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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
The Trump re-election campaign sparked widespread confusion inside the Trump administration and the cellular wireless industry on Friday night when it advocated for a nationwide "wholesale" 5G network, which is 180 degrees from official White House policy.
Driving the news: For months, 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale had been arguing for this policy on Twitter, but he had been clear it was his "personal opinion." Now, Politico had a Trump campaign spokesperson, on the record, seeming to present a major government intervention in 5G as the campaign's official position.
The result? Mass uncertainty. Administration officials who work on 5G freaked out. And industry leaders were perplexed. Another wrinkle was that Parscale's personal position echoed the talking points of Declan Ganley, the CEO of private wireless company Rivada, which could benefit from Trump supporting the plan. (Peter Thiel is reportedly an investor in Rivada.)
The news: The Trump campaign is now walking back the statement from Kayleigh McEnany, national press secretary for Trump’s 2020 campaign, saying they did not intend to set new policy. A Trump campaign official said, "Brad Parscale has expressed his views on 5G as his own personal opinions. He has no financial interest in Rivada or any 5G provider."
Why it matters: It's highly unusual — if not unprecedented — for a presidential campaign to advocate for a different position from the sitting president's administration.
Behind the scenes: "Lots of policy folks were caught off guard," a senior Trump administration official told Axios. "And the industry thought it [the plan Parscale just endorsed] was dead."
What's next? Parscale has been privately telling people that the reason why he tweets his personal advocacy for an "open wholesale market with a privatized company that is not a carrier" is because he believes it would be politically advantageous to Trump in 2020, per a source familiar.
"A 5G network that connected rural America to high-speed internet would increase turnout and let the president talk directly to rural Americans," the source added, paraphrasing Parscale's private views. (Parscale is correct in that there are concerns that wireless carriers don't have financial incentive to spend the billions necessary to build out to those rural areas because they won't get a good return on that investment.)
Brad Parscale, Trump's 2020 campaign manager. Photo: Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images
People close to Trump and a politically connected private company have, for months, been laying out the broad outlines of the plan to create a national wholesale 5G network in op-eds and tweets.
Rivada could stand to benefit financially from the new network, but Parscale — through a Trump campaign spokesman — and Gingrich, have both said they have no financial stake in the idea.
In a phone conversation with Axios' David McCabe, Rivada spokesperson Brian Carney said that the company had spoken with players in Washington about its idea — but said he was not aware of conversations that had taken place with Parscale or the Trump campaign on the subject.
Here's how the public conversation evolved:
Rep. Jerrold Nadler. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
House Judiciary chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" that "it's very clear that the president obstructed justice."
Why this matters: As Politico's Playbook team pointed out, "This is a big deal because impeachment is Nadler's purview."
What's next? Nadler laid out the House Judiciary's plan to investigate Trump. "Tomorrow we will be issuing document requests to over 60 different people," Nadler told Stephanopoulos.
Rep. John Sarbanes is leading the effort to pass H.R. 1. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
The House will vote on a sweeping 571-page bill this week that would strengthen federal ethics laws, expand voting rights and require presidential nominees to release their tax returns, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.
Why it matters: "We have a broken political system and a corrupt finance system today," Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21 and a longtime proponent of campaign finance reform, told Axios. "H.R. 1 is the most important reform legislation to repair our democracy since the post-Watergate reforms. ... There has never been a bill as broad in its scope and coverage as this bill, and we will work from here."
The bill's key provisions:
State of play: The bill is expected to easily pass in the House — it's already secured 234 co-sponsors, in addition to Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) who is leading the effort — but it will likely die in the Senate.
Yes, but those who have championed the bill are under no illusion that the legislation will pass this year, Wertheimer said.
Wertheimer said Democrats have a 3–5 year strategy for enacting this:
The bottom line: In a September WSJ/NBC poll, 77% of surveyed registered voters said "reducing the influence of special interests and corruption in Washington" is either the most important or a very important issue facing the country.
Photo: Phil Roeder/Getty Images
The House will vote on the anti-corruption bill we mention in the item above.
The Senate will vote on four nominees this week, per a GOP leadership aide:
President Trump's schedule, per a White House official:
Otto Warmbier arrives at a court for his trial in Pyongyang, March 16, 2015. Photo: Xinhua/Lu Rui via Getty Images
President Trump ignited outrage when he absolved Kim Jong-un of responsibility for the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, who left jail in North Korea in a terminal state.
Here's an exchange from today's Fox News Sunday between host Chris Wallace and Trump's national security adviser John Bolton:
The bottom line: Working for Trump often involves claiming the president didn't mean what he clearly said.