“In the months before” former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen “was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on … preparing for new and different Russian forms of interference in the 2020 election.” White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney “told her not to bring it up in front of” President Trump and “made it clear” in a meeting that Trump “still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it ‘wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.’”
“Even though the Department of Homeland Security has primary responsibility for civilian cyberdefense, Ms. Nielsen eventually gave up on her effort to organize a White House meeting of cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect next year’s elections. As a result, the issue did not gain the urgency or widespread attention that a president can command. And it meant that many Americans remain unaware of the latest versions of Russian interference.” (New York Times)
PENNSYLVANIA. “Senior Trump 2020 advisers are headed to Harrisburg on Wednesday to meet with Pennsylvania GOP officials amid mounting concerns about the president’s prospects in the critical battleground state. ... Compounding the” midterm losses “is a state party organization riven by turmoil and infighting.
“The private meeting underscores the high stakes for the president in the state. Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 1 percentage point in 2016, and reelection aides view the state’s 20 electoral votes as crucial to his 2020 hopes. Pennsylvania also has symbolic significance: In 2016, Trump geared his campaign toward the state’s large proportion of blue-collar voters, many of whom had traditionally voted Democratic.
“The Trump contingent is expected to include political director Chris Carr, who is orchestrating the campaign’s national field deployment, as well as Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, who are overseeing outreach to delegates and state party organizations. Republican National Committee officials are also expected to attend.
“The meeting is the first of what Trump aides say will be a series of visits to battleground states. The fact that Pennsylvania is the first stop underscores the state’s importance, they say — and the level of concern about it.” (Politico)
CORKER. "Former Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said Tuesday that the country would benefit from a formidable primary challenger to” Trump.
Corker: “You could look at it and say that it would be a good thing for our country should that occur. If you had a real primary, where you had someone that was really being listened to, and of substance, things that we were talking about — and I could go through a list of them — they would actually be debated in a real way.”
“But Corker warned that if Trump faced a less threatening opponent, no one would pay attention.” (Politico)
KUSHNER. White House senior adviser Jared Kushner “said Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation was worse for the country than Russian electoral interference, which he downplayed as "a couple of Facebook ads."
Kushner: “You look at what Russia did, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it, and it’s a terrible thing. But I think the investigations and all of the speculation that’s happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads." (NBC News)
WELD. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld (R) “is not likely to become our 46th president. But he was here in New Hampshire, no other Republicans were and that was something.”
“He was the only Republican candidate who had announced his exploratory plans — he would officially declare his candidacy in April—to run against” Trump i”n the 2020 Republican primary. This made him the lone official vehicle for the aspirations of a persistent group of Never Trump Republicans. For the better part of two years, they had waited for a premium primary challenger to come along from a fantasy field of Nikki Haleys, Ben Sasses and Mitt Romneys—all of whom eventually opted out of running. Even Weld seemed disappointed by this.” (New York Times)