NANCY CORDES: Hello. I’m Nancy Cordes, in for Robert Costa. And this is the Washington Week Extra.
In addition to the Russia probe and tax rollout, on Thursday the president nominated a new Fed chair. And just before Mr. Trump headed off to Asia, former interim Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile delivered the departing president a gift, airing more damaging Democratic dirty laundry. So, Phil, I’ll start with you. Basically, we saw an excerpt of Donna Brazile’s new book in which she essentially says that the Clinton campaign had far more control over the Democratic National Committee than was previously known. And this, of course, is something that had long been suspected among Bernie Sanders supporters.
PHILIP RUCKER: That’s right, and it’s sort of a technicality. It was a joint fundraising agreement that the Clinton campaign signed with the DNC back in August of 2015, so well before the primaries actually began, that in exchange for helping the DNC raise money and recover – or pay off some of its debt, the Clinton campaign would assume some control over strategy, over spending decisions, over the staffing decisions. And in turn, Brazile paints a portrait of the DNC, the national party, being effectively playing favorites with Hillary Clinton, to the – to the disadvantage of Bernie Sanders.
MS. CORDES: She also describes a DNC that was in much worse shape than anyone realized. It had no money. It had basically been neglected by the president, who had his own fundraising operation. She said it was terribly managed. I mean, she really aired all the dirty laundry.
KELSEY SNELL: Yeah. And as I talked to Democrats about it today, they did not want to be having this conversation. I know we talk a lot about Republicans being the ones that are having some sort of civil war, but Democrats have a lot of open wounds of their own that they – they don’t want to continue relitigating the primary from 2016. This is bringing them back to that. They also didn’t really know that this was coming, so it was – it was a big surprise for them.
MS. CORDES: And, Jim, when I talked to some former Clinton campaign officials today, the line that they gave me was, look, the DNC was in shambles, it was mismanaged, we were the likely nominee; we had to step in. We rescued the DNC, and now we’re getting blamed for it.
JIM TANKERSLEY: I mean, I think that this has been certainly the line that the Clinton campaign has used a lot. And let’s think back to 2015. This is not a big conspiracy against Bernie Sanders at that time. There was still a possibility, at least, that he was not going to be the big rival that she would have in that primary. But it was clear from the get-go that Hillary Clinton was the strongest candidate in that field, and I think that Democrats, in relitigating this primary, are forgetting that Bernie came very close to beating her and there are going to be a lot of open wounds among his supporters over the fact that, hey, they feel like maybe if it hadn’t been a road game – as they see it – in the primaries, he might have had a better chance.
MS. CORDES: But he could have signed a similar agreement if he was interested in giving money to the DNC, which he traditionally has not been.
MS. SNELL: Well, he also traditionally has not been a Democrat, so that would have been a – I mean, I think that would have – for a lot of his supporters, they would have disliked that. They would have seen that as him abandoning the independence that was really the hallmark of his campaign, and I don’t think it would have been politically feasible for him to have done that.
MS. CORDES: But the reality is that it makes Hillary Clinton look bad, it makes the DNC look bad, it’s bad for the Democratic Party, when they’ve got a fairly important race coming up in less than a week.
MR. RUCKER: They do. On Tuesday, Virginia voters go to the polls. The governor’s race is so tight, and Northam – Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate – really needs to turn out all of those progressive activists, the Bernie supporters. And this airing of dirty laundry, as you put it, Nancy, is going to – going to make things a little difficult to turn out the vote. And remember, all we’ve seen so far is that one chapter; there’s a whole book coming out, so.
MS. CORDES: Right, from a very unexpected source.
All right, let’s turn now to the ISIS-inspired terror attack in New York City. Investigators say it only took the attacker four minutes to drive down a Manhattan bike path and kill eight people. A dozen more were injured. Six foreign tourists from Argentina and Belgium, and two Americans, were killed just blocks away from the World Trade Center. And even before the suspect was charged, President Trump sparked a political debate over extreme vetting and immigration policy, two keystones of his winning campaign. Jeff, the suspect is a 29-year-old man from Uzbekistan, a lone wolf who had ISIS propaganda on his computer. Tell us what more we know about him.
JEFF PEGUES: Well, he had been planning this for about a year, but decided two months before the attack to use a truck, you know. And this is someone who had on his cellphone, one of them – and they found two cellphones – so much ISIS propaganda: videos, 90 videos; 3,800 images of ISIS propaganda. So, you know, this wasn’t someone who was just inspired. This was someone who was really fanatical about ISIS, and that’s what investigators are finding.
Now, what they aren’t finding is this direct connection to ISIS. But this is similar to some of the other cases they’ve seen in the past, where you have these people who are inspired to act. And that’s what happened in this case. And he was practicing. He rented a truck, I think, you know, the week before and was practicing turns. So this is someone who put a lot of thought into that attack.
MS. CORDES: Do we know how long ago he was radicalized?
MR. PEGUES: We don’t. We know that he came to the U.S. in 2010. And investigators, and people who know him, believe that he was radicalized not before he came, but he was radicalized here.
MS. CORDES: Mmm hmm. Phil, the president had a lot of thoughts today about what should happen to this suspect, namely that he should face the death penalty. What was the reaction in the White House and how did they get him to dial that back?
MR. RUCKER: Yeah, so he’s had many different reactions over the course of the week. (Laughter.) Initially he said, sure, let’s send him to Gitmo, to Guantanamo Bay, the military prison. And the White House officials within a few hours started to dial that back. And the next day the president said, no, no, no, no, no. We’re not going to do Guantanamo Bay. It’ll take too long and be too cumbersome. We’ll go through the civilian justice system. But he should face the death penalty. And again and again we’ve heard the president say that the justice system needs to be quick and the punishment needs to be tough and fast. And he’s just trying to project some strength here.
MS. CORDES: And the concern is that this could influence the investigation and trial, if the president is weighing in.
MS. SNELL: I mean, that has been the concern about a lot of the things that the president does on Twitter, is because he is out there in the public sphere talking directly to people in a way that we haven’t seen another president do. And people hear directly from him. And his supporters are very, very engaged and very, very energized by his – you know, his ability to get directly to them. But, yeah, I think this won’t be the only time we’ll see something like that.
MR. RUCKER: Yeah.
MS. CORDES: President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Jerome H. Powell as the next chair of the Federal Reserve this week.
JEROME POWELL: (From video.) If I am confirmed by the Senate, I will do everything within my power to achieve our congressionally assigned goals of stable prices and maximum employment.
MS. CORDES: Jim, tell us what we know about Powell and tell us about the situation that he is walking into at the Fed.
MR. TANKERSLEY: Well, it’s sort of an odd time to be changing pitchers, if you will, in the game. Janet Yellen, the current Fed chair, has been overseeing the Fed for – this is the end of her four-year term. In that time, inflation has stayed low, that’s one of the jobs of the Fed chairman, and the economy has started to grow faster, which is the other job of the Fed. And the president, in fact, likes the economy so much that he says that Janet Yellen has been doing a fantastic job and he likes to brag about the growth rate of the economy all the time. So that is not normally a recipe for replacing someone.
But Republicans, in general, don’t like Janet Yellen, within the Senate. And so there was some pressure to replace her. And also, Powell is – apparently Trump likes his real-world experience. He’s been – he’s worked in the private sector, he’s worked in banking. He’s been on the – a Fed governor, but he is someone who is seen as perhaps being a little more sympathetic to the Trumpian view of regulation. And so that would be another plus in his column from the president’s angle. But really, what markets expect him to do is just continue Janet Yellen’s policies, for the most part, without being Janet Yellen.
MS. CORDES: And –
MS. SNELL: Can I ask you a question on that?
MR. TANKERSLEY: Yeah.
MS. SNELL: So people who are watching the tax bill are wondering what’s going to happen to their mortgages, but those people are also wondering about what’s going to happen with, you know, what the Fed is going to do, because that could change their mortgage rates too.
MR. TANKERSLEY: It’s true. The Fed is very likely to raise – very widely seen as likely to raise interest rates in December, by probably a quarter of a point, but then raise them steadily over the next few years to get back to what it considers sort of normal interest rates. We’ve been close to zero for a really long time now. So I would expect him to continue that path, unless the economic conditions change, which they could.
MS. CORDES: Phil, what’s the calculus here? Because the president said: I like Janet Yellen but, you know, you want to make your mark with a Fed chair pick. But obviously, if anything goes wrong with the economy, he now cannot blame Janet Yellen. He’s the one who changed horses.
MR. RUCKER: Well, you sort of knew from the beginning that he would probably make a change, just because he wants to have his own Fed chair. And as we’ve seen with policies, but also with personnel, anything that Obama put in place or that Obama touched, he wants to get rid of. Janet Yellen was a pick of Obama’s, so Trump made his own pick. But he went with the safe choice in Powell. And I’m told from White House officials that there was real chemistry between them, that Powell won him over in the interview, that Trump just felt really comfortable with this man, felt like they clicked, felt like he was obviously smart and looked the part, which matters to this president. But there’s personal chemistry there.
MS. CORDES: And he’s seen as someone who is pretty moderate. Not an economist, but who listens to economists.
MR. RUCKER: That’s right. And he’s been at the Fed and just has experience there. One of the other candidates was an economics professor out at Stanford, Taylor. And the president really liked him too, but just felt a better comfort with Powell.
MS. CORDES: All right. Thank you guys so much for being with me on this Friday night. That’s it for this edition of Washington Week Extra. While you’re online, check out the news you need to know with the fresh reporting and analysis of your favorite Washington Week panelists. I’m Nancy Cordes, in for Robert Costa. Thanks for watching.