ALERT — SEVERAL REPUBLICANS reached out to us this morning and said they expect it could be an early night in Pennsylvania. At this point, GOP insiders involved in the race expect Democrat CONOR LAMB to win Pennsylvania’s 18th district. Some RNC overnight data came back, and Republican Rick Saccone is in a tough spot, according to these sources. Polls close at 8 p.m., follow live results here http://politi.co/2Ijocst
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS: House Republicans have a political meeting tomorrow morning at the Capitol Hill Club. That should be an interesting event.
ANOTHER W.H. EXIT — “Trump’s Personal Assistant Is Fired: John McEntee was escorted out of White House on Monday for unspecified security issue,” by WSJ’s Mike Bender: “White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to comment saying, ‘We don’t comment on personnel issues.’ Mr. McEntee didn’t return a call seeking comment.
“Mr. McEntee was of the longest-serving aides to Mr. Trump, dating back to the earliest days of the campaign when some of the only aides around the then-candidate included Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser; Stephen Miller, the president’s policy director; White House communications director Hope Hicks, who announced her resignation two weeks ago; and Dan Scavino, who is the White House director of social media.” http://on.wsj.com/2FCBwXd … Nancy Cook and Ben Strauss’ December 2017 profile of McEntee in POLITICO Magazine http://politi.co/2Io2N1s
— MCENTEE IS REJOINING THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN as a senior adviser for campaign operations. His hiring was announced nearly simultaneously as Bender’s story posting. KATRINA PIERSON is also rejoining the campaign as a senior adviser to lead national grassroot outreach.
CNN’S KAITLIN COLLINS (@kaitlincollins): “NEWS: Johnny McEntee was fired because he is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes, a source familiar with his firing tells CNN. This source says the charges are not Trump related.” Story from Collins, Jeremy Diamond and Jeff Zeleny http://cnn.it/2InlXEt
SCOOP OF THE DAY — TILLERSON OUT AT STATE, POMPEO NOMINATED TO BE NEXT SECRETARY — WaPo’s ASHLEY PARKER and PHIL RUCKER: “Trump last Friday asked [Rex] Tillerson to step aside, and the embattled top diplomat cut short his trip to Africa on Monday to return to Washington. [Mike] Pompeo will replace him at the State Department, and Gina Hapsel — the deputy director at the CIA — will succeed him at the CIA, becoming the first woman to run the spy agency, if confirmed.” http://wapo.st/2Im0f3W
HOW TILLERSON FOUND OUT — CNN’s JEFF ZELENY and ELISE LABOTT: “A senior White House official has told CNN that President Trump asked Chief of Staff John Kelley to call Rex Tillerson on Friday night. The official said Kelly told Tillerson that he will be replaced but did not specify the timing. It was Trump’s decision to pull the trigger Tuesday morning, which underscored their fraught relations. …
“Steve Goldstein, State Department undersecretary of public affairs, confirmed that Tillerson got a call on Friday night from Kelly with a heads up, but Goldstein did not elaborate. Goldstein insists that Tillerson was notified of the official termination in the tweet this morning.” http://cnn.it/2Gn15wH
— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter): “While in Africa, Tillerson was told only that there might be a presidential tweet concerning him coming soon. He didn’t know what it might be, when it might come, or even if it would come, He learned of his termination Tuesday morning from the tweet.”
AND THEN GOLDSTEIN WAS FIRED TOO! — AP: “Two U.S. officials say the White House has fired one of Rex Tillerson’s top aides after he contradicted the official account of the secretary of state’s dismissal by President Donald Trump. The officials said Steve Goldstein, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, was informed of the move shortly after he released a statement in his name saying that Tillerson was ‘unaware of the reason’ for his termination. Goldstein had also told reporters that Tillerson learned of his firing Tuesday morning from Trump’s tweet announcing he was nominating CIA chief Mike Pompeo to lead the State Department.” http://bit.ly/2tOk0xA
REMARKABLE STATEMENT … THE STATE DEPARTMENT says Tillerson “had every intention of staying, because of critical progress made in national security. … The secretary did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason.” The full statement http://bit.ly/2tIyfUZ
TRUMP ON THE SPLIT to the press: “So I’ve gotten to know a lot of people very well over the last year and I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the cabinet and other things that I want. …
“So we were not really thinking the same. With Mike, Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it’s going to go very well. Rex is a very good man. I like Rex a lot. I really appreciate his commitment to service and I’ll be speaking to Rex over a long period of time.”
… ON NORTH KOREA: “No, I really didn’t discuss it very much with him, honestly. I made that decision by myself. Rex wasn’t, as you know, in this country. I made the North Korea decision with consultation from many people but I made that decision by myself. I actually got along well with Rex but really it was a different mindset, a different thinking.” NYT’s transcript of his full conversation with reporters http://nyti.ms/2tIo0Qe
— @realDonaldTrump at 8:44 a.m.: “Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!”
MIKE POMPEO was a backbencher in the House just a few years ago. He was close with both the Freedom Caucus and the leadership. On the advice of people like Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Trump interviewed Pompeo for the CIA job, and took a liking to him. Pompeo has a very good rapport with the president.
— THIS IS A NEW GIG for Pompeo in many ways. It’s a forward-facing role, where public appearances are of the utmost importance. As CIA director, Pompeo went on television just once in a while. Now he’ll have to face the press much more often.
— @nikkihaley: “Congratulations to my friend and soon to be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo! Great decision by the President.”
WORTH NOTING: Yesterday, Tillerson went further than White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, explicitly blaming Russia for the poisoning of an ex-spy and his daugher in the United Kingdom. This is also coming days after the president announced he would meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
— “Trump: ‘It sounds to me’ like Russia was behind U.K. nerve agent attack,” by Blake Paterson: “‘It sounds to me like it would be Russia based on all of the evidence they have. I don’t know if they’ve come to a conclusion,’ said Trump, referring to an assessment from British authorities that Russia was likely behind the attack. ‘As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.’ … Trump said he will be speaking with May sometime Tuesday about the incident.” http://politi.co/2tF88xS
THE REACTION IN FOGGY BOTTOM — HALLEY TOOSI: “‘Strong sense of relief’: State Department staffers react to Tillerson’s ouster’: “‘There is strong sense of relief at State. The last year has been traumatic to put it mildly. It was as though ‘T-Rex’ stomped through Foggy Bottom devouring staff and structures,’ said Brett Bruen, a former State Department official.
“Several current State officials said they also hope to bid farewell to Tillerson’s top aides, including chief of staff Margaret Peterlin and policy chief Brian Hook, whom they criticize for forming a protective and secretive clique around the secretary during his nearly 14-month tenure.
“‘People see this as a chance for a clean sweep,’ said one staffer, who like most others spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid losing his job. ‘This team has proven itself incapable of managing the State Department.’
“Multiple foreign and Civil Service officers struck a hopeful note about Tillerson’s chosen replacement, CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Many hope that Pompeo’s close relationship with Trump will mean that the State Department will gain more influence with a president who has often sidelined it. But some sounded a warier note, saying that Pompeo has a hawkish reputation and little diplomatic experience.” http://politi.co/2GpgjkO
WHO IS GINA HASPEL? — NYT’s MATT ROSENBERG in Feb. 2017: “As a clandestine officer at the Central Intelligence Agency in 2002, Gina Haspel oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects and later took part in an order to destroy videotapes documenting their brutal interrogations at a secret prison in Thailand.” http://nyti.ms/2IpnOc4
— @jmartNYT: “Political headline here: Cotton NOT going to cia, so no 2018 race in Arky”.
MAKE NO MISTAKE these will both be bruising confirmation battles. Senate Democrats will look to press Pompeo on his own statements about WikiLeaks, possible collusion with Russia and the Trump administration’s posture toward Russia, among a number of hot button issues.
Good Tuesday afternoon. BEHIND THE SCENES … HEADS UP … There’s discussion in the House and Senate about including language in the omnibus spending bill that would loosen coordination rules between campaign committees and candidates. This would obviate the need for independent expenditure committees, and would represent a massive shift in the campaign world. This provision is not certain to make it into the omnibus, but it’s being chatted about.
THE LATEST ON RUSSIA — “Manafort could face ‘rest of life in prison,’ judge says,” by Josh Gerstein: “U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who is based in Alexandria, Virginia, and is assigned to a newly filed indictment against Manafort dealing with bank fraud and tax evasion, said the veteran lobbyist and political consultant posed ‘a substantial risk of flight’ because of his assets and the gravity of his legal predicament.
“‘The defendant is a person of great wealth who has the financial means and international connections to flee and remain at large, as well as every incentive to do so,’ Ellis wrote in an order setting the terms of what the judge called ‘home incarceration’ for Manafort, 68, who lives in Alexandria but also has homes in Florida and on Long Island. ‘Given the nature of the charges against the defendant and the apparent weight of the evidence against him, defendant faces the very real possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison,’ wrote Ellis, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan.” http://politi.co/2tKD7Zp
— “Roger Stone claimed contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016, according to two associates,” by WaPo’s Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey, Carol Leonnig and Shane Harris: “In the spring of 2016, longtime political operative Roger Stone had a phone conversation that would later seem prophetic, according to the person on the other end of the line. Stone, an informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, said he had learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that his organization had obtained emails that would torment senior Democrats such as John Podesta, then campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“The conversation occurred before it was publicly known that hackers had obtained the emails of Podesta and of the Democratic National Committee, documents that WikiLeaks released in late July and October. The U.S. intelligence community later concluded the hackers were working for Russia.
“The person, who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing federal investigation into Russian campaign interference, is one of two Stone associates who say Stone claimed to have had contact with Assange in 2016.” http://wapo.st/2tLGy24
PROBLEMS AT THE PENTAGON — “Justice elusive in child sex abuse on base,” by the AP’s Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles and Reese Dunklin in Jacksonville, N.C.: “A decade after the Pentagon began confronting rape in the ranks, the U.S. military frequently fails to protect or provide justice to the children of service members when they are sexually assaulted by other children on base, an Associated Press investigation has found.
“Reports of assaults and rapes among kids on military bases often die on the desks of prosecutors, even when an attacker confesses. Other cases don’t make it that far because criminal investigators shelve them, despite requirements they be pursued. The Pentagon does not know the scope of the problem and does little to track it. AP was able to document nearly 600 sex assault cases on base since 2007 through dozens of interviews and by piecing together records and data from the military’s four main branches and school system.” http://bit.ly/2tO7P48
— “U.S. Air Force orders freeze on public outreach,” by Defense News’ Valerie Insinna, David B. Larter and Aaron Mehta: “The U.S. Air Force is slashing access to media embeds, base visits and interviews as it seeks to put the entire public affairs apparatus through retraining — a move it says is necessary for operational security, but one which could lead to a broader freeze in how the service interacts with the public.” http://bit.ly/2tNK7Vo
GET YOUR BRACKETS IN! — Did you get your special Playbook Pool basketball on the Hill today? Tweet us a picture of you with your basketball with the hashtag #PlaybookLoyal and make sure you get your picks in soon! Compete against Playbookers across the country and VIPs for the chance to win great prizes. http://bit.ly/2tIViyL
— Our Playbook Interview with Bill Gates on Thursday has filled up, but we’ll be livestreaming it starting at 8:15 a.m. Bookmark this page http://politi.co/2GngYDj
ABOUT THAT CALIFORNIA TRIP — @realDonaldTrump at 10:37 a.m.: “Heading to see the BORDER WALL prototypes in California!” … at 11:24 a.m., quote-tweeting a Fox News tweet: “‘According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the $18 billion wall will pay for itself by curbing the importation of crime, drugs and illegal immigrants who tend to go on the federal dole…’” …
… at 11:27 a.m.: “California’s sanctuary policies are illegal and unconstitutional and put the safety and security of our entire nation at risk. Thousands of dangerous & violent criminal aliens are released as a result of sanctuary policies, set free to prey on innocent Americans. THIS MUST STOP!”
FOIA UPDATE — “U.S. sets new record for censoring, withholding gov’t files,” by the AP’s Ted Bridis: “The federal government censored, withheld or said it couldn’t find records sought by citizens, journalists and others more often last year than at any point in the past decade, according to an Associated Press analysis of new data. The calculations cover eight months under President Donald Trump, the first hints about how his administration complies with the Freedom of Information Act.” http://bit.ly/2tIDcx3
IN THE STATES — FORMER TOP CUOMO AIDE FOUND GUILTY — New York Playbooker Laura Nahmias: “A federal jury voted Tuesday to convict Joe Percoco, former senior aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on three out of six charges of bribery and honest services fraud, but found two executives accused of bribing him not guilty, and remain deadlocked over the guilt of a third executive, after more than a week of deliberation. Jurors found Percoco guilty of conspiracy to commit honest-services fraud, conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud, and solicitation of bribes and gratuities.” http://politi.co/2tKvORM
MEDIAWATCH — Liana Baker on Monday started a new beat at Reuters covering shareholder activism and corporate governance and has moved back to New York. She previously covered M&A in the tech, media and telecom sectors in San Francisco.
TRANSITIONS — Sean Bartlett will start as a senior press and policy adviser for Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) next week. He is currently communications director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Democratic staff. Juan Pachon, who has worked for Sen. Robert Mendendez (D-N.J.) for the past several years, is the new comms director for that committee’s Democrats.
— BUSH ALUMNI: John Persinger started on Monday as CEO of the Erie Downtown Development Corporation. He served in the Bush 43 White House and State Department and on the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — OBAMA ALUMNI: Andy Green, managing director of economic policy at the Center for American Progress and an SEC and Jeff Merkley alum, and Emily Gee, a health economist at CAP and an Obama HHS and CEA alum, last week welcomed Elliot H. Green, who came in at 9 lbs 11 oz. Pic http://bit.ly/2p88Nn0