POLITICO Playbook: Can Pelosi and Washington’s Most Eager Man get it done? – Politico

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI and Washington’s Most Eager Man, Treasury Secretary STEVEN MNUCHIN, are likely to speak about Covid relief this afternoon — the 90th day since talks between the administration and PELOSI began back in July.

TWO THINGS ARE HAPPENING RIGHT NOW: Republicans on Capitol Hill are worried that MNUCHIN and President DONALD TRUMP will throw aside their concerns and agree to a $2 trillion-plus deal. DEMOCRATS are wondering if the White House even wants a deal — especially after MNUCHIN went on television last week and said he would accept the Democrats’ testing plan, but later struck 55% of what PELOSI had drawn up. Also unsolved: a child tax credit, child care funding, census policies, unemployment benefits, state and local funding — and more. Tuesday is the deadline, before negotiators start turning their focus to crafting a lame-duck deal. Pelosi’s Sunday letter to Democratic lawmakers

WE ARE STILL SKEPTICAL they will reach a deal by Tuesday, although it’s certainly not impossible. And if they do, that would mean calling the House back this week — Thursday, Friday or, yes, Saturday. The Senate will need at least a week to process this — if they decide to take it up at all. That pushes the schedule up against election week — not to mention that Senate Republicans are not in favor of the outlines of this bill.

MARKETS are optimistic about the prospects of this process, perhaps because PELOSI said she was optimistic in her letter to Democrats. SHH, IT’S A SECRET: PELOSI frequently says she’s optimistic.

MEANWHILE, Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL is going to speak on the floor this afternoon, and is expected to tee up votes Tuesday on the Paycheck Protection Program and Wednesday on the rest of a $500-billion stimulus bill. Democrats are expected to block this, and it will almost certainly fail.

TRUMP seems to think REPUBLICANS will fall in line and pass a package. He said this in Reno on Sunday: “We’re talking about it. I think Nancy Pelosi maybe is coming along. We’ll find out. … I want to do it at a bigger number than she wants. That doesn’t mean all the Republicans agree with me, but I think they will in the end if she would go along, I think they would too, on stimulus. So we’ll see what happens.”

BUT THE EVIDENCE suggests Republicans are moving in the other direction — finding it advantageous to dump TRUMP and distance themselves from him. First was Sen. BEN SASSE (R-Neb.). AND NOW IT’S Sen. JOHN CORNYN (R-Texas) …

… FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM: “Cornyn says he broke with Trump on deficit, border wall, but kept opposition private,” by Gordon Dickinson: “[Sen. John] Cornyn initially described his relationship with Trump as ‘maybe like a lot of women who get married and think they’re going to change their spouse, and that doesn’t usually work out very well.’

“Cornyn continued: ‘I think what we found is that we’re not going to change President Trump. He is who he is. You either love him or hate him, and there’s not much in between. What I tried to do is not get into public confrontations and fights with him because, as I’ve observed, those usually don’t end too well.’”

WSJ ED BOARD: “The mystery at this stage is why Mr. Trump won’t take no for an answer. A last-minute spending blowout won’t change the presidential race, and it won’t help the economy in time for the election and not much after that. Agreeing to Mrs. Pelosi’s terms of surrender would divide Senate Republicans and might hurt their chances of keeping a majority. A Trump Presidency with Democratic House and Senate majorities would be a very ugly four years.”

15 DAYS until Election Day.

Good Monday morning.

MAGGIE HABERMAN and ALEX BURNS … NYT, A1: “Trump Runs the Kind of Campaign He Likes, but Not the One He Might Need”: “Away from their candidate and the television cameras, some of Mr. Trump’s aides are quietly conceding just how dire his political predicament appears to be, and his inner circle has returned to a state of recriminations and backbiting. Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, is drawing furious blame from the president and some political advisers for his handling of Mr. Trump’s recent hospitalization, and he is seen as unlikely to hold onto his job past Election Day.

“Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, has maintained to senior Republicans that the president has a path forward in the race but at times has conceded it is narrow.

“Some midlevel aides on the campaign have even begun inquiring about employment on Capitol Hill after the election, apparently under the assumption that there will not be a second Trump administration for them to serve in. (It is not clear how appealing the Trump campaign might be as a résumé line for private-sector employers.)”

— JMART ADDS “In the week since he restarted in-person campaigning, Mr. Trump has continued to prove he is his own biggest impediment by drawing more attention to himself each day than to Mr. Biden.

“The president is blurting out snippets of his inner monologue by musing about how embarrassing it would be to lose to Mr. Biden — and how he’d never return to whatever state he happens to be in if its voters don’t help re-elect him. He’s highlighting his difficulties with key constituencies, like women and older voters, by wondering out loud why they’ve forsaken him, rather than offering a message to bring more of them back into his camp.

“And perhaps most damaging, to him and other Republicans on the ballot, he is further alienating these voters and others by continuing to minimize the pandemic and attacking women in positions of power.”

WHAT EVERY DEMOCRAT IS TALKING ABOUT … DAVID SIDERS: “The nagging unknowns that have Democrats sweating a Trump upset”: “By almost every measure that political operatives, academics and handicappers use to forecast elections, the likely outcome is that Joe Biden will win the White House.

“Yet two weeks before Election Day, the unfolding reality of 2020 is that it’s harder than ever to be sure. And Democrats are scrambling to account for the hidden variables that could still sink their nominee — or what you might call the known unknowns.

“Republican registration has ticked up in key states at the same time Democratic field operations were in hibernation. Democratic turnout is surging in the early vote. But it’s unclear whether it will be enough to overcome an expected rush of ballots that Republicans, leerier of mail voting, will cast in person on Election Day. There is uncertainty about the accuracy of polling in certain swing states, the efficacy of GOP voter suppression efforts and even the number of mail-in ballots that for one reason or another will be disqualified.

“‘There are more known unknowns than we’ve ever had at any point,’ said Tom Bonier, CEO of the Democratic data firm TargetSmart. ‘The instruments we have to gauge this race, the polling, our predictive models … the problem is all those tools are built around quote-unquote normal elections. And this is anything but a normal election.’” POLITICO

MORE BEDWETTING — “Biden leads Trump. So did Hillary Clinton. For Democrats, it’s a worrisome campaign deja vu,” by WaPo’s Michael Scherer and Scott Clement … AP: “2016 sequel? Trump’s old attacks failing to land on Biden,” by Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin

GEORGIA SENATE UPDATE — “Perdue’s mocking of Kamala Harris yields nearly $2M haul for his rival,” by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein and Maya Prabhu

NEW … FROM PULSE’S DAN DIAMOND: SENATE DEMOCRATS CALL FOR FREE TESTING ACROSS CAPITOL: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is leading a letter that calls for access to free coronavirus tests for all staff around the complex, including those who work in the Capitol’s restaurants, on committees or for the U.S. Capitol Police.

“Failing to provide this testing puts everybody within the Capitol complex at risk,” Murphy and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and 10 other Democrats write to McConnell and Pelosi, in a letter shared first with PULSE. The senators say they’re particularly concerned about the front-line workers keeping the Capitol running, citing data that there are at least 100 known cases among non-legislative employees and contractors.

“We should thank them for these indispensable services by doing our utmost to keep them safe and healthy each and every day by adopting a widespread testing plan and other public health practices,” the Democrats write, calling on the Senate to adopt a mandatory mask requirement. The House instituted that policy in July.

DIGGING INTO THE N.Y. POST’S BIDEN STORY … NYT: “New York Post Published Hunter Biden Report Amid Newsroom Doubts,” by Katie Robertson: “The New York Post’s front-page article about Hunter Biden on Wednesday was written mostly by a staff reporter who refused to put his name on it, two Post employees said.

“Bruce Golding, a reporter at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid since 2007, did not allow his byline to be used because he had concerns over the article’s credibility, the two Post employees said, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.”

AUSTIN TICE UPDATE — “Top White House Official Went to Syria for Hostage Talks,” by WSJ’s Dion Nissenbaum and Jared Malsin: “A top White House official recently traveled to Damascus for secret talks with the Assad regime, marking the first time such a high-level U.S. official has met in Syria with the isolated government in more than a decade, according to Trump administration officials and others familiar with the negotiations.

“Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to President Trump and the top White House counterterrorism official, went to Damascus earlier this year in an effort to secure release of at least two Americans believed to be held by President Bashar al-Assad, the officials said. Officials familiar with the trip declined to say whom Mr. Patel met with during his trip. The last known talks between White House and Syrian officials in Damascus took place in 2010. The U.S. cut off diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012 to protest Mr. Assad’s brutal crackdown on protesters calling for an end to his regime.

“U.S. officials are hoping a deal with Mr. Assad would lead to freedom for Austin Tice, a freelance journalist and former Marine officer who disappeared while reporting in Syria in 2012, and Majd Kamalmaz, a Syrian-American therapist who disappeared after being stopped at a Syrian government checkpoint in 2017. At least four other Americans are believed to be held by the Syrian government, but little is known about those cases.” WSJ

TRUMP’S MONDAY — The president will depart Las Vegas en route to Phoenix at 9:50 a.m. He will travel to Prescott, Ariz., where he will give a campaign speech at noon at the Prescott Regional Airport. He will depart at 1:15 p.m. and travel to Tucson International Airport. He will deliver a campaign speech at 3 p.m. Trump will depart at 4:10 p.m. and travel back to Washington. He will arrive at the White House at 11:15 p.m.

ON THE TRAIL — Sen. KAMALA HARRIS (D-Calif.) will travel to Orlando and participate in an early vote drive-in rally. She will travel to Jacksonville in the afternoon and participate in a voter mobilization event. She will also attend a virtual fundraiser in the evening. … DOUG EMHOFF will host an early vote bus tour starting in Palm Beach County traveling throughout South Florida. He will travel to Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward Counties on the first day of in-person early voting.

DEPT. OF MEASURING THE DRAPES — “Biden would revamp fraying intel community,” by Natasha Bertrand and Kyle Cheney: “Trump’s actions, and the endless partisan battles over the Russia probe and impeachment, have left the intelligence community bruised and battered. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s advisers and allies in Congress are already thinking about what a heavy lift it will be to restore morale inside the agencies, legitimacy on Capitol Hill and public trust in the intelligence community’s leadership should Biden defeat Trump in November, according to more than a dozen people close to the candidate.

“‘This will be among the most important things a President Biden would need to do—and that he’ll want to do—immediately,’ said Tony Blinken, who served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser under Barack Obama and is a top adviser to the Biden campaign. ‘I know from several conversations with him about this that he has deep concern about what has been done to the IC these last several years in terms of the politicization, and repairing that starts at the top with the president.’ Blinken recalled Biden telling him in February 2017, shortly after leaving office, that the thing he missed most about being vice president was receiving the PDB every morning. …

“The Biden campaign has been considering a couple of veteran national security hands who could serve in senior intelligence roles … Among the names is former acting CIA director Michael Morell, former Obama national security adviser and close Biden confidant Tom Donilon, former Obama deputy national security adviser Avril Haines, former deputy NSA director Chris Inglis, and former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Robert Cardillo.”

— NAHAL TOOSI: “The race to be Biden’s secretary of State is already underway”

VACCINE RACE — “Vaccine storage issues could leave 3B people without access,” by AP’s Lori Hinnant and Sam Mednick in Gampela, Burkina Faso: “The chain breaks here, in a tiny medical clinic in Burkina Faso that went nearly a year without a working refrigerator.

“From factory to syringe, the world’s most promising coronavirus vaccine candidates need non-stop sterile refrigeration to stay potent and safe.

“But despite enormous strides in equipping developing countries to maintain the vaccine ‘cold chain,’ nearly 3 billion of the world’s 7.8 billion people live where temperature-controlled storage is insufficient for an immunization campaign to bring COVID-19 under control. The result: Poor people around the world who were among the hardest hit by the virus pandemic are also likely to be the last to recover from it.”

MEDIAWATCH … NYT’S BEN SMITH column: “Donald Trump Is Losing His Touch. So Is the TV Producer Who Shaped His Image.”

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].

TRANSITIONS — Jenna Lowenstein is joining the Hub Project as a campaign director. She previously was deputy campaign manager for Cory Booker’s presidential campaign and is a Chris Murphy, Hillary Clinton and EMILY’s List alum. … Tim Frank is now manager of federal government affairs at Splunk. He previously was deputy COS for the CIO at the Defense Department. … Kate Bernard is now comms director at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. She previously was senior manager for third party advocacy and government operations at Boeing.

ENGAGED — Jordan Lancaster, a reporter at the Daily Caller, and Will Chamberlain, editor-in-chief of Human Events, got engaged Saturday at a restaurant in Gettysburg, Pa., after touring the battlefield there. They met through Twitter. PicAnother pic

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Matthew Wester, press secretary and digital media coordinator for Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), and Lauren Wester, director of community relations at Sunrise Senior Living, on Aug. 30 welcomed Dawes Harrison Wester, who joins big brothers Knox and Penn.

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Dale Brown, president and CEO of the Financial Services Institute. What he’s been reading: “I’ll briefly mention two: ‘Ghettoside’ by Jill Leovy. An incredibly well-written look at race, policing and criminal justice that reads like a crime novel. Also just finished ‘The Soul of America’ by Jon Meacham. Our current deep divisions in our country are not new, but an unfortunate continuation of longstanding systemic problems. Simultaneously encouraging and disheartening.” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) is 69 … Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is 64 … NYT’s Carl Hulse is ageless … Megan Powers … Katie Rayford, director of media relations at Slate, is 3-0 … POLITICO’s Kyle Cheney and Emily Helpern … WaPo’s Anthony Faiola … Edelman’s Jeremy Gosbee … Steven Greenhouse (h/t Jon Haber) … Kevin Keane of the American Beverage Association … Marsha Mercer … Kathryn Fanlund, comms manager for the Legal Services Corp. … Samantha Schwab … Steve Doocy, co-host of “Fox and Friends” … Jay Footlik is 55 … former RNC Chair Michael Steele is 62 … Kelley Anne Carney … Lauren Crawford Shaver, partner at Forbes Tate Partners … Tajha Chappellet-Lanier … Ray Day, vice chair at the Stagwell Group … Hailey Crust … WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein … Camille Solberg … Brandon Webb … Will Cadigan of CNN audio … Dave Lapan, VP of comms at the Bipartisan Policy Center (h/ts Brent Colburn and Ben Chang) … Dana Brown Ritter …

… Amy Walter … Robin Smith … Katie Belanger … Monica Vernon (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Philip Minardi … Sam Heitner … Kimberly Greenplate, director of congressional advocacy for the American Foreign Service Association, is 29 (h/t Cassandra Vangellow) … Marc Sklar, director of comms for the National Air and Space Museum … former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), founder of Kennedy Democrats and Taking the Hill PAC, is 47 (h/ts Alex Olson and Roger Misso) … Gareth Danker is 42 … Winston Lord, chief evangelist at OpenTable … Amy Carter … POLITICO Europe’s Sarah Wheaton … Marvin Nicholson … documentarian Holly Fine … Becca Herries … American Airlines’ Maggie Steenland … Amy Hemingway … Brett Pinto … Nicole Pavia … Bank of America Chair and CEO Brian Moynihan … Julia Schechter, director at SKDKnickerbocker … Rex Smith … Sean Smith, EVP at Porter Novelli … Elie Litvin … Austin Cowden … Shelby Coffey … Johnnetta Cole … Yoram Ettinger … Michael Paul Carey

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