SUNDAY BEST … CHRIS WALLACE ASKS KELLYANNE CONWAY ABOUT GEORGE ON “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: WALLACE: “Do you think he’s cyber bullying you to try to get you to quit? Do you think he’s jealous of your high profile?”
CONWAY: “Some people think that and that, they certainly do. My first line of protection in this world is and will always be my four children. And so I don’t really like to discuss this publicly. What I will tell you is that George was very supportive of President Trump. Cried on election night in his MAGA hat, blocks away from here at the Hilton in New York. Wanted to take a job in the Trump administration and changed his mind.
“And was a guest of the president and the first lady months after he withdrew himself from consideration at the White House and when he withdrew his name he said that he would still support the president’s agenda and ‘his wonderful wife’s’ work.” The clip
— MARK LEIBOVICH in the NYT Sunday Review: “We’re All Stuck Inside George and Kellyanne’s Marriage”
SNEAK PEEK … THE PRESIDENT’S WEEK … Monday: TRUMP will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have lunch with VP Mike Pence and then speak at the Prison Reform Summit. Tuesday: The president will meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and speak at the NRCC spring dinner. …
… Wednesday: THE PRESIDENT will meet and have dinner with senior military leaders. Thursday: Trump will meet with the “White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council.” Friday: TRUMP is going to Calexico, Calif., Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Calexico is a border visit. The president will have a fundraiser in L.A. And Trump will address the RJC meeting on Saturday.
ANOTHER BIDEN STATEMENT … “In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.
“I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will.
“I will also remain the strongest advocate I can be for the rights of women. I will fight to build on the work I’ve done in my career to end violence against women and ensure women are treated with the equality they deserve. I will continue to surround myself with trusted women advisers who challenge me to see different perspectives than my own. And I will continue to speak out on these vitally-important issues where there is much more progress to be made and crucial fights that must be waged and won.”
CNN’S JAKE TAPPER spoke to LUCY FLORES on “STATE OF THE UNION”: FLORES: “Well, I certainly think that [the statement] is better than his first statement that they released on Saturday. I’m glad that he’s willing to listen. I’m glad that he is clarifying his intentions. Frankly, my point was never about his intentions. And they shouldn’t be about his intentions. It should be about the women on the receiving end of that behavior. And this isn’t the first time and it wasn’t the only incident where he was acting inappropriately with women.”
MARC CAPUTO, “Biden blindsided by dose of 2020 reality”: “Joe Biden is enduring the roughest stretch of any candidate in the Democratic presidential primary, and he’s not even a candidate yet. In a two-week period where his attempts to smooth a path into the 2020 race only seemed to underscore the obstacles confronting his prospective candidacy, the former vice president got a concentrated dose of what’s in store for him if he chooses to embark on a third run for the White House. …
“[T]he rise of the #MeToo movement, and a trove of videos and photos have placed Biden under fresh scrutiny. While Biden’s Democratic critics make sure to add that there’s no comparison with the record of President Trump — who has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and once said in a hot-mic moment that he could grab and kiss women because ‘when you’re a star, they let you do it’ — they also concede the focus on Biden’s overly familiar style will make it more difficult to draw a sharp contrast with Trump.” POLITICO
ISAAC DOVERE in The Atlantic, “Joe Biden’s Campaign-in-Waiting Isn’t Ready for #MeToo Accusations”: “Here’s how an incident such as the Flores story might have played out, had there been a Biden campaign in place, in ways that are standard in presidential politics though rarely discussed publicly: Potentially even before the story ran but certainly as soon as it did, reporters covering the campaign closely would have heard from an aide, offering rebuttals and context.
“Maybe the aide would have pointed out that Flores was a prominent Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016, and a board member of his allied group Our Revolution until resigning last year, or that she spent Saturday morning in El Paso at the kickoff rally for Beto O’Rourke.
“Maybe the aide would have helped connect reporters with people who were also there that day at the Latino Victory Project event in Las Vegas, several of whom have been talking with one another since the story ran and questioning whether what Flores wrote could be true, because she was never alone with Biden, according to one of the people who’s been in the discussions.” The Atlantic
— CNN’S MANU RAJU (@mkraju): “First real shots fired of campaign. Warren says she believes Lucy Flores who accused Biden of inappropriate behavior. ‘I read the op-ed [Friday] night. I believe Lucy Flores and Joe Biden needs to give an answer.’ Asked if he should run, Warren: ‘That’s for Joe Biden to decide.’”
WALLACE and KELLYANNE CONWAY on “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: CONWAY: “If anyone just types in ‘creepy Uncle Joe videos’ you come up with a treasure trove. … I think Joe Biden has a big problem here because he calls it affection and handshakes, his party calls it completely inappropriate.”
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-ILL.) to CHUCK TODD on NBC’S “MEET THE PRESS”: DURBIN: “I know nothing about the allegations … I think all of us should take such allegations seriously and with respect. I took Joe Biden’s statement to say just that exactly. So yes, I think he’s ready if that’s his decision to move forward in this presidential campaign. …” TODD: “So this isn’t disqualifying?” DURBIN: “Certainly one allegation is not disqualifying, but it should be taken seriously.”
— SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MINN.) to JON KARL on ABC’S “THIS WEEK”: KLOBUCHAR: “I have not read her interview but I know the vice president addressed it there in that statement and he will continue to address it if he decides to get into this race.”
JAKE TAPPER spoke with MICK MULVANEY on CNN’S “STATE OF THE UNION”: TAPPER: “Where’s the [health care] plan?” MULVANEY: “We are doing the same thing on this that we did with taxes. Remember when we started with taxes, people criticized us for not giving enough detail. What did we do? We sent principles to the Hill, I think it was one or two pages, and from that following the proper legislative process, we got a tremendous tax bill that passed into law.”
— THIS IS NOT EVEN CLOSE to a legitimate parallel. The Hill was completely bought into moving a tax-reform bill, and is not really interested in health care reform at the moment. Furthermore, Trump’s party controlled all of Congress when they passed tax reform.
— NYT’S ROSS DOUTHAT: “The Mick Mulvaney Presidency: How an imaginary version of the Trump administration might make the real one lose in 2020.”
AOC AND PRESSLEY VS. THE DEM LEADERSHIP … @AOC on Saturday at 5:13 p.m.: “The @dccc’s new rule to blacklist+boycott anyone who does business w/ primary challengers is extremely divisive & harmful to the party. My recommendation, if you’re a small-dollar donor: pause your donations to DCCC & give directly to swing candidates instead.” Twitter thread from Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)
MIAMI HERALD FRONT PAGE: “How Charlottesville march enabled Yang to market Mar-a-Lago in China” … Miami Herald A1
PERIL IN INVESTIGATING FOR DEMOCRATS … WAPO’S SCOTT CLEMENT and KAROUN DEMIRJIAN: “The Post-Schar School poll also shows there is now less overall support for Democrats’ investigating obstruction-of-justice claims against Trump than there was for investigations of Russia-related issues earlier this year. Just under half, 49 percent, say House Democrats should continue to investigate whether Trump interfered with the Russia investigation, while 48 percent say Democrats should stop investigating this issue.” WaPo
SCOOP — “Trump Fed pick was held in contempt for failing to pay ex-wife over $300,000,” by The Guardian’s Jon Swaine in New York and David Smith in D.C.: “Court records in Virginia obtained by the Guardian show Moore, 59, was reprimanded by a judge in November 2012 for failing to pay Allison Moore more than $300,000 in spousal support, child support and money owed under their divorce settlement.
“Moore continued failing to pay, according to the court filings, prompting the judge to order the sale of his house to satisfy the debt in 2013. But this process was halted by his ex-wife after Moore paid her about two-thirds of what he owed, the filings say. In a divorce filing in August 2010, Moore was accused of inflicting ‘emotional and psychological abuse’ on his ex-wife during their 20-year marriage. Allison Moore said in the filing she had been forced to flee their home to protect herself. She was granted a divorce in May 2011.” The Guardian
Happy Sunday. IT’S MARCH! … SPOTTED: Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) sporting a “Hoiberg for Mayor” t-shirt on a Saturday morning workout near the Capitol — pic … House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) in coach on AA flight 2695 from DFW to DCA this morning
FRONT PAGE OF THE GREENVILLE NEWS: “PENCE IN TOWN FOR GRAHAM”
2020 WATCH — DAVID SIDERS in El Paso, “O’Rourke rails against ‘unprecedented concentration of wealth and power’ at kickoff rally”: “Beto O’Rourke, christening his presidential campaign at a boisterous rally in his hometown, cast himself on Saturday as a crusader against moneyed interests that he said have corrupted America’s democracy and a president he accused of capitalizing on politics of ‘fear and division.’ In what amounted to his maiden stump speech — delivered at the first large-scale, structured event of his nascent campaign — O’Rourke’s populist progressive framing evoked similar appeals from rivals Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
“‘This extraordinary, unprecedented concentration of wealth and power and privilege must be broken apart,’ the former Texas congressman said to cheers, ‘and opportunity must be shared with all.’ Lamenting economic inequality, a lack of universal health care and the scourge of climate change, O’Rourke called the challenges confronting America ‘the greatest of our lifetimes.’ And he said that if elected, he would sign a new voting rights act, end gerrymandering and institute nationwide, automatic same-day voter registration.” POLITICO
THE BORDER CRISIS — “U.S. struggling with growing number of asylum seekers,” by AP’s Colleen Long: “Border officials are aiming to more than quadruple the number of asylum seekers sent back over the southern border each day, a major expansion of a top government effort to address the swelling number of Central Americans arriving in the country, a Trump administration official said Saturday. It was the latest attempt to ease a straining immigration system that officials say is at the breaking point. Hundreds of officers who usually screen cargo and vehicles at ports of entry were reassigned to help manage migrants.
“Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen asked for volunteers from non-immigration agencies within her department, sent a letter to Congress late this past week requesting resources and broader authority to deport families faster, and she met with Central American and Mexican officials.” AP
— AP’S JONATHAN LEMIRE, NOMAAN MERCHANT and COLLEEN LONG: “Trump seeks to cut foreign aid to 3 Central American nations”
MAR-A-LAGO REPORT, from Anita Kumar: A week after Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrapped up his report, a relaxed Trump made a single reference to the investigation Saturday night at a closed fundraiser, calling it a “phony witch hunt,” bragging that “they tried to tie one hand behind my back” but failed, according to people familiar with the event. Trump help raise more than $2 million for Trump Victory, a joint committee of his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee at the high-dollar fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
AS ABOUT 25 attendees sipped on drinks and nibbled hors d’oeuvres, the president was funny and entertaining, speaking much as he would at one of his campaign rallies. He delivered remarks and answered questions for about an hour and 15 minutes before he left to have dinner with First Lady Melania Trump.
IN ATTENDANCE: Tommy Hicks Jr., a longtime friend who was recently named co-chair of the Republican National Committee; Jacksonville developer Ed Burr; Louis DeJoy, a North Carolinian raising money for the 2020 convention; recycling mogul Anthony Lomangino; lobbyist Brian Ballard; and former Democratic congressional candidate Randy Perkins.
WHAT ROGER STONE IS UP TO IN FLORIDA … Yesterday’s Playbook included an item about a judge ruling Roger Stone could travel to Florida for “business opportunities.” STONE TEXTED that he is speaking and signing “my books, T-shirts and [signed] Stones.” “On Tuesday there is a ticketed lunch to benefit my Legal Defense Fund. While I am not permitted to discuss anything about my case, I am permitted to speak about general politics, 2020 and other issues.”
FOR YOUR RADAR – “D.E.A. Secretly Collected Bulk Records of Money-Counter Purchases,” by NYT’s Charlie Savage: “The [DEA] secretly collected data in bulk about Americans’ purchases of money-counting machines — and took steps to hide the effort from defendants and courts — before quietly shuttering the program in 2013 amid the uproar over the disclosures by the National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, an inspector general report found.
“Seeking leads about who might be a drug trafficker, the D.E.A. started in 2008 to issue blanket administrative subpoenas to vendors to learn who was buying money counters. The subpoenas involved no court oversight and were not pegged to any particular investigation. The agency collected tens of thousands of records showing the names and addresses of people who bought the devices.” NYT
TOP-ED — MARK ZUCKERBERG in WaPo, “The Internet needs new rules. Let’s start in these four areas”: “Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree. I’ve come to believe that we shouldn’t make so many important decisions about speech on our own. So we’re creating an independent body so people can appeal our decisions. …
“Internet companies should be accountable for enforcing standards on harmful content. It’s impossible to remove all harmful content from the Internet, but when people use dozens of different sharing services — all with their own policies and processes — we need a more standardized approach.” WaPo
ANITA KUMAR sends in this nugget: A company that sells luxury home and yachts appears to be using Air Force One to drum up business.
EARLIER THIS WEEK, Coastal Concierge Home & Yacht Management posted a photo on its Instagram account of 10 people posing on the steps of Air Force One, most smiling with their thumbs up.
CANDACE ROJAS, who says she owns the company, has been on the executive board of the Republican Party of Palm Beach County, which hosted a fundraiser at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort last weekend.
A DAY AFTER Trump dropped by the party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, the group of Palm Beach Republicans got a tour of Air Force One, according to their social media accounts. In a brief phone call, Rojas said the people in the photo were all GOP volunteers and that she didn’t go on the tour. “I post things that are positive to him,” she said of Trump.
AT LEAST SIX OF THE 10 PEOPLE tagged in the photo were at the fundraiser, according to a Facebook post by Ken Baker, who declined to comment. The others didn’t respond to requests for comments. Michael Barnett, chairman of the Palm Beach GOP, said he didn’t know how the tour was organized. “I would love to have been on the tour of Air Force One,” he said. The Facebook post … Instagram post
BONUS GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman:
— “Jair Bolsonaro’s Southern Strategy,” by The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson: “In Brazil, a budding authoritarian borrows from the Trump playbook.” The New Yorker
— “The steady hand,” by Andy Metzger in Commonwealth Magazine: “Roger Lau has become the go-to operative for Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic pols in Massachusetts — and beyond.” Commonwealth Magazine … Boston Globe profile of longtime Warren senior strategist Dan Geldon
— “The Lost History of One of the World’s Strangest Science Experiments,” by NYT’s Carl Zimmer: “The hummingbirds were dying. Cockroaches were everywhere. And then Steve Bannon showed up.” NYT
— “On The Trail of The Robocall King,” by Alex W. Palmer in Wired – per Longform.org’s description: “An investigator set out to discover the source of one scammy robocall. Turns out, his target made them by the millions.” Wired
— “The One Year Nixon and Baseball Were Both Winners in Washington,” by Frederic J. Frommer, author of “You Gotta Have Heart,” in POLITICO Magazine: “Half a century ago, Ted Williams came to Washington to turn around the woeful Senators. His biggest fan had just won the White House. The good times wouldn’t last.” POLITICO Magazine
— “Airbnb Has a Hidden-Camera Problem,” by The Atlantic’s Sidney Fussell: “The home-rental start-up says it’s cracking down on hosts who record guests. Is it doing enough?” The Atlantic
— “Redux: Every decision my kids made me make in one day,” by Emma Marris in Last Word on Nothing: “My modern American lifestyle, with its endless variety of choices, from the yogurts at the grocery store to the movies on Netflix, breeds decision fatigue. But it is my kids that really fry my brain. I decided to write down every question that my two kids asked me during a single day. Limiting myself to just those queries that required a decision, here are the results.” Last Word on Nothing (h/t TheBrowser.com)
— “Inside the Nasty Battle to Stop Amazon From Winning the Pentagon’s Cloud Contract,” by Naomi Nix in Bloomberg Businessweek: “Conspiratorial dossier and social media target Amazon, defense officials, trade groups.” Bloomberg Businessweek
— “‘The Big Error Was That She Was Caught’: The Untold Story Behind the Mysterious Disappearance of Fan Bingbing, the World’s Biggest Movie Star,” by May Jeong in Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue: “She vanished without a trace last year. But it was what happened next that sent a shudder through the Chinese film industry.” VF
— “Columbine Survivors Talk About the Wounds That Won’t Heal,” by Alan Prendergast in Westword: “Sometimes it feels like it happened yesterday. Other times it’s as if it happened to someone else. She has told the story of that day so many times now that it doesn’t even feel like it’s her story anymore. It’s just something she knows, something she might have picked up anywhere, a scrap of ancient history or pop trivia. I’ll take American Mass Shootings for a thousand, Alex.” Westword (h/t Longreads.com)
— “Ilhan Omar’s Embattled First Months in Office,” by The New Yorker’s Benjamin Wallace-Wells. The New Yorker
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Meghan Hays, executive director of enterprise communications at MGM Resorts International and a Joe Biden alum. What she’s been reading recently: “I just read an incredible profile on Rick Steves in last Sunday’s New York Times … I didn’t travel much when I was younger, I was raised by a single mother, and we didn’t have a ton of disposable income — our big family trips were going to Lake Tahoe with my grandparents (I’m from Sacramento, and it’s a quick drive). But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been fortunate to go to some incredible places.” Playbook Plus Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: POLITICO’s Ben “Morning Money” White … Al Gore is 71 … Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is 79 … former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is 79 … Kara Alaimo, a professor at Hofstra and a Treasury alum … CNN’s Sara Murray … Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) is 75 … Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.) is 64 … Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) is 56 … Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.) is 67 … Marina Lopes, WaPo Brazil correspondent … Jennifer Molina, spokesperson for California AG Xavier Becerra … Poy Winichakul … Howard Gordon, EP of Showtime’s “Homeland” … Michael McAdams … Monica Dixon (hat tips: Jon Haber) … Lauren Hutchinson … Rusty Bermel, principal at Bermel & Company … Apple chairman Arthur D. Levinson is 69 … POLITICO’s Emily Knapp … Jaclyn Norris Madden (hubby tip: Kevin) … Jake Rau of No Labels (h/t Katherine Weekly) …
… MSNBC’s Ari Melber … former Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) is 71 … Public Citizen’s Alan Zibel is 45 … KPBS’ Jean Guerrero … Dave Mandl … Luke McGeeney … Ron Insana, a CNBC contributor, is 58 … Mike Christopher … Michael Savage is 77 … Steve Bing is 54 … Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is 51 … Alex Payne … Aaron Sherman … Bob Liff (h/t wife Lisa Wager) … Justin Brown is 35 … Michael Davies … Eric Hoffman, founder and CEO of Hoffman Public Affairs … Linden Barber of Cardinal Health … Bob Hagan is 7-0 … Steven Schrage … Jennifer de Poyen … Francoise Champey … Katherine Benson … Toyota’s Ed Lewis … Robin Gerber … Mikko Zager … Philip Lasseigne … Anthony Giannetti … Michael Yancey … Neil Moseman (h/t Brianna Puccini) … Marcia Nichols … Analiese Eicher (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)
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- POLITICO Playbook: Inside the beginning of White House Correspondents weekend
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- POLITICO Playbook: Clyburn says House Democrats must win or else
- Kellyanne Conway Tries to Defend Trump From Comey but Only Makes Things Worse
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- The week ahead
- GARDENING: Your questions answered and tasks for the week ahead
- Madame Tussauds' new Melania Trump wax sculpture sends mesmerized Sean Spicer stammering for words