With Zach Montellaro, Kevin Robillard and Elena Schneider
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HAPPENING TODAY — Menendez trial begins: Sen. Robert Menendez will face corruption charges in a federal courtroom in Newark, N.J., this morning. Menendez faces eight counts of bribery, three counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy, and one count of violating the Travel Act. The New Jersey Democrat has continued to serve in the Senate as his trial crawled to its start — but if Menendez is convicted, Republicans will seize the opportunity to attempt to push him out of the Senate and allow New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to appoint a GOP successor.
POLITICO’s John Bresnahan will get you smart, fast: “Menendez’s relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen, a close friend and donor, first came under scrutiny in early 2013 after media reports revealed that the New Jersey Democrat was flying on Melgen’s plane to the doctor’s ‘luxurious’ villa in the Dominican Republic. Menendez did not report any of the flights, a potential violation of Senate rules and federal law,” Bres writes. “Melgen and his family members donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions directly to Menendez’s reelection campaign, as well as to a Democratic super PAC that backed Menendez’s 2012 reelection effort. … Menendez has made a variety of arguments to try to rebut the government’s case, and his high-powered defense team — led by Abbe Lowell, a well-respected defense attorney who first came to prominence during former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1998 — will use any legal weapon it can.” Full story here.
— “GOP launches aggressive effort to pressure Bob Menendez to resign if convicted,” by USA Today’s Herb Jackson: “The effort by the Republican National Committee will be aimed at the New Jersey senator’s fellow Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York; senators running for reelection in states that [President Donald Trump] won last year; and those with potential aspirations for the presidency in 2020, such as Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.” Full story. Watch the ad here.
Q&A — The Club for Growth sits down with Morning Score: President David McIntosh and Vice President Andy Roth chatted with our Elena Schneider about 2018 and lessons learned from recent election cycles:
“What primaries are you excited about? McINTOSH: A couple of these Senate races will have tremendous potential. Our polling shows incumbent Democrats in Ohio, Montana, Missouri and Wisconsin are vulnerable if they toe the party line that [Sen. Chuck] Schumer’s laid out by opposing Trump on all things. The key is getting a good, articulate Republican in those races.
Does it feel different this year? So far, it seems like so far you’re on the same page with a lot of other Republican groups. … McINTOSH: It is not a coincidence in the following way — last year, we invested in expanding our operation by adding scouts. … At the beginning of the year, we identified the Trump states with a Democratic incumbent, and we directed the scouts, ‘Go figure out who would be a good candidate.’ … The other thing that’s benefited in this is that the Club isn’t perceived to Senate leadership as one of their enemies in the Republican Party. Before I got here, Andy stayed out of the Kentucky primary. That is the history and it was noted by the majority leader because he told me so.
When you’re thinking about primaries, how do you factor Trump getting involved, like he did in Alabama? McINTOSH: We want to consider it. My read on the Alabama one is that was a favor to Mitch McConnell, who had invested a lot of his political capital in reelecting Strange. … I don’t expect it happening a lot. … ROTH: In all of the polling we do, he remains very popular among primary Republican voters. But none of the current races we’re in – except maybe Wisconsin — is that a concern. …
Do you expect to have the same level of financial investment in 2018 as you did in the last cycle? ROTH: Our stated goal is always to get involved in more races than we did in the previous cycle, or at least to have a bigger impact.” Read the full Q&A here.
NEW THIS A.M. — Koch network launches seven-figure TV buy in Va., by POLITICO’s Kevin Robillard: “Americans for Prosperity is out with a seven-figure TV and digital ad blitz attacking Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, part of a multimillion-dollar campaign in the state. The group, backed by the powerful Koch brothers’ network of conservative donors, is attacking Northam for missing meetings of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, which later gave $1.4 million to a fake Chinese company. Full story here.
— Northam talks economic growth in new ad: “Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam’s Virginia gubernatorial campaign is out with a new ad contrasting his plan for economic growth with Republican Ed Gillespie’s approach,” Robillard reports. Full story here.
Days until the 2017 election: 62.
Days until the 2018 election: 426.
FIELD OF DREAMS — CLF launches six new field offices: The Congressional Leadership Fund is opening six more field offices in House districts, bringing the total number of CLF field offices up to 17. The new offices will be in the following members’ districts: Rep. Mike Bost (IL-12), Rep. Kevin Yoder (KS-03), Rep. Ryan Costello (PA.-06), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Rep. Tom MacArthur (NJ-03) and Rep. Leonard Lance (NJ-07). CLF says it has made 2 million voter contacts so far this cycle.
PAC ATTACK — Nevada governor’s race heats up: Treasurer Dan Schwartz entered the GOP gubernatorial primary on Tuesday — and was greeted by a conservative super PAC that hopes to sink his bid. American Integrity Project, a group that supports a likely bid from Attorney General Adam Laxalt, is out with radio and digital ads that say Schwartz “hasn’t spent much time in Nevada, and it shows,” adding that “Schwartz made millions in finance in New York, maybe that explains why he’s so out of step with Nevada conservatives when it comes to taxes and spending.” Listen to the ad here.
— There’s polling data, too: American Integrity Project also released a polling memo from WPA Intelligence that found Laxalt, who hasn’t launched his bid yet, leading in a head-to-head contest with 64 percent of the GOP primary vote to Schwartz’s 5 percent. Nearly a third of voters are undecided. Laxalt also holds a lead in name recognition. “We plan to ensure that Schwartz’s latest campaign fails as spectacularly as his ill-conceived, publicity-seeking alternative budget gimmick failed back in 2015,” said Brian Baker, senior adviser to the group. Read the full polling memo here.
ABOUT LAST NIGHT — “Appeals court, 2-1, gives Texas OK to use new voter ID law,” by POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein: “A divided federal appeals court has stayed a lower judge’s ruling barring Texas from implementing a revised version of its voter identification law. A panel of the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals voted, 2-1, to allow Texas to use the revised voter ID measure known as SB 5 for this November’s elections. ‘The state has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits. SB 5 allows voters without qualifying photo ID to cast regular ballots by executing a declaration that they face a reasonable impediment to obtaining qualifying photo ID.” Full story here.
DAILY ROLL TIDE — Strange changes course on filibuster, by POLITICO’s Daniel Strauss: Sen. Luther Strange reversed course on the Senate filibuster, writing a new letter to McConnell and Schumer backing Trump’s position of ending the 60-vote threshold. Strange signed on to an April letter asking leaders to preserve the rule. Full story here.
— “Moore to meet with Club for Growth,” Strauss reports: “Former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore is set to meet with Club for Growth officials on Wednesday, multiple sources confirmed to POLITICO. The meeting comes as Moore faces Sen. Luther Strange in the GOP runoff in the special election for now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat.” Full story here.
TOP CONTENDER IN MAINE — “Lisbon’s Garrett Mason to announce run for governor,” by The Portland Press Herald’s Scott Thistle: “State Sen. Garrett Mason is set to announce his bid for the governor’s office on Wednesday, making him the second Republican to enter an increasingly crowded race for the Blaine House in 2018.” Full story.
UN-ENDORSEMENT CORNER — “Rep. Schneider Withdraws Endorsement of Daniel Biss,” by NBC5’s James Neveau: “Congressman Brad Schneider has withdrawn his endorsement of Illinois gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss after concerns emerged about the candidate’s running mate’s stances on the United States’ relationship with Israel. In a Facebook post Sunday night, Schneider said that he was ‘surprised’ to learn that Biss’ running mate, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, a Chicago alderman, was a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. … During their recent convention in Chicago, the Democratic Socialists of America, which Ramirez-Rosa joined in March 2017, passed a resolution in support of the BDS movement against Israel.” Full story.
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Heitkamp to hitch a ride with Trump on Air Force One,” by POLITICO’s Burgess Everett: “President Donald Trump is giving Heidi Heitkamp far warmer treatment than he gave Claire McCaskill. The president will host Heitkamp (D-N.D.) on Air Force One on Wednesday as they travel to North Dakota for Trump’s event on tax reform, suggesting that Trump won’t attack the vulnerable Heitkamp as he did similarly imperiled McCaskill in Missouri last week. Heitkamp told reporters that she opposes some of the tax policies the Trump administration has been floating, like taxing 401(k) accounts, but that she’s been in regular contact with chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and other administration officials.” Full story here.
— “Trump campaign urges court to toss out WikiLeaks hack lawsuit,” by Darren Samuelsohn: “President Donald Trump’s attorneys on Tuesday asked a federal judge to toss out a Democratic-driven lawsuit that accuses his 2016 campaign of conspiring with Russian operatives to publish stolen Democratic National Committee information on WikiLeaks. The case, filed in July by two Democratic Party donors and a former DNC staff member, contends that both the Trump campaign and longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone invaded their privacy by working with Russia to disseminate the hacked DNC emails and other campaign files that became an embarrassing but central storyline during the closing months of the 2016 presidential race.” Full story here.
TAKE BACK THE RADIO — Wisconsin GOP attacks Evers with radio ad: The Republican Party of Wisconsin is out with a radio ad attacking Democratic State Schools Superintendent Tony Evers, who is challenging Gov. Scott Walker, for refusing to revoke the teaching license of a man who was found guilty of spreading pornography at school. Listen to the ad here.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “They just came back from a three-week vacation. I think that they should be rested and ready to take on some big challenges that America faces.” — White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders calling on Congress to pass parts of Trump’s agenda.