Trump’s allies are betting that when all is said and done — and when special counsel Bob Mueller has completed his report — the American people will be so thoroughly disgusted with everyone that the political outcome is a wash. …Jonathan Swan and I are told that President Trump has already made up his mind to release the memo, which he sees as vindication, despite Justice Department resistance. Trump believes it will solidify in the public’s mind that there’s a Deep State out to get him.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) suggested the memo would be explosive: “We get this memo out there, and people will see, the fix was in.” Another Republican who has seen it said it might not be the smoking gun conservatives have described. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) said that while he has gotten more phone calls from constituents on the document than he did on the government shutdown, he largely attributed that uproar to cable news coverage of it.
Democrats tried unsuccessfully on Monday to push forward a motion for the F.B.I. and the Justice Department to brief the entire House in a private session on that material before the release of the Republican memo so that they could make a more informed judgment about its contents.
Fresh off new tariffs aimed at imported washing machines and solar panels, GOP lawmakers fear a round of tariffs targeting steel and aluminum — or worst of all: a sustained attack on NAFTA and dissolution of the trade agreement entirely. Trump’s populist trade policies dominated the Senate GOP’s strategy sessions last week, privately eliciting handwringing from the party’s large bloc of free traders, according to GOP sources familiar with the matter.
“Of course. I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that. But I am confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election. That we’ll push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won’t be great.”
Maybe someone should tell that to Trump, who according to administration officials has not taken this threat seriously because he still won’t seriously acknowledge it happened last time.
* TRUMP’S SPEECH WILL BE ‘FROM THE HEART’: John Wagner reports on the talking points being distributed in advance of Trump’s State of the Union speech:
Trump is expected to take credit for a stronger economy and tie its continued growth to the Republicans’ tax plan, as well as argue his case on immigration, trade, infrastructure and national security. In a separate document distributed to surrogates Monday, Trump aides said that Tuesday’s speech will be “bipartisan and forward looking” and that he will be “speaking from the heart.”
Republicans can distribute all the talking points they like, but chances are the public’s reception of the speech will be heavily colored by Trump’s historic unpopularity.
* GERRYMANDERING COULD HELP GOP HOLD HOUSE: National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers tells Politico that Republicans will hold the House, and is rather candid about why:
The first reason, he says, is a factor everyone knows about, but which Republicans rarely tout out loud: “I think it starts with the congressional lines,” Stivers said, pointing to the successful gerrymandering after 2010. Later, asked if that validates Democrats’ argument that Republicans have tilted elections to their advantage, Stivers shrugged off the criticism: “You can say that, but the people elected them.”
The Supreme Court is set to decide whether there is a workable standard for limiting partisan gerrymandering, which Stivers is admitting is about protecting GOP gains.