White House Kills Infrastructure Package

“The White House formally drove a dagger into the passage this year of the kind of massive infrastructure package called for by President Trump,” Roll Call reports.

“What is on the White House’s legislative agenda for the rest of the year includes another tax package, a farm bill, more federal judiciary nominations — and possibly immigration legislation.”

“White House legislative affairs chief Marc Short told reporters Friday that infrastructure will slide into 2019. He blamed election-year politics, saying Democrats have signaled in recent conversations they are uninterested in handing Trump a victory ahead of the midterm elections.”

Israeli Election-Meddling Analysis Comes Under Scrutiny

“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have obtained a presentation prepared by an Israel-based private intelligence firm that outlines ways in which Donald Trump’s 2016 election was helped by fake news and fake social-media accounts,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Mr. Mueller’s interest in the presentation suggests his investigation is focusing on the role of social-media manipulation during the 2016 campaign… The presentation consists of nine slides and was prepared by the Psy-Group, a firm that boasts of ties to elite Israeli intelligence agencies.”

Democrats Go All-Out to Avoid Disaster in California

New York Times: “With so many Democrats running, the party’s fear is that the vote will be splintered, allowing Republicans — who have fewer candidates — to dominate some primaries. The party and allied groups are spending more than $4 million on just three campaigns, intervening in one contest to prop up a favored candidate; attacking a Republican from the right in another; and even reminding people not to waste their votes on “ghost candidates” who have dropped out yet remain on the ballot.”

“The ‘top two’ system was meant to create incentives for political moderation in a state where about a quarter of the voters are independents, but it has created immense stakes for Democrats: They need to win 23 seats to take back the House, and party officials believe the path runs through the seven competitive California districts, all of which Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.”

Where Is Melania?

“First lady Melania Trump, who spent five nights in the hospital following a kidney procedure, has been out of public view for 15 days running — an unusually long absence even for a first lady who relishes life outside the spotlight,” the Washington Post reports.

“Although medical experts have said the kind of procedure the first lady had typically requires only a night’s hospitalization, White House and East Wing aides have said nothing more about her condition and instead asked for privacy.”

Korean Leaders Meet In Effort to Salvage U.S. Talks

“North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, met unexpectedly with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea on Saturday to discuss salvaging a canceled summit meeting between Mr. Kim and President Trump, Mr. Moon’s office said, a new twist in the whirlwind of diplomacy over the fate of the North’s nuclear arsenal,” the New York Times reports.

FBI Obtained Wiretaps of Russian Who Met with Trump Jr.

“The FBI has obtained secret wiretaps collected by Spanish police of conversations involving Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of Russia’s Central Bank who has forged close ties with U.S. lawmakers and the National Rifle Association, that led to a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. during the gun lobby’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., in May 2016,” Yahoo News reports.

“José Grinda, who has spearheaded investigations into Spanish organized crime, said that bureau officials in recent months requested and were provided transcripts of wiretapped conversations between Torshin and Alexander Romanov, a convicted Russian money launderer.”

Said Grinda: “Just a few months ago, the wiretaps of these telephone conversations were given to the FBI. Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.”

Trump Agrees to Bailout Chinese Company

President Trump “said he had allowed embattled Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE Corp. to remain open despite fierce bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill, defying lawmakers who have warned that the huge technology company should be severely punished for breaking U.S. law,” the Washington Post reports.

“Sensing such a move, top Democrats and at least one Republican on Friday said the White House’s decision was tantamount to a bailout of a large Chinese company with little benefit for the United States.”

Stop Chasing Trump Down the Rabbit Hole

Paul Waldman: “You may have noticed that today’s news is not dominated by the blockbuster revelations of what members of Congress learned yesterday when they met with Justice Department officials to review information about the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, specifically the bureau’s use of a confidential informant who contacted Trump campaign officials after learning of suspicious links involving Russia.”

“Why is it that the results of that highly unusual meeting (two meetings, actually) are not splashed across every front page and dominating every minute of cable news today? Because the whole thing was a farce, and it didn’t give Republicans what they were hoping for.”

“This reveals the absurd pattern we’ve fallen into. It goes like this: President Trump makes a ridiculous accusation that almost everyone immediately understands to be false. Then we in the media, because it’s the president, treat that accusation as though it’s something that has to be taken seriously. Then governmental resources are mustered to deal with the accusation. Then Republicans try to twist the mobilization of those resources to give them the answer they’re seeking. But because it’s all based on a lie, they fail once Democrats force some measure of truth to be revealed.”

Ex-Aides Say Garrett Turned Them Into His Servants

Several former aides tell Politico that Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA) and his wife turned the congressman’s staff into personal servants, “assigning them tasks from grocery shopping to fetching the congressman’s clothes to caring for their pet dog, all during work hours.”

“The staffers said feared that if they refused Garrett or his wife’s orders — both were known for explosive tempers — they would struggle to advance in their careers. It wasn’t just full-time staff: many of the allegedly inappropriate requests were made of interns.”

Cohen Discussed Russian Relations with Oligarch

“Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen,” the New York Times reports.

“In Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump… The men also arranged to see one another at the inauguration.”

Drive to Elect Women Is Defining Democratic Primaries

David Wasserman: “Most analysis has framed this year’s multitude of Democratic primaries as struggles for the soul of the party between moderate, ‘handpicked DC’ candidates and left-wing ‘insurgents’ in the Bernie Sanders mold… But there may be something much simpler and more powerful than ideology at work here: Democratic primary voters’ intense desire to nominate women in 2018.”

“A confluence of factors has led to this Trump-driven political moment: last year’s Women’s March, the societal reckoning in the wake of ‘Me Too,’ and the enormous power of EMILY’s List to shape races by aiding female Democratic candidates’ fundraising efforts. Political scientists could debate just how significant a role each of these has played in this year’s explosion of female candidates. The data, however, is crystal clear.”