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.
John Bolton speaks at CPAC in 2017. Photo: Mike Theiler / AFP / Getty Images
John Bolton knows he's being portrayed as a warmonger as he becomes national security adviser, but he's trying to build internal credibility with a more studied, lower-decibel approach, according to people familiar with his thinking.
By working in the West Wing, the national security adviser spends more time with the president than the secretaries of State or Defense, and so can always get the last word. But Bolton is signaling restraint until Trump makes a decision.
Look for: Bolton to be aggressive about the traffic-cop role of the NSC adviser.
Some prominent Republicans and Democrats have raised concerns about Bolton's belligerent rhetoric in recent days, with some predicting he'll drag America into new wars. Here's a good example of a vigorous conservative defense of his appointment.
President Trump leaves the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room after making a statement on Iran in October. Photo: Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images
Behind the scenes: Trump has told a number of people he believes his current national security team has been out of whack with his own thinking and was slow to give him the options that he wanted.
The big example: Iran.
Bottom line: As national security adviser, Bolton will make sure he provides "the range of options not only that are being recommended by people on NSC, but the options that exist in the real world," according to a source familiar with Bolton's thinking. "Even if nobody supports them, so that the president can see what's out there."
David Shulkin testifies at a House subcommittee this month. Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images
Trump's Mar-a-Lago buddy Chris Ruddy made a splash on TV today, telling ABC's "This Week" that the president told him yesterday he expected to make "one or two major changes to his — to his government very soon."
Here's what I know about the Shulkin situation, from conversations with sources involved in the sensitive discussions and with sources — (not Ruddy) — who've spoken with Trump as recently as yesterday:
Behind the scenes: Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, another Mar-a-Lago friend of the president's, is playing a major backstage role in shaping Trump's thinking about Shulkin. Perlmutter originally recommended Shulkin to Trump, but a source familiar with his thinking tells me Perlmutter "feels betrayed by Shulkin and regrets ever putting his name in front of the president."
President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk at APEC in Vietnam in November. Photo: Jorge Silva / AFP / Getty Images
Bloomberg's Jen Jacobs and Nick Wadhams' scoop that Trump "is preparing to expel dozens of Russian diplomats from the U.S. in response to the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K." A source with direct knowledge tells me their reporting is accurate, though it relies on the Europeans — beyond the Brits — taking action themselves:
What's next: Whatever action Trump takes could come as soon as this week, the source with direct knowledge tells me.
Mike Allen reported yesterday that a former White House official told him online conservative ire (Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, etc.). about the spending bill President Trump signed on Friday — after a puzzling tweeted veto feint — "is the hardest I've ever seen the base turn on Trump over anything."
But the Cook Political Report's Amy Walter, one of the sharpest analysts of the nation's political map, tells me it's Republican House members who should be most worried about Trump's trashing of the $1.3 trillion spending bill.
Scenes from Saturday's "March for Our Lives" protests across the country sparked an online debate about whether these young activists would take their anti-gun fervor to the ballot box in 2018. (Historically, it's much easier to pinpoint races where the pro-gun side has shaped the outcome than it is to find elections where passion for gun control has helped a candidate win.)
Short-term view: Amy Walter tweeted yesterday: "We'll know that the gun-control issue is politically potent one for Dems when they start campaigning on it in the swing CDs [congressional districts] they need to win control of Congress.
Longer-term view: Brownstein, a student of the demographic changes roiling American politics, published a piece on CNN that's worthy of your time. Responding to Saturday's anti-gun marches, Brownstein writes:
Defining the debate: "Most definitions of the millennial generation start with young people born in 1981. Some demographers, such as those at the Pew Research Center, say the millennial generation stops and the post-millennials begin with anyone born in 1998 or after; another, somewhat more widely accepted, definition starts the post-millennial generation with young people born in 2001 or after."
The House and Senate are out on recess this week.
President Trump's schedule, per a White House official: