revenge?” by Ben Schreckinger:

POMPEO COMING OUT HOT — “Pompeo mocks microwave surveillance claims,” by Nolan McCaskill: “CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Thursday mocked those who fear intelligence officials conduct surveillance through microwaves, saying the agency tries to ignore such claims. While White House counselor Kellyanne Conway suffered blowback last month when she suggested microwaves could be deployed as surveillance devices, the CIA said later Thursday that Pompeo was not directly referencing Conway’s controversial comments.”

— “CIA director labels WikiLeaks a ‘hostile intelligence service’,” by Martin Matishak.

BOB BARNETT PROFILE — “Can Washington’s Original Dealmaker Survive Trump?” by Annie Karni: “The churn between presidential administrations is typically the sweet spot for Bob Barnett, the Washington superlawyer who likes to describe himself as the ‘doorman to the revolving door.’ Outgoing White House officials, from the president on down, are ready to cash in with book deals, sign with speaker bureaus, become paid contributors on cable networks and negotiate potential corporate board and employment opportunities. And Barnett—famous for charging his $1,250 hourly rate, rather than the 10 to 15 percent commission that literary and talent agents typically take off the top — has been Washington D.C.’s go-to dealmaker for this kind of work for four decades. …

“But the Obama and Clinton book deals are being viewed by people in the publishing and agenting business as potentially something of a Barnett swan song. His old-school tactics—a multimillion-dollar book deal for an outgoing government official, coupled with a launch on ‘60 Minutes’ or one of the Sunday shows — seem out of sync in the age of Trump, a former reality show star who reverse-engineered his presidency by starting with the lucrative book, the branding and the television deals and then worked his way into the Oval Office.”


— SHELDON AND MIRIAM ADELSON gave Sen. Ted Cruz’s victory committee $10,400 each, according to a campaign finance report released yesterday.

TOM DONILON resigned from Delta’s board “due to other commitments,” according to an SEC filing earlier this week. “Mr. Donilon has not advised Delta of any disagreement with Delta on any matter relating to Delta’s operations, policies or practices.”

— SAMANTHA POWER, who most recently served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has been named to a joint faculty appointment as the Anna Lindh Professor of the Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School. For the upcoming academic year, she will also be a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

— THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’S New York media party. with 78 photos

PAGING JEFF SESSIONS — “Rift opens between the Brown administration and legislators over new marijuana laws in California,” by L.A. Times’ Patrick McGreevy: “A proposal by the Brown administration to revise marijuana laws in California is drawing backlash from lawmakers and police chiefs who say it would repeal rules approved by the Legislature two years ago and benefit the pot industry over the public. Gov. Jerry Brown wants to merge medical marijuana regulations approved by the Legislature in 2015 with standards set by Proposition 64, an initiative approved in November by California voters that legalizes the sale of cannabis for recreational use.”

COMMONWEALTH WATCH — “How Donald Trump Blew Up the Virginia Governor’s Race: The Democratic primary was teed up for Ralph Northam, then he got a surprise opponent who wants to make it a referendum on the soul of the party,” by Kevin Robillard in his Politico Magazine debut, filing from Fairfax, Virginia: “On the campaign trail [Tom Perriello has sounded] like he was running against Trump, frequently calling his GOP presidential campaign ‘viciously racist’ and pledging to make Virginia a ‘firewall’ against Trump.

“Perriello’s attacks, combined with a bank of goodwill with the former Obama administration, turned the one-term legislator into the darling of the D.C. establishment and earned him profiles in the Huffington Post, Yahoo!, and FiveThirtyEight. He has received the endorsement of seemingly the entire Obama-era White House staff, including Dan Pfeiffer, Neera Tanden, David Plouffe and John Podesta, who says Perriello is offering a ‘blueprint’ for the future of the party. Last week, he got the backing of the father of the populist progressive moment in Democratic politics: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.”

WHAT JAMIE DIMON IS READING — “J.P. Morgan, Citi Score Big Gains, but Shareholders Want More,” by WSJ’s Peter Rudegeair, Telis Demos and Emily Glazer: “Some of the nation’s largest banks warned Thursday that the benefits investors anticipated from rising interest rates and the election of Donald Trump as president aren’t panning out quite as quickly as many had hoped. … While bank stocks surged in the wake of Mr. Trump’s surprise election victory, they have slipped the past month as investors grow more doubtful about whether broad measures like lending growth and profitability will catch up with loftier valuations.”

HMM … “Trump’s Lawyer Can’t Account For $350,000 He Was Accused Of Mishandling: In 1999, Michael Cohen, now the president’s personal lawyer, cashed a $350,000 check from an NHL hockey player. He was supposed to give the money to a woman in South Florida. He didn’t, and says he doesn’t remember anything about it. To this day, the money is missing,” by BuzzFeed’s Anthony Cormier.

BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “Sexual Abuse at Choate Went On for Decades, School Acknowledges,” by NYT’s Elizabeth A. Harris: “Choate Rosemary Hall, the elite Connecticut boarding school, said on Thursday that at least 12 former teachers had sexually molested — and, in at least one case, raped — students in a pattern of abuse dating to the 1960s. … The parents of a Choate student complained to the school in the early 1980s after their daughter contracted herpes from an English teacher. And in another case, the report describes a student’s rape on a school trip to Costa Rica. None of the teachers’ actions were reported to the police. In some cases, teachers were allowed to resign after being confronted with evidence of misconduct, and administrators wrote letters of recommendations for teachers who were fired. Choate, in Wallingford, Conn., is a blue-blooded school whose alumni include President John F. Kennedy and his brother Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.”

–FLASHBACK: Boston Globe spotlight team, May 6, 2016, “Private schools, painful secrets: More than 200 victims. At least 90 legal claims. At least 67 private schools in New England. This is the story of hundreds of students sexually abused by staffers, and emerging from decades of silence today.”

REMEMBERING DAN ROONEY — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette: “Dan Rooney, who succeeded his father and Steelers founder, Art Sr., as team president and rose to become one of the most powerful and beloved owners in sports, died Thursday at the age of 84. Born Daniel Milton Rooney, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000, making the Rooneys only the second father-son combination to be enshrined. Under his leadership since the late 1960s, the Steelers transformed from lovable losers into a Super Bowl dynasty in the 1970s and remain among the most successful and popular franchises in the game. … He fought to give more opportunities for minority coaches to ascend in the NFL, an effort that prompted the adoption of what is known as the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority coach in the process of hiring a head coach.”

SPOTTED: Mark McKinnon in Mansfield, Texas, Thursday for Rep. Joe Barton’s town hall with his show “The Circus.” … Former President of the World Bank and Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Bush administration, Paul Wolfowitz yesterday getting out of a cab heading into the Reagan Building — pic … Evan McMullin on foot, crossing 14th on G Street, NW, mere blocks from the White House. “So close, yet so far…” … Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, on the NYC-to-DC Acela in business class, with a protection detail.

SPOTTED last night at the MPAA for Carol Melton’s screening of HBO’s “Veep” in advance of Sunday’s debut of its sixth season (trailer: Tammy Haddad, Tim McBride, Dorothy Kosinski, Cathy Merrill Williams, Rita Braver and Bob Barnett, Didem Nisanci and Bruce Andrews, Bobby Haft, Lisa Barclay, Steve Clemons, Virginia Coyne, Todd Harris and Ieva Augstums, Annie Linskey, Garance Franke-Ruta, Doug Heye, Ryan Williams, Jonathan Capehart and Nick Schmit, Shelby Coffey, Jeffrey Herbst, David Chalian, Ruth Marcus, Jeremy Peters, Betsy Fischer Martin, Gail MacKinnon, Kelley McCormick, Robin Goldman and Kevin Cirilli

SUNDAY SO FAR – NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly … Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) … Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) … Religion roundtable: Pastor JoAnn Hummel … Bishop T.D. Jakes … Rabbi David Saperstein. Panel: Mark Leibovich, Heather McGhee, Andrea Mitchell, former Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.)

–CBS’ “Face the Nation”: David McCullough. Religion panel: Rod Dreher, Russell Moore, Abigail Pogrebin, Father James Martin … Political panel: David Ignatius, Amity Shlaes, David Nakamura, Jamelle Bouie … A discussion on chiefs of staff and the presidency: Ken Duberstein, Denis McDonough, Chris Whipple

–“Fox News Sunday”: Power Player: opera singer Renee Fleming. Panel: Michael Needham, Bob Woodward, Jennifer Griffin, Gillian Turner

–CNN’s “State of the Union”: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Panel: Bakari Sellers, Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), Jason Kander, Bill Kristol

–CNN’s “Inside Politics,” hosted by John King: Julie Pace, Jonathan Martin, Abby Phillip, Manu Raju

WELCOME TO THE WORLD – Nick Yaeger, managing director at POLITICO Focus, and Mandy Yaeger have welcomed Luke Michael Yaeger and Hayley Rose Yaeger. They join big brother Hunter (3) and Ella (6). Pic

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): CNN’s Kyle Blaine (hat tip @KFile) … CNN’s Nathaniel Meyersohn turned 24 … (was Tuesday): Meredith LeBlond Friedman

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Carly Zakin, co-founder and co-CEO of theSkimm – how she’s celebrating: “I am the queen of last minute trips. So planning on going to a currently undecided beach. Next year, I will be better at planning things.” Read her Playbook Plus Q&A:

BIRTHDAYS: Nick Merrill … Garrett Haake, an NBC and WUSA alum, is 32, celebrating by getting married to Sara Murray in a week in Austin — he starts as a Washington correspondent at MSNBC the day after his honeymoon (h/t Ryan Williams) … Joe Rospars, founder and CEO at Blue State Digital and Obama for America alum … Steve Glickman, co-founder and executive director at Economic Innovation Group and Obama alum (h/ts Jon Haber) … Betsy Stewart, VP at Business Roundtable and a Boehner alum … Sasha Issenberg, who writes for Monocle and Bloomberg Politics and is a sushi guru and the pride of Larchmont, N.Y., is 37 … Politico rising star Megan Swiatkowski (h/t POLITICO comms team) … Politico’s Ashley Gold … CRC Public Relations SVP Keith Appell, a long-suffering Mets fan … Robert M. “Mike” Duncan, former RNC chair and president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity … best darned pollster in New Hampshire Rich Killion … AP’s Eileen Sullivan … Anna Van Meter … Yahoo News’ Kaye Foley … WaPo’s Matt Zapotosky … Amy Brundage, SVP of SKDKnickerbocker … Adam Hodge, VP at SKDKnickerbocker, is 35 (h/ts Kelley McCormick) … Treasury alum Stephanie Ma, now an MA student at SAIS … Ellie Wallace … Adam Levine, managing editor of CNN’s Washington Bureau … Results for America co-founder and COO David Medina … CNN video producer Brenna Williams, celebrating by working for the digital team on First Street before heading off to a date at Fiola Mare with boyfriend Jake Wilkins (h/t Jake) … Noha Georges, chief marketing officer at Deloitte Advisory…

… Neil Sroka, comms. director at Democracy for America … Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) is 4-0 … Shola Farber, co-founder of Tuesday Strategies, which works to increase millennial voter turnout and civic engagement … media executive Shari Redstone is 63 … Baltimore-born film, television and theatre producer (and uncle of Irene Sherman) Marc Platt is 6-0 (h/ts Jewish Insider) … Mark Bryant … Elizabeth Gore … Caleb Jones … Jorge Castro, founder and principal of Castro Strategies LLC and an IRS and Jay Rockefeller alum … Bloomberg’s Emma Angerer … Liz Fossett … Elizabeth A. Terrell, senior consultant at Deloitte Digital in Sydney … John Gauthier of Davis Polk … Ashok Pinto … political junkie Stephen Groves … New Hampshire’s third senator, Joel Maiola, senior advisor at McLane GPS and a Judd Gregg alum … Anne Eisenhower … Facebook’s Dipayan Ghosh, an Obama WH alum, is 29 … CNBC’s Thomas Anderson … Jeff Schogol of Marine Corps Times … Ray McAllister … Mark Bryant … Laura Keehner Rigas … Christopher Lupke … Frederick Eaton … Ashley Blayne Candy … Daniel Freedman … David Humphreville, the host of the fabulous yearly Christmas shopping party in NYC … Suzy Hemauer (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Blake Androff, executive director of the House DPCC (h/t Legistorm) … Pete Rose is 76 … Brad Garrett is 57 … Adrien Brody is 44 … Sarah Michelle Gellar is 4-0 … Abigail Breslin is 21 (h/ts AP)


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