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WELCOME TO TRUMP'S WASHINGTON, NATO: After President Trump's infamous appearance at NATO's annual summit in Brussels last year (Trump called members of the alliance “delinquent” and accused Germany of being “a captive of Russia,” in case you forgot), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has opted to celebrate its 70th birthday in Trump's town.
- The schedule: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House today and will deliver an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.
- This year, the entire meeting has been downgraded to a gathering of foreign ministers and not presidents. Ministerial meetings will take place at the State Department in addition to various events and lower-key commemorations instead of the usual pomp and circumstance.
Trump's “America First” foreign policy, private threats to withdraw from the organization that has deterred Russian aggression for 70 years and public tirades against allies over burden sharing have all worked to undermine the alliance of democracies.
- “The single greatest challenge NATO faces today is the critical need for reviving strong, reliable American leadership,” two former U.S. envoys to NATO, Nicholas Burns and Douglas Lute, wrote in a Harvard Belfer Center report for the anniversary. “With American leadership, anything is possible within the Alliance; absent American leadership, progress will be slow at best. At the most basic level the next American president must reaffirm U.S. commitment to the Alliance, especially the Article 5 collective defense pledge, in both words and deeds. "
- “Trump’s constant questioning of NATO’s Article 5 collective-defense commitment, his frequent assertion that he would only protect countries that paid America enough money, his claim that he could simply walk away from Europe without any loss to America, his apparent plan to bill NATO members for hosting U.S. troops, and his refusal to criticize [Russian President Vladimir] Putin have basically amounted to taking NATO solidarity out back and shooting it in the head,” Philip Gordon and Jeremy Shapiro write for Foreign Affairs.
But Stoltenberg's address to Congress, arranged by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who extended a bipartisan invitation to the secretary general, will provide an opportunity to project unity.
“The invitation to address a joint session of Congress shows that the coequal branch of government doesn't necessarily agree with the executive branch in terms of NATO,” Jim Townsend, a senior fellow in the Center for a New American Security's Transatlantic Security Program and former deputy assistant secretary of defense, told Power Up. “The executive branch doesn't get a 100 percent say in foreign policy and we'll show that by inviting [the] secretary general to address us. It's a signal to NATO and allies — and the Russians as well — that we're supportive of NATO and a signal to Trump — 'Look, you're not the only guy in charge.'”
A big point of contention is likely to be Trump's “cost plus 50" proposal, which lawmakers on the Hill have denounced.
- “Under his proposal, countries would pay the full cost of stationing American troops on their territory, plus 50 percent, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the idea, which could have allies contributing five times what they now provide,” my colleagues Seung Min Kim, Rachael Bade, and Robert Costa reported earlier in March.
- “I expect that the message from President Trump will be that the United States is committed to NATO — that NATO is important for our shared security — but at the same that we need a fairer sharing of the burden,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Monday in Brussels. “This has been a very consistent message of President Trump.”
'It’s been six months since Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, and Trump has done nothing': It's been six months since Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi was strangled, killed, and dismembered by a 15-person assassination squad at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, as Turkish prosecutors have described it. “Now, half a year after this heinous act shocked the world, it is worth taking stock of what has been done in response — and what has not,” writes Post publisher Fred Ryan.
- As for the Saudis: “They still have not produced Khashoggi’s body, preventing his family from holding a proper Islamic funeral. The regime has scapegoated expendable officials, seeking to quell international furor by staging a sham trial. The coordinator of the operation that killed Khashoggi, Saud al-Qahtani, remains free — and is actively advising the crown prince. Meanwhile, Mohammed bin Salman has jetted around the world, high-fiving [Putin], getting chummy with China, and rubbing elbows with other world leaders as part of a global tour to rehabilitate his reputation,” per Ryan.
Congress and the intelligence community have reacted swiftly and thoroughly — from concluding “with high confidence” that MBS was behind Khashoggi's killing to invoking the Magnitsky Act and withholding support for U.S. support for Saudia Arabia's war in Yemen — but the Trump administration “is a far different story,” Ryan writes.
- “Sadly, the most submissive figure in this story is President Trump. Even after irrefutable evidence came to light showing the Saudis had lied about Khashoggi’s death, Trump proclaimed [MBS] a 'great ally' and protested that the crown prince might well be innocent.”
- “Perhaps most egregiously, Trump has abdicated the responsibilities of his office, refusing to comply with the Magnitsky Act’s requirements that the administration present its findings on the Khashoggi case to Congress.”
The Post's Greg Miller has more about how the Saudis have tried to silence Khashoggi's family.
- Khashoggi's children “have received million-dollar houses in the kingdom and monthly five-figure payments as compensation for the killing of their father, according to current and former Saudi officials as well as people close to the family,” Greg reports.
'Blood money': “Khashoggi’s two sons and two daughters may also receive much larger payouts — possibly tens of millions of dollars apiece — as part of 'blood money' negotiations that are expected to ensue when the trials of Khashoggi’s accused killers are completed in the coming months, according to the officials and others who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive talks.”
“The previously undisclosed payments are part of an effort by Saudi Arabia to reach a long-term arrangement with Khashoggi family members, aimed in part at ensuring that they continue to show restraint in their public statements about the killing of their father by Saudi operatives in Istanbul six months ago, the officials said.”
In Britain, the public agrees— Limericking (@Limericking) April 1, 2019
That Brexit’s on perilous seas.
Just how will it go?
Does anyone know?
¯\(°_o)/¯, say the nation’s MPs.
BREXIT VOTES FAIL, AGAIN: British lawmakers rejected four different paths forward on Brexit Monday night, setting up the possibly that Prime Minister Theresa May might introduce her own thrice-rejected plan again. If you want to learn more about the chaos unfolding across the pond, my colleague Adam Taylor has you covered.
- Money quote: House Speaker John Bercow on what's next: “I can’t say with any confidence what will happen, and, in that respect, I think I’m frankly not in a minority."
HERE COME THE SUBPOENAS: House Democrats are escalating their fight with the White House over security clearances, as a key committee is expected to subpoena a former official at the center of the controversy.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee will vote this morning on a subpoena for former White House personnel security director Carl Kline. A White House whistleblower told lawmakers Kline repeatedly told her to stand down when it came to granting security clearances to top officials that she and her colleagues denied, “despite their concerns about blackmail, foreign influence or other red flags, according to panel documents released Monday.”
- “I would not be doing a service to myself, my country, or my children if I sat back knowing that the issues that we have could impact national security,” Tricia Newbold, an 18-year veteran of the security clearance process under presidents from both parties told the committee, according to a letter Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sent to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.
- Newbold said thee number of clearances approved for officials, despite their initial applications being denied, is an eye-popping 25.
- Read the full letter here.
It’s unclear who exactly got clearances despite initial denials, but Newbold said the list includes “two current senior White House officials, as well as contractors and individuals throughout different components of the Executive Office of the President,” according to the letter.
- But in the letter, Cummings said the panel is looking at clearances issued to White House advisers Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, national security adviser John Bolton, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former staff secretary Rob Porter, among others.
Republicans on the panel accused Cummings of “cherry-picking” tidbits from Newbold's testimony and published a nine-page response. The panel's Republican staff also portrayed Newbold as disgruntled, noting she “focused on a series of personnel and workplace complaints that suggest she is unhappy and dissatisfied in her office.”
Along with Kline’s potential subpoena, the committee will also vote on subpoenaing Attorney General Bill Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross over their roles in getting a question about citizenship onto the 2020 census.
- The Supreme Court is already examining whether the decision to add the question violated the constitution. Given the census’ importance in reapportionment, the fight over the question has major political implications.
Kushner responded in a rare interview on Fox last night, saying: "Over the last few years that I’ve been here, I’ve been accused of all different types of things, and all of those things have turned out to be false."
Jared Kushner does rare interview on Fox. Here responding to question about his security clearance. pic.twitter.com/nhPpbvYo3S— Connor Ryan (@connortryan) April 2, 2019
SUBPOENA FOR THE MUELLER REPORT?: The House Judiciary Committee will begin its own potential fight on Wednesday when it considers potential subpoenas for special counsel Robert Mueller’s full unredacted report and all of the underlying information behind it.
Hitting close to Trump: The panel will also vote on allowing Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) to impose subpoenas at his discretion on former White House counsel Don McGahn; former strategist Steve Bannon; former chief of staff Reince Priebus; former communications director Hope Hicks and former White House deputy counsel Ann Donaldson.
On The Hill
DISASTER FUNDING FALTERS, UNCLEAR WHAT’S NEXT: Senate Democrats held firm on their position that Puerto Rico deserves more funding and rejected an initial vote on a measure backed by Senate Republicans to provide $13 billion in widespread disaster relief on Monday night. Senate Republicans then turned around and blocked Democrats' bill that passed the House in January to provide more relief for Puerto Rico.
- Key problem: Neither bill came close to getting the needed 60 votes, which does not help victims of flooding in the Midwest, as well as of wildfires in California, tornadoes in the South and volcanic eruptions in Hawaii.
- “Support for disaster aid is often bipartisan on Capitol Hill, but the dispute over this legislation has become increasingly bitter, despite the evident need,” my colleagues Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report.