'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Thursday, May 28

By ANNA PALMER, JAKE SHERMAN and DANIEL LIPPMAN 

Updated

2019-05-16T08:24-0400

Presented by

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) speaks to reporters on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo

DRIVING THE DAY

SPOTTED: SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-Calif.), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, walking around the Capitol with her iPhone screen facing outward in full view, and Javad Zarif’s contact page on the screen. Zarif is the name of Iran’s foreign minister.

-- TOM MENTZER, Feinstein’s comms director, in response to us asking whether the senator has been talking with Iran’s foreign minister: “I can’t comment on who the senator does or doesn’t speak with.”

-- STATEMENT from Feinstein at 2:57 p.m. Wednesday: “War isn’t necessary to solve a problem when both sides want a solution. I urge Secretary Pompeo to reach out to Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who I know doesn’t want to see a conflict with the United States.”

ABOUT THAT IRAN DRUMBEAT ...

Trump, frustrated by advisers, is not convinced the time is right to attack Iran ,” by WaPo’s John Hudson, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan: “President Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars, according to several U.S. officials. Trump prefers a diplomatic approach to resolving tensions and wants to speak directly with Iran’s leaders. …

“Trump grew angry last week and over the weekend about what he sees as warlike planning that is getting ahead of his own thinking, said a senior administration official with knowledge of conversations Trump had regarding national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“‘They are getting way out ahead of themselves, and Trump is annoyed,’ the official said. ‘There was a scramble for Bolton and Pompeo and others to get on the same page.’” WaPo

-- WHAT THE PRESIDENT IS THINKING -- @realDonaldTrump on Wednesday: “There is no infighting whatsoever. … Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision -- it is a very simple process. All sides, views, and policies are covered. I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon.”

-- HOW SOON IS SOON?: Trump is meeting with Ueli Maurer, the president of Switzerland, today in the White House. The two leaders will discuss “Switzerland’s role in facilitating diplomatic relations and other international issues,” per the White House. It seems obvious what this means: The Swiss have often served as a backchannel between the U.S. and Iran.

WSJ’S SADIE GURMAN in San Salvador, El Salvador:

“Barr Says He Isn’t Blocking Mueller’s Testimony to Congress”: “Attorney General William Barr denied he is standing in the way of special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress, after the chairman of the House panel seeking his appearance accused the Justice Department of being unwilling to set a date.

“‘It’s Bob’s call whether he wants to testify,’ Mr. Barr told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday, en route to El Salvador, a trip focused on increasing international cooperation against the violent street gang MS-13, which has roots in both Central America and the U.S. ‘I’m trying to break away from Washington and do the real work of the attorney general,’ he said.” WSJ

Good Thursday morning. COMING ATTRACTIONS -- FOX NEWS’ STEVE HILTON will interview Trump on May 19 at 9 p.m.

BREAKING ... PHILLY INQUIRER'S JONATHAN TAMARI: "Joe Biden chooses Philadelphia for 2020 presidential campaign headquarters"

IMAGINE IF OBAMA DID THIS … ROLL CALL’S JOHN DONNELLY: “Administration wants to reimburse Taliban’s travel expenses”: “The Trump administration asked Congress earlier this year for funds to reimburse Afghanistan’s Taliban for expenses the insurgent group incurs attending peace talks, according to a spokesman for the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

“The money would cover the Taliban’s costs for expenses such as transportation, lodging, food and supplies, said Kevin Spicer, spokesman for Indiana Democrat Peter J. Visclosky, in a statement for CQ Roll Call. …

“The Pentagon’s request to funnel U.S. funds to the Taliban ‘would implicate provisions of law concerning material support to terrorists, the Taliban’s ongoing offensive operations against U.S. service members, and their continuing lack of acknowledgement of the government of Afghanistan or the rights of women in Afghan society,’ said Spicer.

“Consequently, Visclosky’s panel approved on Wednesday a $690.2 billion Defense spending bill for fiscal 2020 that bars any funds for reimbursing the Taliban.” Roll Call

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ABOUT THIS NEW W.H. IMMIGRATION PLAN -- NYT’S MIKE SHEAR on

A1: “Trump Immigration Plan Emphasizes Immigrants’ Skills Over Family Ties”: “President Trump on Thursday will unveil a plan to overhaul parts of the nation’s immigration system that would impose new security measures at the border and significantly increase the educational and skills requirements for people allowed to migrate to the United States.

“The proposal … would vastly scale back the system of family-based immigration that for decades has allowed immigrants to bring their spouses and children to live with them, the officials said. In its place, the new plan would provide opportunities for immigrants who have specific skills or job offers to work in the United States, provided they can demonstrate English proficiency and educational attainment, and pass a civics exam.

“Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a White House adviser, spent months working on the plan, which will serve as a central part of Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign message. Working with him was Stephen Miller, the president’s top immigration adviser, but the plan falls short of the more extreme measures that Mr. Miller has long pressed the president to adopt and that have long been opposed by Democrats in Congress.” NYT

-- JARED’S COMPLETE WHIFF: UNLESS YOU’VE BEEN LIVING IN A CAVE for the last few years, you’d know that Democrats would summarily dismiss any immigration proposal that doesn’t include language to provide some sort of legal status for Dreamers. Kushner’s proposal does not include that.

So, he’s lost Democrats. As Shear also points out, this doesn’t bring down immigration into the U.S. -- which many Republicans have demanded.

This thing is deader than a doornail. The White House keeps saying it’s supposed to be a conversation-starter. The only conversation this will start in the Capitol is one about how goofy it is to believe this plan was even released in the first place.

OUR FRIENDS at The Washington Post chronicled earlier this week how Senate Republicans were scratching their heads on Tuesday after Jared came to talk to them (

>the story ). On Wednesday, Kushner briefed House GOP leadership and key lawmakers. We spoke to a few House GOP’ers yesterday who had less than zero interest in Jared’s immigration endeavor.

MAYBE

THIS IS A CAMPAIGN PLAY, and the strategy is to make Democrats seem intransigent and unreasonable. But Republicans aren't going to fall in line, either.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW … NBC’s @frankthorp: “Sen ⁦@LindseyGrahamSC⁩ on the difference between the WH immigration plan and his newly-unveiled immigration bill: ‘The White House’s plan is not designed to become law, this is designed to become law.’”

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TRACKING TRADE … THE PRESIDENT’S TOP LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY: “Trump’s new NAFTA back from the dead,” by Heather Caygle, Burgess Everett, and Sabrina Rodríguez: “Donald Trump’s flailing domestic agenda received a spark of life on Wednesday, with top lawmakers in both parties expressing new hope that the president’s North American trade pact could be ratified by Congress this year.

“Key officials negotiating the deal with Mexico and Canada are working both sides of the Capitol in an effort to ease concerns not only over the provisions of the pact but Trump’s ongoing tariff war with Mexico, Canada, Europe and China. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team were upbeat about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement as they left a meeting with Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s top trade official, saying that he finally seemed to take heed of their demands to modify the trade deal after weeks of the two sides mostly talking past each other.” POLITICO

OVER TO YOU, SCOTUS -- “Gov. Kay Ivey signs bill to ban abortion in Alabama,” by AL.com’s Mike Cason in Birmingham: “‘To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God,’” Ivey said in a press release. …

“The sponsors of this bill believe that it is time, once again, for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important matter, and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur.” AL.com

-- NYT’S ADAM LIPTAK: “Alabama Aims Squarely at Roe, but the Supreme Court May Prefer Glancing Blows”: “The court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is more likely to chip away at the constitutional right to abortion established in 1973 in Roe v. Wade than to overturn it outright. It will have plenty of opportunities to do so.”

-- L.A. TIMES' DAVID SAVAGE: “The Supreme Court justices will meet behind closed doors Thursday morning and are expected to debate and discuss — for the 14th time — Indiana’s appeal of court rulings that have blocked a law to prohibit certain abortions.

“The high court’s action — or so far, nonaction — in Indiana’s case gives one clue as to how the court’s conservative majority will decide the fate of abortion bans recently passed by lawmakers in Alabama and Georgia. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed her state's ban into law on Wednesday. …

“The justices have many ways to avoid such a sweeping ruling , however. And Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in his 14 years on the high court, has typically resisted moving quickly to decide major controversies or to announce abrupt, far-reaching changes in the law.

“Roberts’ history, along with the court’s handling of abortion cases in recent years, suggests he will not move to overturn the right to abortion soon, or all at once, and is particularly unlikely to do so in the next year or two with a presidential election pending.” LAT

MORE PARDONS -- “Trump pardons former business associate Conrad Black,” by Matthew Choi: “President Donald Trump on Wednesday pardoned Conrad M. Black, a friend and former business associate who wrote a flattering book about the president last year.

“Black, a Canadian-born citizen of Britain, was found guilty of mail fraud and obstruction in 2007 in a ploy to swindle millions of dollars from investors in his media company. Black served more than three years in prison and was legally barred from re-entering the United States, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. … On Wednesday, Trump also pardoned Patrick Nolan, former Republican leader of the California State Assembly.” POLITICO

-- BOTH PARDONS fit the mold with this president: They’re well-connected conservatives whose allies had been lobbying for clemency on their behalf for years. Last year, Black -- who worked with the future president on Trump Tower Chicago -- wrote an entire book praising him: “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.” In 2010, the Supreme Court ordered a review of the charges against Black with one notable exception: obstructing justice.

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2020 WATCH -- SCOOP! … With a tweet, high-school student Gabe Fleischer (@WakeUp2Politics) -- and a longtime avid Playbooker -- broke the news of Bill de Blasio’s first campaign event in Iowa, jumping ahead of the New York mayor’s announcement of his presidential run on ABC’S “Good Morning America.” A de Blasio aide then confirmed the news to … NBC.

THAT MAKES 23 Democratic presidential candidates (we’re not counting Mike Gravel).

-- MONTANA GOV. STEVE BULLOCK responded to Dems urging him to run for Senate in 2020 and not president on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show”: “This wasn’t an either-or. I was never going to run for the Senate and I do think that I have both the skills and abilities as an executive to bridge some divides.”

BTW: BULLOCK has nabbed the endorsement of Iowa’s attorney general, Tom Miller. Miller will announce his support tonight at Bullock’s Des Moines kickoff and they’ll travel the state together.

SCOOP … MAYOR PETE: “Obama admaker signs on with Buttigieg: Larry Grisolano and his firm, AKPD, are joining the South Bend mayor's 2020 campaign,” by Natasha Korecki and Daniel Strauss: POLITICO

MORE CONTEXT FROM NATASHA -- “Barack Obama’s early media strategy in 2008 included airing TV ads citing the then-senator’s work with the late Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar ‘to help lock down loose nuclear weapons.’ The ads ran early in Iowa and were meant to bolster Obama’s foreign policy chops at a time when he only had a few years as a U.S. Senator under him.

“‘I remember hazing Grisolano at the time,’ says Democratic strategist Jeff Link, who said he didn’t see the significance of the ads. ‘He’d say: ‘we have to lay this foundation. He needs a foreign policy background.’ They ran those ads for like two months. None of the numbers moved at all.’ Until they did. When Obama’s moment came, Link said, the ads worked. ‘It gave him the credibility so when they came back with the inspirational stuff,’ Obama’s numbers took off.”

TRUMP’S THURSDAY -- The president will participate in the arrival of Swiss President Ueli Maurer at 11:45 a.m. Afterward, they will meet in the Oval Office. Trump will deliver remarks on modernizing the U.S. immigration system at 2:30 p.m. in the Rose Garden. He will leave the White House at 4:15 p.m. en route to New York. He will participate in a roundtable with supporters at 6:30 p.m. followed by a joint fundraising committee dinner at 7 p.m. Afterward, he will head to Trump Tower.

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PLAYBOOK READS

PHOTO DU JOUR: President Donald Trump shakes hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as A.G. Bill Barr looks on during the 38th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Wednesday, May 15. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

ROBERT E. MNUCHIN, the Treasury secretary's dad, bought a stainless steel sculpture of a rabbit by Jeff Koons for $91.1 million, the most ever paid for a piece of work by a living artist.

The NYT story

KNOWING DAN SCAVINO … ANDREW RESTUCCIA, DANIEL LIPPMAN and

ELIANA JOHNSON:

“‘Get Scavino in here’: Trump’s Twitter guru is the ultimate insider”: “Shortly after President Donald Trump announced plans to yank U.S. troops out of Syria last December, a group of lawmakers came to the White House to talk him out of the idea, which critics called a threat to national security. Trump responded by calling in the man who oversees his Twitter account. ‘Get Dan Scavino in here,’ Trump called out in the middle of the meeting earlier this year. ...

“‘Tell them how popular my policy is,’ Trump instructed Scavino, who … proceeded to walk lawmakers through the positive reaction he had picked up on social media about Trump’s Syria decision.” POLITICO

WAPO’S PAUL KANE in Glenside, Pa.:

“Two Democrats from Pennsylvania exemplify the diversity of the freshman class”

SWAMP WATCH … THEO MEYER: “John Weaver, the top strategist for John Kasich’s presidential campaign in 2016, has registered as a foreign agent and plans to lobby against potential sanctions on Russia. Weaver signed a contract last month to lobby on behalf of the Tenam Corporation, a subsidiary of Rosatom, the Russian state-owned nuclear energy company.” POLITICO

BIG DOWN UNDER: “‘That’s Just Insane’: Australia’s Secret Deal to Take In Rwandan Guerrillas,” by Josh Gerstein in POLITICO Magazine

-- “Australia’s secret U.S. refugee deal faces blowback from victims, Kiwis,” by Zoya Sheftalovich and Josh Gerstein: “Revelations that Australia resettled Rwandans accused of murdering tourists after the U.S. agreed to take in refugees being held in Australia’s controversial offshore refugee centers are likely to send shockwaves through the country as it heads to the polls Saturday, and strain relations with neighboring New Zealand.”

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PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION -- “Jefferson Davis Highway name changed in Arlington,” by WTOP’s Max Smith

VALLEY TALK -- “Trump signs order to protect U.S. networks from foreign espionage, a move that appears to target China,” by WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima and Josh Dawsey:

“Amid a deepening trade war with China, President Trump on Wednesday declared a ‘national emergency’ to protect U.S. communications networks in a move that gives the federal government broad powers to bar American companies from doing business with certain foreign suppliers — including the Chinese firm Huawei.

“Trump declared the emergency in the form of an executive order that says foreign adversaries are exploiting vulnerabilities in U.S. telecommunications technology and services. It points to economic and industrial espionage as areas of particular concern.”

WaPo

>The executive order

-- The White House launched an online tool for Americans to report censorship on social media. “No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump,” the site reads. White House

>More from Steven Overly and Alexandra Levine

MEDIAWATCH -- BEN SCHRECKINGER ON THE ‘HUMAN EVENTS’ REBOOT: “A High-Brow Breitbart Wants to Become the New Home of Trumpism”

-- FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: BILL PRESS is ending his progressive morning radio show “The Bill Press Show” after 14 years on air. His last daily show is Friday, May 31, but he’s launching a new podcast the first week of June, focused on 2020 Democratic primary.

-- CNN’s Maegan Vazquez (@maeganvaz): “The White House hasn’t held press briefing in so long that the lectern in the briefing room is quite literally gathering dust.”

>Pic

-- Vanity Fair has released its complete archive online since the magazine started 106 years ago. The archive will be free through June 30th, but then will become accessible to subscribers only.

>The archive

-- Shirley Henry will become chief Washington editor at NPR. She most recently was deputy Washington editor and is also a CNN alum.

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PLAYBOOKERS

A memorial service for

FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN ELLEN TAUSCHER (D-Calif.) will be held at 10 a.m. next Monday at the Washington National Cathedral, with a buffet reception to follow at Cafe Milano from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

SPOTTED: Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) coming out yesterday of one of the box suites on the 200 level at Nationals Park … Biden alums and fundraisers Larry Rasky, Chris Putala and Claire DeMatteis at lunch at Tosca.

OUT AND ABOUT -- SPOTTED at a dinner last night in honor of White House Historical Association that President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump hosted: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Hilary Ross, Fred and Genny Ryan, David Rubenstein, John and Amanda Waldron John F.W. Rogers and Deborah Lehr, Teresa Carlson, Alan and Ashley Dabbiere, Diana Davis Spencer, Abby Moffat, Rhett Wilson, Claire Dwoskin, Marilyn and James Hewson, Tham Kannalikham, Keith and Metta Krach, Ling and Vicki Kwok, Stewart McLaurin, Mary Mochary, Linda Powers, Marlyne and Nicole Sexton and Steve and Andrea Strawn.

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), now a senior legislative advisor at McDermott Will & Emery, is 74.

A fun fact about Jim: “My father while serving as a commander in the Navy during WW2 was the heavyweight boxing champ of the South and played professional football for the Redskins. Other than an exhibition match with Joe Frazier, his first born son was a dismal failure in his effort to follow in his father’s footsteps.”

Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Tucker Carlson is 5-0 … Colleen McCain Nelson ... Christine Delargy (hat tips: Kiki Burger, Kimball Stroud and Nick Massella) ... DNI Dan Coats is 76 ... Bob Edwards ... Jeff Bechdel, chief content officer for America Rising PAC (h/t wife Riley) ... entrepreneur Bill Rancic is 48 ... Jan Angilella ... Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) is 71 ... former U.S. Sen. and Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker is 88 (h/t John Mihalec) ... Mike Long is 33 ... Kate Keane, partner at Perkins Coie’s Political Law Group ... AP’s Steve Braun ... Elizabeth Livengood ... Sara Just, PBS NewsHour EP and SVP ... Emily Aden ... Kathy Davidov (h/t Jon Haber) ... Minyon Moore ... Jay Perron ... Alana Wilson ... Jake Sticka is 28 ... David Suissa ... Aby Rosen is 59 ... Todd Williamson, VP at SKDKnickerbocker … Bernard W. Aronson is 73 ... Andy Lack is 72 ...

… Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow in foreign policy at Brookings, is 58 ... Cathy Reynolds … Drew Shenkman ... Ashley Highland (h/t Zack Roday) ... Edgar Bronfman Jr. is 64 ... Charles Kushner is 65 ... Marissa Lorenzetti of the Madison Group (h/t Robb Watters) … Kevin McCarthy of NYC ... Richard N. Gottfried is 72 ... Julia Barfield of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation ... David Aurelius ... Jordan Sugar-Carlsgaard ... Ben Nathanson ... Andie Pivarunas … Salesforce’s Luke Lancaster (h/t wife Lily) ... Amazon’s Jodi Seth … Patrick Delaney … Bobby Frederick ... Miguel Solis is 33 ... David Levey ... Olivia Kelley Delgado ... Carolyn McCulley ... Stephan Cesarini ... Randy Johnson ... Gabe Beltrone … David Meadvin ... Michael Wear ... Jessica Garcia Davis ... Natalie Epelman ... Matt Shiraki ... Jamie Ruff ... Jonathan Schleifer.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this Playbook misstated Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) position on the Senate Intelligence Committee. She is the former top Democrat.

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