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In the Agencies
ON TO THE NEXT ONE: In the blink of an eye, President Trump shifted the conversation from the migrant caravan and the Light Blue Wave right back to the Russia investigation after tweeting yesterday afternoon he had accepted the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It wasn't exactly an unexpected move after more than a year of public taunting and humiliation of the former Alabama senator, who Trump privately dubbed “Mr. Magoo.”
- Never forget, nor forgive: The president never forgave Sessions for recusing himself from the Justice Department's Russia investigation — and that was before it morphed into a special counsel probe headed by Robert Mueller.
- Stop, look, listen: Lawmakers and administration officials urged the president to wait until after midterms to oust Sessions. Trump waited all of 12 hours before doing so, prompting Republicans like Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) to warn that Mueller's probe must continue without interference.
- Public resistance: It's worth noting that Americans overwhelmingly opposed Sessions's dismissal, according to a Post poll released in August.
It's a fact that the post-midterm environment is different. Trump's choice of replacement, Matthew G. Whitaker, Sessions's former chief of staff, is a Trump loyalist who John Kelly has called the West Wing's “eyes and ears,” according to the New York Times' Katie Benner and Maggie Haberman. Whitaker, instead of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, will now oversee Mueller's probe. Kellyanne Conway told reporters last night "she doesn't expect [Rosenstein] to resign or to be fired."
- Defund Mueller: Before coming to DOJ, Whitaker expressed skepticism about the Russia investigation, taking to CNN last year to discuss a “scenario where [Sessions] is replaced with a recess appointment and that attorney general doesn't fire [Mueller], but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.” Whitaker also tweeted a link to an op-ed titled, “Note to Trump's lawyer: Do not cooperate with Mueller lynch mob.”
- Background: Whitaker chaired ex-Trump campaign chairman Sam Clovis's 2014 bid for Iowa state treasurer. Clovis is a witness in the Mueller probe.
- Shut down: Whitaker was on the board of invention-promotion World Patent Marketing, which was "shut down earlier this year amid an FTC probe that accused it of being a sham group that cheated inventors by falsely promising them help with marketing their ideas in exchange for exorbitant fees," report Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger, Sari Horowitz and Robert Costa.
- Important question: Will Whitaker recuse himself from the Russia probe or did he promise the president that he would not do so? Per the Post's Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, and Josh Dawsey, “Trump has told advisers that Whitaker is loyal and would not have recused himself from the investigation, current and former White House officials said.”
- Still: DOJ officials said Whitaker plans to submit to a regular conflict of interest vetting before taking charge of the probe. The acting AG said he is “committed to leading a fair Department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law, and seeks justice for all Americans.”
- Suspect: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) quickly responded that he found the timing of Sessions's ouster “very suspect” and that any interference into the Mueller probe would amount to “a constitutional crisis,” according to NBC News' Laura Egan. “We've never known because, thank God, we haven't had it so far.”
Power Up chatted on the phone yesterday with Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski about his new book co-authored with David Bossie, “Trump's Enemies: How the Deep State is undermining the Presidency.” The book is likely to reinforce Trump's conspiratorial skepticism of the DOJ and FBI.
- The book names Trump's “deep state” enemies, according to Lewandowski and Bossie. Lewandowski listed :"[James] Comey, [Andrew] McCabe, [Peter] Strzok, [Lisa] Page, Rod Rosenstein,” “enemies in Congress,” and “enemies inside the West Wing” during our conversation. Of course, these are people Trump has regularly singled out for scorn on Twitter.
- Lewandowski said Sessions's firing was a matter of timing: “I don't think it’s a surprise to anybody who has followed the relationship... The president has been very outspoken about his disappointment in the way that the attorney general has not followed through on some of the issues that he had hoped he would."
- More: “With an expanded Republican majority, I'm certain the president will pick ably qualified individuals to fill that role and will move through,” Lewandowski told us.
Americans must have answers immediately as to the reasoning behind @realDonaldTrump removing Jeff Sessions from @TheJusticeDept. Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation? We will be holding people accountable. https://t.co/weykMuiCxm— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) November 7, 2018
On The Hill
SPEAKING OF ENEMIES AND INVESTIGATIONS: Sessions’s departure is already being called a coverup — a constitutional crisis waiting to happen. Democrats will take over the House in January with a long wish list of topics they'll sink their investigative teeth into – and they've said forcing out the attorney general could be fodder for an investigation of its own.
Dems' mood: “The American people like and respect fighters, and they have elected us to put a check on the executive branch,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who has urged his colleagues to proceed with multiple investigations.
The White House is preparing: Lewandowski told us that new White House counsel Pat Cipollone will assemble a crack team to deal with the new inquiries. “He’ll have a team both internally and externally, which will be prepare for the onslaught of subpoenas that will come,” Lewandowski said.
Current status of the WH counsel's office: Cipollone “only recently took over from Donald McGahn as counsel and has a number of vacancies to fill. [An outside adviser] described the office as 'in desperate need' of recruiting more attorneys. Many experienced lawyers at top Washington firms have long been reluctant to join the White House, both because they would have to take a pay cut and because of the chronic turmoil inside,” The Post's Phil Rucker, Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey report.
Inquiries incoming: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is set to chair the powerful House Oversight Committee. He plans to scrutinize whether Trump is improperly profiting from the presidency. “We want to figure out if the president is acting in the interests of the American people or in his own financial interest. I would consider it legislative malpractice not to do it,” he told The Post’s Paul Schwartzman.
Return of the tax returns: Cummings said Democrats would seek Trump’s tax returns and look into the federal government’s dealings with Trump International Hotel in Washington, the relationship that sparked litigation over alleged emoluments clause violations.
See you in court: Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), the likely future chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, told The Post he would file a legal request with the treasury secretary forcing Trump to release his tax returns if the president doesn't do so voluntarily. Neal predicted the tug-of-war would end up in court.
Bank on it: Rep. Maxine Waters, the California Democrat in line to take over the House Financial Services Committee, told Bloomberg TV she will investigate Deutsche Bank’s lending to Trump. She called the bank “one of the biggest money laundering banks in the world.”
One thing not on Democratic leaders' to-do list, though: impeachment. “For those who want impeachment, that’s not what our caucus is about,” House Minority Leader Pelosi (D-Calif.) told PBS’s “NewsHour,” adding she wouldn’t push for impeachment unless some Republicans were on board.
War footing: Trump pledged to retaliate with a “warlike posture” if Democrats investigate and said such an offensive would hamper any bipartisan cooperation. (Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat who will probably chair the House Intelligence Committee told The Atlantic that Trump’s threats would not deter him.)
P.S.: The balance of power in the Capitol — and in some states — is still not fully decided. Ballots in California and Arizona are still being counted (Rep. Martha McSally (R) is currently ahead of Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D)) and the Mississippi special Senate election is headed to a runoff. Round 2 between Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) and Mike Espy (D) is scheduled for Nov. 27th.
Two high-profile races in the South are on recount watch: the Georgia governor’s race, where Stacey Abrams (D) is running against Brian Kemp (R); and the Florida Senate race, where Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is defending his seat against outgoing Gov. Rick Scott (R). Both Democrats are down with nearly all precincts reporting, but Nelson has said his race will go to a recount and Abrams has refused to concede.
At the White House
MORE FROM LEWANDOWSKI: White House shake-ups traditionally happen around the two-year mark, although the level of tumult in this White House is unprecedented. Lewandowski and Bossie dedicate a portion of their book, out Nov. 27, to calling out “enemies” currently working in the West Wing who they believe are using their position to “thwart the Trump agenda.”
- Not yet: Lewandowski refused to divulge specific West Wing "enemies" during our conversation, though he said the book will do so. “It's called Trump’s enemies — I would have zero reservations of me ever making that book. So just . . . by the number of people who are concerned that they may be in the book, might be all you need to know about their true allegiances,” Lewandowski said.
- Score sheet: Is one of these “enemies” someone Lewandowski got into a fistfight with outside of the Oval Office? “A fistfight is a gross exaggeration . . . I have never been in a fistfight with anyone who works in the White House . . . Look, there is only one person who will determine how long his chief of staff stays and that persons name is Donald J. Trump.” (Read more on that physical altercation with John Kelly by NYT's Maggie Haberman here.)
- Next: Lewandowski would not comment on whether he'd ever assume Kelly's job, if the chief of staff leaves. He is “a very strong advocate for the president outside of the building.”
- On who could potentially beat Trump in 2020: “I think Michael Bloomberg is a very serious candidate in the Democratic primary . . . And he is, for lack of a better term, an outsider to D.C. and would be acceptable to Democrats.”
- Should Trump work with Democrats post-midterms?: “I think the president is the greatest dealmaker this country has ever seen . . . working across a partisan line right now for him will be very beneficial.”
The US Secret Service just asked for my credential to enter the WH. As I told the officer, I don’t blame him. I know he’s just doing his job. (Sorry this video is not rightside up) pic.twitter.com/juQeuj3B9R— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) November 8, 2018
In the Media
Caravan? What caravan? After wall-to-wall coverage — particularly on Fox News — of the group of Central American migrants traveling to the U.S. border, the so-called “invaders” didn't merit much of a mention on cable yesterday or by Trump in an epic 90-minute news conference.
Credentials pulled: Speaking of the presser, the White House revoked CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta's press credentials on Tuesday night after his kerfuffle with Trump.
- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Acosta's credentials were revoked because he had “placed his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern. (Following a testy exchange with the president, said intern tried to take the microphone from Acosta's hands).
- Acosta tweeted a response to Sanders: “This is a lie.”
- Trump has repeatedly threatened to revoke reporters' credentials as a form of retaliation for unflattering coverage. Another CNN White House reporter, Kaitlan Collins, was banned from attending an event in the Rose Garden after she “shouted” questions at an inappropriate time, according to the White House.