TRUMP AGENDA: Secret meetings
The big news from late yesterday: “Blackwater founder Erik Prince represented Donald Trump at a secret overseas meeting convened by the United Arab Emirates in early January, two intelligence sources familiar with the matter told NBC News. The meeting was first reported by the Washington Post, which said that Prince met with an unnamed Russian emissary close to Vladimir Putin. The Post said the meeting was an effort to convince Russia to stop backing Iran.”
More, from the Washington Post report: “Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian. Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.”
And now this: “Carter Page, the energy industry consultant who was linked last year to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, is the unnamed man identified in a federal complaint as having met with a Russian intelligence agent four years ago, Page himself revealed on Monday. Page confirmed his role in the 2013 FBI investigation to NBC News after ABC News and Buzzfeed identified him as a subject called "Male 1" in a criminal complaint filed in 2015 against Evgeny Buryakov, an undercover agent posing as a Russian bank executive in New York.” MORE: “The 2015 criminal complaint details a secretly recorded conversation among the three Russians discussing their attempts to recruit Male 1 — that is, Page — on April 8, 2013. The conversation alludes to email messages exchanged between Page and one of the Russians, identified as Victor Podobnyy.”
From the New York Times: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a sweeping review of federal agreements with dozens of law enforcement agencies, an examination that reflects President Trump’s emphasis on law and order and could lead to a retreat on consent decrees with troubled police departments nationwide.”
The Washington Post looks at Jared Kushner’s trip to Iraq and what it tells us about his “singular and almost untouchable role” in the White House.
From the Wall Street Journal: “Foreigners who want to visit the U.S., even for a short trip, could be forced to disclose contacts on their mobile phones, social-media passwords and financial records, and to answer probing questions about their ideology, according to Trump administration officials conducting a review of vetting procedures. The administration also wants to subject more visa applicants to intense security reviews and have embassies spend more time interviewing each applicant. The changes could apply to people from all over the world, including allies like France and Germany.”
“Newly released records show the trust agreement that Donald Trump used to put his adult sons in charge of his company allows him to draw money from it upon his request, illustrating the thin divide between the president and his private fortune,” notes the Washington Post. “The filing, first reported by ProPublica and found on Page 161 of 166 of a bundle of documents released last week by the General Services Administration, says the trust that owns hundreds of Trump businesses “shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request,” or whenever his son and a longtime employee “deem appropriate.”
CONGRESS: The Gorsuch fight
What's next for the Supreme Court fight? The New York Times takes a look at what might be happening behind the scenes.
And the Wall Street Journal: “An acrimonious Senate floor battle over the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is set to begin Tuesday when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to use a procedural tool to limit debate on the nomination to 30 hours. That, in turn, will set off a series of moves and countermoves by the two parties that is likely to end with Mr. Gorsuch’s confirmation Friday. But the skirmishing could also leave behind a residue of ill-will that senators of both parties say could be hard to move past in the traditionally collegial Senate.”
And there’s more movement on health care. From NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell: “Hours after President Donald Trump told NBC News that he was serious about reaching a deal on health care with members of his party, Vice President Mike Pence headed to Capitol Hill Monday night armed with a compromise proposal for the House conservatives who had helped doom the Republican health care bill a little more than a week ago. Details of the proposal emerged after Pence met with moderate Republican members at the White House earlier in the evening on Monday. The administration is trying to hash out a compromise on insurance regulations, a component of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the failed GOP health care bill to partially repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, that caused one of the biggest splits between moderate and conservative Republicans.”
OFF TO THE RACES: Recruiting vets
POLITICO notes that Democrats are trying to recruit veterans for 2018.
GA-06: New York Magazine notes that the White House – and particularly Steve Bannon – is keeping a close ee on the special election.
Republicans are doubling down on linking Democrat Jon Ossoff to Nancy Pelosi.
The Washington Post fact-checks Ossoff’s claims of a resume heavy on national security experience.
MT-AL: Democrat Rob Quist is expected to launch his first TV ad today.