POLITICO Playbook: Baghdadi is dead … But are the Nats alive?


BAGHDADI “DIED LIKE A DOG”… PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP announced the killing of Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi from the White House this morning, laying out the scene in extensive, and sometimes grisley, detail. TRUMP said U.S. forces landed with eight helicopters, and Baghdadi — “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” — killed himself and his three children, mutilating his body. The president said Baghdadi was and “the losers who worked for him” were “very frightened puppies.”

TRUMP said he watched the mission from the Situation Room, and it was “as though you were watching a movie.” No U.S. personnel were injured, the president said, but a dog was hurt. DEFENSE SECRETARY MARK ESPER said on CNN’S “STATE OF THE UNION” that there were “two minor casualties, two minor injuries, to our soldiers but a very successful, flawless raid.”

TRUMP told reporters he had been asking about Baghdadi for years. He said the U.S. did capture and kill terrorists in his time in office, but “they weren’t the big names.”

“HE DIED LIKE A DOG,” Trump said of Baghdadi. “He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place.”

— REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R-Texas), the former Armed Services chairman, said this CNN’S JAKE TAPPER on “STATE OF THE UNION” about the detail with which TRUMP described the raid. “Oh, it probably makes me a little uncomfortable to hear a president talking that way. But, again, Baghdadi was the inspirational leader for an ISIS network across the world from Africa to Southeast Asia. If you can take a little of the glamour off you, if you can make him less inspirational, then there’s a value to that for all of these folks who are on their computers or in these networks looking to attack.”

“WE KNOW THE SUCCESSORS,” Trump said, and the U.S. has them in its sights. TRUMP also said this was bigger than Osama Bin Laden.

— CHUCK TODD spoke with ROBERT O’BRIEN on NBC’s “MEET THE PRESS”: O’BRIEN: “Look I think today is a great day for the United States of America and a great day for the world. This — this was the number one wanted person in the world — he’s a brutal vicious terrorist. Killed many people, the president went into detail, we can talk some more about that. But it’s also important for the world to know that the United States has a long reach and the men and women of our armed services executed this mission flawlessly, took him down, and his colleagues that are still alive should be worried.”

TRUMP said he did not tell Speaker NANCY PELOSI about the mission. “I didn’t do that,” he said, saying he wanted to make sure this was kept secret. “I don’t want to have men lost — and women. I don’t want to have people lost.”

— THE WHITE HOUSE WILL LIKE THIS ONE … HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.) to MARTHA RADDATZ ON ABC’s “THIS WEEK”: “This is a great day. A ruthless killer brought to justice. It’s not the end of isis by any means, and we’ve had some recent serious setbacks with the release of over 100 ISIS fighters, that struggle is going to have to go on, made more difficult by the fact that we’ve betrayed the Kurds and withdrawn our forces from part of Syria. Nonetheless an important victory against this brutal killer.”

— CHRIS WALLACE asked VP MIKE PENCE on “Fox News Sunday” why the president didn’t inform Pelosi. He didn’t directly answer.

— CNN’S JAKE TAPPER spoke with DEFENSE SECRETARY MARK ESPER on “STATE OF THE UNION”: TAPPER: “I’m not trying to take away from the celebration, I agree it’s a great achievement, I’m just trying to find out as much information as possible. There are Russian forces also operating in this area of Syria. Should we assume that the U.S. de-conflicted with Russia, in other words told the Russians we’re going to be here, just so that there wasn’t any misunderstanding, miscommunication or kinetic action between the two, between the U.S. and Russia?

ESPER: “I’ll just say broadly that we have — we have communications to Russia. We deconflict all types of things. And — and I’ll just leave it at that.” …

TAPPER: “And obviously this is a huge blow to ISIS to have their leader, al-Baghdadi killed. Is there now concern that ISIS might lash out, that they might try to stage some sort of terrorist attack as a way of showing to the world, hey, we’re still here?

ESPER: “Well you prepare for everything, but you’re right, this is a devastating blow. This is not just their leader, it’s their founder. He was an inspirational leader in many ways. He’s the one that when he — he formed ISIS in 2014, he lead to the establishment of physical caliphate throughout the region, so this is a major blow to them. And we’re going to watch carefully next steps and as a new leader and leaders pop up, we’ll go after them as well.”

FLASHBACK … @realDonaldTrump on Oct. 22, 2012: “Stop congratulating Obama for killing Bin Laden. The Navy Seals killed Bin Laden. #debate”

SNEAK PEEK … THE PRESIDENT’S WEEK: Monday: THE PRESIDENT is going to Chicago to speak at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference and Exposition. He then will participate in a roundtable and fundraiser. TRUMP and the first lady host Halloween at the White House. Tuesday: TRUMP will have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and hold a fundraiser in D.C.

Wednesday: THE PRESIDENT will have lunch with VP Mike Pence and present a Medal of Honor. Friday: TRUMP will travel to Tupelo, Miss., for a political rally.

Good Sunday morning. WELL, NATS FANS, think of it this way: it’s now a best of three series with the first game tonight in D.C. Want optimism? Read WaPo’s Barry Svrluga THINK OF IT THIS WAY: Nats have Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on the mound in the next two games.

NOTABLE … WAPO on Trump’s visit to Nats Park: “‘The first pitches are our call, and we felt there are many other candidates that should be considered before [Trump],’ [Mark] Lerner said. ‘. . . We just wanted to have the right people. I think we got a nice mix of people.’

“The league confirmed Saturday that all conversations with Trump about throwing out a first pitch had been directly with MLB on Friday. Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters that MLB asked the President whether he wanted to throw out the first pitch, but he declined. Trump does not plan to arrive in time to see that first pitch; he is planning to arrive after the game begins. Manfred said Trump made that decision to alleviate the crush of fans entering the ballpark with higher security constraints. …

“Manfred has been in touch with Trump directly. On Saturday afternoon, he played golf with Trump and Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) at Trump National Golf Club, the White House confirmed.” WaPo

IMPEACHMENT CLIP PACKET … QUITE SIGNIFICANT… WSJ: “Sondland Told House Panels Trump’s Ukraine Pressure Was Quid Pro Quo,” by Rebecca Ballhaus: “A top U.S. diplomat told House committees last week that efforts by President Trump and his allies to press Kyiv to open investigations in exchange for a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president amounted to a quid pro quo, his lawyer said.

“Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told House committees that he believed Ukraine agreeing to open investigations into Burisma Group—a gas company where Democrat Joe Biden’s son once served on the board—and into alleged 2016 election interference was a condition for a White House meeting between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr. Sondland’s lawyer Robert Luskin said.

“Asked by a lawmaker whether that arrangement was a quid pro quo, Mr. Sondland cautioned that he wasn’t a lawyer but said he believed the answer was yes, Mr. Luskin said.” WSJ

— WEEKEND FUN! … ANDREW DESIDERIO: “Top State official details chaos after Yovanovitch ouster to impeachment investigators”: “A top State Department official told House impeachment investigators on Saturday about his role in supervising the chaotic fallout from President Donald Trump’s ouster of his ambassador to Ukraine earlier this year, including his stymied efforts to issue a statement in support of the besieged diplomat, according to a person familiar with the official’s testimony.

“Philip T. Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, assumed his role in March, just weeks before Trump forced out Marie Yovanovitch, his top diplomat in Kyiv. Reeker had to deal with the aftermath of the president’s decision, which disturbed senior American diplomats who viewed the move as politically motivated.” POLITICO

— INTERESTING NUGGET FROM WAPO’S GREG MILLER and RACHAEL BADE: “GOP members and staffers have repeatedly raised the name of a person suspected of filing the whistleblower complaint that exposed Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations into his political adversaries, officials said.

“The Republicans have refrained during hearings from explicitly accusing the individual of filing the explosive complaint with the U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general two months ago, officials said.

“But the questions have been interpreted as an attempt ‘to unmask the whistleblower,’ whose identity is shielded under federal law, said several officials with direct knowledge of the depositions. Republicans appear to be seeking ways to discredit the whistleblower as well as other witnesses ‘by trying to dredge up any information they can,’ one official said.” WaPo

— NYT’S PETER BAKER: “Waiting for Bolton: A Capital Speculates on What He Will Say”: “ The message that John R. Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser, sent supporters of his newly reopened political action committee last week raised as many questions as it answered in a capital consumed by impeachment.

“Mr. Bolton implicitly criticized Mr. Trump’s foreign policy, declaring that ‘despite all the friendly notes and photo ops, North Korea isn’t our friend and never will be.’ But he also wrote that the nation’s security ‘is under attack from within,’ citing “radicalized Democrats.”

The conflicting signals were maddening.

“After either resigning or being fired last month depending on whose version is to be believed, is Mr. Bolton so estranged from Mr. Trump that he might provide damaging testimony to House investigators? Or does he share the president’s view of out-of-control Democrats pursuing an illegitimate impeachment out of partisan excess?” NYT

WASHINGTON EXAMINER’S DAVID DRUCKER in Sea Island, Ga: “’I feel bad that I left’: John Kelly warned Trump he would be impeached”: “John Kelly warned President Trump that hiring a ‘yes man’ to succeed him as White House chief of staff would lead to impeachment and, in hindsight, regrets his decision to resign. …

“‘I said, whatever you do — and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place — I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that. Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached,’ Kelly recalled in an interview at the Sea Island Summit, a political conference hosted by the Washington Examiner.” Washington Examiner

— POLITICO, via Evan Semones: “Trump fired back at Kelly later Saturday, questioning the veracity of the retired Marine Corps general’s remarks. ‘John Kelly never said that. He never said anything like that. If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office,’ Trump said, according to CNN. “He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else.’

“White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham confirmed Trump’s response, adding, ‘I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President.’” POLITICO

NEW DEETS ON TRUMP/ROMNEY, via WaPo’s Michael Kranish: “In January 1995, Mitt Romney boarded Donald Trump’s airplane for a ride to Palm Beach, Fla., where the two toured Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort before attending the Super Bowl in Miami. They bonded over football as they attended more NFL games in subsequent years, and Trump said it was a ‘real honor’ to endorse Romney’s 2012 presidential bid.

“Romney, however, refused to return the favor of an endorsement in 2016, calling Trump a ‘phony,’ and the two were widely seen as detesting each other. Romney, just before taking his seat as a Republican senator from Utah in January, wrote in an op-ed that Trump ‘has not risen to the mantle of his office.’

“Two months later, little known to the public, Trump and Romney met for lunch at the White House. The subject was supposed to be their shared belief that the United States needed to take tough action against China’s trade policies. The effort at a rapprochement, described in interviews by Romney and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who facilitated it, went further and deeper than expected or publicly known.

“As had happened time and again in one of the most bizarre relationships in Republican politics, it fell apart in a blizzard of bitter words. Romney became one of the most outspoken Republican critics in the Senate of Trump’s telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the president’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria.” WaPo

2020 WATCH …

— N.Y. MAG COVER STORY … OLIVIA NUZZI: “The Zombie Campaign Joe Biden is the least formidable front-runner ever. Will it matter?”: “Biden is aware that it’s not going well. But it’s not apparent that he knows how to fix it. Recently, according to his staff, his anxieties have manifested more visibly. If he begins to question something small, he spirals, eventually questioning everything. Should he be saying this in his speech? Wait, should he be giving this speech at all? Should he even be focusing on this group? Is this even the right position?

“He freaks out over minor stuff on the trail that staffers don’t believe he should be concerning himself with and yet is unable to make strategic adjustments. But the staff concern themselves with unimportant matters, too, running what they think is a general-election campaign when they need to be running a primary. Inside the campaign, the Biden brain trust seems to exist more to comfort the candidate than to compel him, and strategy meetings inevitably devolve into meandering, ruminative roundtables that feel purposeless except to fill time in the day. Nobody will tell the candidate in plain terms what they think he needs to change. Not that Biden really listens anyway.” N.Y. Mag

— AP’S MEG KINNARD in Florence, S.C: “AP Interview: Biden undeterred by rival Warren’s ascendancy”: “Joe Biden said Saturday he is undeterred by the ascendancy of Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren, noting that some of his supporters are already treating the primary campaign as a general election contest between him and President Donald Trump.

“‘She doesn’t affect my strategy, period,’ the former vice president said in an interview with The Associated Press before a town hall meeting in South Carolina, home to the South’s first primary next year. ‘And I’m not being facetious. I think she’s a fine person, a good candidate, but I didn’t get involved in deciding to run because of polling or a particular strategy.’

“He also acknowledged that outside groups are considering running ads to support him, a move that comes amid concerns within his campaign that his fundraising efforts have lagged.

“‘There’s two things we know for certain: one, (Russian President) Vladimir Putin doesn’t want me to be president, according to Facebook taking down the Russian ads going after me. And two, surely Trump doesn’t want to face me,’ Biden said. ‘What I’m told is, there are people out there who want to take these ads on, take him on now, because it’s a general election, me versus Trump, in their minds right now. But I’ve had no conversations with them.’” AP

— BOSTON GLOBE: “An Ohio factory closure stirs populist anger. Who will that help in 2020?,” by Jess Bidgood in Lordstown, Ohio: “Two years ago, President Trump said he would help. He came to Northeast Ohio, a place where many voters gave him a shot after years of backing Democrats, which helped him win the state. He promised to revive the region’s struggling manufacturing sector, and to be an all-out advocate for blue collar America.

“It is a promise so far not kept, at least not in Lordstown. To many, it feels like things here have only gotten worse, stoking the populist anger that has long coursed through this corner of country increasingly divided by economic inequities.” Boston Globe

THE PRESIDENT’S SUNDAY … TRUMP and first lady Melania Trump will leave the White House at 7:50 p.m. to go to Nationals Park for Game 5 of the World Series against the Houston Astros.

BONUS GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman (@dlippman):

— “How a Veteran Reporter Worked with Giuliani’s Associates to Launch the Ukraine Conspiracy,” by ProPublica’s Jake Pearson, Mike Spies and J. David McSwane: “Lev Parnas, recently indicted for foreign influence in U.S. elections, collaborated closely with The Hill’s John Solomon to fuel spurious allegations involving the Bidens and Ukraine.” ProPublica

— “The Journalist vs. the President, With Life on the Line,” by Joshua Hammer in the NYT Magazine: “Maria Ressa, editor of a popular news site in the Philippines, has incurred President Duterte and his supporters’ wrath by investigating his extrajudicial killing campaign.” NYT Magazine

— “I’m Part of the 0.1 Percent and I Want a Wealth Tax,” by Meghan Bell in The Walrus: “[T]he rich do not care about you (some might even hate you), and any rich person claiming otherwise is conning you. Call their bluff. The rich will not help you, will not save you through ‘job creation’ or anything else. Corporate-tax cuts are associated with greater inequality, not more job opportunities. The average rich person is looking out only for himself.” The Walrus

— “Don’t Bet on John Bolton to Be an Impeachment Hero,” by John Gans in POLITICO Magazine: “The president’s former national security adviser might have opposed the Ukraine scheme. But he also spent his career fighting for the power of the presidency and the limits of congressional inquiry.” POLITICO Magazine

— “How Brexit Will End,” by Sam Knight in The New Yorker: “Until recently, it was possible to believe that there was a middle way, or to be in denial that a decisive moment would come. That’s no longer the case.” New Yorker

— “Why Talk to a Pariah?” by Errol Morris, director of the upcoming Bannon documentary “American Dharma,” in Air Mail: “Most adversarial interviews exist not to procure information but merely to showcase the toughness of the interviewer. If the goal is to show how tough you are, then the difficult question works wonders. But if the goal is to learn something new or something unexpected or something different, it’s often a disaster.” Air MailTrailer

— “A Suspect in the Family,” by James Rosen in the WSJ: “‘In Hoffa’s Shadow’ is … a reckoning, as [Jack] Goldsmith confronts his disloyalty toward his adoptive father, and also a meticulous reconstruction of ‘the greatest mystery in American history.’ For that task he reviewed the vast corpus of Hoffa literature: FBI files, wiretap transcripts, grand-jury evidence. Unlike other researchers, he had unfettered access to [Chuckie] O’Brien and conducted hundreds of hours of interviews.” WSJ

— “How to Mourn a Glacier,” by Lacy M. Johnson in The New Yorker – per Longreads.com’s description: “Essayist Lacy M. Johnson attends a funeral in Iceland for ‘Okjökull’ — once a glacier 16 square kilometers in surface, and now ‘only a small patch of slushy gray ice.’ In personifying shrinking masses of ice — key geographical features of the area, and the planet — officials hope to impress upon people the dire extent of climate change, and the need for humans to stop living in ways that threaten all life forms.” New Yorker

— “The Invention — and Reinvention — of Impeachment,” by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker: “It’s the ultimate political weapon. But we’ve never agreed on what it’s for.” New Yorker

— “Two Women Joined GM More Than a Decade Ago. Their Futures Couldn’t Be More Different,” by Bloomberg’s Danielle Bochove: “Tentative labor deal aside, the transition to electric and autonomous vehicles is leaving a generation of workers behind.” Bloomberg

— “Can You Really Be Addicted to Video Games?” by Ferris Jabr in the NYT Magazine: “The latest research suggests it’s not far-fetched at all — especially when you consider all the societal and cultural factors that make today’s games so attractive.” NYT Magazine

— “How Facebook Bought a Police Force,” by Sarah Emerson in Vice: “Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by Motherboard show how Facebook is using the Menlo Park Police Department to reshape the city.” Vice (hat tip: Longform.org)

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at politicoplaybook@politico.com.

SPOTTED separately at Saturday night’s Nats game: Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Rep. Mark Gallagher (R-Wis.), Ken Duberstein, Bret Baier, Joe Scarborough, Jim Acosta and Josh Kramer. Pic of Kaine

TRANSITIONS — Roy Loewenstein is now press secretary for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). He previously was the communications director at the Montana Democratic Party. … Caroline Franklin will be communications director for Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.). She previously was press assistant for Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

WEEKEND WEDDINGS — “Teresa Gianotti, John Bohrer,” via NYT: “Ms. Gianotti, 28, is a news producer for “Today,” the NBC morning show; she works in Manhattan. She graduated from Fordham. … Mr. Bohrer [known as Jack], 35, is the executive producer of ‘The 11th Hour With Brian Williams’ on MSNBC; he works in Manhattan. He graduated from Washington College in Chestertown, Md., and is the author of ‘The Revolution of Robert Kennedy: From Power to Protest After J.F.K.,’ (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017).” NYT Pic

— “Tony Plohetski, Wroe Jackson,” via NYT: “Mr. Plohetski … 41, is a reporter for The Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV, the local ABC station in Austin. … Mr. Jackson, 38, who goes by Wroe, is the director of government affairs and operations at the Texas Association of Manufacturers in Austin.” With a pic, NYT

— PENCE ALUMNI: Hannah Brown to Jared Bond – NYT’s Vincent M. Mallozzi: “Mrs. Bond, 31, is the deputy finance director for the Indiana Republican State Committee, for which she oversees scheduling and fund-raising events for Gov. Eric J. Holcomb and the first lady, Janet Holcomb. … She previously served on the staff of Vice President Mike Pence when he was a congressman and later governor of Indiana. … Mr. Bond, 33, is the communications manager and public information officer for the Indiana auditor of state, Tera Klutz, for whom he oversees the communications strategy and media relations.” With a pic, NYT

BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) is 46 … Matt Drudge is 53 … POLITICO’s Michael Calderone … NYT’s Ali Watkins … Mike McCurry, distinguished professor of public theology at Wesley Theological Seminary and of counsel to Public Strategies Washington, is 65 (hat tip: Jon Haber) … Nina Easton … Richard Clarke, CEO of Good Harbor, is 69 … Stuart Roy, president of Strategic Action Public Affairs … Will Ris … Greg Gorman … Phil Anderson, president and founder of Navigators Global … Jon Doggett, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, is 64 … Chris Vlasto is 53 … Clark Reid of the Office of Inspector General at Commerce … Stephanie Abrams …

… Judy Smith … Sara Latham (h/t Hillary sisters) … Red Balloon Security’s Andrew Taub, an Obama NSC and DHS alum, is 3-0 (h/t #ECONOPS44) … Zoe Chace of “This American Life” … Kenneth Katzman … Zoé Zeigler of JPMorgan Chase … Christina (Mountz) Donnelly, senior associate at Glover Park Group … Teal Baker … John Jay … Lori Otto Punke, founder of LOP Strategies … Mike Appel … Emily Vander Weele of Weber Shandwick … Chrissy Terrell Murray, director of corporate communications and PR for Gannett/USA Today Network … Ed Dippold … Jennifer Mandel … Abbey Shilling … Jackie Bray … Victoria Hargis … George Landrith … Leslie Churchwell … Jonathan Sender … Nicholas Roosevelt



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