Washington Brief: U.S. Poised to Expand Military Operations in Afghanistan

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump’s top military and foreign policy advisers proposed a plan that would expand U.S. efforts to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and authorize the Pentagon, instead of the White House, to set troop numbers. The proposal requires Trump’s approval before implementation. (The Washington Post)
  • Federal judges appeared skeptical of arguments made by a Justice Department lawyer that Trump’s temporary travel ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries is based on national security concerns and not religious discrimination. (Reuters)
  • Senate Republicans are working with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) to find common ground on health care legislation. Senators are pushing to the left on Medicaid, Meadows said, but House conservatives might welcome an effort to eliminate the advance refundable tax credits. (HuffPost)
  • The White House postponed a meeting planned for today on whether to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. This is the second time the meeting has been delayed. (The Associated Press)
  • Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates said the Trump administration waited 18 days to dismiss then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn after she informed officials he may have been compromised by the Russians. Then-President Barack Obama also raised concerns about Flynn to Trump when the two met on Nov. 10 at the White House. (The New York Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing for John J. Sullivan to be deputy secretary of state 10:30 a.m.
Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on nominations 2:30 p.m.
Bipartisan Policy Center event on the first 50 years of the 25th Amendment 9:30 a.m.
Sens. Thune, Nelson attend InsideSources event on railroads 10:45 a.m.
Bloomberg Government event on what to watch in tax reform 2 p.m.
Woodrow Wilson Awards Dinner honoring Sen. McConnell 6 p.m.
Former Secretary of State Rice speaks at Brookings Institution 5:30 p.m.
Tom Perez, Michael S. Steele speak at Aspen Institute event 12 p.m.



U.S. poised to expand military effort against Taliban in Afghanistan
Missy Ryan and Greg Jaffe, The Washington Post

President Trump’s most senior military and foreign policy advisers have proposed a major shift in strategy in Afghanistan that would effectively put the United States back on a war footing with the Taliban. The new plan, which still needs the approval of the president, calls for expanding the U.S. military role as part of a broader effort to push an increasingly confident and resurgent Taliban back to the negotiating table, U.S. officials said.

Comey’s Testimony on Huma Abedin Forwarding Emails Was Inaccurate
Peter Elkind, ProPublica

FBI director James Comey generated national headlines last week with his dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, explaining his “incredibly painful” decision to go public about the Hillary Clinton emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Perhaps Comey’s most surprising revelation was that Huma Abedin — Weiner’s wife and a top Clinton deputy — had made “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton messages to her husband, “some of which contain classified information.”

ICE Boss To Take Private Prison Gig
Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast 

A top government official overseeing detentions and deportations is heading to a private prison company at the end of the month, according to a source with firsthand knowledge. Daniel Ragsdale, the official in question, is second-in-command at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency tasked with arresting, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants.

Syrian family who sued Trump warms to life in Wisconsin
Cara Lombardo, The Associated Press 

A Syrian family who reunited after suing President Donald Trump over his travel bans is now settling into life in Wisconsin. Ahmad, 32, and his wife, Iman, spoke to The Associated Press at their lawyer’s office last week through a translator.

A TV company warned its viewers about the media’s ‘fake news.’ Now it’s about to take over some of the nation’s biggest stations.
Todd C. Frankel, The Washington Post

Two months before Monday’s announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations. In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that “some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.”


Judges hit Trump lawyer with tough questions over revised travel ban
Lawrence Hurley, Reuters

U.S. appeals court judges voiced skepticism on Monday toward a claim by President Donald Trump’s administration that his temporary ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority nations was inspired by national security concerns, not religious bias. Acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, arguing on behalf of Trump, came under tough questioning from judges, particularly several appointed by Democratic presidents, on the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the administration’s bid to revive the travel ban.

White House climate change meeting postponed
Catherine Lucey and Michael Biesecker, The Associated Press

The White House has postponed a Tuesday meeting to discuss whether the United States should withdraw from the landmark international climate deal struck in Paris under the Obama administration. The White House said late Monday that the meeting would be rescheduled.

Trump slams Yates hearing: ‘Nothing but old news’
Cristiano Lima, Politico

President Donald Trump on Monday tweeted his first reaction to testimony from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, dismissing her comments as “nothing but old news” and asking “when will this taxpayer funded charade end?” Trump also said allegations of collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia are “a total hoax.”


Sally Yates Tells Senators She Warned Trump About Michael Flynn
Matt Apuzzo and Emmarie Huettman, The New York Times

Less than a week into the Trump administration, Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general, hurried to the White House with an urgent concern. The president’s national security adviser, she said, had lied to the vice president about his Russian contacts and was vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.

Yes, It Is Definitely Possible For The House And Senate To Agree On Health Care
Matt Fuller, HuffPost

After the House passed its health care bill last week, senators looked apt to take that dramatically conservative plan, stick it in a filing cabinet, and start over with a more moderate bill ― one that may never be able to pass the House on the way back. But Democrats may overestimate the level of disagreement between the two chambers.

13 Men, and No Women, Are Writing New G.O.P. Health Bill in Senate
Robert Pear, The New York Times 

The 13 Republican senators who are writing a new bill to repeal and replace much of the Affordable Care Act include the top leadership, three committee chairmen and two of the most conservative members of the Senate. What the group does not include is a woman — and the moderate Republicans who could determine the bill’s fate.

Senate confirms Wilson as Air Force secretary
Connor O’Brien, Politico

The Senate confirmed Heather Wilson to be Air Force secretary Monday, making her only the second of President Donald Trump’s nominees to be approved for a Pentagon post. The vote was 76-22. Only Democrats opposed Wilson, a former Republican congresswoman from New Mexico.

Democrats take on Trump over court vacancies
Seung Min Kim, Politico

With his nomination Monday of 10 conservative judges to the federal courts, President Donald Trump is reviving the long-running judicial wars with Democrats. And the two picks likely to rankle Democrats the most are the ones they have the most leverage to block.


West Virginia Rep. Evan Jenkins Running for Senate
Simone Pathé, Roll Call

Two-term West Virginia Rep. Evan Jenkins announced on Monday he’s running for Senate against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in 2018. The 3rd District Republican will likely face a primary, with Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also expected to join the GOP field soon.

Iowa congressman walks out of a TV interview and into an angry town hall meeting
Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post

An Iowa congressman walked out of a television interview on Monday, declining to explain why his staff is prescreening constituents who plan to attend his town hall meetings this week. A few hours later, Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) showed up at his town hall meeting where most of the prescreened audience screamed at him.

Crowdpac Helps Candidates Test the Waters
Eric Garcia, Roll Call 

Before Rep. Jason Chaffetz announced last month that he would not run for re-election, a virtually unknown challenger had already raised three times as much money as the Utah Republican. Democrat Kathryn Allen, a suburban Salt Lake City physician who’d never run for office before, relied heavily on a company that specializes in political fundraising to rake in the cash.


Trump’s Public-Private Infrastructure Vision Rejected in Texas
Mark Niquette, Bloomberg News 

President Donald Trump’s plan to invest $1 trillion in U.S. infrastructure with the help of public-private partnerships has hit a speed bump in Texas. Wary of public opposition to new highway tolls, the Texas House voted on May 5 to reject a bill that would have allowed the partnerships, known as P3s, to participate in 18 highway projects costing as much as $30 billion.

Missouri bill making it harder for workers to win discrimination cases goes to Greitens
Jason Hancock, The Kansas City Star 

Legislation making it more difficult to prove discrimination cases against former employers is on its way to Gov. Eric Greitens. On a 98-30 vote, the Missouri House gave final approval Monday night to a bill requiring workers who claim discrimination in wrongful termination lawsuits to prove that bias was the explicit reason they were fired.

Gov. Brown to host fundraiser for senator facing possible recall to show ‘he’s got his back’ after tax vote, aide says
Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times 

Gov. Jerry Brown is taking the unusual step of hosting a political fundraiser for state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) because he thinks it is unfair that some activists are trying to recall Newman for his vote favoring an increase in gas taxes to pay for road repairs, Brown’s top aide said Monday. The Brown camp also is skeptical that opponents of the gas tax bill will be able to carry out their threat of qualifying an initiative to repeal Senate Bill 1 but are prepared to do battle if it makes the ballot.

Sanctuary Bills in Maryland Faced a Surprise Foe: Legal Immigrants
Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times

When lawmakers in Howard County, Md., a stretch of suburbia between Washington and Baltimore, declared their intention to make the county a sanctuary for people living in the country illegally, J. D. Ma thought back to how hard he had worked studying English as a boy in Shanghai. Stanley Salazar, a native of El Salvador, worried that the violent crime already plaguing Maryland’s suburbs attributed to immigrant gangs would eventually touch his own daughters.


Drug lobbyist arrested after drunken fracas
Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, Politico 

A Washington lobbyist for a major drug company was arrested at a Republican political event in Florida late Saturday after he got in an altercation with a man, screaming obscenities and making sexual advances on the person’s wife, according to a police report. Jason R. Money, a lobbyist for drug giant AmerisourceBergen Corp., was attending a weekend fundraiser for the Republican Main Street Partnership at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Debit and credit cards make it far more convenient to buy the things you need and love, yet the Durbin amendment has put red tape on these purchases. Check out EPC’s new video to find out how this impacts you.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Washington Loves General McMaster, But Trump Doesn’t
Eli Lake, Bloomberg View 

For the Washington establishment, President Donald Trump’s decision to make General H.R. McMaster his national security adviser in February was a masterstroke. Here is a well-respected defense intellectual, praised by both parties, lending a steady hand to a chaotic White House. The grown-ups are back.

The Kushners and Their Golden Visas
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

The Kushner family has been caught in a shameless act of name-dropping. It has been highlighting its White House connections to entice wealthy Chinese investors and promising them green cards in return under a special government visa program.

Apple’s Case for Tax Reform
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

Apple reported last week that it has amassed $256 billion in cash on its balance sheet with more than 90% parked overseas—that is, outside the grasp of U.S. tax authorities. While our friends on the left howl about corporate tax avoidance, Apple offers a case study for tax reform.

Puerto Rico Must Not Waste Its Second Chance
Michael R. Bloomberg, Bloomberg View 

For too long, Puerto Rico has been trapped in political and economic limbo. Politicians have been afraid to make tough decisions. Voters have been reluctant to face reality. Investors have been unwilling to compromise.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Do you know how the Durbin amendment affects you? Customers haven’t seen lower prices as promised by big box retailers–but that’s not all. The Electronic Payments Coalition has a new video to explain this failed policy. Watch it now.

Research Reports and Polling

All the President’s Friends: Political Access and Firm Value
Jeffrey R. Brown and Jiekun Huang, The National Bureau of Economic Research 

Using novel data on White House visitors from 2009 through 2015, we find that corporate executives’ meetings with key policymakers are associated with positive abnormal stock returns. We also find evidence suggesting that following meetings with federal government officials, firms receive more government contracts and are more likely to receive regulatory relief (as measured by the tone of regulatory news).

Conventional Wisdom May Be Contaminating Polls
Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight

Sunday’s French presidential election was the latest in a trend. The centrist candidate, Emmanuel Macron, won by a considerably wider margin than most observers predicted, with a 32-percentage-point landslide over Marine Le Pen, larger than the 24-point margin that the final polls showed.