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Today's Playbook Power Briefing presented by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

05/17/2017 01:37 PM EDT


By JAKE SHERMAN (; @JakeSherman), ANNA PALMER (; @apalmerdc), DANIEL LIPPMAN (; @dlippman), ZACH MONTELLARO ( ; @ZachMontellaro)


Good Wednesday afternoon. First Class Cadet Bruce Kim now has a story for a lifetime. THE PRESIDENT ribbed Bruce at the Coast Guard Academy commencement ceremony, saying "as regimental parking officer, he might have accidentally caused a few tickets to be issued or a few of your cars to be booted. Bruce, what's going on with you?"

PRESIDENT TRUMP didn't directly address the D.C. whirlwind during the commencement ceremony, but he did say that "you will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted. But you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight." He said that no other president has been "treated worse or more unfairly" than he has by the media and rattled off a list of his accomplishments. "I didn't get elected to serve the Washington media or special interests. I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women of our country, and that's what I'm doing," he said. He also previewed his goals for his first foreign trip, saying he will "speak with Muslim leaders and challenge them to fight hatred and extremism and embrace a peaceful future for their faith," reaffirm the U.S.-Israel alliance and work with world leaders at the NATO summit and G-7 meetings.

-- CNN's Kevin Liptak is reporting that Trump's speech in Saudi Arabia to the Muslim community and his speech in Israel are both being penned by Stephen Miller.

TAX REFORM IS ALIVE? -- A SOURCE tells us that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Finance Committee chair Orrin Hatch and House Ways and Means chair Kevin Brady are meeting today in the speaker's office today at 3:30 p.m.

SPOTTED: Vice President Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday evening at the Residence at CityCenter ... THE HAMMER IS BACK: Former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay "smiling from ear to ear" on Wednesday morning in the basement of Longworth. "I actually kind of miss him," said one Democratic operative who spotted the Texas Republican.

NEW POLITICO/MORNING CONSULT POLL -- "Poll: Trump approval rating hits new low," by Steve Shepard: "A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, conducted after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey but before the two latest blockbuster revelations, shows Trump's approval rating at 42 percent, with half of registered voters disapproving of the job Trump is doing as president. In the previous poll, conducted last Tuesday through Thursday, 46 percent of voters approved of Trump's job performance, and 47 percent disapproved.

"Even more strikingly, twice as many voters 'strongly disapprove' of Trump (38 percent) compared to those who strongly approve (19 percent). A 64-percent majority of Democrats strongly disapprove of Trump, but only 43 percent of Republicans strongly approve. Just 42 percent of self-identified Trump voters in last year's election strongly approve of his job performance, while 70 percent of those who said they voted for Hillary Clinton last fall strongly disapprove of Trump.

"Trump's approval rating overall remains high with Republicans, however, despite the dampened enthusiasm. Seventy-nine percent of GOP voters approve of the job he is doing, while only 16 percent disapprove. That's a mirror image of Trump's approval rating among Democratic voters: 15 percent approve, versus 79 percent who disapprove."

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THE LATEST ON COMEY -- SPEAKER PAUL RYAN , addressing the Trump-Comey controversy for the first time, urged lawmakers "to follow the facts wherever they may lead" at a press conference. He also urged his colleagues not to rush to judgment, saying "it is obvious - there are some people out there who want to harm the president" and answered affirmatively when asked if he still had confidence in President Trump. Story by Kyle "The Mile" Cheney

-- "Hill Republicans increase calls for Comey to testify," by Seung Min Kim, Rachael Bade and Kyle Cheney: "A growing chorus of congressional Republicans are calling for former FBI Director James Comey to testify before Congress about his interactions President Donald Trump - including whether Trump tried to obstruct the criminal probe into ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. And more Republicans appeared open to appointing a special prosecutor or independent commission to investigate the ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. ...

"'The country deserves answers to the questions raised and former Director Comey deserves an opportunity to be heard and if appropriate, challenged,' Graham said in a statement. 'The sooner Mr. Comey testifies publicly before the Judiciary Committee, the better for our nation.'"

-- SENS. RICHARD BURR (R-N.C.) and MARK WARNER (D-VA.) , the chair and vice-chair of the Senate Intel committee, asked Comey to testify before the committee in both open and closed sessions. The committee also sent a letter to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe "seeking any notes or memorandum prepared by the former Director regarding any communications he may have had with senior White House and Department of Justice officials related to investigations into Russia's efforts."

-- THE TOP MEMBERS of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) -- have asked White House counsel Don McGahn for all White House records "memorializing interactions with Mr. Comey relating to the FBI's investigation of alleged ties between President Trump's associates and Russia, or the Clinton email investigation, including all recordings, transcripts, notes, summaries and memoranda." They have also asked the FBI for all memos from Comey that detailed conversations he had with Presidents Trump or Obama and other top officials regarding the investigation. They ask for the documents by May 24. The letter to the White House, per BuzzFeed ... The FBI letter, per BuzzFeed

HMM... -- VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE has formed a new political action committee called the "Great America Committee," according to a new FEC filing. The committee's treasurer is Cabell Hobbs and Joanne Parker is a designated agent. The filing (h/t to Dave Levinthal of the Center for Public Integrity, who spotted the filing)

THE WINTER WHITE HOUSE -- "Any Half-Decent Hacker Could Break Into Mar-a-Lago," by Jeff Larson and Julia Angwin of ProPublica and Surya Mattu of Gawker: "Two weeks ago, on a sparkling spring morning, we went trawling along Florida's coastal waterway. But not for fish. We parked a 17-foot motor boat in a lagoon about 800 feet from the back lawn of The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach and pointed a 2-foot wireless antenna that resembled a potato gun toward the club. Within a minute, we spotted three weakly encrypted Wi-Fi networks. We could have hacked them in less than five minutes, but we refrained.

"A few days later, we drove through the grounds of the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, with the same antenna and aimed it at the clubhouse. We identified two open Wi-Fi networks that anyone could join without a password. We resisted the temptation. We have also visited two of President Donald Trump's other family-run retreats, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., and a golf club in Sterling, Virginia. Our inspections found weak and open Wi-Fi networks, wireless printers without passwords, servers with outdated and vulnerable software, and unencrypted login pages to back-end databases containing sensitive information.

"The risks posed by the lax security, experts say, go well beyond simple digital snooping. Sophisticated attackers could take advantage of vulnerabilities in the Wi-Fi networks to take over devices like computers or smart phones and use them to record conversations involving anyone on the premises."

THANKS? -- "Putin Offers Congress 'Record' of Trump's Disclosures to Russian Envoys," by NYT's Andrew Higgins in Moscow: "President Vladimir V. Putin, deriding as 'political schizophrenia' a furor in Washington over President Trump's sharing of classified intelligence with Russia, said on Wednesday that he was ready to give American lawmakers 'a record' of the Oval Office meeting between Mr. Trump and senior Russian diplomats. ... 'If the U.S. administration finds this appropriate, we're ready to provide a record of the conversation between Lavrov and Trump to the U.S. Senate and Congress,' the Russian president said. The Russian word for 'record' can refer to an audio recording, but the Interfax news agency quoted a Kremlin aide, Yuri V. Ushakov, as telling reporters that Moscow had in its possession a written record of the conversation, not a recording."

WAR REPORT -- ELI LAKE'S LATEST -- "Trump Has to Decide: 50,000 Troops to Afghanistan?" in Bloomberg View: "A new Afghanistan war strategy approved last month by President Donald Trump's top military and national security advisers would require at least 50,000 U.S. forces to stop the advance of the Taliban and save the government in Kabul, according to a classified U.S. intelligence community assessment."

"U.S. intelligence and national security officials familiar with the assessment tell me that it was drafted in April, and that it provided estimates of necessary troop strengths for various strategic options. But it found that if an ambitious war plan approved by the National Security Council's principals committee got a green light from the president -- a big if -- more than 50,000 U.S. troops would be needed."

GOOD NEWS -- A scary moment this morning when Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) collapsed while running in the ACLI Capital Challenge race. Initial reports said bystanders administered CPR, but Tillis released a video from the hospital saying he just got "overheated," didn't get CPR and that he's fine.

TRUMP INC. -- "Russian State-Run Bank Financed Deal Involving Trump Hotel Partner," by WSJ's Rob Barry, Christopher S. Stewart and Brett Forrest: "Alexander Shnaider, a Russian-Canadian developer who built the 65-story Trump International Hotel and Tower, put money into the project after receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from a separate asset sale that involved the Russian bank, whose full name is Vnesheconombank. Mr. Shnaider sold his company's share in a Ukrainian steelmaker for about $850 million in 2010, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. According to two people with knowledge of the deal, the buyer, which hasn't been identified publicly, was an entity acting for the Russian government. VEB initiated the purchase and provided the money, these people say. ...

"After Mr. Shnaider and his partner sold their stake in the steelmaker, Mr. Shnaider injected more money into the Trump Toronto project, which was financially troubled. Mr. Shnaider's lawyer, Symon Zucker, said in an April interview that about $15 million from the asset sale went into the Trump Toronto project. A day later, he wrote in an email: 'I am not able to confirm that any funds" from the deal 'went into the Toronto project.'"

WEIRD EXCHANGE -- @NBCNightlyNews: "@mitchellreports: 'Do you think the Russians were bugging the Oval Office?' Sec. Tillerson: 'I would have no way to know that.'" Video

KEEP THIS HANDY -- "For 101 members of Congress, life might soon get very awkward," by WaPo's Philip Bump: "While details are still sketchy ... the possibility looms that Trump's actions constitute obstruction of justice -- one of the two charges for which Clinton faced removal. And if that's the case, life for 101 Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill may be about to get rather sticky. Those Republicans, you see, voted to impeach Clinton for obstruction of justice 17 years ago, and they would need to decide whether to cast a similar vote against Trump. The Democrats declined to impeach Clinton on that charge - and would similarly need to develop a new rationale." With a full list of which current lawmakers voted

TODAY'S BEYOND THE BELTWAY -- Majority of New York City voters support a Cuomo presidential bid -- Setti Warren set to make Massachusetts gubernatorial bid official

TELL US HOW YOU REALLY FEEL -- "What Does Barack Obama Really Think of Donald Trump? 'He's Nothing But a Bullsh-ter,'" by Sandra Sobieraj Westfall in People: "'He's nothing but a bullsh-ter,' Obama told two friends early last November, describing an election night phone call with Trump, in which the businessman suddenly professed his 'respect' and 'admiration' for Obama-after years of hectoring. Speaking to PEOPLE for its new cover story on Obama and his wife Michelle adjusting to life outside the White House, the two friends quoted Obama's blunt assessment of President-elect Trump. And how has Obama's opinion changed since Trump been in office? 'Well,' said one of the sources, 'it hasn't gotten any better.'"

MEDIAWATCH -- Fox News announced that they will roll out "a new cutting-edge, centralized newsroom" in early 2018. "It will be state of the art and open, befitting the most important media outlet in America. This is a major investment in the future of FOX News and a sign of my unwavering confidence," Rupert Murdoch said in a release. Renderings of the new newsroom and studio ... ...

-- KATHLEEN HENNESSEY and BRADLEY KLAPPER have been promoted to news editors at the AP's Washington bureau. Hennessey will lead coverage of the White House and the Trump administration and Klapper will oversee AP's reporting on foreign affairs. Hennesey first joined the AP in 2005 as a state government reporter in Carson City, Nevada. Since 2010, Klapper has covered foreign policy at the State Department and in Congress; he first joined the AP in Geneva in 2005.

WEEKEND WEDDING - KURT BARDELLA, president and CEO of Endeavor Strategies and creator and publisher of the Morning Hangover country music newsletter, and MIRO KORENHA, an environmental consultant with an emphasis on climate change, eloped this weekend and hopped on a plane to Asia. They met several years ago at an Easter Brunch she hosted but Kurt spent the entire time on his Blackberry and ignored her. They later happened to be at a mutual friend's wedding in Sonoma, California, and Kurt spent the entire time chasing her around the reception. He posts on Facebook: "We did it! Miro and I are officially married and on our #Honeymoon visiting #Phuket #Bangkok #Thailand #Bali ... who needs a wedding when you can go on an amazing trip that you'll remember forever! So proud to be able to call this one my wife!" Honeymoon pic

WELCOME TO THE WORLD - Tallahassee Mayor @AndrewGillum, and his wife R. Jai Gillum , who works for the Florida Dental Association, tweet: "Excited to announce the arrival of Davis Allen Gillum! Both he and mom are happy and healthy." Pic

SPOTTED: Marie Harf yesterday at New York's Penn Station ... Boris Epshteyn walking on Wednesday in the Twin Towers in Rosslyn, where WJLA is based (now owned by Sinclair). Epshteyn is chief political analyst for Sinclair Broadcast Group.

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