Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Housekeeping note: I'm off to Australia tomorrow but stay with the Axios stream for all the latest news and a very special Sneak Peek will come from Mike Allen next Sunday. See you again to kick off 2018 on Dec. 31.
Axios events: if you're in D.C. Tuesday morning, join Mike and Axios' Evan Ryan for a discussion on health care innovations with Aneesh Chopra, The United States' first Chief Technology Officer. They'll be joined by Arianna Huffington and the presidents & CEOs of NewYork-Presbyterian and PhRMA. RSVP here.
President Trump has signed off on the core elements of the National Security Strategy (NSS).
The draft is almost completed, and all the principals — James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, Steven Mnuchin, etc. — have agreed on its core components. The document will be rolled out soon.
Why this matters: The NSS is as important as strategy documents get. It will explain how Trump's "America First" mantra applies to the vast range of threats America faces, including Chinese economic competition, Russian influence operations, and the weaponization of space. It's designed to guide the Trump administration's foreign policy and national security decisions, according to three sources familiar with it.
Behind the scenes: Nadia Schadlow, a well-respected member of the National Security Council and trusted confidant of H.R. McMaster, spent months drafting the document, working with Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell and McMaster.
What's different: Sources familiar with the document call it "hard-nosed" and "realistic" — and less ambitious and idealistic than prior efforts. Critics will likely argue it forfeits American values and moral leadership — a continuation of Trump's lack of interest in fighting climate change and spreading democracy, his exit from the Paris climate deal and the Pacific trade deal.
I haven't seen the Trump NSS, which remains under close hold. But sources familiar with it tell me to expect three things:
Looking ahead: Jeremy Bash — formerly Leon Panetta's chief of staff at the CIA and Defense Department — told me it's unusual for a White House to complete the NSS in its first year, and said Powell and Schadlow deserve credit for building consensus so quickly. But he added it will only be useful if tethered to achievable goals. "The hard part begins now," he said.
This WSJ column by Hudson Institute fellow Walter Russell Mead. Sen. Tom Cotton and Newt Gingrich both mentioned it to me when they were explaining how the Trump NSS will differ from those of prior administrations.
Mead's thesis is that "America's post-Cold War national strategy has run out of gas," and an entirely new approach is required. It very much remains to be seen if Trump's NSS will perform that duty.
Mead's money lines:
And Mead's warning: "It is not enough to demolish the old. Ultimately Mr. Trump will be judged on his ability — or failure — to build something better."
A source who spoke to Trump last week told me he left the conversation concerned that the president "actually believes" Ty Cobb's "happy talk." What the source meant was that the White House lawyer has been naive in his view that the Mueller investigation — as it relates to the White House — will be wrapped by end of year or shortly after.
I emailed Cobb today to ask whether he still believed his previous public statements that the White House would be free of the investigation by the end of this year or January. (He'd originally said before Thanksgiving.)
I told Cobb I still didn't understand what he meant. Was he saying Mueller has 100% completed all interviews with White House staff? And if the Manafort and Flynn "silos" continue to be active, couldn't they potentially implicate people who currently work in the White House?
A revealing exchange between Jake Tapper and Republican Senator Tim Scott on CNN's "State of the Union".
Why this matters: Republican senators will have little patience if Trump tries anything to stymie Mueller's investigation. They made that abundantly clear in a highly unusual New York Times story last week.
This week will be the most important so far in the Trump presidency for supporters of Israel:
Move 1: Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital in a speech on Wednesday. (The administration still refuses to confirm this and has been sticking with the line that Trump is still considering his options. Jared Kushner was guarded in rare public remarks Sunday at the Saban Forum in Washington, D.C.)
Move 2: The Republican-led House will vote Tuesday on the Taylor Force Act. The bill would restrict U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority unless they stop paying terrorists and the families of dead terrorists who attack Americans and Israelis.
Move 3: The White House is hosting its Hanukkah party on Thursday night. It's been a hot topic in Republican Jewish circles — and not for good reasons. A number of Republican Jewish leaders, including major party donors, were upset they weren't invited. The White House apparently wanted a "more intimate event," said a source close to the process, who argued it was a mistake and revealed this administration's political ineptitude.
Republican House members return to Washington on Monday — a day earlier than previously planned — to vote to proceed to a conference to hash out a final tax bill with the Senate.
None of my best sources — inside or out of Republican leadership — think there's much of a chance the GOP tax effort collapses.
Per a senior administration source: "There's always a chance for this Congress to f--- things up, but I don't think it will happen. Have one vote to spare in Senate. Lots of momentum." Republicans are saying they'll have final legislation on Trump's desk by the end of this month.
Per sources close to leadership:
The Washington Post got an early copy of the insider campaign book by former Trump officials Corey Lewandowski and Dave Bossie. Per WashPo, here's their account of the day the Trump campaign learned about the Access Hollywood tape:
I can give you a little more insider detail on that day, from my own conversations with sources who were in the room with Trump. They were in the middle of debate prep when they learned about the Access Hollywood tape.
Here's what happened:
When the campaign only had possession of the Washington Post transcript of the Access Hollywood video — but not the video itself — Trump's top aides sat around a conference table in Trump Tower to discuss whether the foul-mouthed person in the transcript was actually Trump.
Incredulous, a senior campaign official asked Trump: "You took a woman furniture shopping?"
Trump immediately replied: "I just want to make one thing clear: I've never taken anyone furniture shopping."
The room broke out laughing. Not long after, the Washington Post put the video online. There'd be a lot less laughter after that.