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BOSSIE'S RULES OF ENGAGEMENT: Dear Mr. President, one of your closest allies and loyal defenders was the chief investigator for another embattled president in the 1990s. David Bossie was Rep. Dan Burton's (R-Ind.) wingman on the House Oversight Committee when Republicans searched for every skeleton in Bill Clinton's closet — and then some. He helped ferret out information on everything from Vince Foster to Whitewater to Monica Lewinsky, culminating in a successful bid to impeach the then-president.
So if you haven't already picked Bossie's brain on how to prepare for the onslaught of subpoenas and investigations coming your way from House Democrats in January, we did it for you. And there's something from Bossie for everyone: Having been in their position 20 years ago, he has some timely advice for the Democratic committee chairs eagerly waiting to dig deeper into Trump's alleged links to the Kremlin, the payments to Stormy Daniels and the spending habits of current and former Cabinet officials.
So, read closely, Washington.
Attention, White House:
- Hire “a pack of killers”: “I urge that the new White House counsel's [office]— Pat Cipollone [Trump's new White House counsel], Emmet Flood [another of Trump's White House lawyers], and Rudy Giuliani [outside attorney to the president] staff up inside and outside operations that mirrors what the Clintons did” with “five-star recruits,” people who know “congressional rules backward and forwards,” Bossie told Power Up in an extended interview. “They were the best of the best,” Bossie said of Clinton's defense team. “They were great defense lawyers and they were political operatives at the same time so they understood the messaging and communications aspect of it.”
- Help from Trump's friends: Bossie said House GOP leadership, and ranking members on committees investigating the president must be "100 percent committed to spending all of their time and their staff's time defending the president.” He pointed to then-speaker Newt Gingrich's (R-Ga.) full-throated support for the Clinton probes and a smart strategic decision by House Republicans to funnel all of the investigations through one committee, thus concentrating staff resources and information in one place.
- Narrow the scope: Bossie said Oversight in the 90s spent a substantial amount of time arguing over the scope, priorities and parameters of the Clinton investigation. “So today, Republicans must do their best to narrow the scope [of any Trump probe] as much as possible,” he explained. “So, later, you can argue that it’s not within the scope — no matter what the committee is doing.”
Fight, fight, fight: “I would urge [the White House] to fight every single thing that comes out of the House committees,” Bossie told us, adding the White House Counsel's Office should “utilize every single privilege that is available to them for the purposes of defending” Trump.
Follow Waxman: Bossie said Republicans should imitate then-Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who was Oversight ranking Democrat during the Clinton era and “an extraordinary defender of [Clinton] . . . who did not let us try to do anything without stalling, fighting us in some way shape or form.” Going forward: “That is what the Republican ranking members are going to be required to do and must do every minute of every day. They have to wake up and have a war face on because they’re in a war and it’s hand to hand combat.”
Groom a “fifth and fled crowd”: Bossie said during the Clinton probe, “hundreds” of people subpoenaed by House Republicans either pleaded the fifth or fled the country, what he called “the fifth and fled crowd.” Trump's White House should be equally uncooperative and should have joint defense agreements “with every single person involved,” Bossie advised. “That's funny,” Bossie replied when we asked who in the White House should flee the country.
No thanks: “It was incredibly difficult to get to the bottom of some of these cases because you couldn't get anyone to cooperate — and it was beneficial to Clinton because it made the investigation drag out and made the American people have some sympathy for him that these investigations were going on for too long and seemed partisan in their nature,” Bossie told us.
Divide the fight and resources between Robert Mueller and Congress — but make the public think it's all the same: Bossie suggested the White House Counsel office divide legal resources into “two clear and distinct teams” between the Mueller probe and congressional investigations. but from a communications strategy, “I might try to make it all one” under the larger umbrella of “witch hunt.”
- Exercise restraint: Asked about any regrets regarding what Democrats called his “dirty tricks,” Bossie conceded that “it may have been smarter to go a little slower and more methodical but at the same time still trying to get to the same result. We’ll see if the Democrats can control their urges.” Referring to some of the more theatrical stunts, Bossie said that in our hyper-connected world, “I would suggest that those types of activities could undermine the credibility of the committee — the more partisan you look the more the American people are going to reject you.”
- Don't be a “freak show”: Bossie said the more diffuse approach that Democrats seem intent on pursuing — different issues looked at by different committees — could cause them problems. “The freak show that’s going to come to town will not be able to help themselves because competition is gonna be the watchword between [Reps.] Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), little Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and [likely Oversight Chair Elijah] Cummings (D-Calif.), obviously,” Bossie told us. “So you're going to have four incredibly powerful House chairman, some with subpoena power, others without.”
- America First: “That's going to be the problem for Democrats when it comes to the American people's view of these investigations — and overreach and partisan rancor and anger — that will be put ahead of an agenda that is seen as for the American people,” Bossie warned.
At the White House
TALK IS CHEAP: Trump's effort to get congressional approval for the new North America trade proposal, the USMCA, and secure economic accord with China accelerated yesterday, The Post's Damian Paletta and Erica Werner report, two parallel discussions that “could have profound implications for the global economy if negotiations collapse.”
- Trump signed the USMCA over the weekend, along with Mexico and Canada. But the proposal received “a rough reception on Capitol Hill, where both parties have deep divisions over trade that will be on full display as a newly Democratic-controlled House takes up the pact along with the Republican-led Senate.”
- Simultaneously, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters that Trump “was expecting immediate concessions from China as part of a broad package of changes both countries agreed to pursue during the Group of 20 summit in Argentina.”
- But the administration struggled to explain Trump's Sunday tweet that China had agreed to reduce and remove its 40 percent auto tariff and “the lack of specific commitments from China and the conflicting statements from United States and Chinese officials struck many analysts as a sign that the president might ultimately get far less than he was publicly portraying,” the New York Times's Alan Rappeport reports.
- Here's Monday's series of confusing events:
- Trade adviser and China hawk Peter Navarro kicked off the morning on NPR saying he had no details to offer.
- Kudlow told reporters during a briefing that there was “no specific agreement” between China and the U.S. on car tariffs.
- Then, the White House had to revise Kudlow's statement “that the trade truce would begin on Jan. 1, rather than Dec. 1 . . . [and] released a corrected transcript of Mr. Kudlow’s remarks, striking out January and replacing it with December to reflect that the 90-day clock had already begun,” Rappeport reports.
- Key quote from Navarro on NPR: “So it's not surprising that in the wake of this there might be a different message coming out of the Chinese media. That's what they do. But at the end of the day, the understanding coming out of that room was very clear — 90 days. At the end of the 90 days, we have actual structural changes that will yield actual, immediate, verifiable results.”
Another thing Trump has his eye on:
The Manafort memo on Friday "will be public," Mueller's office tells me, indicating prosecutors will detail for all to read what prosecutors believe the ex-Trump campaign chair lied about. Should be interesting reading. https://t.co/dDQhgDJlh3— Michael Isikoff (@Isikoff) December 3, 2018
On The Hill
EYE ON 2020: The 2018 midterms are now a month old — which means everyone is now focused on 2020, most especially Democrats. There's a crowd of over 40 candidates — and counting — and they're beginning to jockey for position in terms of who announces what when, in addition to visiting early states. Here's what we know:
- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.): At a conference in San Francisco last weekend, Harris had some ominous words about her potential run, saying battling Trump would get “ugly.” “When you break things, it is painful,” she said. “And you get cut. And you bleed.” Harris said she’ll make her decision “over the holiday.”
- Former Vice President Joe Biden: After casting his ballot in the midterms, Biden told a group of reporters that it was still too early to announce anything — besides, he said, “I don’t know and I still don’t know.” Biden said he’d make his decision after the first of the year, and that it’d be a family decision.
- Julián Castro: The former mayor of San Antonio and housing secretary has said he’s “likely” to run in 2020 told Power Up in October that he’d make a decision after the midterms. He has yet to formally announce.
- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg: The Midwestern mayor attracted more attention late last month when an Iowa political group announced he’d keynote its holiday party in Des Moines. Buttigieg said he would make his decision by the end of the calendar year.
- Michael Bloomberg: In October, Bloomberg seemed to inch toward a decision by re-registering as a Democrat. The Times of London reported in September that Bloomberg has told his confidants that he’s going to run, though he hasn’t said so publicly. He published an op-ed yesterday in the Des Moines register titled, “Why I'm coming to Iowa.”
- Tom Steyer: The California billionaire and impeachment activist has been mum on the specifics of a possible 2020 run. But he did recently announce a town hall tour through key primary states and a political platform, important milestones on the road to a presidential bid.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.): The likely candidate hasn’t publicly announced her candidacy. But during the midterms, she built “a shadow war room” to help 2018 campaigns — as well as lay the groundwork for her own in 2020.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.): The 2016 runner-up still hasn’t officially announced, but observers have said all signs point to him running. “If it turns out that I am the best candidate to beat Donald Trump, then I will probably run,” Sanders told New York magazine in November.
- Mulling it over: A number of potential — and perhaps likely — 2020 candidates have deferred to the most common response when pressed about their presidential plans: “I’m still thinking about it.” That list includes Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).
- Earlybirds: Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) and Richard Ojeda, a West Virginia state senator who lost a Hail Mary congressional campaign. Delaney became the earliest to announce a presidential bid since at least 2000 when he said he’d run in July 2017, nearly 1,200 days before the 2020 election. Ojeda, a Democrat who lost his House race by 12 points in a district Trump won by 49, announced a week after the midterms that he’d take his campaign national.
- Deval Patrick: “I’ll make a decision when I feel like I have a decision to make,” the two-term former governor of Massachusetts told The Atlantic's Edward-Isaac Dovere in October.
- The options are endless: Read The Post’s Dana Milbank’s latest: “Stop the bidding! This Democratic presidential candidate is about to clear the field.” He currently counts 45 potential Democratic candidates.
In the Media
Bookmarks & PSAs:
- ICYMI: "Just a lot of alarmism': Trump's skepticism of climate science is echoed across GOP by The Post's Matt Viser
- What Dem frosh are reading: Rejecting Israel Lobby's influence over Congress, Rashida Tlaib plans to lead delegation to Palestine by Alex Kane and Lee Fang via The Intercept
- What Rochester, N.Y. is reading: The cities that Amazon HQ2 left behind by Victor Luckerson via The Ringer
- On the schedule for today: CIA Director Gina Haspel to Brief Senators Tuesday on Saudi Journalist’s Death by Warren Strobel and Nancy Youssef via The Wall Street Journal
- Email the NYT about your "political nemesis whom you subtweet". No, really: Can you like the person you love to hate? by Bari Weiss and Eve Peyser via The New York Times
- What those 45 Democratic 2020 candidates should be reading: Black Women Decided The 2016 Democratic Nominee. They’ll Have An Even Bigger Say In 2020. by Ben Smith via Buzzfeed News
- Today! You're invited! Criminal Justice Reform – The Clock is Ticking: With the fate of a major bipartisan criminal justice reform bill hanging in the balance on Capitol Hill, two of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), will be at The Washington Post TODAY to discuss the likelihood that Congress will move forward with a vote on the proposed law before the end of the year. Other speakers, including Gov. Tom Wolf (D-Pa.) as well as supporters and opponents of federal and state criminal justice reform proposals, will highlight important debates around reform of mandatory minimum sentences, the country’s bail system, police-community relations and other key issues on the nation’s criminal justice agenda. The program runs from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. If you would like to attend, email email@example.com
- Are you listening to Post Reports, WaPo's brand new daily podcast?!: Listen and Subscribe HERE.
- Quote of the Day: "The 'American Dream' means giving it your all, trying your hardest, accomplishing something. And then I'd add to that, giving something back. No definition of a successful life can do anything but include serving others." — George H.W. Bush, June 2, 1995, in an interview with the American Academy of Achievement.
The sunset while the carried the Pres George H.W. Bush’s casket up the Capitol steps was a total stunner —> pic.twitter.com/POHneTHxxL— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) December 3, 2018