The Note: Trump’s power plays


The Note: Trump’s power plays

The point isn’t winning. The point is fighting – and showing who is in control.

That’s fundamental to understanding President Donald Trump’s actions on the domestic front, as a moment approaches where he’s about to stand on the foreign stage like few times before.

Trump didn’t want a victory over the NFL on the issue of player protests. He wanted the battle – and the spectacle it would generate.

It would appear that he doesn’t actually want to oust Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or the special counsel, Robert Mueller. But his outbursts against them serve as reminders that he could.

Then there are the messages he’s sending with his newly-liberal use of his pardon powers. They are signals to potential witnesses, yes, but also reminders of the powers that are his – to reward allies, or even just celebrity friends.

It is power for power’s sake. It makes for an intriguing pretext to a stretch of the presidency when Trump will interact with other world leaders who have power in their own right.

The Note: Trump’s power plays

ABC NewsAlice Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother serving a life sentence on drug charges whose cause was championed by Kim Kardashian West, had an emotional reunion with her family Wednesday after her sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

There are approximately 1,500 people in federal prisons serving life without parole for drug offenses, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, citing Bureau of Prisons statistics.

While the president may have commuted the sentence of one such American at the behest of a celebrity, the act was far from a move towards prison reform.

The subject has sat uncomfortably in this White House and Washington for quite some time.

In this administration, specifically, it underscores the tough alliance between dramatically different political ideologies – populists, fiscal conservatives, and hardline social conservatives – that have been trying to coexist on one team.

Simply put, people like Jared Kushner and the Koch brothers (and, to be fair, most Democrats) would love to see big changes made – such as scrapping sentencing requirements and putting more focus on recidivism rates – but that does not jive with the likes of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other Republicans in Congress who have banked their political careers on being tough on crime.

A reminder of the big picture: There are currently 2.3 million people in prison in the U.S. today. And according to the ACLU, each year the country spends over $80 billion on incarceration.

The Note: Trump’s power plays

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesRep. Mark Meadows speaks as (L-R) Rep. Lee Zeldin, Rep. Matt Gaetz and Rep. Jim Jordan listen during a news conference May 22, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The TIP with John Parkinson

House Republicans across the ideological spectrum huddled for nearly two hours behind closed doors in the speaker’s office Wednesday afternoon, working to reach consensus on an immigration proposal they hope will garner 218 GOP votes.

Almost every member left the meeting citing headway on a compromise – though few details have been revealed.

“Obviously we had a good meeting with a number of our colleagues. We’re still not in a situation where there is an agreement. I think there is great progress that’s being made,” Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters.

The House Republican Conference is scheduled to meet for two hours beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday in the basement of the Capitol, although Meadows said he doesn’t expect an agreement that soon.

The North Carolina Republican said “it’s been extremely encouraging” to have a “meaningful debate and dialogue and passion” but warned time is running short. “We’re down to hours, not weeks,” he said.


  • President Trump hosts a joint press conference in the Rose Garden with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at 2:00 p.m.
  • Former President Bill Clinton and author James Patterson discuss their new book at the Warner Theater beginning at 7 p.m.
  • Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates delivers the keynote address at The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy’s 2018 National Convention, starting at 7 p.m. at the Capitol Hilton.
  • Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper discusses his new book at the International Spy Museum at 12 p.m.
  • Oprah Winfrey gives the keynote address at the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Women’s E-3 Summit at 11:15 a.m.
  • The National Partnership for Women & Families holds its annual gala at the Washington Hilton starting at 6:30 p.m., featuring Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Rosalind Brewer of Starbucks and actresses Gabrielle Union and Kerry Washington.

    “Tariffs are taxes on American consumers. They hurt American workers, families, and employers. Imposing them under the false pretense of ‘national security’ weakens our economy, our credibility with other nations, and invites retaliation.” — Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, in a tweet Wednesday.


    ‘Go in with authority’: Sen. Joni Ernst’s advice to Trump on Powerhouse Politics. “Let’s lay out the ground rules. Let’s talk about the issues. I don’t think that necessarily we will see an ultimate solution coming out of this first summit, but it’s absolutely going in with authority,” the combat veteran-turned-senator told host and Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl. A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Iowa Republican said she doesn’t trust North Korea, and believes isolating Kim Jong Un economically has been effective. (Avery Miller)

    DOJ watchdog finds James Comey defied authority as FBI director, sources say. Almost from the start, the long-awaited report was expected to chastise Comey for his handling of the Clinton-related probe. One source told ABC News that the draft report explicitly used the word “insubordinate” to describe Comey’s behavior. Another source agreed with that characterization but could not confirm the use of the term. (Mike Levine)

    Speaker Ryan agrees FBI’s informant in contact with Trump campaign advisors was justified, urges Trump not to pardon self. After receiving a classified briefing late last month at the Department of Justice, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he agrees with his fellow Republican, Rep. Trey Gowdy, in his assessment that it was fully proper for the FBI to deploy an informant to communicate with Trump campaign advisors – although Ryan cautioned he wants to ensure every lead is investigated. (John Parkinson)

    Top aides for embattled EPA administrator Scott Pruitt resign. Millan Hupp and Sarah Greenwalt, loyalists from Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma, both had benefitted from large raises earlier this year, according to a report issued by the EPA’s inspector general. Sources told ABC News on Wednesday that both Hupp and Greenwald had resigned. (John Santucci)

    Tariffs affecting local businesses, spill into Senate race. The consequences of the tariffs that President Trump announced last week on steel and aluminum from Europe, Mexico, and Canada have spilled into the U.S. Senate race in Tennessee. (Christopher Donato)

    Senate Dems to hit GOP on health care in August. Democrats say they are welcoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s cancellation of the month-long August recess with a message: Bring it on. They plan to use the time to push for votes on legislation that would lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs. (Mariam Khan)

    Congressman Steve Scalise returns to baseball a year after he was shot at practice. The House Majority Whip was pictured playing baseball this morning by fellow Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Scalise underwent multiple surgeries after he was shot on June 14, 2017. (Meghan Keneally)

    Trump commutes a grandmother’s life sentence for drug charges after Kim Kardashian West’s lobbying. Alice Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother who, as a first-time offender, was given a mandatory life sentence plus 25 years in 1997 for her role in a cocaine distribution ring, was pardoned after Kardashian West made a personal appeal to President Trump last week. (Katherine Faulders, Jordyn Phelps, Cindy Smith, John Santucci and Ali Rogin)

    Actress Alyssa Milano, lawmakers make new push for Equal Rights Amendment. Forty-six years after Congress originally passed it, the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution is just one state short of ratification, and Wednesday actress Alyssa Milano joined with Democratic lawmakers in a campaign calling for that last state to do so. (Ali Rogin)

    Asian-American voters’ increased influence could help shape California elections. In the Golden State, “44 percent of immigrant voters identify as Asian-American”, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of public policy and political science at the University of California, Riverside. This could be especially important in key Orange County districts, where Asian-Americans largely supported Republican House candidates in 2016, but supported Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. (Meena Venkataramanan)

    The Trump administration has put its search for the Justice Department’s No. 3 official on hold after failing to persuade several candidates to take the job, The Wall Street Journal reports. The associate attorney general would potentially oversee the Mueller probe if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were to vacate his position. (subscription required)

    California’s oft-discussed jungle primary system was a point of concern for the major political parties leading up to Tuesday, in which “Gamesmanship was everywhere,” writes John Myers in the Los Angeles Times. But “In the end…the playing field looked very much like a traditional primary” and the parties “emerged as powerful as before.”


    The Note: Trump’s power plays

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