POLITICO Playbook: A crack in the GOP defense of Trump

DRIVING THE DAY

NEW: THE PRESIDENT’S WEEK AHEAD -- MONDAY: President Donald Trump will headline a political rally in Montoursville, Pa. TUESDAY: Trump will have lunch with VP Mike Pence. He will also participate in an expanded meeting with the presidents of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau. WEDNESDAY: Trump will meet with Democratic lawmakers to discuss infrastructure. He will also present the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor. FRIDAY: Trump will travel to Tokyo.

A CRACK IN THE GOP DEFENSE OF TRUMP -- “Michigan GOP congressman says Trump’s conduct impeachable,” by Andrew Desiderio: “Michigan Rep. Justin Amash became the first Republican lawmaker to declare that President Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses and that Attorney General William Barr ‘deliberately misrepresented’ special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

“Amash, whose libertarian views often put him at odds with Trump and his fellow Republicans, posted a series of tweets Saturday afternoon outlining positions that even some Democrats have been unwilling to embrace — an extraordinary development that comes as Democratic leaders face increasing pressure from progressives to launch impeachment proceedings.” POLITICOHis tweet thread

-- THIS IS A BIG DEAL. The call for Trump’s impeachment is now bipartisan. Republicans will have a harder time dismissing calls for impeachment out of hand now that one of the most conservative members of the House conference has weighed in and said the president has engaged in “impeachable conduct.”

CASE IN POINT … SUNDAY BEST: “Romney: GOP congressman's call for impeachment ‘a courageous statement’”: by David Beavers: “Sen. Mitt Romney on Sunday called a GOP congressman's call for impeaching President Donald Trump ‘a courageous statement’ while maintaining that impeachment is not warranted based on the special counsel’s report.

“Speaking to CNN's Jake Tapper on ‘State of the Union,’ Romney said, My own view is that Justin Amash has reached a different conclusion than I have.’ ‘I respect him. I think it’s a courageous statement,’ the Utah Republican continued. ‘But I believe that to make a case for obstruction of justice, you just don’t have the elements that are evidenced in this document.’” POLITICO

WHAT’S ON PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S MIND -- @realDonaldTrump at 8:49 a.m.: “For all of the Fake News Sunday Political Shows, whose bias & dishonesty is greater than ever seen in our Country before, please inform your viewers that our Economy is setting records, with more people employed today than at any time in U.S. history, our Military, which....”

… “....was a depleted disaster, will soon be stronger than ever before, our Vets are finally being taken care of and now have Choice, our Courts will have 145 great new Judges, and 2 Supreme Court Justices, got rid of the disastrous Individual Mandate & will protect Pre-Existing....”

… “....Conditions, drug prices down for first time in 51 years (& soon will drop much further), Right to Try, protecting your 2nd Amendment, big Tax & Reg Cuts, 3.2 GDP, Strong Foreign Policy, & much much more that nobody else would have been able to do. Our Country is doing GREAT!”

-- ON ABORTION … at 11:37 p.m.: “As most people know, and for those who would like to know, I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions -- Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother -- the same position taken by Ronald Reagan. We have come very far in the last two years with 105 wonderful new.....”

… “....Federal Judges (many more to come), two great new Supreme Court Justices, the Mexico City Policy, and a whole new & positive attitude about the Right to Life. The Radical Left, with late term abortion (and worse), is imploding on this issue. We must stick together and Win....” … “....for Life in 2020. If we are foolish and do not stay UNITED as one, all of our hard fought gains for Life can, and will, rapidly disappear!”

BASICALLY … THE 2020 SPLIT SCREEN THE GOP IS DEALING WITH -- “Abortion Fight or Strong Economy? For G.O.P., Cultural Issues Undercut 2020 Message,” by NYT’s Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns: “The unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, companies are adding jobs and the gross domestic product grew by 3.2 percent in the first quarter, undercutting predictions of a coming recession. Yet for all that political upside, Republicans demonstrated repeatedly last week that they were not positioning themselves to wage the 2020 election over the strength of the economy. President Trump and his top advisers sent mixed signals about a possible war with Iran.

“Mr. Trump outlined a hard-line immigration proposal that had little chance of passing, but refocused attention on the most incendiary issue of his presidency. His drumbeat about tariffs on China sent the stock market gyrating. And in Alabama, the Republican governor signed a bill that would effectively ban abortion ... And the longstanding verity that Americans vote with their pocketbooks may be tested in 2020 like never before.” NYT

TRADE WARS -- WSJ: “Big Companies Tightened Spending as Trade Fears Intensified,” by Amrith Ramkumar and Theo Francis: “Spending on factories, equipment and other capital goods slowed in the first quarter among a broad cross-section of large, U.S.-listed firms, highlighting investor concerns that a key driver of economic growth is fading.” WSJ

-- @FoxNewsSunday: [email protected] on U.S.-China Trade talks: I actually think the President is right to challenge China…if in the end we end up with an agreement…we might look back and say this is worth the price we are paying.”

Good Sunday morning.

UPDATE -- “President Trump’s golf scores hacked; USGA confirms it’s looking into the matter,” by GolfWeek’s Eamon Lynch and Bill Speros

MORE SUNDAY BEST -- 2020 EDITION: CHUCK TODD spoke with BERNIE SANDERS on NBC NEWS’ “MEET THE PRESS”: SANDERS on his role changing the Democratic Party: “Four years ago, people were not talking about the issues they’re talking about now. So, I understand that our campaign is unique in the sense that we’re going to try to win the Democratic primary. We're going to try to beat Trump.

“But you know what else we’re going to try to do? We're going to try to transform the United States of America, deal with this massive level of income and wealth inequality, deal with Wall Street, deal with the greed of the drug companies and the insurance companies, and the fossil fuel industry. Our campaign has a different goal. It’s to transform this country, and we’re taking on the entire establishment when we do that.”

-- GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS spoke with JOHN HICKENLOOPER on ABC NEWS’ “THIS WEEK”: STEPHANOPOULOS: “You say the answer is not socialism. Obviously, that appears to be a reference to Bernie Sanders. But are you confident that this consensus building is exactly what Democrats are looking for? A lot of the most energized voices in the party are saying it’s time for big, bold, even radical solutions?”

HICKENLOOPER: “Well, but you know, I spent my whole life, as I said, bringing people together and getting big, progressive things done. We’re the -- Colorado is almost the No. 1 -- well, it is the No. 1 economy in the country. We achieved almost universal health care coverage, and we beat the NRA with tough, tough gun laws. I think the real challenge here is how do we get that nonsense that's taken over Washington and replace it with common sense.”

-- CHRIS WALLACE interviewed AMY KLOBUCHAR on “FOX NEWS SUNDAY: KLOBUCHAR on Roe v. Wade: “If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, I would make sure that we are codifying Roe v. Wade into law. But I think it’s really important for the Fox News viewers to understand exactly what’s happening here. These aren’t nuances anymore. This is a case where the laws that they have passed in these states would actually make it so that no one could get an abortion and, at the same time, while we've reduced the number of abortions, because of making contraception more available all over the country through Planned Parenthood and other ways, they’ve also moved to defund Planned Parenthood.

“So this is dangerous. It is a place that we have never seen. I think people have always warned that this could happen and it's actually happened. And when I talk to people, whether they are pro-choice or they are personally opposed to abortion, a lot of them, Chris, don’t think we should go this direction.”

THE BIG QUESTION -- WAPO’S DAN BALZ: “Nos. 44 and 45 broke the mold. What does that mean for the future of the presidency?”

THE LATEST ON IRAN -- “Trump’s sanctions on Iran are hitting Hezbollah, and it hurts,” by WaPo’s Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous in Beirut: “[S]ince President Trump introduced sweeping new restrictions on trade with Iran last year, raising tensions with Tehran that reached a crescendo in recent days, Iran’s ability to finance allies such as Hezbollah has been curtailed. Hezbollah, the best funded and most senior of Tehran’s proxies, has seen a sharp fall in its revenue and is being forced to make draconian cuts to its spending, according to Hezbollah officials, members and supporters.

“Fighters are being furloughed or assigned to the reserves, where they receive lower salaries or no pay at all, said a Hezbollah employee with one of the group’s administrative units. Many of them are being withdrawn from Syria, where the militia has played an instrumental role in fighting on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad and ensuring his survival.” WaPo

-- SEN. TOM COTTON (R-ARK.) to CHUCK TODD on NBC NEWS’ “MEET THE PRESS” on Iran: “The United States, on the recommendation of our military, made prudent decisions like deploying a new aircraft carrier and B52 bombers and patriot missile defense systems to the region. We didn't do those to prepare for military action against Iran. We did those things to deter military action by Iran.”

-- “Romney: War with Iran 'not going to happen'” by David Beavers

THIS WILL DELIGHT POTUS -- “AP sources: Former CIA chief Brennan to brief Dems on Iran,” by Lisa Mascaro: John “Brennan, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, is scheduled to talk to House Democrats at a private weekly caucus meeting Tuesday, according to a Democratic aide and another person familiar with the private meeting. ... The invitation to Brennan and Wendy Sherman, the former State Department official and top negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal, offers counterprogramming to the Trump administration’s closed-door briefing for lawmakers also planned for Tuesday on Capitol Hill.” AP

KNOWING MITCH MCCONNELL … BURGESS EVERETT: “Mitch McConnell embraces his dark side”: “Call him ‘Cocaine Mitch,’ ‘Nuclear Mitch,’ or the steward of the ‘legislative graveyard.’ Mitch McConnell says he’s the ‘Grim Reaper’ anyway, so he’s loving every minute of it.

“While his critics have tried to make the Kentucky Republican public enemy No. 1, the Senate GOP leader has embraced the demonization in a bid to protect his Senate majority, his own seat and his title as longest serving Senate GOP leader in U.S. history

“‘We need to have a little fun in this business,’ McConnell said in a brief interview. ‘I used to call myself Darth Vader when I was back in the campaign finance wars.’” POLITICO

2020 WATCH … “Biden flips between ‘unity’ and anti-Trump message at Philly kickoff,” by Katherine Landergan in Philly: “If Biden were to become the Democratic nominee for president, Pennsylvania could be crucial in seizing the White House from Republicans. Trump narrowly won Pennsylvania in 2016, a feat that helped him smash through the Democratic ‘blue wall’ in industrial states and secure a majority of electoral college votes. The former vice president is quickly making inroads here. He not only is headquartered in Philadelphia, but made his first official campaign appearance at a union hall in Pittsburgh and hosted a big-donor fundraiser in Philadelphia.” POLITICO

-- NYT’s Katie Glueck: “Mr. Biden’s appearance at Eakins Oval, a green plaza at the base of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, unfolded just across town from the site of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election eve rally with President Barack Obama — an intended passing of the Democratic torch that instead crumbled the next night.” NYT

-- “De Blasio Once Ignored Trump. But in Iowa, It Was All Trump,” by NYT’s Jeffery C. Mays in Sioux City, Iowa: “When Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Iowa in February, he delivered a deluge of ideas about how his party could take back the White House. He also offered one main piece of political advice: Ignore President Trump. ‘We’re not going to win by talking about Donald Trump,’ Mr. de Blasio said. But in the days leading up to the announcement of his presidential candidacy on Thursday, and during a trip to Iowa on Friday,

“Mr. de Blasio appears to have had a change of heart. He held a raucous news conference at Trump Tower this week to attack Mr. Trump and to promote environmental legislation. Discussing his candidacy on the ABC program ‘Good Morning America,’ Mr. de Blasio gave Mr. Trump a nickname: ‘Con Don.’ ... When asked how much money he had raised in the 24 hours since his announcement, the mayor declined to answer.” NYT

-- “As some 2020 rivals forgo corporate cash, de Blasio imposes few limits,” by Laura Nahmias and Sally Goldenberg

-- “‘I Did My Best to Stop American Foreign Policy’: Bernie Sanders on the 1980s,” by NYT’s Sydney Ember: “In an interview, one of the leading candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination discusses his long-held opposition to war and his support for socialist leaders.” NYT

-- “Jimmy Carter finds a renaissance in 2020 Democratic scramble,” by AP’s Bill Barrow

SNL LAST NIGHT -- “Don’t Stop Me Now Cold Open”: “President Trump (Alec Baldwin) and members of his administration share their summer plans.” 5-min. video … Peter Canellos in POLITICO Magazine, Why Trump Should Be Thanking Alec Baldwin”

PLAYBOOK READS


COMMENCEMENT SEASON -- “Mike Pence urges Taylor U. grads to ‘stand up’ for Christianity after dozens walk out on him,” by Indy Star’s Alexandria Burris in Upland, Indiana: “Vice President Mike Pence used a Saturday commencement address at Taylor University to urge a religious resolve among the Christian school’s graduates and faculty, dozens of whom walked out minutes before Pence began speaking. ... The protest stemmed from disagreement among students, faculty and alumni about whether it was appropriate for the nondenominational Christian liberal arts school to invite the vice president, known for his conservative religious views, to speak.” Indy Star

MORE PARDONS COMING? -- “Trump May Be Preparing Pardons for Servicemen Accused of War Crimes,” by NYT’s Dave Philipps: “President Trump has indicated that he is considering pardons for several American military members accused or convicted of war crimes, including high-profile cases of murder, attempted murder and desecration of a corpse, according to two United States officials. The officials said that the Trump administration had made expedited requests this week for paperwork needed to pardon the troops on or around Memorial Day. One request is for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, who is scheduled to stand trial in the coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.

“The others are believed to include the case of a former Blackwater security contractor recently found guilty in the deadly 2007 shooting of dozens of unarmed Iraqis; the case of Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, the Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010; and the case of a group of Marine Corps snipers charged with urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters.” NYT

BORDER TALES -- “Trump administration identifies at least 1,700 additional children it may have separated,” by NBC News’ Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley: “The Trump administration has identified at least 1,712 migrant children it may have separated from their parents in addition to those separated under the ‘zero tolerance’ policy, according to court transcripts of a Friday hearing. ... The government has reviewed the files of 4,108 children out of 50,000 so far. [Judge] Sabraw gave the Trump administration six months to complete the task of combing through nearly 50,000 records to locate additional separated children.” NBC News

POLITICO EUROPE’S MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG -- “Austrian government collapses over Russia scandal”: “The country’s government collapsed on Saturday after Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he was pulling the plug on his ruling coalition after just 17 months in office. The move came barely 24 hours after the release of a bombshell video showing Heinz-Christian Strache, the far-right leader of his junior coalition partner, trying to trade public contracts for party donations from a woman he believed to be the wealthy niece of a Russian oligarch.” POLITICO Europe

MEDIAWATCH – TIM MAK, who covers national security and politics for NPR, is writing a book on the NRA called “Misfire” for Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Javelin’s Keith Urbahn and Matt Latimer are representing Mak.

BONUS GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman, filing from Middlebury, Conn.:

-- “Unlimited Power,” by BuzzFeed’s Jane Bradley and Katie J.M. Baker: “Tony Robbins claims he has helped millions of fans overcome some of life’s darkest difficulties. But leaked records reveal he has used his fame to berate victims of rape and violence, while female former staffers and followers have accused him of inappropriate sexual advances.” BuzzFeed

-- “Los Angeles Fire Season Is Beginning Again. And It Will Never End,” by David Wallace-Wells in NYMag: “A bulletin from our climate future.” NYMag

-- “We asked ambassadors where they eat when they’re homesick. We did not expect Taco Bell and Ikea,” by Richard Morgan in WaPo: WaPo

-- “The Curious Rise and Spectacular Crash of the Alliance of American Football,” by Conor Orr in Sports Illustrated: “What happens when you launch a sports league that’s really a tech startup, with a nebulous mission, shaky funding and a killer app promising more than it delivered? The inside story of how a football operation with Silicon Valley dreams fell apart before a single season could finish.” SI (h/t Longform.org)

-- “The little-noticed surge across the U.S.-Mexico border: It’s Americans heading south,” by WaPo’s Mary Beth Sheridan in San Miguel de Allende: “The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City estimates ... 1.5 million or more [Americans live in Mexico]. ... So many Americans live here that it’s not necessary to speak Spanish. There’s a dazzling array of activities for English-speakers: the Rotary Club, the quilters’ circle, dancing clubs, Alcoholics Anonymous. Expats run dozens of charitable groups, mentoring Mexican students, helping provide clean drinking water, serving meals to poor abuelitas.” WaPo

-- “How the Apple Store Lost Its Luster,” by Mark Gurman and Matthew Townsend in Bloomberg: “In interviews, current and former employees say brand building became more important than serving shoppers.” Bloomberg (h/t Longreads.com)

-- “Can We Live Longer but Stay Younger?” by The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik: “With greater longevity, the quest to avoid the infirmities of aging is more urgent than ever.” The New Yorker

-- “The Global Crisis of Democracy,” by Larry Diamond in WSJ: “As China and Russia attack free governments and push strongman rule, the U.S. has gone silent—and a new tide of authoritarianism is gathering.” WSJ

-- “Inside Google’s Civil War,” by Fortune’s Beth Kowitt: “Some employees say Google is losing touch with its ‘Don’t be evil’ motto. What happens when an empowered tech workforce rebels?” Fortune

-- “A dangerous delay,” by WaPo’s Jenn Abelson, Amy Brittain and Sarah Larimer: “The University of Maryland waited 18 days to inform students of a virus on campus. That decision left vulnerable students like Olivia Paregol in the dark.” WaPo

-- “‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers,” by NYT’s Brian M. Rosenthal: “Over the past year, a spate of suicides by taxi drivers in New York City has highlighted in brutal terms the overwhelming debt and financial plight of medallion owners. ... [A] New York Times investigation found much of the devastation can be traced to a handful of powerful industry leaders who steadily and artificially drove up the price of taxi medallions, creating a bubble that eventually burst.” NYT ... Part two

-- “The Trade Secret,” by Renee Dudley and Jeff Kao in ProPublica – per TheBrowser.com’s description: “Ransomware was invented in 1989 by an American anthropologist who mailed out thousands of floppy disks, supposedly about Aids education, to public health officials. When the recipient booted the disk, their computer froze, and a message on the screen instructed them to send $378 to a post office box in Panama. Thirty years later, thanks to the internet and Bitcoin, there are about 1.5 million attacks annually. Firms that offer to unblock computers are often in league with extortionists who block them.” ProPublica

PLAYBOOKERS

SPOTTED: Steve Wynn walking on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach on Saturday

WEEKEND WEDDINGS -- “Charlotte Alter, Mark Chiusano” – N.Y. Times: “The couple met at Harvard, from which they each graduated ... Ms. Alter, 29, is based in Manhattan as a national correspondent for Time magazine covering politics. She is a daughter of Emily Lazar and Jonathan Alter. The bride’s father is an author and MSNBC political analyst, and until 2011 a columnist at Newsweek. … Until 2016 her mother was an executive producer of ‘The Colbert Report’ and ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’ on CBS. Mr. Chiusano, 28, is a columnist and an editorial writer for Newsday and AM New York.” With a pic. NYT

--Terry Lierman, former COS to Steny Hoyer and also a former Maryland Democratic Party chair, married Caroline Paff, a real estate executive, at the Peabody Library in Baltimore. Pool report: “The couple celebrated with friends and family from Maryland and across the country Friday night and hit the Preakness Stakes after. The ceremony was performed by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and the group was welcomed with remarks from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).” Pic ... Another pic

SPOTTED: Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), John Delaney, Jim Moran, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Parris Glendening, Ben Cohen, Tonya Williams, Maryland State Delegate Brooke Lierman, Trent Leon-Lierman, Kyle Lierman and Amanda Brown Lierman.

BIRTHDAYS: Cindy McCain is 65 ... David Marin, head of government affairs at Mylan, is 5-0 (hat tip: Jon Haber) ... Allie Brandenburger (h/ts Ryan Mahoney and Tim Miller) ... Jim Lehrer is 85 ... David Hartman is 84 ... Daily Beast writer Michael Daly ... Sydney Simon, media and comms specialist at the German Marshall Fund, is 29 (h/t Steve Clemons) ... Carol Guthrie, head of public affairs and media for the OECD ... Keith Richburg (h/ts Ben Chang) ... Brian McKeon, senior policy adviser at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck ... EY’s Bob Schellhas, a former Portman/Boehner staffer, is 53 ... Uber’s Mandy Quinn ... former Sen. Mark Andrews (R-N.D.) is 93 ... Charlie Spiering, Breitbart WH reporter, is 37 (h/ts Amanda House and Matt Boyle) ... Jonathan Lippman is 74 ... Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) is 41 ...

… Mary Hager, EP of CBS’ “Face The Nation” (h/t Caitlin Conant) ... Anton Becker, comms director for Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) … Edelman’s Laura Carr is 24 ... Gadi Eizenkot is 59 ... Mike Reilly, partner at MVAR Media ... GPG’s Crosby Armstrong ... Craig Wolf (h/t Zack Roday) ... Ashley Mettler ... John Hlinko ... Blair FitzGibbon ... Rebekah Allen ... Yebbie Watkins (h/t Lyndon Boozer) ... Brendan Martin (h/ts Tim Burger) … Bob Juliano ... Warren Coats ... Paul Schur ... Gersh Kuntzman is 54 ... Harvey Sherzer is 75 ... Lindsey Parham … Matt Rees is 51 ... Beth Rossman ... Shahab Moghadam ... Peggy Wilhide Nasir ... Adrian Gray ... Amilcar Guzman ... Amanda Byrd ... Lucas Boyce ... Matthew Doering ... Melissa Cross ... Margaret O’Meara ... Cynthia Alksne.