Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus my best scoops. I'd love your tips and feedback: email@example.com. And please urge your friends and colleagues to join the conversation by signing up for Sneak Peek.
Situational awareness: Rudy Giuliani claims to the NYT that Robert Mueller plans to wrap up his Trump obstruction investigation by Sept. 1. WaPo's Bob Costa adds: "spoke w/ Giuliani a few mins ago... the Sept. 1 date mentioned by Mueller had a caveat. He said Mueller described it as the likely conclusion *only* if POTUS sat for an interview."
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Paul Ryan's House is collapsing, and if the chaos keeps accelerating it could force him out of the speakership before his planned graceful exit at the end of the year:
Why this matters: The Republican House is careening into chaos at the moment its members most need to rally together. We're less than six months away from the midterms, and the House is on the line. Hill Republicans are anxious and effectively leaderless. Nobody fears repercussions from a lame duck Speaker. So even the usually well-behaved moderate members are wreaking havoc.
When Ryan announced his retirement in April, he created a power vacuum that's being filled by conservatives, below-the-radar leadership jostling, and outside agitators like movement leader Ginni Thomas who is leading a petition for hardliner Jim Jordan to replace Ryan as Speaker.
The pushback: Ryan's defenders say the Freedom Caucus's purpose in life is to screw with leadership and sink reasonable legislation. In other words: the Republican House has long been ungovernable; nothing new here. But this allegedly "ungovernable" House — led by the pre-retirement Ryan — passed an Obamacare repeal bill and overhauled the tax code.
What's next: House Republicans could come to blows again in June when Ryan may introduce immigration legislation. More drama is sure when they start introducing appropriations bills and stare down a September government-funding deadline.
Bottom line: None of this turmoil helps in November's elections.
At 1:37 p.m. today, the President issued a consequential and ominous tweet: "I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!"
Why this matters: Trump was effectively rolling a grenade into the Department of Justice — ordering the agency to conduct a politically-motivated investigation of itself.
The twist: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appears to be trying to pre-empt Trump's official request by saying he's happy to allow an independent investigation. (The thing DoJ officials are most concerned about is the exposure of confidential sources and documents, which Trump still hasn't formally ordered Rosenstein to do.)
Rosenstein also issued the following statement: “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”
Between the lines: Trump would be happy if Jeff Sessions or his deputy Rosenstein resigned, according to multiple sources who've discussed both men with the President. But Trump's lawyers have been urging him not to meddle in the Justice Department and to avoid any actions that look like he's interfering with Robert Mueller's investigation.
The bottom line: As I publish this newsletter I don't know whether Trump will feel mollified by Rosenstein's statement and his decision to kick the expanded investigation over to the Inspector General. If he backs off, and doesn't order Rosenstein to go even further and release documents and reveal sources, then it might be crisis averted. For today at least.
Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images
You could almost hear the markets breathe a sigh of relief this morning when Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin announced an armistice in the trade war:
This was basically foreseeable. We led Sneak Peek a few weeks ago with a story headlined "the one-trick pony," in which sources who've been in the negotiating room with Trump described his predictable tactics: "threaten the outrageous, ratchet up the tension, amplify it with tweets and taunts, and then compromise on fairly conventional middle ground."
What's next: More talks. And miles of uncertainty between the two countries — with the added complication of the North Korea negotiations. Because it's Trump, nothing can be guaranteed. But so far, at least, Trump's bite to bark ratio on China is tracking around 85,000:1.
Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
In a speech on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lay out the Trump administration's new diplomatic path on Iran now that the President has withdrawn America from the nuclear deal.
It's Pompeo's first foreign policy speech since taking over as Secretary. A source with direct knowledge of the speech gave me a snippet:
Between the lines: Per the same source with knowledge of the speech, "This type of speech is in line with President Trump's goal of 'going big' with foreign policy announcements and plans." That's how the President views the North Korea talks and the Iran restart.
The Europeans are skeptical about Pompeo's speech. To put it mildly.
The fundamental problem: The major European powers — France, Germany and the U.K. — fought hard against Trump’s plan to withdraw from the nuclear deal. And now that he has, they're trying to figure out ways to keep the deal alive and help European firms continue to do business with Iran.
Most Iran experts I've spoken to are betting against a new Iran deal. They believe it's more likely that Trump follows through on his sanctions, the Europeans fold to some extent, and Iran begins making gradual steps back to developing its nuclear program.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Axios’ David McCabe reports that a collection of progressive groups will launch a six figure digital ad offensive Monday telling the Federal Trade Commission to break up Facebook’s social networking empire.
The big picture: Facebook’s new reality is being a political punching bag for those on the left, who want it broken up, and the right, who accuse it of systemic bias. But the company continues to do well financially.
The groups are asking for the FTC to do three things:
The gritty details:
Pushing back against this populist campaign, a Facebook spokesman told Axios that regulators reviewed Facebook's acquisitions and concluded they didn't harm competition. "The average person uses eight different apps to communicate and stay connected," he said, and Facebook operates only a few of those.
Go deeper with McCabe's full story in the Axios stream.
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
As improbable as it sounds, it looks like Trump is genuinely embracing an issue — prison reform — that seemed unthinkable when he was yelling "law and order" on the campaign trail.
At an event at the White House on Friday, Trump endorsed prison reform — and promoted upcoming House legislation — with more passion than we've ever seen.
Behind the scenes: A turning point for Trump was a Jan. 11 meeting in the White House's Roosevelt Room, according to two sources who were in the room that day. Trump was going around the room, asking everyone at the table their views on prison reform. People were talking about data and statistics, but they didn't seem to resonate.
What's next: The House plans to vote this week on the bipartisan "FIRST STEP Act." Advocates for the bill say it will reduce recidivism rates by giving non-violent prisoners access to better rehabilitation programs, including from the private sector, and give them the "time credits" they've earned. But there’s plenty of opposition on the left — who say the bill excludes too many prisoners and reinforces racial disparities — and the right, who worry it's too lenient on criminals. Civil rights leader John Lewis is an especially powerful opponent.
This week, the House is finally going to pass the Senate's Dodd Frank reform bill. They're also going to pass the Senate's "Right to Try" legislation — a bill that lets terminally ill patients try unapproved experimental drugs. A source familiar with the President's thinking told me he's "fired up" about this bill.
The Senate will pass the "VA Mission Act" and will confirm four Trump nominees including the ambassador to Luxembourg. (Apparently — to the puzzlement of some in the Senate — this particular role has been a priority for Trump.)
President Trump's schedule:
Our Sneak Peek item last week, "White House leakers leak about leaking," spurred quite a reaction, especially this quote from a current White House official: "To cover my tracks, I usually pay attention to other staffers' idioms and use that in my background quotes. That throws the scent off me."
Tevi Troy, a presidential historian and former Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, emailed me his reaction:
"The item about paying attention to other staffers' idioms to cover ones' tracks caught my eye. This was a tactic prevalent in the Reagan-Bush years, and there was even a Washington Post piece about the practice."
The WaPo piece from 1993 is glorious — and deserves to be read in full — but here's a little taste:
"Donald Regan was in a rage! The White House chief of staff spewed and sputtered and carried on in a frightful manner. This was back in 1985, and there had been an anonymous quote in the paper, a quote from one of those ubiquitous 'senior White House officials' who never seem to shut up even though it is quite explicitly stated that no one, other than a very select few, is authorized to say anything at all to reporters. But what really irked Regan -- what frustrated him beyond all measure -- was the precise wording of this anonymous quote. Because it contained the phrase 'and the like.' Donald Regan knew that only one person in the White House had the habit of using the phrase 'and the like.'
A leaker had mimicked him! This is a common Washington trick. If someone wanted to sound like Budget Director Richard Darman, for example, the secret would be to use an absurdly big word, a word from the hoary depths of the dictionary, like 'inchoate.' People would read an anonymous quote in the paper with 'inchoate' in it and immediately think: That Darman! What a leaker! They all have their trademark diction, and, for Regan, 'and the like' was a dead giveaway."