Washington Brief: Trump Says Joe Lieberman Is Top Contender for FBI Post

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump said former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman is the top contender to be nominated as the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An announcement could come as soon as today. (The Washington Post)
  • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he will leave Congress on June 30. Republicans view Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) as Chaffetz’s likely successor as head of the oversight panel, and some GOP lawmakers want Chaffetz to relinquish the committee gavel before his departure next month. (Politico)
  • Trump’s first overseas trip as president begins today, when he heads to Saudi Arabia. The multi-country trip is likely to be overshadowed by domestic concerns about the firing of James Comey as FBI director. (Bloomberg News)
  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee broke its April record for fundraising by bringing in more than $9 million. Still, the figure was about $1 million less than the amount raised by the National Republican Congressional Committee. (Roll Call)

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Donald Trump Jr., Dubai Business Partner Discuss ‘New Ideas’
Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press 

Donald Trump Jr. traveled to Dubai and met a billionaire business partner in the city-state, discussing “new ideas” as the Emirati’s real estate firm still lists possible plans for future joint projects while Trump’s father is in the White House. The Trump Organization has said it won’t make new foreign deals while Donald Trump serves as America’s 45th president.

Iran’s Election Holds Key to Much More Than Just the Presidency
Marc Champion and Golnar Motevalli  

Iranians vote in a presidential election on Friday that could decide the country’s direction and who gets a more powerful job that isn’t on the ballot paper: the Islamic Republic’s next supreme leader. Since Ebrahim Raisi, until recently a little-known cleric, entered the race last month talk is rife about whether he is being groomed as a potential successor to Ali Khamenei.

Chinese jet in upside-down intercept of US ‘sniffer’ aircraft
Demetri Sevastopulo, Financial Times

The Trump administration has raised concerns with China after two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a US military aircraft in a manner the American crew viewed as dangerous. One person familiar with the incident said one of the Chinese fighters ​flew upside down as it intercepted a Boeing WC-135 — called the “sniffer” because its mission is to collect air particles to detect nuclear explosions — which was flying over the East China Sea.

How U.S. Settles Sugar Dispute With Mexico Could Signal Nafta Intent
Anthony Harrup and Julie Wernau, The Wall Street Journal

As the Trump administration sets the clock running for a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, a deadline is fast approaching in a longstanding dispute with Mexico over sugar that some see as a harbinger of how those broader talks could play out. Unless the two sides reach agreement by June 5, the U.S. Department of Commerce will reinstate anti-dumping and antisubsidy duties on imports of Mexican sugar, risking a backlash from Mexico which denies that it subsidizes or dumps sugar in the U.S.

Washington’s Trump Mania: ‘I Get Nervous When My Phone Buzzes’
Katie Rogers, The New York Times

Contrary to how it might look on social media or on the cable news network of your choice, people here are not exactly running through the streets en masse, gripped by the latest news about President Trump, screaming about a possible impeachment. At least not yet.


Trump: Joe Lieberman is top contender for new FBI director
Ashley Parker, The Washington Post

President Trump said Thursday that Joe Lieberman was his top choice to become FBI director, filling the slot left open after Trump fired James B. Comey, his previous FBI head, last week. Trump, speaking to a group of television anchors at the White House Thursday, said that Lieberman, the former senator from Connecticut and Democratic vice presidential nominee, is his leading candidate to run the agency.

Comey, Unsettled by Trump, Is Said to Have Wanted Him Kept at a Distance
Michael S. Schmidt, The New York Times

President Trump called the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, weeks after he took office and asked him when federal authorities were going to put out word that Mr. Trump was not personally under investigation, according to two people briefed on the call. Mr. Comey told the president that if he wanted to know details about the bureau’s investigations, he should not contact him directly but instead follow the proper procedures and have the White House counsel send any inquiries to the Justice Department, according to those people.

Trump needs private attorney to navigate complex probe, his ex-lawyer says
Michael Kranish, The Washington Post

A longtime private attorney for President Trump said he has advised the White House that Trump should hire a “tough Washington lawyer” to help navigate an increasingly complex legal strategy in response to the special counsel investigation of alleged ties between the presidential campaign and Russia. “He needs a good lawyer, someone who is strong, not that he would go against the lawyer’s advice, but everybody should have a lawyer who sees things through and comes up with good advice,” said Jay Goldberg, who represented Trump from 1990 to 2005, including during his two divorces and other high-profile cases.

Trump Travels Abroad With Unwanted Baggage of Troubles at Home
Margaret Talev and Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg News

Donald Trump departs Friday for his first foreign trip as president with his White House engulfed in crisis and little prospect for a break from the drama disrupting his agenda. His eight-day odyssey across the Mideast and Europe is packed with crucial sit-downs with key allies.

Pence says Trump remains focused on policy priorities, including tax cuts
John Wagner, The Washington Post

With the White House consumed by a series of crises, Vice President Pence on Thursday sought to put a focus on his boss’s agenda for tax cuts and other pro-business priorities. Appearing at a conference sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Pence received polite applause as he offered greetings from President Trump, whom Pence described as “a champion of American workers and American free enterprise.”


Senate Democrats reject Lieberman for FBI director
Burgess Everett and Seung Min Kim, Politico 

President Donald Trump may be dramatically miscalculating how much support Sen. Joe Lieberman would have among his former Democratic colleagues if nominated to become FBI director. Some Senate Democrats hold a grudge against Lieberman for his rightward turn and opposition to some of President Barack Obama’s agenda late in his Senate career.

Bob Casey Was an Understated Senator. Then Came Trump.
Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times

Senator Bob Casey was overdressed for the resistance. But he seems to have made it in time.


Republicans shove Chaffetz on his way out
Rachael Bade, Politico

A handful of top Republicans have a message for outgoing Rep. Jason Chaffetz: It’s time to relinquish the House Oversight Committee gavel. Several senior GOP lawmakers are quietly encouraging Chaffetz to step down from his chairmanship soon, even though the Utah Republican doesn’t plan to resign from Congress until June 30.

DCCC Breaks April Fundraising Record With $9 Million Haul
Simone Pathé, Roll Call 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised more than $9 million in April, breaking its previous fundraising records for the month. Still, that’s about a million dollars less than what the group’s Republican counterpart raised last month. Republicans are defending two House seats in two closely watched upcoming special elections in Montana and Georgia.

F.B.I. Once Warned G.O.P. Congressman That Russian Spies Were Recruiting Him
Matt Apuzzo et al., The New York Times

The F.B.I. warned a Republican congressman in 2012 that Russian spies were trying to recruit him, officials said, an example of how aggressively Russian agents have tried to influence Washington politics. The congressman, Dana Rohrabacher of California, has been known for years as one of Moscow’s biggest defenders in Washington and as a vocal opponent of American economic sanctions against Russia.

Paul Ryan says House’s work will continue despite Trump controversies
Elise Viebeck, The Washington Post 

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the many layers of controversy facing President Trump will not impede House Republicans from pursuing their agenda, the day after the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials. Ryan sought to project an aura of calm while speaking with reporters Thursday as a growing sense of scandal engulfs the White House.

Trump and his top aides met with Republican lawmakers to discuss ways to modernize government
Tony Romm, Recode

A group of House Republicans who have called for a new $500 million fund to upgrade the government’s aging tech tools huddled with President Donald Trump and his top aides on Thursday. The meeting — convened in part by Jared Kushner, one of Trump’s leading advisers and the chief of the White House’s new Office of American Innovation — comes as the administration begins its work to rethink the way government buys software, upgrades its computers and provides services, like electronic health records for veterans.


States Seek to Join Appeal of House Obamacare Lawsuit
Mary Ellen McIntire, Morning Consult

More than a dozen states and the District of Columbia filed a motion on Thursday to intervene in the appeal of a lawsuit targeting the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reduction payments, which have become a focal point for how President Donald Trump plans to treat the 2010 health care law. The 15 states argue that the executive branch is not adequately defending its authority to make the CSR payments and does not represent their interests.

Gov. Eric Greitens’ first session undercut by ethics questions
Jason Hancock, The New York Times 

Eric Greitens gave himself pretty high marks for his first legislative session as Missouri’s governor. “We’ve won round one in this fight for the people of Missouri,” Greitens said, “and we’re ready for round two.”


Pence stands by claim he didn’t know about Flynn lobbying investigation
Matthew Nussbaum, Politico 

Vice President Mike Pence is standing by his March claim that he learned about Michael Flynn’s Turkish lobbying work through the media, even as a new report indicates Flynn informed the transition team in January that he was under federal investigation for not properly disclosing the paid work. Pence, who ran President Donald Trump’s transition operation, had told Fox News on March 9 that “hearing that story today was the first I heard of it.”

House GOP’s Tax Plan Draws Fire
Richard Rubin, The Wall Street Journal

Congressional Republicans are doing everything they would typically do if they were on track to release a major tax bill sometime soon. But the GOP tax effort is still in a precarious state, weighed down by internal policy disagreements and external political turbulence.

A Message from the National Association of Broadcasters:

Who can you trust to provide around-the-clock reporting and up-to-the minute emergency updates during times of crisis? A majority of Americans say it’s broadcast TV and radio. Find out why.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Restoring Volks Rule Will Create Safer Workplaces, Save Lives
Emily Gardner, Morning Consult 

In a critical effort to restore recently destroyed protections for workers, a group of lawmakers has introduced the Accurate Workplace Injury and Illness Records Restoration Act to deal with the problem of preventable injuries. This bill would restore the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “Volks” Rule and reaffirm the agency’s authority to enforce workplace injury and illness recordkeeping requirements for employers nationwide.

Republicans should be relieved Mueller will serve as special prosecutor
Hugh Hewitt, The Washington Post

As the Trump presidency enters its fourth month, conservatives are eager for more legislative successes, more nominations and confirmations of judges, the rapid confirmation of a new FBI director and other achievements. Given the charges of collusion and obstruction that have dogged Donald Trump and his administration from before he took his oath of office as president, the appointment of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as a special prosecutor to oversee the Justice Department’s inquiry into those charges is a greatly encouraging development.

Democracy Is Not Your Plaything
Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal

This will be unpleasantly earnest, but having witnessed the atmospherics the past 10 days it’s what I think needs saying: Everyone, get serious. Democracy is not your plaything.

Trump has made an about-face on Saudi Arabia. He shouldn’t get too cozy.
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

Donald Trump’s political career arguably began with the full-page advertisements he purchased in The Post and several other newspapers in September 1987 in order to denounce Saudi Arabia, along with Japan, for “taking advantage of the United States.” Mr. Trump suggested, among other things, that the United States had no business defending the Persian Gulf, “an area of only marginal significance” for U.S. interests.

Trumpcare Is Already Hurting Trump Country
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

The mere threat that Obamacare will be dismantled or radically changed — either by Congress or by President Trump himself — has persuaded several big insurance companies to stop selling policies or significantly raise premiums. The practical effect is that some lower-income and middle-class families may have no good options for insurance and will have to spend more on health care.

A Message from the National Association of Broadcasters:

Former FEMA head Craig Fugate has said activating FM radio in smartphones would “ensure if all else fails, you can still get information from broadcasters” during times of emergency. A majority of Americans agree broadcast radio and TV stations, above all other media, provide the information they need to keep safe. Find out more.

Research Reports and Polling

News Coverage of Donald Trump’s First 100 Days
Thomas E. Patterson, Harvard Kennedy School 

A new report from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy analyzes news coverage of President Trump’s first 100 days in office. The report is based on an analysis of news reports in the print editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, the main newscasts of CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC, and three European news outlets (The UK’s Financial Times and BBC, and Germany’s ARD).