Feb 2, 2018

White House sees price for release of Nunes memo

Photo: Olivier Douliery, Pool / Getty Images

White House aides recognize there could be a high cost to President Trump's decision to allow — with no redactions — release of that classified memo about the Russian investigation. The White House has notified the House Intelligence Committee to release the memo, Fox News first reported and Axios has confirmed.

The White House plans to dress up the decision by arguing that it's an action of "transparency." But this puts President Trump publicly crossways with both the intelligence community and the FBI — not a place you want to be.

  • And then there's the lead-balloon factor: Axios scooped yesterday that many in the White House think the memo will be a dud — hardly delivering on the expectations that Fox's Sean Hannity and others on the right have whipped up with the online #ReleaseTheMemo frenzy.
  • So with no slam dunk, there could also be a political cost.
  • An administration source said last night: “Some back and forth on whether to actually do it. If it really is a dud and the memo really doesn’t say a hell of a lot, why would you risk pissing off [FBI Director Christopher] Wray?"
  • That West Wing fear syncs with a claim by Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who said at an Axios event that the memo will be a letdown for the right — containing nothing that obviously invalidates the investigation or would cause anyone to get fired.
  • And the policy price ... The Boston Globe front-pages: "The hot topic at congressional Republicans’ annual policy retreat ... is not infrastructure, immigration, or even tax cuts — it’s 'The Memo.'"

About FBI Director Wray, the administration source said:

  • "He’s definitely pissed off and really upset, but not to the point where he’d resign."
  • "At some point, there needs to be a working relationship — just from a national security and protection level, you need to work together. But ... I’m not sure how that will work.”

Why it matters ... The N.Y. Times' Michael Schmidt, speaking to Brian Williams on MSNBC's "The 11th Hour," looks past the immediate frenzy:

  • "This is clearly the most aggressive thing that [Trump] has done, public-relations-wise, to try and brush back the Justice Department."
  • "This is a clear effort to undermine [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein; [special counsel Bob] Mueller by extension."
  • "If this comes out and there's not a lot of 'there' there, the president will find himself in a very vulnerable position."
  • "Mueller has been spending a lot of time looking at his conduct in office. It's become increasingly clear to the public that there is an obstruction of justice [decision] that Mueller is going to have to make."

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GM to exit Australia, New Zealand and Thailand

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General Motors is retiring its celebrated Holden brand from sales in Australia and New Zealand after 160 years and winding down operations by 2021, the company confirmed in a statement Monday.

The big picture: GM also intends to "sell its Rayong factory in Thailand to China's Great Wall Motors and withdraw the Chevrolet brand from Thailand by the end of this year," AP reports. "The downsizing is part of a long-running strategy at GM since the Detroit-based company emerged from bankruptcy in 2009," per Bloomberg.

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Storm Dennis continued to pummel parts of England, Wales and Ireland over Sunday night with heavy rain after battering Northern Ireland and Scotland, per the official British weather agency the Met Office.

Why it matters: It's the second-strongest nontropical storm ever recorded in the North Atlantic Ocean, with its hurricane-force winds and heavy rains that caused widespread flooding across the U.K., the Washington Post notes. Police in Wales confirmed Sunday they found the body of a man who fell into a river as the storm lashed Ystradgynlais.

Sanders accuses Bloomberg of trying to "buy" the 2020 election

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg. Photos: Drew Angerer; Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders tore into 2020 rival Michael Bloomberg at a Las Vegas campaign event Saturday, saying the billionaire and former New York mayor is trying to "buy the presidency" by paying millions of dollars in advertising.

Why it matters: Bloomberg has surged in national polling recently, having poured millions of dollars into campaign ads largely targeting Trump. His candidacy has become an obvious foil for Sanders, whose grassroots campaign railing against billionaires and the establishment has vaulted him to front-runner status.

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