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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"Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who wrote the explosive dossier alleging ties between Donald Trump and Russia," says in a new book by The Guardian's Luke Harding that "Trump's land and hotel deals with Russians needed to be examined. ... Steele did not go into further detail, Harding said, but seemed to be referring to a 2008 home sale to the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK foreign-intelligence unit MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said in April that Trump borrowed money from Russia for his business during the 2008 financial crisis."
"The British publicist who helped set up the fateful meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016 is ready to meet with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's office, according to several people familiar with the matter. Rob Goldstone has been living in Bangkok, Thailand, but has been communicating with Mueller's office through his lawyer, said a source close to Goldstone."
"Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak said on Wednesday that it would take him more than 20 minutes to name all of the Trump officials he's met with or spoken to on the phone. ... Kislyak made the remarks in a sprawling interview with Russia-1, a popular state-owned Russian television channel."
"Rev. Jamie Johnson resigned Thursday as the head of faith-based and neighborhood partnerships at the Department of Homeland Security," following a CNN report on "inflammatory past comments he made about the black community and Islam. In past radio appearances, Johnson had said the black community was responsible for turning major U.S. cities into 'slums' and argued that Islam's only contribution to society was 'oil and dead bodies.'"
"An NBC News investigation into the Trump Ocean Club, in conjunction with Reuters, shows that" a high-end condo project in Panama, to which Donald Trump licensed his name, "was riddled with brokers, customers and investors who have been linked to drug trafficking and international crime. Ceballos, who investigated the project, went as far as to call the skyscraper 'a vehicle for money laundering.' The investigation revealed no indication that the Trump Organization or members of the Trump family engaged in any illegal activity, or knew of the criminal backgrounds of some of the project’s associates. But [they] never asked any questions about the buyers or where the money was coming from."