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Robert Costa’s Notebook: Preparing for #WashWeek


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By Robert Costa

I get this question a lot: How exactly do you get ready? Well, the answer is simple: I read. And so does our team at “Washington Week.” Starting on Saturday morning, just a few hours after the program airs, we start in again with reading and thinking through the next show.

We read newspapers, we read magazines, we scour Twitter for the latest scoops. We listen to the radio and to podcasts. We call up reporters and ask about their stories. We then talk on Thursday mornings about what we’ve read and about how to organize the conversation.

Here is what’s in my reading pile this week.

  • Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times will be joining the table for the first time on Jan. 26, and I’ve been paying close attention to his reporting. He was in the room with President Donald Trump on Wednesday for that impromptu news conference and he’s long covered immigration. This story provides context for that event and Brian’s perspective. As moderator, I like to read what our guests write so I can ask them to dive back into their notebooks while they’re with us.
  • This New York Times article, co-written by two excellent reporters in Maggie Haberman and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, also captures what was going on when the president popped by to chat and how much news a few asides from the commander-in-chief can make.
  • Carol Leonnig, my colleague at The Washington Post, has been one of the top reporters on Robert Mueller’s federal investigation into Russian interference and this report gives us insight into what Mueller’s team is focusing on ahead of a likely interview with President Trump. The scope of the inquiry is not only Russian interference, but Trump’s “decisions to oust national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with his plans.” Those questions could bring issues of presidential conduct and behavior to the fore.
  • President Trump’s visit to Davos is about touting his “America First” agenda, to be sure. It’s also a window into how he views the economy. Beyond the stock market, how the president talks about monetary policy matters to the business world, although it sometimes doesn’t get much attention. CNBC’s Ylan Mui, in this quick video, gives us an example of how comments about the U.S. dollar can rattle or lift global markets.
  • John Cassidy of The New Yorker has a sharp pen and a strong voice, and is one of the writers I frequently read. His take on President Trump and Davos is interesting: “The American President will receive a surprisingly warm welcome when he lands in Switzerland…don’t expect a great confrontation in the Alps.” Read it here.
  • Is bipartisanship possible? After spending last weekend at the Capitol during the government shutdown, sometimes I wonder. But there was a flash of it during the talks to reopen the government when a moderate Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, used a “talking stick” in private meetings with senators from both parties to try to hammer out a deal. It was a small gesture but it kept the negotiations going as the leaders clashed. You can read more about what Senator Collins was trying to do in this Vox report.
  • Amid the big news on Capitol Hill and at the White House, I still try to keep an eye on the broader political dynamics at play in the country, as well as the growing ambitions of some Democrats to take on President Trump. This article in Politico is revealing, showing us how Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont continues to consider a 2020 bid for the Democratic nomination after coming up short two years ago.
  • Another story I noticed on this front: Oprah Winfrey telling InStyle that she probably won’t run in 2020. I wrote about the Oprah boomlet this month. I guess it’s over, at least for now.

See you Friday,

Robert Costa