The TAKE with Rick Klein
You could say the facade fell away this week. But that would presume that it was ever in place.
The truth is that no book is needed to reveal that this White House is a chaotic, haphazard operation.
But Michael Wolff’s reporting and its fallout have confirmed some fundamental truths about President Donald Trump’s Washington that won’t change with the turn to 2018.
The chaos is not so much strategy as it is fixed reality. The president has succeeded in making his presidency a national reality show, where distractions are often the main actions.
Loyalty in the Trump White House has severe limits. Steve Bannon has managed to ice himself out, with the White House accusing him of spinning lies and worse. But he could be back in the president’s orbit with a tweet or a phone call.
One upshot of the Bannon break-up, as we enter a period where serious governing decisions must be made: Bannon’s fall from favor is being cheered by the Republican governing establishment.
Trump may stray from his base, and Bannon and others could call him out on that. But Trump starts the new year with an uncommon phase of unity inside his party, and even the opportunity for bipartisanship that Bannon might have prohibited.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
With the blizzard of political gossip this week, it would have been easy to miss Trump’s cabinet also making waves in the last few days.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement freeing U.S. attorneys to enforce federal marijuana laws as they choose– even in states that have decriminalized the drug’s use– sent shivers through sunny California. The Golden State’s new law permitting recreational pot went into effect the first of the year. Though plenty of experts said the new Department of Justice decree would likely not change day-to-day practices, Colorado’s Republican Senator Cory Gardner was so upset by the news he promised to hold up future Sessions appointments.
Republicans, after all, are used to promoting stronger states’ rights when it comes to social issues.
“I’m a states person,” then-candidate Trump told a reporter in the summer of 2016 when asked about new local laws allowing for the sale and use of recreational marijuana. “I think it should be up to the states. Absolutely.”
And what about states’ rights to their shorelines?
The Interior Department’s New Year’s announcement that it would move to open up nearly all U.S. coastal areas under federal control to offshore drilling sent a rip current through the country too. From New Jersey to Maine, Florida and California, Republicans and yes, Democrats, cried foul.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said, in so many words, “no thanks.”
The TIP with John Verhovek
Democratic mega-donor and environmental activist Tom Steyer is a name often floated as a potential 2020 presidential candidate, and on Monday, we may witness his long-awaited entry into electoral politics.
Steyer announced that he is holding a press conference on Monday in Washington, D.C. and will make a “major announcement” about his 2018 plans.
While Steyer could make a run for either the California governor’s mansion or the U.S. Senate, the message he sends by holding this announcement in the nation’s capital is clear: I’m coming to the national stage.
Steyer has already funded a nearly $20 million television advertisement campaign called “Need to Impeach,” which is urging members of Congress to impeach President Trump.
Whether or not Steyer decides to run for office, it seems he’s determined to be a major player in Democratic politics in 2018 and beyond.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who resigned from the White House in July, will be on ‘Good Morning America’ this morning.
President Trump heads to Camp David today for the weekend. He’ll be hosting members of the GOP to discuss the 2018 legislative agenda, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy.
The House is in today for a pro forma session — usually a very short session that is sparsely attended and used as a way to comply with provisions that regulate how many calendar days the House can take off.
This Week on ‘This Week’: The Powerhouse Roundtable debates the week in politics, with ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, Democratic strategist and Obama 2012 deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, Republican strategist and Bush White House political affairs director Sara Fagen, American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp, and TV One host Roland Martin.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I don’t know, he called me a great man last night so he obviously changed his tune pretty quick.” — President Donald Trump on Steve Bannon Thursday. Trump was responding to a question from ABC News’ Cecilia Vega after the president’s meeting with Republican senators on immigration reform. Vega asked: “Did Steve Bannon betray you?”
NEED TO READ
Bannon’s Breitbart role threatened by Trump feud: Sources. Staffers of conservative media outlet Breitbart are worried that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon will be forced to step down from leadership of the website because of his feud with President Donald Trump, Breitbart staffers and sources close to Bannon and the Breitbart board told ABC News. (Tara Palmeri) http://abcn.ws/2Aqexvj
Trump slams ‘phony’ tell-all, nicknames Bannon ‘Sloppy Steve.’ President Donald Trump took to Twitter late Thursday night to slam a new book about his first year in office as “full of lies,” just hours ahead of its new, pushed-up Friday morning release. (David Caplan) http://abcn.ws/2qqWeGu
Trump probably can’t gag Bannon and ‘Fire and Fury’ author, say legal experts. Just hours after excerpts from author Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” were published by various news outlets on Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s lawyer Charles Harder sent cease and desist letters to Wolff, Wolff’s publisher and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon threatening legal action over alleged falsehoods. (Lauren Pearle) http://abcn.ws/2CHsJpy
Justice Dept struggles to explain impact of new marijuana policy. The Justice Department announced it was “rescinding” Obama-era guidance, touting the latest move as “a return to the rule of law.” But senior Justice Department officials struggled to explain how the new policy would actually differ. “I can’t sit here and say whether or not it will or won’t lead to more marijuana prosecutions,” one senior official said, speaking with reporters on the condition of anonymity. (Mike Levine) http://abcn.ws/2lVAddd
Former Trump adviser tells ABC News he ‘probably’ called president an ‘idiot.’ One of President Donald Trump’s former political advisers said Thursday that he “probably” called the president an “idiot” in a conversation described in an explosive new book about the Trump White House, but that the comment was sarcastic. (Rick Klein, Tara Palmeri and Ben Siegel) http://abcn.ws/2lXip1F
What’s at stake as lawmakers work out immigration deal. With seven working days until a government shutdown, immigration remains a key factor in negotiations over a spending deal. Enter President Donald Trump, who is taking a more-active-than-usual role in bringing Democrats and Republicans to the table to work out a deal that would address Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and border security. (Mary Bruce, Ali Rogin and Mariam Khan) http://abcn.ws/2EX20D5
Republican wins hotly-contested Virginia race after name picked out of ceramic bowl. A pair of film canisters. A ceramic bowl. A quick swirl and that’s all it took to pick the winner of a hotly contested Virginia House of Delegates seat – where the contest was improbably tied. (Meridith McGraw) http://abcn.ws/2CGC7c4
Trump-Bannon feud scrambles key 2018 GOP primaries. Republican candidates in key 2018 races, many already navigating difficult political terrain, are now dealing with the fallout from the very public and bitter feud between President Donald Trump and his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. And now, they face a choice: defend Bannon, or shun him and stand by President Trump. (John Verhovek) http://abcn.ws/2qo5tHw
Trump administration seeks to expand offshore drilling to some federal waters. The Trump administration is seeking the largest sale of leases for offshore drilling ever proposed Thursday, with 90 percent of coastal areas opened for offshore drilling. The Interior department announced Thursday that almost all coastal areas under federal control will be opened for offshore drilling under this plan, including the Gulf of Mexico, areas off the East Coast, California, and Alaska. (Stephanie Ebbs) http://abcn.ws/2lTLJpJ
What North Korea said to South Korea when they spoke on the phone. On Wednesday 9 a.m. local time, South Korea called the North, but the North Koreans did not pick up, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry. But then, 30 minutes later, the North called back. (Joohee Cho) http://abcn.ws/2E97uct
‘Powerhouse Politics’ podcast: Sen. Lankford blasts Bannon for failing to raise alarm about Trump Jr. campaign meeting with Russians. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., criticized Steve Bannon for not raising an alarm sooner about a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians in Trump Tower. (Cheyenne Haslett) http://abcn.ws/2CSW8Ki
Ex-WH communications director Anthony Scaramucci: Bannon’s reported ‘treasonous’ comment ‘absolutely ridiculous.’ Former White House adviser Steve Bannon’s reported criticism of Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with the Russians is “absolutely ridiculous,” former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said on ABC News’ “Good Morning America. (Veronica Stracqualursi) http://abcn.ws/2E8pKCV
The New York Times reports that President Trump gave firm instructions to the top White House lawyer to “stop the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, from recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s associates had helped a Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election.” http://nyti.ms/2CuGtj6
Wired reports on the reaction of legal weed startups to Sessions’ roll-back of Obama-era policy on marijuana. According to the article, while Sessions “may not win any popularity contests in Boulder any time soon, the entrepreneurs and investors fueling the legal marijuana boom of the past few years remain, well, pretty chill about the whole thing.” http://bit.ly/2lVr0BR
The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back Monday for the latest.