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Axios Sneak Peek

Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus the cream of the Sunday shows. I'd love your tips and feedback: jonathan@axios.com.

Please urge your friends and colleagues to join the conversation by signing up for Sneak Peek and the other Axios newsletters. See you all week in the Axios STREAM, and next Sunday evening in Sneak Peek.

1 big thing: Trump's "ultimate deal"

Every American president fantasizes about being the Middle East peacemaker. It's the great unattainable — a sure-fire Nobel Peace Prize, and your own page in the history books.

Influential figures in the conservative pro-Israel community have concluded that President Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have convinced themselves that their dealmaking talents can clinch this "ultimate deal" between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump the dealmaker has begun inching to the left on Israel:

  • The Trump administration alienated some allies in conservative pro-Israel circles by allowing the State Department to hire Michael Ratney, who was a senior U.S. diplomat in Jerusalem under John Kerry. In recent days, a number of influential conservatives have reached out to White House officials, urging them to fire Ratney.
  • On the campaign trail, Trump promised to "move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem." As president, Trump is keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv as a bargaining chip to extract future concessions from Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.
  • Trump infuriated Palestinians by breaking with U.S. policy and saying he could potentially support a one-state solution. But during the same recent visit with Netanyahu, Trump threw a bone to the left by gently chiding the Israelis on settlement building.
  • On Friday, Trump spoke by phone to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. According to the White House, they "discussed a comprehensive agreement that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Trump invited Abbas to visit the White House in the near future.
So what comes next?
The hardbitten view: A conservative pro-Israel leader tells me Trump's aspirations "will run up against the reality of dealing with the Palestinians."
The most hopeful words: In a recent interview on David Axelrod's podcast, The Atlantic's editor Jeffrey Goldberg repeated a joke that Jared Kushner's principal qualification to be Trump's Middle East peacemaker was that he'd been to Jewish summer camp. But Goldberg wisely noted that the "great geniuses of American diplomacy" have all failed to achieve a deal:
"There's almost like a Jewish comic novel in this ... And then a boy named Jared Kushner emerged from Trump Tower and brought peace to the tribes of Abraham. I mean ... who knows?"

2. The highest bar

The White House and Republican Hill leaders are setting a dauntingly high bar for their plan to replace Obamacare:

  • Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" that the administration will do "whatever it takes" to get the bill passed.
  • When NBC's Chuck Todd asked on "Meet the Press" what success would look like, HHS Secretary Tom Price said it means "more people covered than are covered right now, and at an average cost that is less" (which contradicts the administration's line that coverage is the wrong focus).
  • Price also told Chuck that "nobody will be worse off financially."
  • Speaker Ryan told John Dickerson on CBS's "Face the Nation" that he agrees with President Trump that the 2018 elections would be a "bloodbath" for Republicans if they fail to pass his Obamacare replacement.

Echoing into the week ... On ABC's "This Week," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton had this warning for Republican House members: "Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote."

3. Undercutting Speaker Ryan

Inside the Oval Office last week, there was a telling exchange between conservative activist Jenny Beth Martin and the president.

During Trump's Wednesday meeting with conservative leaders over the healthcare plan, Tea Party Patriots leader Martin subtly reminded Trump that her super-PAC stood by him "through thick and thin" during the campaign, unlike a certain politician from Wisconsin.

According to two sources in the room, Martin didn't mention Paul Ryan's name. But everyone knew who she was talking about. She reminded Trump that in October — when the crude "Access Hollywood" tape leaked and Ryan disinvited Trump from a Wisconsin event — Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund volunteers were working the phones on Trump's behalf.

Trump smiled and glanced over at his chief of staff Reince Priebus. Trump said that, yes, he had been disinvited. And he thanked Martin for standing by him. (Of course, Martin wasn't always a Trump loyalist. She gave a blisteringly anti-Trump speech at CPAC in 2016, but has since changed her tune.)

  • Why this matters: Some conservatives who oppose the House GOP Obamacare replacement plan believe it's strategically smart to divide the president from the speaker. They think the president is more open than Ryan to negotiating, and they believe that branding the bill as "Paul Ryan's plan" and emphasizing Ryan's disloyalty during the campaign could make Trump less attached to the specifics of the current bill.
  • However: So far, the White House and Ryan are publicly sticking close together even on the controversial stuff. The controversial Medicaid timeline that's in the bill "is what the president supports," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday, adding: "it's not a question of negotiation."

4. Lowering sights on tax

It didn't get much media attention, but Trump's chief economic adviser Gary Cohn said something very important in a Friday interview with CNBC:

"We're going to have to be deficit neutral over a 10-year period."

Why this matters: Sources familiar with the administration's tax planning say there's nothing close to agreement on how — or if — the administration will "pay for" the cuts it has planned to corporate and individual rates. Given Trump's oft-professed love for debt, many sources had been assuming the administration would give up on revenue neutrality, instead suffering short-term deficit hikes in hopes of long-term growth.

Cohn's comments change that calculus, since they sure look like an official White House endorsement of the House's commitment to revenue neutrality.

I checked in with Stephen Moore, one of Trump's top economic advisors during the campaign. He worries that Cohn & Co. are preparing for a less ambitious rate cut.

  • Here's the rub: If the administration doesn't get behind new taxes to pay for the cuts — like the House Republicans' trillion-dollar border adjustment tax — then taxes won't be cut as much as Trump originally promised.

1 fun thing: celebrities struggling with Trump

The celebrity community is still having trouble adjusting to Trump's America, as was on display this week in two big ways:

  • First, Madonna — never one to err on the side of understatement — released a short video announcing that we have entered a "New Age of Tyranny."
  • Even more dramatic, if that's possible, was the escalating feud between Shia LaBeouf and members of the troll-infested Internet message board 4chan. According to Page Six, LaBeouf livestreamed a flag that read "He Will Not Divide Us," billowing in the wind over an undisclosed location. 4chan members reportedly found the flag, pulled it down, and replaced it with a "Make America Great Again" hat.

Not your daddy's culture war, but here we are.

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Timeline: Devin Nunes and the Trump wiretapping claims

AP

Devin Nunes is facing calls to resign as chairman of House Intelligence and refusing to share, even with his own committee, the sources of his claim that the Obama administration may have surveilled President Trump. Here's how we got to this point:

January 2015: Nunes, a six-term Congressman, becomes chairman of House Intelligence Committee.

November 2016: Nunes begins advising Trump transition team.

January 25, 2017: Nunes and ranking member Adam Schiff announce they're investigating Russian election meddling, including possible communications between Russia and "political campaigns."

March 4: Trump accuses Barack Obama of having Trump Tower "wiretapped".

March 15: After initially defending Trump, Nunes says he does not believe Trump Tower was bugged. But he adds a caveat: Trump campaign communications could have been incidentally collected as part of wider surveillance efforts.

March 20: FBI Director James Comey testifies before Intel Committee, and refutes Trump's claims. Nunes reiterates that there was no "physical" wiretap, but repeats the possibility of incidental collection.

March 21: Nunes travels to White House grounds to review evidence of potential surveillance of Trump associates. The visit is not initially made public.

March 22:

  • Nunes holds unexpected press conference and says an unnamed individual (or individuals) showed him intelligence reports indicating the Obama administration captured communications involving Trump and/or his associates. He said it appeared to be legal, incidental collection but nonetheless seemed "inappropriate" and troubling.
  • Nunes briefs Trump before Schiff, despite Trump being a potential subject of the committee's investigation.
  • Trump says he feels "somewhat" vindicated.

March 23: Nunes expresses regret for failing to brief Intel committee before White House.

March 27:

  • News of Nunes' White House visit emerges.
  • He says he needed to visit WH to access to secure system, an explanation that is immediately challenged.
  • Schiff calls on Nunes to recuse himself from Russia investigation.

March 28:

  • Russia hearings scheduled for this week are abruptly cancelled, including one at which former acting AG Sally Yates was slated to testify.
  • The Washington Post reports (and the WH denies) that the Trump admin tried to block Yates from testifying.
  • Nunes says he will not share his sources for the Trump surveillance claims, even with his own committee.
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Republicans block moves to release Trump's tax returns

Andrew Harnik / AP

Republicans blocked two separate attempts today — a resolution in the Ways and Means Committee and a resolution on the House floor — by House Democrats to force a release of President Trump's tax returns, per The Hill.

  • The Democratic argument from Rep. Zoe Lofren (CA): "I think it is absolutely essential for the president's tax returns to be released so that the members of the Judiciary Committee can do their job to research whether the Emoluments Clause has been violated and whether permission should be given to the president to receive payments from foreign states."
  • The Republican rebuttal from Rep. Kevin Brady (TX): The attempts do "absolutely nothing to promote a substantive policy discussion on the real-life challenges facing the people, families, and job creators we were sent here to serve."
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White House boycotts correspondents' dinner in "solidarity" with Trump

Alex Brandon / AP

The White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) has been informed that the entire White House staff will be skipping next month's White House Correspondents' Dinner in "solidarity" with President Trump.

The WH announced in February that Trump would not attend, with a spokeswoman saying at the time: "There's no reason for him to go in and sit and pretend like this is going to be just another Saturday night."

Of the full staff boycott, the WHCA said it "regrets this decision very much," adding: "Only the White House can speak to the signal it wants to send with this decision."

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Manafort's finances in Cyprus trigger investigation

Matt Rourke / AP

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was associated with at least 15 bank accounts and 10 companies whose activities triggered a money laundering investigation by a Cypriot bank, per NBC News.

  • One of the Manafort-associated companies was involved in a nearly $20 million deal with a Russian oligarch described as "one of the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis."
  • Manafort chose to close his Cypriot accounts rather than provide additional information after their activity triggered a money laundering investigation by the Cyprus Popular Bank.
  • The accounts were set up "for a legitimate business purpose," a Manafort spokesperson told NBC News.
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House votes to roll back privacy protections for internet customers

Elise Amendola / AP

The House voted 215-to-205 Tuesday night to overturn Obama-era regulations that require internet providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T to get a user's permission before sharing their browsing history and other data with advertisers. It also prohibits the FCC from creating similar regulations in the future.

The White House has said it will recommend that President Trump sign the resolution, which was already approved by the Senate.

What it means for broadband providers: The rules hadn't yet gone into effect so this doesn't change the day-to-day ways that ISPs deal with customer data. But this likely clears the way for ISPs to go full speed ahead in taking on Facebook and Google for digital ad dollars. Meanwhile, the FCC will have to determine how to deal with privacy on broadband networks without the rules in place.

What it means for net neutrality: The vote could roil the waters on a larger debate over net neutrality. The privacy rules only exist because of the FCC's 2015 net neutrality regulations, which conservatives hate and liberals love. So this rollback — should the president sign it into law — adds a new wrinkle to that conversation.

  • One key lawmaker said this could make a legislative deal on net neutrality more difficult. "I mean, after this today, if this goes through, this is like a sledgehammer, right?" said Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the House's Energy and Commerce Committee, adding, when asked about the chances of a net neutrality bill in light of the upcoming vote, "I'm always willing to meet with people but I think this really poisons the well."
  • Republican Sen. John Thune, who will likely lead any effort to reach a deal, said he would be willing to consider adding privacy protections to a legislative compromise on net neutrality "if that were something that it took to get Democrats to the table." Marsha Blackburn, who chairs a key tech subcommittee and sponsored the House resolution to roll back the privacy rules, said that she didn't think the vote would make getting a deal more difficult. "We're doing what needs to be done," she told Axios.
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Ryan and McConnell seem to diverge on Obamacare

J. Scott Applewhite / AP; J. Scott Applewhite / AP

At the House GOP Leadership press conference this morning, Paul Ryan seemed to indicate that Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare aren't done yet:

"We want to get it right, we're gonna keep talking to each other until we get it right. I'm not gonna put a timeline on it because this is too important to not get right."

But it seemed like Mitch McConnell didn't get that message before the Senate GOP Leadership press conference this afternoon:

"I want to thank the president and speaker — they went all out to try to pass repeal and replacement. Sorry that didn't work, but our Democratic friends now have the law that they wrote and wanted. And we'll see how that works out."

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Here comes Brexit

Christopher Furlong / AP

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May signed a letter this afternoon that officially declared the country's intention to leave the European Union. Addressed to European Council President Donald Tusk, it'll be hand delivered by Sir Tim Barrow, the British ambassador to the E.U., to Brussels tomorrow afternoon.

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Dunkin' Donuts and Waze will order your coffee

Mike Mozart via Flickr CC

Boston is gearing up for a mass descent on drive thru lines: Google's Waze, the traffic navigation app, is teaming up with Dunkin' Donuts to order coffee for drivers before they arrive at brick and mortar stores, according to The Boston Globe.

If this goes well, Waze will expand the "order ahead" function to other merchants.

The partnership: Waze doesn't earn a commission on the Dunkin' Donuts sales, but Dunkin' Donuts is increasing the amount it spends on Waze ads. To place an order, users will need both the Waze and the Dunkin' Donuts apps installed and be registered with the Dunkin' loyalty program.

Why it matters: Brand loyalty for Dunkin' and Waze. Note, Starbucks had a similar partnership announced last week with Amazon's Alexa and Ford vehicles. The Dunkin' Donuts-Waze partnership allows anyone — not just Ford drivers with Alexa — to take advantage, but will bring people time and time again to both Waze and Dunkin'.

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Nunes won't share surveillance source with own committee

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

House Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes will not share the sources behind his claim that the Obama administration may have surveilled President Trump and/or his associates - even with his own committee.

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, has already called on Nunes to recuse himself from the Russia investigation after it emerged that the chairman was on White House grounds when he reviewed the alleged evidence behind his claims. One House Republican, Walter Jones, echoed that call today.

Nunes is under increasing pressure, but made this defiant statement to a Fox News reporter today:

We will never reveal those sources and methods
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Spicer tells reporter to stop shaking her head

During today's press briefing, Sean Spicer claimed that people would claim there was a Russia connection if Trump used Russian salad dressing, to which white house correspondant April Ryan began shaking her head. Spicer told her not to...

And Ryan tweeted in response:

Ryan then talked to CNN about the interaction: