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How Donald Trump is using Camp David to woo Republicans

President Trump's Camp David strategy, a showdown with the Navy SEALs, Congress hopes to avoid a second-straight holiday season government shutdown, and the latest on President Trump's North American trade deal. That and more in this week's Inside Politics forecast.

Posted: Nov 24, 2019 4:50 PM
Updated: Nov 24, 2019 4:50 PM

Here are the stories our panel of top political reporters have on their radar, in this week's "Inside Politics" forecast.

1. The Camp David strategy

Camp David has been the official retreat for presidents going back to Franklin Roosevelt. Now the Trump White House is using it to keep congressional Republicans on the President's side during the impeachment debate.

"President (Donald) Trump has never been a big fan of Camp David," Washington Post congressional reporter Rachael Bade said. "It's not exactly his style, he would rather go to Mar-a-Lago. So (acting White House chief of staff) Mick Mulvaney has actually turned Camp David into a weekend retreat for House Republicans, where he's lobbying them on impeachment."

What's on the agenda for these frequent weekend trips?

"They're hiking, they're making s'mores, shooting skeet," Bade said. "It's all an effort to make House Republicans feel like they're part of Trump's family. He calls them during dinner and compliments lawmakers. And I'm told that so far it's working -- these weekend getaways are sort of the envy of the House conference."

2. Trump's SEALs showdown

Trump is at odds with his top military commanders over the fate of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher -- an Iraq veteran who was accused and acquitted on charges of premeditated murder.

But he was demoted after being convicted of posing for a photo with a dead ISIS soldier -- a rank demotion that Trump restored. And in a tweet last week, the President warned the Navy not to move forward with plans to formally remove him from the SEALs unit.

"He's engaged in a remarkable face off with the secretary of the Navy and the admiral in charge of the SEALs," New York Times White House correspondent Michael Shear said. "They've both reportedly threatened to resign if they aren't allowed to expel him from the SEALs unit."

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer denies that threat. But he's also moving forward with the disciplinary process unless he receives an official presidential directive.

"They're not going to treat President Trump's tweet as a formal order," Shear said. "That's what I'm watching for: What does the President do when the Navy ignores what he said he wanted in his tweet?"

3. Race & 2020

Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker -- two of the African Americans in the Democratic race -- have been struggling to peel black voters away from former Vice President Joe Biden. But they're still trying.

"They've talked a lot about how they will be able to recreate the Obama coalition," Politico's national political correspondent Laura Barron Lopez said. "They're playing up the fact that as black Americans, they can actually speak to voters in a way that Obama did and the other candidates can't."

4. Avoiding another shutdown

Even as Washington barrels toward impeachment, there are promising signs that Congress will avoid another holiday government shutdown this year.

A bipartisan deal on top-line spending levels could clear the way for specific budget bills to be passed into law before the December 20 deadline, CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly reports.

"They should move forward pretty quickly on some of the noncontroversial bills now, and that's good news for anybody that remembers the 38-day shutdown that started last year," Mattingly said. "There are still contentious items outstanding -- obviously and most notably, the President's (southern border) wall. There's still a very real possibility of a shutdown come December, but the fact that they were able to reach this agreement, something they've been working on for months, is positive news."

Mattingly said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want to get it done.

"But," Mattingly said, "the question outstanding is: Where the President is on all of this?"

5. Is trade deal going anywhere?

And from CNN Chief National Correspondent John King:

The public signs suggest otherwise, but backers of the new trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada believe this could be a breakthrough week.

USMCA is the top legislative priority of the Trump White House, but the President several times in recent days has suggested Pelosi was unwilling to bring it to a vote.

Just Thursday, Pelosi did discuss the deal in sober terms, saying progress had been made resolving difference with the administration but then adding she worried time was too short to resolve the few remaining differences in time for the House to act this year.

"I'm not even sure if we came to an agreement today that it would be enough time to finish," Pelosi, a California Democrat, said at her weekly media meeting Thursday.

But by the week's end, backers of the deal were sounding more confident the breakthrough was finally at hand.

USMCA is on the wish list of many House Democratic moderates who face a tough election climate in 2020, and many of those moderates want a big achievement so they can make the case back home that the impeachment debate is not paralyzing Washington.

Hopeful talk from USMCA supporters has proven wishful thinking in the past.

Still, the USMCA backers said the first test this week is negotiations between US, Mexican and Canadian officials on proposed tweaks.

If those talks go well, "I think we get a handshake (from Pelosi) right before Thanksgiving," said a strategist who has worked for months on the deal.

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