John Bolton to replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser

President Donald Trump on Thursday announced he would replace national security adviser H.R. McMaster with John Bolton.

“I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor. I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9,” the president tweeted.


Goodlatte subpoenas DOJ over Clinton investigation, McCabe firing

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the Justice Department for records connected to the FBI’s 2016 investigation of Hillary Clinton as well as the internal report that led to the ouster of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.

Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) revealed the subpoenas Thursday afternoon, citing a frustratingly slow pace of cooperation from the department.

“Given the Department’s ongoing delays in producing these documents, I am left with no choice but to issue the enclosed subpoena to compel production of these documents,” Goodlatte wrote in a letter to DOJ.

Trump vs. Biden: Who Would Win?

In the left corner, weighing in at 180 pounds, standing at six feet tall, the winner of two vice-presidential belts, with one Iowa caucus loss and one presidential primary disqualification, the Scranton Stallion: Joooooe Biden!

And in the right corner, at 239 pounds* and six feet, three inches*, with a 41-15 primary record, undefeated in the presidential general election, and the undisputed champion of the 2007 WWE Battle of the Billionaires, the King of Queens, the President of the United States: Dooon-aaaald Trump!

Is this where we are as a country? Yes. Yes it is.

Sure, in recent days, several other Democratic presidential contenders have been trying to gin up some headlines. Sen. Bernie Sanders hosted an online town hall on inequality, which attracted nearly two million live viewers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren slammed fellow Democrats who joined Republicans to modify Dodd-Frank bank regulations, rolled out new health insurance legislation and joined Bernie’s town hall. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand pressed her colleagues to support legislation that would put congresspeople, and not taxpayers, on the financial hook for settlements in sexual misconduct cases. Sens. Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar promoted paper ballots to repel Russian hacking of election systems, and helped secure funds in the omnibus spending bill to that end.

But none of that got nearly the same level of attention as Biden’s recent trash talk: “If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him,” for Trump’s attitude toward women. That’s because Biden got under Trump’s skin, prompting a presidential retort on Twitter that “Crazy Joe Biden … would go down fast and hard, crying all the way.”

This is hardly the kind of debate for which many Democratic primary voters are hungering. It’s not about economic inequality. It’s not about health care. It’s not about Russian interference. And it’s only tangentially related to misogyny. But, with the memory of the juvenile free-for-all that was the 2016 presidential campaign fresh in their minds, there is one thing every Democratic voter wants to see in their eventual 2020 nominee: the ability to take Trump on. Not who can literally throw a punch, but who can rhetorically punch and counter-punch with the most vicious campaign brawler ever to occupy the Oval Office. And in this respect, Biden, with his playground put-down, has put himself at the front of the pack.

Democratic fear of being mauled on the campaign trail has never dissipated since George H.W. Bush’s team pummeled 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis beyond recognition. In the documentary “Feed” about the 1992 New Hampshire primary, an elderly woman goes up to the nebbishy former Sen. Paul Tsongas and asks, “Can you be nasty enough?” He calmly responds, “I can be nasty.”

Most Democrats were unconvinced. The movie also shows a Bill Clinton surrogate firing up the troops with, “We’re not going to lose to some man who wears a pocket protector!” They didn’t. Democratic voters opted for smooth Southerner over the Massachusetts nerd.

Since then Democrats have cringed at how the wonkish Al Gore became a “serial exaggerator” and the patrician John Kerry got swiftboated despite being a decorated Vietnam vet. The memory of how Trump brazenly used misogynistic language to dispatch Hillary Clinton still burns. Only Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both charismatic yet cunning, have successfully deflected the Republican attacks on their manhood in the era of Fox News.

In past elections, Democrats worried about fiendish operatives like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. Today, they must worry about the candidate himself. Normally, facing an incumbent president perpetually stuck at around 40 percent approval would not induce much panic. But not only did Trump manage to win the first time without the popular vote, he also has a proven ability to verbally diminish his rivals and knock them off their game. Ask “Low-energy” Jeb Bush, “Little Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz and “Crooked Hillary.”

Biden’s retrograde machismo doesn’t fit the progressive sensibilities of a Democratic Party that skews young and female. The Forward’s Batya Ungar-Sargon posted on Twitter, “1950 called. It wants Joe Biden and his toxic masculinity back.” Keying off of that comment, the Washington Post’s Eugene Scott surmised, “Biden’s words could cost him some votes from women who are tired of seeing stereotypical expressions of manhood offered as a solution to the very real problem of sexual assault of women.” Biden already has a challenge of convincing Democrats to send yet another old white male to the White House, talking too “old-school” exacerbates the problem.

However, no one could possibly think Biden would get discombobulated at Trump’s juvenile nonsense. This is a man who dispensed with Rudy Giuliani – crowned Time Magazine’s 2001 Person of Year – as a man with nothing to say but “a noun, a verb, and 9/11.” In 2012, When Biden faced off with Paul Ryan (perhaps the closest thing to a Republican Tsongas in terms of nerdiness) in the vice-presidential debate, the New York Times reported that Ryan “seemed disconcerted by the sheer blowhard intensity Mr. Biden brought to the night,” and The Guardian headlined, “Joe Biden’s alpha-male display leaves Paul Ryan overwhelmed.” You cannot stop Biden from being Biden.

Biden should not get an advantage for being male. But let’s face it: A presidential candidate is more likely to win if she or he is an alpha, and especially so against Trump. However emotionally stunted or insecure he is on the inside, Trump plays the uber-alpha on TV. That energy is going to have be met. As the Daily Beast’s Matt Lewis wrote in defense of Biden’s bravado, borrowing from an old Bill Clinton saying, “It’s better to be strong and wrong” than weak and right.

In the Bernie Sanders town hall the Vermont senator, along with agitprop filmmaker Michael Moore, lamented that the “corporate media” tries to distract viewers with sensationalistic stories about “Russia” and “Stormy Daniels,” instead of covering issues related to poverty and inequality. Certainly this Biden-Trump dust-up would qualify as a similar type of distraction. But complaining, even noble complaining, is not much of an alpha move. Biden probably isn’t thrilled that his big mouth stepped on his rollout of a set of proposals designed to resuscitate the working-class, and his Thursday public forum the Biden Institute to discuss them. Yet I don’t see him wringing his hands about it.

The political reality is that getting into a (rhetorical) fight with Trump gives Democratic voters a chance to assess your fight skills, and preview what a general election might look like. Last month, Warren pledged to respond to every one Trump’s “Pocahontas” taunts by “us[ing] it to lift up the story of [Native American] families and … communities.” In December, when Trump attacked Gillibrand as someone who would “do anything” to get a campaign donation from him, she shot back on Twitter, “You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office.”

Their moments of conflict got far more attention than their policy pronouncements. Is that fair? No. Should it mean that candidates shouldn’t bother with policy? No. But the 2020 nominee will need to live in the real world. And in the real world, the incumbent president is an insult machine and voters hate-click on food fights more than they sift through policy papers.

In preparing to go toe-to-toe with Trump, Democrats will have to take some sparring practice, and not all punches are going to land. But to insist that candidates shouldn’t treat the campaign like a schoolyard brawl is to deny the reality that one of the candidates is going to make sure that it is one.

Rand Paul, king of Senate drama, is at it again

Rand Paul is keeping everyone in suspense yet again.

The junior Kentucky senator is refusing to rule out forcing another brief government shutdown over his protests of the $1.3 trillion spending bill, which he has called “budget-busting” and a return to “Obama spending and trillion dollar deficits.” Fellow senators are trying desperately to persuade him to let the Senate vote on the spending bill on Thursday and avoid unnecessarily keeping them in town on Friday and into the weekend.

Paul was noncommittal on Thursday as he walked into a Republican caucus lunch. He said he had more than 2,000 pages of the 2,200-page bill left to get through before he’ll decide how to proceed.

“I’m on page 56 right now, and so I’ve got a few more pages to read. I don’t have any other comment,” Paul said.

Under Senate rules, all 100 senators must agree to hold a vote before the Friday night shutdown deadline. But as of now, they don’t have it. The House cleared the massive spending measure on Thursday.

“It’s just a question of if he delays the vote. It doesn’t change anything,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, said of Paul. “I don’t think anybody knows and I don’t think his staff knows … it’s his right and his prerogative if he wants to do it.”

“It’s fair to say that it’s fine to make a statement,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), who dislikes the spending increases in the bill but is eager to vote on it. “There’s no benefit to waiting at this point. We should go ahead and get it done.”

The will-he-or-won’t-he cause a momentary shutdown is a familiar play from Paul. He loves using Senate rules to draw attention to his causes — even if it means agitating the people he goes to work with every day.

He has filibustered nominees, briefly caused a surveillance program to lapse and, in February, refused to give GOP leaders consent to vote on a funding bill before the funding deadline. The latter protest, against a bipartisan spending deal that dramatically increased spending, caused a government shutdown for several hours.

He’s also irked GOP leaders by opposing President Donald Trump’s nominees to lead the State Department and CIA this spring. That stand could allow Democrats to block the president’s picks.

Beyond simply annoying other senators, another protest by Paul could disrupt trips some of them who are planning to take overseas as part of congressional delegations. There are multiple so-called “CODELs“ scheduled to leave on Thursday night, and they are making contingency plans now in case Paul forces the Senate to stay in on Friday, according to a Republican senator.

“I would hope that he can vote against what he doesn’t like. That’s what I do,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the soon-to-be Appropriations Committee chairman. “I’m sure he sees a purpose, an outlier, a protest. But there are a lot of ways to manifest that.”

There was no concerted effort at the Republican lunch Thursday to persuade Paul to back down, attendees said. Instead GOP senators concentrated on paying tribute to retiring Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).

Some Republicans hope reporters can shame Paul into giving in.

“We’re leaving that to y’all,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters. “Whatever rights he has, he will decide what’s the best use of them. I know how the movie ends. No matter what he does we’re going to pass this bill and the military is going to get a pay raise.”

Some senators believe that Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) also must be convinced to allow a quick vote. Kennedy is among a bloc of conservatives who loathe the closed process used to write the bill in leaders’ offices, as well as the increase in spending that will increase the deficit.

But in an interview, he sounded less dug-in than Paul.

“I don’t know. Probably not,” Kennedy said, when asked whether he will hold up the bill. “They probably have the votes [to pass it]. But I can tell you this: This is the best effort of Congress to borrow and spend us into prosperity. And I’m not going to be a part of it.”

GOP leaders are hoping that the looming recess — and certainty that the bill will pass, it’s just a matter of when — will be enough to get Paul not to gum up the works again.

“There are some unhappy folks, understandably. And they should be, the way this stuff gets done,” Thune said. “But in the end you realize we’ve got to fund the government and it’s kind of an inevitability.”

Tillerson urges ‘respect,’ warns of ‘mean-spirited’ Washington

Outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took what appeared to be a thinly veiled swipe at President Donald Trump in his farewell remarks on Thursday, urging State Department employees to guard their personal integrity and avoid fueling Washington’s “mean-spirited” nature.

“I hope you will continue to treat each other with respect. We’re all just human beings trying to do our part,” Tillerson said.

“I’d like to ask that each of you undertake to ensure one act of kindness each day towards another person. This can be a very mean-spirited town,” he added, as employees gathered in the State Department’s lobby chuckled and applauded.

Even some critics of Tillerson—whom Trump fired earlier this month—have argued that the former ExxonMobil CEO was treated shabbily and even humiliated by a president who reportedly ridiculed him in private and fired him with a tweet.

At the same time, the ousted diplomat will be remembered for allegedly calling the president a “moron” during a meeting of top administration officials last summer—a claim Tillerson has never denied.

But friends say that Tillerson, a former national president of the Boy Scouts of America, places a high premium on personal values, a theme he stressed in his short remarks which he told State Department workers were meant “to bid you a proper farewell.”

“Never lose sight of your most valuable asset, the most valuable asset you possess: your personal integrity,” Tillerson said. “[G]uard it as the most precious thing you possess.”

At the conclusion of his speech, Tillerson shook hands with State Department workers as he made his way to a waiting car outside. Tillerson has turned over his duties to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, and said earlier this month that he would officially depart government on March 31—although it was unclear Thursday whether he will return to the State Department.

Tillerson made no substantive remarks about policy. Nor did he address the uncomfortable relationship he had with his workforce, whose members generally resented his efforts to streamline the department and slash its budget and saw him as indifferent at best to their collective expertise.

Tillerson’s tenure as the nation’s chief diplomat was marred by his tenuous relationship with Trump, whose steadily deterioration was the subject of constant Washington gossip. Tillerson irritated Trump in both manner and vision and clashed with the president on issues ranging from North Korea diplomacy to the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump has said that he and Tillerson got along well, but had “a different mind set” and “a different thinking," including on the nuclear deal—which Tillerson has worked to preserve but Trump wants to exit.

Trump has named CIA Director Mike Pompeo to succeed Tillerson. His confirmation hearings are expected to begin next month.

Trump says he doesn’t know if his success will transfer to 2018 Republicans

President Donald Trump said on Thursday that although he knows he’s popular with voters, he doesn’t know whether his success will carry over to Republicans running for office in 2018.

Trump described the energy at some of his recent events, saying that the “level of love” during a recent speech in support of House candidate Rick Saccone — who on Wednesday conceded defeat to Democrat Conor Lamb in last week’s special election in Pennsylvania — was “incredible,” and calling his rally last December in Pensacola, Fla., “rocking.” The Senate candidate he backed in that speech, Roy Moore, also lost his bid against a Democrat in a special election in Alabama.

“Now I don’t know if it’s transferable,” he added during a Generation Next Summit panel at the White House. “They say a lot of it is not transferable. They may like me. They may vote for me. They’re all saying I’m going to do great in 2020. … But they don’t know if it’s transferable. I hope it’s transferable, because we have to do our agenda. We have to win in ’18. We have to get the agenda. We need more Republicans.”

But when it comes to polls, Trump is hesitant to believe the numbers.

“We have a tremendous amount of support,” he said. “It’s sort of an interesting thing — sometimes, they say, you add nine. Whatever Trump’s poll numbers are, add nine. People don’t want to talk about it, they don’t want to be bothered. But when they get into the voting booth, they say, ‘vote Trump.’”

Despite no DACA fix, Mulvaney praises immigration package in House spending bill

The massive $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by the House Thursday afternoon includes a “really, really good immigration package,” but falls short on providing a fix for the Deferred Action and Childhood Arrivals program, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Thursday afternoon.

“Did we get everything that we wanted when it comes to immigration? Absolutely not. Did we get a DACA fix? No,” Mulvaney said during a briefing on spending bill. “Let’s make it clear, the president wanted a DACA fix as part of this deal. He had offered a large package with a complete DACA fix in exchange for the entire [border] wall. He offered a small package — three years’ worth of a DACA fix in exchange for three years’ worth of a wall."

Despite last-ditch efforts to append a DACA plan to the spending deal and signs that the White House was open to some sort of compromise, Democrats and Republicans were unable to reach an agreement.

“The Democrats in the House and Senate have made it clear they think they’re winning in the courts and they do not want to fix this legislatively,” Mulvaney added. “We’ve reached out to them again and again to try to fix DACA, and they refuse to engage on the topic.”

The lack of DACA’s inclusion in the spending deal leaves nearly 700,000 immigrants covered by the program in legal limbo, with no surefire sign that a deal will be reached anytime soon.

But Mulvaney maintained that overall, the spending deal still bodes well for the administration’s immigration priorities.

“There’s some other things we asked for that we did not get,” Mulvaney said. “There’s some limitations on [the Department of Homeland Security] that Congress put in the bill that we don’t particularly care for. But, generally speaking, we think this is a really, really good immigration package.”