Washington Brief: Trump Might Nominate New FBI Director This Week

Washington Brief

  • The Trump administration is moving quickly to name a new director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who would require Senate confirmation. At least eight candidates have been interviewed for the position, including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), and President Donald Trump said he said he might make a decision by Friday. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • North Korea’s successful missile test suggests progress toward building an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States, according to experts. (Reuters)
  • Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) is expected to announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate today, challenging Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), who was appointed to the seat this year. The special primary election is scheduled for August. (Politico)
  • Trump intends to nominate Callista Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to be U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. The official announcement has been delayed as the administration awaits approval from the Office of Government Ethics. (CNN)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Senate convenes 3 P.M.
CATO Institute event on the Iran deal 10 a.m.
Senate Banking Committee considers several nominations 10 a.m.
House convenes 12 p.m.
U.S. Chamber Global Supply Chain Summit 8:15 a.m.
Sen. Lee, OMB’s Mulvaney speak at Federalist Society conference 9 a.m.
USDA’s Perdue at House Agriculture Committee 10 a.m.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee considers former Sen. Scott Brown for New Zealand ambassador 2 p.m.
Rep. Brady speaks at Politico tax event 5:30 p.m.
Rep. Delaney at Atlantic Council event on infrastructure 6 p.m.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce event with Arizona Gov. Ducey, Kentucky Gov. Bevin on foreign investment in U.S. 8:30 a.m.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee considers William Hagerty for Japan ambassador 9:30 a.m.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at Senate Banking committee 10 a.m.
Bipartisan Policy Center event on infrastructure 10 a.m.
Sen. Murphy speaks at Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy 12:15 p.m.
Hoover Institution Event with EPA’s Pruitt 5 p.m.
No events scheduled



North Korea’s latest missile launch suggests progress toward ICBM: experts
Jack Kim and Ju-min Park, Reuters

North Korea’s successful missile test-launch signals major advances in developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, such as mastery of re-entry technology and better engine performance key to targeting the United States, experts say. The isolated country has been developing a long-range missile capable of striking the mainland United States mounted with a nuclear warhead.

Callista Gingrich set to be named ambassador to the Vatican
Jeff Zeleny and Caroline Kenny, CNN  

Callista Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is the preferred nominee to be the next ambassador to the Vatican. The White House hopes to announce her nomination before President Donald Trump meets with Pope Francis on May 24 in Rome.

Cyberattack Is Likely to Keep Spreading
Nick Kostov et al., The Wall Street Journal

The cyberattack that spread around the globe over the weekend, hitting businesses, hospitals and government agencies in at least 150 countries, infected more computers as users returned to work early Monday. Investigators launched a far-reaching hunt for the perpetrator, as institutions around the world worked to mitigate damage from the highest-profile computer-worm outbreak in nearly a decade.

Dems Flex Muscles on GOP Turf
Josh Kraushaar, National Journal

Des­pite hold­ing all the av­en­ues of power in Wash­ing­ton, it’s not a happy time to be a Re­pub­lic­an of­fice­hold­er. Pres­id­ent Trump’s sus­pi­ciously timed fir­ing of FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey has all but guar­an­teed a me­dia and polit­ic­al firestorm that will last in­def­in­itely, and pre­vent le­gis­la­tion from get­ting through Con­gress.

Political chaos in Washington is a return on investment for Moscow
Greg Miller, The Washington Post

Russia has yet to collect much of what it hoped for from the Trump administration, including the lifting of U.S. sanctions and recognition of its annexation of Crimea. But the Kremlin has collected a different return on its effort to help elect Trump in last year’s election: chaos in Washington.

Tillerson answers McCain’s attack on him
Louis Nelson, Politico

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in an interview that aired Sunday that the U.S. must make a distinction “between values and policy,” a response to criticism from Sen. John McCain that the nation’s top diplomat had abandoned victims of oppression around the globe. McCain, in an op-ed published last week in The New York Times, wrote that Tillerson had “sent a message to oppressed people everywhere: Don’t look to the United States for hope” with remarks at the State Department in which he advocated against tying national security goals to “someone adopting our values.”

Reckless stock trading leaves Congress rife with conflicts
Maggie Severns, Politico  

Even a looming scandal wouldn’t deter some of Congress’ most eager stock traders. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Health and Human Services secretary, was under siege, the harsh lights of a Senate hearing upon him.


Trump Administration Races to Fill FBI Job Amid Democrats’ Resistance
Aruna Viswanatha et al., The Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration is pressing to quickly pick the next FBI director, but congressional Democrats are threatening to withhold support for any nominee unless an independent investigator is appointed to look into possible ties between Russia and associates of the president. Justice Department officials over the weekend held what they described as substantive discussions with at least eight candidates to lead the bureau.

Trump, irked at cabinet and staff, mulls sweeping shake-up
Mike Allen, Axios

At the urging of longtime friends and outside advisers, most of whom he consults after dark, President Trump is considering a “huge reboot” that could take out everyone from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and press secretary Sean Spicer, White House sources tell me. Trump is also irritated with several Cabinet members, the sources said.

Former Employees of Donald Trump Say They Saw Him Tape Conversations
Alexandra Berzon, The Wall Street Journal

A tweet from President Donald Trump on Friday suggesting that he might have taped phone conversations from the White House made waves in Washington, but some former employees and a former associate said it wasn’t a surprise to them that he would mention taped conversations. As a businessman, Mr. Trump sometimes taped phone conversations with associates and others from his Trump Tower office in New York, according to three people who say they have direct knowledge of the recordings.

The federal appeals court that Trump hates the most will now hear arguments on his travel ban
Matt Zapotosky, The Washington Post

A federal appeals court that President Trump has frequently criticized is to hear arguments Monday on whether to restore his controversial travel ban — a significant step in the legal battle that has prevented Trump from implementing one of his signature initiatives on immigration. A three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit will join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in deciding whether Trump ran afoul of the Constitution when he tried to temporarily shut down the U.S. refu­gee program and suspend the issuance of new visas to residents of six Muslim-majority countries.

Trump Doctrine Confounds G-7 as Ministers Kick Can to Sicily
David Goodman and Alessandra Migliaccio, Bloomberg News

Group-of-Seven ministers slowly coming to terms with the reality of Donald Trump’s administration are about to leave the heavy lifting to their bosses. Finance chiefs in Italy at the weekend spoke of an improving relationship with their U.S. counterpart Steven Mnuchin, in a contrast to previous encounters.


Cornyn as FBI director would cause big Senate shakeup
Burgess Everett, Politico

If President Donald Trump selects Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn as his next FBI director it would accelerate a major shift in Republican politics with implications for both the Senate and the national GOP. The Texas senator is seriously considering accepting the job if nominated, sources said.

Republicans and Democrats agree: If Trump has tapes, he’ll need to turn them over to Congress
Ed O’Keefe and Jenna Johnson, The Washington Post

In the six days since President Trump abruptly fired FBI director James B. Comey, concern from both parties has mounted about the selection of a replacement and the president’s suggestion that he may have secretly taped conversations with the ousted director. Key Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Sunday called for Trump to turn over any recorded conversations, based on a tantalizing tweet the president sent last week that said, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

Senators hold back-channel talks on bipartisan Obamacare fix
Burgess Everett and Elana Schor, Politico

Sen. Bill Cassidy held up bright red posters in a mostly empty Senate chamber Thursday for a presentation on how his ideas would pass the “Jimmy Kimmel Test,” by helping people with preexisting conditions. After the speech, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia came to the floor and praised the wonkish Republican doctor from Louisiana.

Senate Conservatives Look to Cut Medicaid
Stephanie Armour and Kristina Peterson, The Wall Street Journal

Conservative Senate Republicans are weighing faster and steeper cuts to Medicaid that could drop millions of people from coverage and mark the biggest changes to the program in its 52-year history. The plan being pushed by lawmakers such as Mike Lee (R., Utah) is likely to face resistance from centrist GOP senators who are already concerned a health-overhaul bill passed by House Republicans would leave too many people uninsured.

G.O.P. Senators, Pulling Away From Trump, Have ‘a Lot Less Fear of Him’
Jennifer Steinhauer, The New York Times

Senate Republicans, increasingly unnerved by President Trump’s volatility and unpopularity, are starting to show signs of breaking away from him as they try to forge a more traditional Republican agenda and protect their political fortunes. Several Republicans have openly questioned Mr. Trump’s decision to fire the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and even lawmakers who supported the move have complained privately that it was poorly timed and disruptive to their work.


Rep. Mo Brooks expected to announce Senate run
Daniel Strauss, Politico 

Rep. Mo Brooks is teeing himself up to announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate on Monday. On Sunday evening, Brooks’ political team released a set of four media events for Monday, all in Alabama.

Ryan: ‘Planets are aligned’ on tax reform
Max Greenwood, The Hill 

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Sunday said Congress is likely to pass a major overhaul of the tax code by the end of the year, but cautioned that Republicans “don’t want to put an artificial deadline” on reform. “We don’t want to put an artificial deadline on tax reform because we want to get it right,” Ryan told radio host John Catsimatidis.

For Freedom Caucus, No Place Like Home
Lindsey McPherson, Roll Call

Washington may not always understand or appreciate the House Freedom Caucus, but its constituents generally do. At events in the districts of three caucus members last week — Mark Meadows in North Carolina, and Dave Brat and Morgan Griffith in Virginia — a variety of constituents interviewed had not only heard of the hard-line conservative group but showed a good grasp of its mission: to provide a voice for people outside the Beltway who lack backing among Washington’s special interests.


A Seeker of Kansas Voter Fraud Gets a National Soapbox
Michael Wines and Julie Bosman, The New York Times

Kris W. Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, oversees an office whose clerical and regulatory work costs the state’s taxpayers barely $5.5 million a year. But he has parlayed that modest post into a national platform for tough restrictions on voting rights and immigration, becoming both a celebrated voice within the Republican Party and a regular target of lawsuits by civil rights advocates.

Here’s how (and why) the state is making a $12-billion pension payment next year
John Myers, Los Angeles Times 

If you’re a homeowner, you’ve likely had someone suggest that the easiest way to lower your long-term debt is to make an extra mortgage payment. Thanks to the miracle of compound interest, your total costs in the long run go down. Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown essentially decided that it was worth applying the same principle to the state government’s debt for the pensions of its employees.


Home Depot lobbyist joins administration
Theodoric Meyer, Politico

Michael Dendas, a former lobbyist for Home Depot, is headed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development as a senior adviser on the congressional affairs team, according to an internal agency email obtained by POLITICO’s Lorraine Woellert. Dendas had worked as a lobbyist for Home Depot since 2013 before deregistering in the first quarter of this year, according to disclosure filings.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Getting It Right: A New Approach to Ag Biotech
Terry Fleck, Morning Consult 

Most Americans celebrate the latest innovations when it comes to their smartphones, cars or shiny kitchen appliances. Anything goes if it makes life better, right? Not necessarily.

Obstruction of the Executive
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

Progressives have been lamenting the erosion of “democratic norms” in the Trump era, but they’d have more credibility if they didn’t trample constitutional norms in their own rush to run President Trump out of town. Start with Democratic Senator Mark Warner’s assertion on Fox News Sunday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should play no role in vetting the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Are there still public servants who will say no to the president?
Preet Bharara, The Washington Post

The most dramatic hearing I helped to arrange as chief counsel to a Senate subcommittee took place 10 years ago Monday, when James B. Comey, then deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, described how he and FBI Director Robert Mueller intervened at the hospital bedside of Attorney General John Ashcroft. The encounter occurred in 2004, after White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales tried to overrule Comey’s and Mueller’s legal objection to a secret terrorist surveillance program.

The Priming of Mr. Donald Trump
Paul Krugman, The New York Times

Donald Trump has said many strange things in recent interviews. One can only imagine, for example, what America’s military leaders thought about his rambling, word-salad musings about how to improve our aircraft carriers. Over here in Econoland, however, the buzz was all about Trump’s expressed willingness, in an interview with the Economist magazine, to pursue tax cuts even if they increase deficits, because “we have to prime the pump” — an expression he claimed to have invented.

If Liberals Hate Him, Then Trump Must Be Doing Something Right
Charles J. Sykes, The New York Times

If there was one principle that used to unite conservatives, it was respect for the rule of law. Not long ago, conservatives would have been horrified at wholesale violations of the norms and traditions of our political system, and would have been appalled by a president who showed overt contempt for the separation of powers.

Research Reports and Polling

Opinion on Trump Stable Despite Tumult Over Comey Firing, Poll Finds
Aaron Zitner, The Wall Street Journal

More Americans disapprove than approve of President Donald Trump’s decision last week to fire James Comey as director of the FBI, but the tempest in Washington over the dismissal has done little to reshape views of Mr. Trump among the public, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey finds. Some 38% of people in the survey disapproved of the president’s decision to fire Mr. Comey, while 29% approved.

Black voter turnout fell in 2016, even as a record number of Americans cast ballots
Jens Manuel Krogstad and Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew Research Center 

A record 137.5 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Overall voter turnout – defined as the share of adult U.S. citizens who cast ballots – was 61.4% in 2016, a share similar to 2012 but below the 63.6% who say they voted in 2008.