Washington Brief: Gary Cohn to Resign Amid Internal Clash Over Trump’s Trade Policies

Top Stories

  • Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, announced he will leave the administration, a move that follows an internal clash with the president and his pivot toward protectionist trade practices. Cohn’s resignation as National Economic Council director will leave the White House without a financial heavyweight who is believed by executives and foreign leaders to have countered Trump’s protectionist impulses. (The Washington Post)
  • Many of Tuesday’s competitive primaries in Texas are headed for May 22 runoffs. While several of the races are for seats where incumbent lawmakers are not seeking re-election, former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones advanced to the Democratic runoff for the nomination to take on Rep. Will Hurd (R) in the state’s 23rd District, considered one of the most competitive seats in the country. (Roll Call)
  • Trump trails a generic Democrat in a hypothetical election held now, but fares better than a different potential Republican presidential nominee, according to a new poll. When asked which candidate they were more likely to vote for if the presidential election were held today, 44 percent of registered voters picked an unnamed Democratic candidate, while 36 percent chose Trump. (Morning Consult)
  • Porn star Stormy Daniels has sued Trump, saying a “hush agreement” to prevent her from talking about an alleged affair is not valid because Trump never signed it. The woman, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, wants a judge to void the agreement so she can avoid being pulled by Trump’s personal lawyer into an arbitration proceeding. (Bloomberg)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Israeli Prime Minister speaks at The Economic Club of Washington 6:30 a.m.
Rep. Larsen participates in Brookings Institution event on U.S. engagement with China 9 a.m.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein participates in AHIP conference 10:35 a.m.
Council of Economic Advisers chairman testifies before Joint Economic Committee 2 p.m.
Ambassadors participate in Wilson Center event on the Trans-Pacific Partnership 2 p.m.
HHS Secretary Azar participates in AHIP conference 8:30 a.m.
Politico’s Future of Prosperity event 8:30 a.m.
Wilson Center event on women and the 2018 midterms 9 a.m.
Senate HELP Committee hearing on the opioid crisis 10 a.m.
The Federalist Society hosts National Student Symposium 6 p.m.

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Biden hits campaign trail for red-state Dems
Amie Parnes, The Hill

Former Vice President Joe Biden is hitting the campaign trail hard for Democrats running in red states and districts ahead of the midterm elections. On Tuesday, Biden campaigned twice in Pennsylvania with Democratic House candidate Conor Lamb, who polls show has a good chance of pulling off an upset special election victory next week in a district long held by Republicans.

Abstinence advocate gets final say on family planning dollars
Jennifer Haberkorn, Politico

A senior Trump health official who has promoted abstinence will be the final arbiter of which groups receive federal family planning funds — a change from prior years, when a group of officials made the decision, POLITICO has learned. Conservatives have long criticized the $286 million Title X program, which funds family planning services, mostly for low-income women, because it gives money to Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions, even though there is a prohibition on using those dollars for abortions.


Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, to resign amid differences on trade policy
Damian Paletta and Philip Rucker, The Washington Post

Gary Cohn, the White House’s top economic adviser, announced Tuesday that he was leaving the administration amid a major internal clash over President Trump’s sharp and sudden pivot toward protectionist trade policies. The departure of Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs who had been an interlocutor between the Trump administration and the business community, is the latest jolt to a White House that has been especially tumultuous in recent weeks and unable to retain some of its top talent.

Trump Trails Generic Democratic Candidate in Hypothetical Presidential Race
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult

President Donald Trump trails a generic Democrat in a hypothetical election held now, but fares better than a different potential Republican presidential nominee, a new Morning Consult/Politico poll found. When asked which candidate they were more likely to vote for if the presidential election were held today, 44 percent of registered voters said an unnamed Democratic candidate, while 36 percent said Trump, according to a March 1-5 survey of 1,993 registered voters.

Porn Star Stormy Daniels Sues Trump Over ‘Hush Agreement’
Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg 

Porn star Stormy Daniels sued President Donald Trump, saying a “hush agreement” to prevent her from talking about their purported affair isn’t valid because Trump never signed it. Daniels wants a judge to void the agreement so she can avoid being dragged by Trump’s personal lawyer into an arbitration proceeding, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Trump wants Gateway tunnel project left unfunded, Chao tells House panel
Mike DeBonis, The Washington Post

In testy exchanges with several Democratic lawmakers Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao confirmed that President Trump is personally intervening to block Congress from funding a key infrastructure project. The Washington Post reported Friday that Trump asked House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) last week to keep funding for the Gateway project, which would improve passenger rail access to and from Manhattan, out of an omnibus spending bill that Congress is set to take up later this month.

Adviser to Emirates With Ties to Trump Aides Is Cooperating With Special Counsel
Mark Mazzetti et al., The New York Times

An adviser to the United Arab Emirates with ties to current and former aides to President Trump is cooperating with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and gave testimony last week to a grand jury, according to two people familiar with the matter. Mr. Mueller appears to be examining the influence of foreign money on Mr. Trump’s political activities and has asked witnesses about the possibility that the adviser, George Nader, funneled money from the Emirates to the president’s political efforts.


Warren vows fight as U.S. Senate begins debate on Dodd-Frank rewrite
Pete Schroeder, Reuters

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren promised to fight a U.S. Senate bill easing bank rules introduced following the 2007-2009 global financial crisis as the chamber moved on Tuesday to begin debating the draft bipartisan legislation. Warren, long a consumer advocate, warned customer protections would be eroded as the Senate moved closer to passing the first rewrite of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Shelby Expected to Assume Appropriations Panel at Prime Time
Joe Williams, Roll Call

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, the expected next chairman of the Appropriations Committee, will slide into the role with much of the grunt work already done. With a slimmed-down legislative agenda, no major policy initiatives on the horizon and spending levels for fiscal 2019 already agreed to, the timing is good to focus on the elusive goal of clearing the 12 yearly appropriations bills.

McConnell denies he slowed Obama’s 2016 Russia response
Elana Schor, Politico

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday pushed back at Democratic charges that he single-handedly diluted a bipartisan push in September 2016 for states to safeguard their election systems from Russian disruption. McConnell addressed the issue two days after Denis McDonough, who served as then-President Barack Obama’s chief of staff at the time, charged that the GOP leader slow-walked bipartisan negotiations on how congressional leaders should weigh in on the threat of Moscow’s cyber-meddling in the 2016 election.


Competitive Primaries in Texas Yield Few Outright Wins
Simone Pathé, Roll Call

Tuesday’s elections in Texas were the first congressional primaries of the 2018 cycle. But many competitive intraparty contests in the Lone Star State are heading for runoffs, with no candidate clearing 50 percent.

Donna Shalala running for Congress to fill seat of Ros-Lehtinen
Staff, Sun Sentinel

The race to replace longtime South Florida congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has become more crowded with former University of Miami president and Clinton administration official Donna Shalala joining the field. Shalala, 77, filed paperwork Monday with the Federal Election Commission announcing her intention to run in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

House GOP Preps Response to Florida Shooting, Democrats Want More
Lindsey McPherson, Roll Call

House Republican leaders on Tuesday announced their legislative response to a mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead — a bill to create a federal grant program for schools to implement threat assessment protocols. The House will vote next week on a bill by Florida GOP Rep. John Rutherford, the STOP School Violence Act, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.

‘It’s Fake News!’ GOP Lawmaker Yells About Mass Shootings Coverage
Griffin Connolly, Roll Call

Rep. Claudia Tenney reached her wit’s end at a campaign stop Sunday while she tried to clarify controversial remarks she made after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month. “It’s fake news!” the New York Republican said about the media coverage of her comments and of mass shootings in general.

Top Republicans urge Sessions to appoint special counsel to probe FBI
Kyle Cheney, Politico

Two powerful House Republicans are pressuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a prosecutor to investigate the FBI’s 2016 decision to spy on Carter Page, a former campaign aide to President Donald Trump. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy sent a letter Tuesday to Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, urging them to name a special counsel to review Republicans’ allegations that the FBI misled a federal judge to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance of Page, whose contacts with Kremlin-connected Russians had drawn agents’ scrutiny.

Doug Collins makes play for judiciary chairmanship
Rachael Bade, Politico

Rep. Doug Collins is quietly laying the groundwork to run for House Judiciary chairman next year, buttonholing colleagues who choose panel chairs and showcasing his legislative acumen. The conservative Georgia Republican is the first to officially jump in for the powerful post, which will be open with the retirement of Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) at the end of the year.


California leaders strike defiant tone after Trump administration sues over sanctuary laws
Franco Ordonez et al., The Sacramento Bee

The Trump administration on Tuesday sued California over its sanctuary policies for undocumented immigrants, setting off a chorus of near-unanimous defiance from California lawmakers. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will lay out the details of the lawsuit Wednesday in a speech expected to start at 8:05 a.m. at The Kimpton Sawyer hotel in downtown Sacramento, where he will address members of the California Peace Officers Association.

George P. Bush, Sid Miller win their Republican primary bids for land and agriculture commissioner posts
James Barragán and Jackie Wang, The Dallas Morning News

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and Land Commissioner George P. Bush fended off stiff challenges to win their Republican primaries and advance toward almost-certain victories in the November general election. Bush has over half the votes cast in a four-candidate field.

Flood of legislative candidates points to enthusiasm in both parties
Reid Wilson, The Hill

Political excitement among both Republicans and Democrats has led to an explosion of candidates running for office across the country, giving voters a choice between the two parties even in areas where one side has virtually conceded recent elections. An analysis of the 12 states where filing deadlines have come and gone shows an unprecedented number of candidates seeking public office this year — and a relative lack of uncontested races, where a general election features only one candidate on the ballot.

Maryland’s highest court reinstates police officers’ names to database of cases
Tim Prudente, The Baltimore Sun

Maryland’s highest court voted unanimously Tuesday to restore the names of police officers to the public’s online database of court cases, overturning changes that erased the names last week and ignited swift backlash. Seven judges on the Court of Appeals called the emergency meeting in Annapolis to correct what they called an “honest mistake.”


Trump tariffs fire up CEOs who ready lobbying fight
Brian Schwartz, Fox Business

President Donald Trump’s calls to implement import tariffs on steel and aluminum goods have made corporate America cringe, including industry leaders within the Business Roundtable who aren’t going down without a fight and intend to lobby the administration to not go ahead with a decision that could lead to a trade war, FOX Business has learned. Members of the Business Roundtable (BRT), a group of mainly conservative CEOs from around the United States chaired by JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, have been reaching out to senior White House officials to voice their concern with the president’s shocking announcement to enact steel and aluminum tariffs in an attempt to change his mind, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Haiti hires PR firm after WH ‘s—hole’ controversy
Megan R. Wilson, The Hill

One of the countries that President Trump reportedly derided as a “shithole” during a White House meeting has hired a public relations firm to boost its image in Washington. Mercury, a global public relations firm with a lobbying shop in Washington, is now working for Haiti, according to forms filed with the Justice Department.  

Michael Bloomberg launches tobacco industry watchdog
Sarah Boseley, The Guardian

A new global watchdog agency has been launched to monitor the tobacco industry with $20m of philanthropic funding amid fears of dirty tactics by cigarette companies hit by declining smoking rates in the west. The funding for the agency, named Stop (Stopping Tobacco Organisations and Products), comes from Bloomberg Philanthropies, whose founder, Michael Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York, has committed almost $1bn to the global fight against tobacco.

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Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Steel and Aluminum Tariffs Are a Necessary Opening Move to Rebalance U.S. Trade
Ian Fletcher, Morning Consult

The tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum that President Donald Trump announced last week are a necessary opening move in a game that will take years to play out, but which America cannot safely delay any longer. Trump is absolutely correct that this is a national security issue.

The real risk to Trump’s tariffs? American jobs.
Megan McArdle, The Washington Post

Forget Campbell’s soup and Coca-Cola cans. However silly Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross looked waving them around on television, he was right: Steel and aluminum tariffs are not going to devastate household budgets.

The Cohn Departure
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

The resignation of Gary Cohn is a significant blow to Donald Trump’s Presidency, and recovering from it will be a significant challenge. Departures are normal after a President’s second year, but the circumstances of Mr. Cohn’s leave-taking as top economic advisor are anything but normal after only 14 months.

Gary Cohn’s Exit Won’t Make This Administration Any Better
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

In an administration filled with people with dubious ideas, limited experience and loads of ethical baggage, Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive who became the top economics official in the Trump White House, was supposed to be among the sensible adults in the room. Now, he is leaving after failing repeatedly to be the stabilizing influence that the Trump administration sorely needed.

North Korea Might Negotiate In Good Faith This Time But It Would Be The FIRST Time
Rep. Michael McCaul, The Daily Caller

In the spirit of Olympic unity, South Korean President Moon Jae-in signaled North Korea is open to dialogue with the United States. Should we view this as a positive step towards North Korean denuclearization, or should we judge North Korea’s actions against the backdrop of history?

The public has spoken on gun control. Don’t wait for the White House.
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

Action on gun-control legislation has stalled in Congress as Republican leaders try to get some sense of what President Trump might support. We have a better idea.

Research Reports and Polling

Restricting Use of “CHIMP” Savings Would Backtrack on Bipartisan Budget Deal, Shortchange Non-Defense Programs
David Reich, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Last month, Congress passed and the President signed into law a bipartisan budget agreement that would increase 2018 non-defense discretionary funding by $63 billion while increasing defense funding by $80 billion, relative to the sequestration levels for 2018 previously set by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA). Now, congressional Republicans are reportedly considering measures that would undo at least $3 billion of the agreed-upon increase in non-defense funding and apparently would disproportionately affect programs such as job training, aid to education, Head Start, seniors’ nutrition, and disease control and public health.