POLITICO Playbook: Pelosi locks up support of another would-be rival

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POLITICO Playbook: Pelosi locks up support of another would-be rival

ANOTHER RIVAL JUMPS ON BOARD TEAM PELOSI … LATE YESTERDAY, REP. MARCIA FUDGE (D-OHIO) endorsed NANCY PELOSI for speaker. Fudge toyed with a run for the chamber’s top job after the election, and was seen as a prime choice for the Never-Pelosi’ers. In fact, in recent days, members of the “rebel” faction told us that they thought Fudge was getting closer to running against Pelosi. Instead, she became a Pelosi booster.

YES, Pelosi has a math problem in that more than a half dozen Democrats have said they don’t want to vote for her. But Pelosi is continuing to rack up support and dole out largesse — leadership roles in the caucus are attractive perks. THE FLOOR VOTE for speaker is 43 days away.

— HEATHER CAYGLE and JOHN BRESNAHAN: “Fudge’s endorsement is a significant blow to efforts by more than a dozen current and incoming Democrats to oust Pelosi, who has ruled over the caucus for the last 16 years. Fudge’s backing leaves the rebel faction without a potential challenger against the longtime Democratic leader.

“At the same time Fudge announced her support, Pelosi’s office released a statement naming the Ohio Democrat chairwoman of a House subcommittee overseeing elections in the next Congress. Fudge said Pelosi had promised her an opportunity to work to protect voting rights and assured her that ‘the most loyal voting bloc in the Democratic Party, black women, will have a seat at the decision-making table.’” POLITICO

— PEOPLE GETTING WORN DOWN: CNN’S MANU RAJU and ANNIE GRAYER: “Freshmen Democrats feel the squeeze as Pelosi fight intensifies”: “As Gil Cisneros completed a Democratic sweep of Orange County, the incoming House freshman fielded a phone call from a person heavily invested in his victory.

“It was Nancy Pelosi. The House Democratic leader congratulated her fellow California Democrat in a warm phone call for a hard-fought victory in what used to be reliably Republican terrain. ‘I told her, ‘Thank you very much for calling’ and that was pretty much it,’ Cisneros told CNN. ‘And we’ll probably talk later.’ Indeed, they probably will.

“Cisneros is one of 12 incoming freshmen Democrats who vowed on the campaign trail to back new leadership in the new Congress, distancing themselves from Pelosi whom the GOP vilified in nearly $100 million worth of ads throughout the country. … ‘Right now, I’m just focusing on talking to my constituents — focusing on spending time with my family with Thanksgiving coming up,’ Cisneros said when asked if he’d support Pelosi on the floor.

“‘And then after that, I’ll start talking to people about what’s going to happen and how we’re going to vote.’ While Cisneros says, ‘I still believe it’s time for new leadership — it’s a time to hear new voices,’ he also says he hasn’t made a decision on how he’ll vote on the floor.” CNN

— OBAMA WEIGHS IN ON ‘THE AXE FILES’ — “Her stamina, her ability to see around corners, her ability to stand her ground and do hard things and to suffer unpopularity to get the right thing done, I think, stands up against any person that I’ve observed or worked directly with in Washington during my lifetime.” CNN

PELOSI also sent a “Dear Colleague” letter late last night recommending the caucus create a new position — “Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.” This is in addition to the three co-chairs, which were recently filled by Reps. Cheri Bustos (Ill.), David Cicilline (R.I.) and Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.).

“This change also reflects similar modifications that Senate Democrats are currently advancing,” Pelosi writes. “This enhancement to the DPCC will position House Democrats to best take advantage of the new size and diversity of our Caucus, bringing greater resources and staffing to this vital Committee.”

CREATING AN ADDITIONAL leadership slot will help give more lawmakers opportunity atop the party — alleviating a concern of some Democrats.

NEW POLITICO/MORNING CONSULT POLL — STEVE SHEPARD: “By a 2-to-1 margin, Democratic voters want Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to be House speaker in the new Congress, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult survey.

“Far more Democratic voters (48 percent) want Pelosi to be speaker next year than say she shouldn’t be speaker (22 percent), a result that’s in line with a handful of other polls conducted in the wake of an historic Democratic victory in last week’s midterm elections.” POLITICO

SHUTDOWN WATCH … WHERE THINGS STAND: “Stalemate on Trump’s wall amid threat of shutdown,” by Burgess Everett: “Congress just can’t help itself: With a partial government shutdown potentially two weeks away, Democrats and Republicans are dug in, each side upping its demands and vowing not to buckle to the other.

“President Donald Trump is pressuring Republicans to obtain at least $5 billion for his border wall, far more than what Senate Democrats are prepared to give. Democrats in turn are considering pushes for legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller and the elimination of a citizenship question from the next census, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

“Meanwhile House Democrats are embroiled in a divisive leadership fight, limiting the energy that Nancy Pelosi can devote to the year-end spending negotiations. And House Republicans, set to enter the minority in just a month and a half, recognize this is their last chance to get a down payment for Trump’s wall before entering legislative obscurity.” POLITICO

SHOWDOWN OVER KHASHOGGI … BURGESS EVERETT: “Senators demand Trump say whether Saudi prince ordered Khashoggi killing,”: “The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is demanding a definitive determination from President Donald Trump about whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“In a letter to Trump, the panel’s chairman, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and ranking member, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), specifically asked on Tuesday whether the administration believed that bin Salman was involved in the murder of Khashoggi, who wrote for The Washington Post and was killed in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, last month. Trump gave no ruling on bin Salman’s involvement in a statement earlier Tuesday that largely sided with Saudi Arabia, declaring that ‘maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!’

“But under the Magnitsky Act, Trump can be required to make a determination about human rights violations by global leaders. The law requires the president to do so within 120 days of the committee’s request, as well as apply any sanctions. Corker and Menendez made their first request on Oct. 10, without specifically asking about bin Salman.” POLITICO

— NYT’S MARK MAZZETTI in D.C. and BEN HUBBARD in Beirut: “President Trump has long viewed foreign policy as a series of business deals, stripped of values and idealism. But his 633-word statement on Tuesday about the brutal killing of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi showed the extent to which he believes that raw, mercantilist calculations should guide the United States’ decisions about the Middle East and the wider world.

“Mr. Trump made clear that he sees alliances as transactional, based on which foreign partners buy the most weapons. American jobs outweigh American values. And all countries act abhorrently, so an American president should never hold friends to different standards than enemies.

“Tuesday’s message could become something of a blueprint for foreign leaders — a guide to how they might increase their standing in the eyes of the American president as well as how far they can go in crushing domestic critics without raising American ire.” NYT

“Saudi Arabia Accused of Torturing Women’s-Rights Activists in Widening Crackdown on Dissent,” by WSJ’s Margherita Stancati in Beirut and Summer Said in Dubai

Good Wednesday morning. Happy getaway day. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP tweeted last night that he is considering attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner after skipping it last year.

— @realDonaldTrump at 10:43 p.m.: “So-called comedian Michelle Wolf bombed so badly last year at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner that this year, for the first time in decades, they will have an author instead of a comedian. Good first step in comeback of a dying evening and tradition! Maybe I will go?”

THE PRESIDENT has no public events scheduled today. He is at Mar-a-Lago. Photos of Ivanka and Tiffany landing at Palm Beach International

BIG CHANGES DOWNTOWN … THE U.S. CHAMBER GOES “BUSINESS CASUAL” — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a staff email Tuesday announcing its plan to introduce a “year-round business casual dress code,” effective January 2019. “This approach provides you with the opportunity to dress more comfortably but still project a business-like demeanor. It’s important to remember that your dress is a reflection of your personal brand as well as representative of the Chamber … Remember, your sound judgment is the best initial measure of proper attire.” The 2-page policy

NYT’s MIKE SCHMIDT and MAGGIE HABERMAN: “Trump Wanted to Order Justice Dept. to Prosecute Comey and Clinton”: “President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

“The lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.

“The encounter was one of the most blatant examples yet of how Mr. Trump views the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies.” NYT

THE INVESTIGATIONS …

— DARREN SAMUELSOHN: “Mueller got some answers, but he’s not done with Trump,”: “President Donald Trump on Tuesday finally submitted a set of written responses to Robert Mueller, signaling that he was done for good with the special counsel’s questions. But Mueller is far from done with him.

“The special counsel still wants to question the president over his actions while in the White House — Tuesday’s answers only covered Russian hacking during the 2016 election. It’s a fight that could result in a historic subpoena and eventual Supreme Court ruling, pulling a defiant Trump into a legal squabble that could set groundbreaking precedent for presidential investigations for years to come. Depending on how the battle plays out, House Democrats may even try and pounce and launch impeachment proceedings.

“Things could get explosive fast. Next comes the perilous round of negotiations between Trump’s lawyers and Mueller’s prosecutors covering topics like Trump’s intentions when firing FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. That line of questioning — which Trump says he shouldn’t have to answer — is tied to Mueller’s ongoing obstruction of justice investigation.” POLITICO

IN MISSISSIPPI … JAMES ARKIN: “Hyde-Smith apologizes ‘to anyone offended’ by public hanging remark,”: “Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith offered her first qualified apology Tuesday to “anyone that was offended” by her remark that she would gladly attend a “public hanging” if one of her supporters invited her.

“In the lone public debate of the runoff Senate election between Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy, the Republican senator said she meant no ill will by her remark, which she said was made to express her deep regard for a young supporter. But then she accused Democrats of distorting her comment, which was caught on video, for political gain.

“‘My comments [did not] mean I would enjoy any type of capital punishment sitting there witnessing this. You know, for anyone that was offended by my comments, I certainly apologize. There was no ill will, no intent whatsoever in my statements,’ she said. But Hyde-Smith added, ‘This comment was twisted and it was turned into a weapon to be used against me. A political weapon used for nothing but personal and political gain by my opponent,’ Hyde-Smith said.” POLITICO

“Embattled Hyde-Smith posted photo of herself in Confederate hat,” by James Arkin and Matthew Choi

BBC SITS DOWN WITH CINDY MCCAIN — Where she talked about the future of the Republican Party — “We’re the party of Abraham Lincoln, so I cannot believe that this party is just going to go away. It won’t. But we have to learn from our mistakes, and lick our wounds, and start again.” McCain also wouldn’t commit to voting for Trump: “I can’t answer that right now, I really am not, I think at this point I’d like to see, I’d like to see some, ah, some softening of the rhetoric. It’s hard, it’s hurtful.” Full interview airs tonight at 5 p.m. on World News America

NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT — “Conservative nonprofit with obscure roots and undisclosed funders paid Matthew Whitaker $1.2 million,” by WaPo’s Robert O’Harrow Jr., Shawn Boburg and Aaron C. Davis: “In the three years after he arrived in Washington in 2014, Matthew G. Whitaker received more than $1.2 million as the leader of a charity that reported having no other employees, some of the best pay of his career. … In its application to the IRS for status as a tax-exempt organization, the organizers reported that the group would study the impact of environmental regulations on businesses, records show.

“In that incarnation, the group took no action and ‘only existed on paper,’ one man named in IRS filings as a board member told The Washington Post. Another named in a state filing as a board member said he never agreed to be on the board.” WaPo

BANNON’S LATEST HOBBY — “Steve Bannon, Chinese Critic Create Fund to Investigate Beijing,” by WSJ’s Cezary Podkul and Brian Spegele: “President Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon is teaming up with one of the Chinese government’s fiercest critics on a $100 million effort to investigate what they view as abuses of power by President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party. …

“[E]xiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui … said he would provide the funding for the so-called ‘Rule of Law Fund’ to investigate deaths and disappearances of Chinese executives, politicians and other public figures. Mr. Bannon said he would volunteer to serve as the fund’s chairman and oversee its operations, which he said would include hiring a professional staff.” WSJ

MEDIAWATCH — “Megyn Kelly Nears Deal to Leave NBC News With Entirety of $69 Million Contract,” by WSJ’s Keach Hagey and Joe Flint: “Megyn Kelly is expected to walk away from Comcast Corp.’s NBC News with more than $30 million—the full value left on the three-year, $69 million contract with the network, according to people familiar with the matter.” WSJ

— “BuzzFeed Is Ending Forced Arbitration Policy For Sexual Harassment Claims Following Inquiries,” by BuzzFeed’s Davey Alba: “[M]andatory arbitration … prevents workers from airing their grievances in open court … In the course of reporting on other technology giants, BuzzFeed News learned that BuzzFeed required its own employees to resolve their complaints in arbitration; an arbitration clause has been included in BuzzFeed contracts going back to at least 2013, according to employee contracts reviewed by BuzzFeed News.” BuzzFeed

— THE ATLANTIC’s ELAINA PLOTT and NYT’s LISA LERER are now CNN political analysts.

SPOTTED at Loring Place in Greenwich Village last night: Chelsea Clinton and her husband Marc Mezvinsky eating tapas … Susan Rice flying in first class on Tuesday with her husband and kids from DCA to PHX on American Airlines 685 … Boris Epshteyn taking the Acela from DC to NYC at 10 a.m. Pic

SPOTTED at D.C. photographer Tony Powell’s 50th birthday party last night at Cafe Milano with a happy birthday by Maestro Phillips Auguin, and toasts by Annie Totah, Katherine Bradley, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, John Arundel, Soroush Shehabi and a D.C. proclamation by Jack Evans: Franco Nuschese, Jane Cafritz and Buffy Cafritz, David Bradley, Jack and Susanna Quinn. …

… Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar, Kosovo Ambassador Vlora Citaku, Roxanne Roberts, Kevin Chafee, Kathy Kemper and Jim Valentine, Nancy Bagley, Stuart and Gwen Holiday, Barby Allbritton and Dr. Elena Allbritton, Ambassador Lloyd and Ann Hand, Susan Blumenthal and Lyndon Boozer.

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Tina Brown, founder and CEO of Tina Brown Live Media/Women in the World. A trend she thinks deserves more attention: “The hideous misogyny of social media. I recently learned about a 16 year-old South Sudanese girl auctioned for marriage on Facebook. The leading bidder offered 500 cows and three cars for her.” Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Bloomberg’s Max Abelson is 34 … Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is 74 … Christopher “Gindy” Gindlesperger, SVP of public affairs and comms at the National Confectioners Association … Inside Defense’s Mallory Shelbourne (hat tip: Katherine Finnerty) … POLITICO Europe’s Kalina Oroschakoff … Matt Kehres … RGA’s John Burke (h/t Olivia Perez-Cubas) … DNC’s Colby Moore is 26 … ABC News’ political director Rick Klein is 42 (h/ts Jonathan Karl and Devin Dwyer) … Anthony Randazzo, executive director of Equable Institute … Jon Adams (h/t Zac Moffatt) … Joanna Liberman Turner … James Braid, policy director for House Freedom Caucus (h/ts Andrew Bell and Alex Vargo) … POLITICO’s Judah Taylor … Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) is 67 … Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) is 57 … Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) is 54 … Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) is 48 … former Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) is 62 …

… NYU’s Mitchell Moss (h/t Tammy Haddad) … Capri Cafaro, executive in residence at AU’s School of Public Affairs (h/t Janet Donovan) … Gurwin Singh Ahuja … Edelman’s Alexis Weiss … Patrice Franko is 6-0 (h/t Sandy Maisel) … T.J. Tatum, VP at Sard Verbinnen … Valerie Berlin of BerlinRosen … Gabriel Panek … Chelsea Hawker … Jasmine Mora … Lauren Cowin … Lloyd Miller … Dave Boomer is 62 … George Zimmer … Nathan Isbell is 56 … Carl S. Ey is 52 … Jack Vaughn … Michael Donohue … Peter Dodge … Sarah Courtney … Shawna Shepherd of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” … Matt Martinelli is 36 … Michael Lipson … David Culver … Evan Allen … Kyle Nevins … Betsy Dudley … John Stocks, executive director of the NEA … Susan Wicks … Brian Spahn … Diane Liepa.

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