With assist from Allie Bice
Welcome to POLITICO’s 2021 Transition Playbook, your information to the first 100 days of the Biden administration.
DONALD TRUMP is not in the White House, however his favourite cable information community, One America News Network, is still broadcasting from there — doing reside photographs from Pebble Beach, the North Lawn space that’s thought-about valuable actual property by the main TV networks.
OANN will not be the solely MAGA media outlet that stuck around the White House grounds after Trump’s departure.
But it is the solely outlet that’s been known as out by the intelligence neighborhood for allegedly laundering Russian disinformation throughout the 2020 election, making their continued presence at the White House an attention-grabbing case examine for a way sophisticated issues can get at the intersection of nationwide safety and press freedom.
A report launched final week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence assessed that Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN “had purview over the activities” of the Ukrainian lawmaker ANDRIY DERKACH, who “played a prominent role” in Russia’s election interference efforts. Derkach, the report stated, “has ties to” Russia’s intelligence providers, and he sought to make use of U.S. media figures to undermine Biden throughout the election.
Enter OANN. While the report doesn’t explicitly title the outlet, it does level to it, noting that Derkach helped produce a documentary “that aired on a U.S. television network in January 2020.”
People conversant in the drafting of the report say that line is a reference to OANN’s documentary “The Ukraine Hoax: Impeachment, Biden Cash, and Mass Murder,” which aired on January 25, 2020, and accused Biden and his son, HUNTER BIDEN, of corruption. (Hunter Biden’s funds are at the moment beneath investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware, although it’s not clear whether or not that probe is expounded to his work for the Ukrainian gasoline firm Burisma.)
OANN overtly labored on the documentary with former New York City Mayor RUDY GIULIANI, who met with Derkach and used him as a supply whereas doing analysis for the movie in Kyiv in December 2019. It was not identified publicly at the time, nonetheless, that the U.S. intelligence neighborhood believed that Derkach was an “active Russian agent,” and had been for over a decade. Derkach has denied this.
Given the intelligence neighborhood’s conclusion that the community collaborated with an alleged Russian agent, OANN’s presence on White House grounds raises some questions. Chief amongst them: Is the administration involved about such entry? And what are the implications for the community’s credentials?
The White House and OANN didn’t return requests for remark. But in accordance with consultants, it’s sophisticated.
“OANN’s coverage is part of a larger vulnerability to democracy by spreading disinformation, which in some cases has included amplifying narratives also propagated by hostile foreign actors,” stated GRAHAM BROOKIE, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab and a former National Security Council official beneath President BARACK OBAMA.
“That’s significantly different than posing a physical security threat or a counterintelligence threat based on day-to-day access to the White House compound,” Bookie added.
Banning a U.S. outlet from accessing the White House, furthermore, would doubtless backfire on the new administration by sparking blowback from press freedom advocates—one thing Putin acknowledges, stated MARC POLYMEROPOULOS, a veteran CIA officer who oversaw the CIA’s operations in Russia.
“Moscow clearly understood that they could take advantage of America’s historic belief in freedom of the press plus a sympathetic voice in the White House to do so,” stated Polymeropoulos, referring to Trump.
And so, for the time being at the very least, OANN stays put, not with the similar sort of entry that they had in the Trump days—when the press workplace invited their reporters into the briefing room in defiance of the press corps’ Covid protocols—however with some entry nonetheless.
“In the future, the U.S. should decide the best way to stability this unbelievable paradox between a free press and clear nationwide safety issues over covert affect campaigns from hostile actors,” stated Polymeropoulos.
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With First Lady JILL BIDEN in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for an Equal Pay Day occasion with MEGAN RAPINOE and MARGARET PURCE of the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team. (Other staff members joined nearly.) He additionally met with Health and Human Services Secretary XAVIER BECERRA and Homeland Security Secretary ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS in the State Dining Room earlier in the day.
In the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for an Equal Pay Day occasion with Council of Economic Advisers Chair CECILIA ROUSE and the CEA’s HEATHER BOUSHEY. She additionally joined Biden’s assembly with Becerra and Mayorkas.
A March Madness query: Who was the first sitting president to attend a university basketball recreation?
(Answer is at the backside.)
BUTTIGIEG HEADS TO THE HILL TO SELL INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN — Transportation secretary PETE BUTTIGIEG is about to testify Thursday in Congress as lawmakers and the administration put together to unveil a big infrastructure bundle. SAM MINTZ breaks down what to watch for as Buttigieg hits the Hill.
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NSC STAFFERS’ CONSULTING CLIENTS REVEALED — The White House made public a number of extra monetary disclosures this afternoon, revealing the shoppers that a number of National Security Council staffers consulted for earlier than becoming a member of the administration.
KURT CAMPBELL, the NSC’s coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs, consulted for protection contractors resembling Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and L3 Technologies (now referred to as L3Harris Technologies) whereas he was chairman and chief government of the Asia Group, which describes itself as “the premier strategic advisory firm to the world’s leading companies seeking to excel across Asia.”
His different shoppers included the insurance coverage firm Aflac; McKinsey & Company’s Singapore workplace; the regulation agency Paul, Weiss; the telecommunications agency Omnispace; General Electric; the on line casino large Wynn Resorts; Warner Bros. Entertainment; Itochu Aviation; and Levi Straus.
ROBERTA JACOBSON, the NSC’s coordinator for the Southwest border and a former senior adviser at Albright Stonebridge Group, consulted for Constellation Brands Mexico — the firm behind Corona and different Mexican beers — and the socks and T-shirts firm Bombas earlier than becoming a member of the administration.
She was additionally paid $39,000 to serve on Uber’s security advisory board, in accordance with her disclosure.
And SUMONA GUHA, the NSC’s senior director for South Asia, consulted for Microsoft, Snap, the BIll & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, the wind turbine blade producer TPI Composites and the German software program firm SAP whereas she was a senior vice chairman at Albright Stonebridge.
MEET FUDGE’S FUTURE NO. 2 — Biden tapped ADRIANNE TODMAN immediately as the Housing and Urban Development deputy secretary. She’s the chief government of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials and has labored on the division’s profession employees in the previous.
COMMERCE DEPT. HIRE: JASON RODRIGUEZ, a Biden marketing campaign veteran and former deputy chief of employees to Rep. STEVEN HORSFORD (D-Nev.), joined the Commerce Department earlier this month as chief of employees to DON GRAVES, Biden’s deputy Commerce secretary nominee.
KAHL’S TOUGH PATH FORWARD — Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee split 13-13 today on whether or not to advance the nomination of COLIN KAHL, Biden’s nominee for beneath secretary of Defense for coverage, a Senate Republican aide informed CONNOR O’BRIEN.
A celebration-line tie was thought-about the finest final result for Kahl, as Republican resistance to his nomination solidified over his previous partisan tweets and variations over Middle East coverage. To verify Kahl, Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER might want to transfer to discharge his nomination, one other procedural hurdle that can add time and votes earlier than he’s confirmed and should require Vice President KAMALA HARRIS to forged a number of tie-breaking votes.
Psaki informed reporters at the briefing this afternoon that the administration “completely” helps Kahl and is not considering withdrawing his nomination.
MORE HISTORY MADE: The Senate voted 52-48 this afternoon to substantiate RACHEL LEVINE as the Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary for well being, making her the highest-ranking transgender official in the nation’s historical past, ALICE MIRANDA OLLSTEIN experiences. Sens. SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine) and LISA MURKOWSKI (R-Alaska) had been the solely Republicans to vote to substantiate her.
TOUGH ASSIGNMENT — Biden introduced this afternoon that his vice chairman might be the White House’s new point person on immigration points at the nation’s southern border, one among the most politically dangerous points dealing with the White House, EUGENE DANIELS experiences
Harris’ focus might be two-pronged, a senior administration official informed reporters earlier in the day: working to sluggish the movement of “irregular migrants” by addressing “the root causes” that immediate them to depart their dwelling international locations in addition to strengthening relationships with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
White House weighs extending eviction ban (The Washington Post)
“We have the largest number of vacant ambassadorships in a generation” (The Wall Street Journal)
Jeff Hauser and David Segal reward Biden’s nominees (Democracy)
HUD Secretary MARCIA FUDGE believes in the energy of rock ‘n roll music so much, she created a caucus to honor the genre and educate others about it.
Fudge established the Congressional Rock and Roll Caucus in 2012, when she was an Ohio representative and her district contained the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum.
“If we can talk together about how to educate people about music and have some fun in a bipartisan way, it will be a good thing,” Fudge told Cleveland.com back in 2012.
And bipartisan fun appears to have been had: During a Rock Caucus Reception in 2017, Former Minnesota Rep. COLLIN PETERSON and a band called the “2nd Amendments” performed a rendition of NEIL DIAMOND’s “Sweet Caroline.”
BILL CLINTON was the first sitting president to make it to a school basketball recreation. He watched the Arkansas Razorbacks defeat the Arizona Wildcats, 91-82, in 1994 and advance to the NCAA Championship recreation.