Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) “is taking a subtle but significant step toward a possible 2020 presidential campaign.” He met privately Thursday “with several national security and foreign policy experts. … Sources described the discussions in Columbus as the first in a series of meetings on domestic and foreign policy and aimed at keeping Kasich current in global affairs.
“Kasich, who competed unsuccessfully for last year’s GOP presidential nomination, has been one of President Donald Trump’s most persistent critics. He has not ruled out challenging Trump in a 2020 primary. He also has stirred speculation that he could run as an independent or even as part of a unity ticket with John Hickenlooper, the Democratic governor of Colorado.
Sources described “those on hand as veterans of past presidential administrations and political staffs. King Mallory, who advised Kasich’s 2016 campaign on national security issues, helped coordinate the meeting, which went on for hours throughout the day. Two of the sources acknowledged that the gathering was to help prepare Kasich for another bid, should he decide to run again. But they stressed that nothing is definite.” (BuzzFeed)
TAXES. “Senators approved a budget resolution for the 2018 fiscal year on Thursday night, setting up a rapid series of hearings and votes with the aim of getting a bill to President Trump by Christmas.
“Republicans have been meeting for weeks in closed-door sessions to debate details of the tax plan, including two half-day retreats for House members late last month. House leaders will hold two smaller-group sessions next week, scheduled to last three to four hours each.
“The speed is striking—and strategic—for tax legislation that lobbyists believe could span 1,000 pages. Republicans hope the breakneck pace will help hold their narrow Senate majority together against what will almost certainly be a deluge of lobbying and Democratic criticism.
“The last major tax overhaul, which passed in 1986, took nearly 11 months from introduction to presidential signature.” (New York Times)
CANDIDATE SEARCH. “Trump has personally interviewed at least two potential candidates for U.S. attorney positions in New York … a move that critics say raises questions about whether they can be sufficiently independent from the president.
“Trump has interviewed Geoffrey Berman, who is currently at the law firm Greenberg Traurig for the job of U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Ed McNally of the firm Kasowitz Benson Torres for the Eastern District post.”
“The Southern District of New York is an especially notable position since it has jurisdiction over Trump Tower. Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney there, has said he had been told that Trump would keep him on despite the change in administrations. Yet he was among those abruptly fired by Trump in March.” (Politico)
ETHICS RULE WAIVED. “The White House waived ethics rules for Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, allowing him to meet with political organizations he worked with previously, according to a document released Thursday.
“The undated, unsigned ‘limited waiver’ permits Nick Ayers to participate in meetings and make decisions on specific matters with former clients and employers, but doesn’t name them. Before he joined Pence’s staff, Ayers worked for President Donald Trump’s campaign, co-founded America First Policies, a nonprofit that supports Trump, and served as spokesman for Great America Committee, Pence’s leadership PAC.” (Bloomberg)
GW.BUSH. President George W. Bush “offered an unmistakable denunciation of Trumpism on Thursday without mentioning the president by name, urging citizens to oppose threats to American democracy.
“‘Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication,’ Bush warned in remarks at the Bush Institute’s Spirit of Liberty event in New York.”
“Bush has said very little publicly about the current president, or about American politics at all. Thursday’s speech, in which he detailed what he sees as the causes for democratic collapse, the path forward, and what were obvious references to Trump … was a major departure in a speech that called on a renewal of American spirit and institutions.” (Politico)
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House Chaplain Patrick Conroy’s sudden resignation has sparked a furor on Capitol Hill, with sources in both parties saying he was pushed out by Speaker Paul Ryan. Conroy’s own resignation announcement stated that it was done at Ryan’s request. ... A Democratic lawmaker said that the Speaker took issue with a prayer on the House floor that could have been perceived as being critical of the GOP tax-cut bill."
"President Donald Trump’s lawyers are seeking to determine whether special counsel Robert Mueller has an “open mind” about the Russia investigation, as they negotiate the terms of a possible interview with the president. The legal team—which last week added former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a longtime Trump ally, and Florida attorneys Jane and Marty Raskin —met with Mr. Trump this week in Washington to discuss the strategy for negotiations with Mr. Mueller going forward."
"President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, plans to assert his Fifth Amendment rights in the lawsuit filed against him by adult film star Stormy Daniels. ... Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing Cohen for defamation for suggesting that she lied about an alleged affair with President Trump."