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POLITICO Playbook: NEW: Former Gillibrand aide resigned in protest over handling of harassment claims

POLITICO Playbook: NEW: Former Gillibrand aide resigned in protest over handling of harassment claims

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) office dismissed a staffer last week after presented by POLITICO with allegations about him. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

NEW THIS MORNING … ALEX THOMPSON and DANIEL STRAUSS: “Former Gillibrand aide resigned in protest over handling of sex harassment claims”: “Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), one of the most outspoken advocates of the #MeToo movement who has made fighting sexual misconduct a centerpiece of her presidential campaign, spent last summer pressing legislators to update Congress’ ‘broken’ system of handling sexual harassment.

“At the same time, a mid-20s female aide to Gillibrand resigned in protest over the handling of her sexual harassment complaint by Gillibrand’s office, and criticized the senator for failing to abide by her own public standards. In July, the female staffer alleged one of Gillibrand’s closest aides — who was a decade her senior and married — repeatedly made unwelcome advances after the senator had told him he would be promoted to a supervisory role over her. She also said the male aide regularly made crude, misogynistic remarks in the office about his female colleagues and potential female hires.

“Less than three weeks after reporting the alleged harassment and subsequently claiming that the man retaliated against her for doing so, the woman told chief of staff Jess Fassler that she was resigning because of the office’s handling of the matter. She did not have another job lined up. The woman was granted anonymity because she fears retaliation and damage to her future professional prospects. …

“Gillibrand, who was not made available for an interview, issued a statement to POLITICO defending her office’s handling of the incident. ‘As I have long said, when allegations are made in the workplace, we must believe women so that serious investigations can actually take place, we can learn the facts, and there can be appropriate accountability,’ she said. ‘That’s exactly what happened at every step of this case last year. I told her that we loved her at the time and the same is true today.’ …

“Since she left last summer, the woman has been doing part-time contract work. The male aide, Abbas Malik, kept his job. Two weeks ago, however, POLITICO presented the office with its own findings of additional allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct by Malik. Among the claims were that he made a ‘joke’ about rape to a female colleague — a person whom the office had failed to contact last summer despite repeated urgings by Malik’s accuser to reach out to the person.

“Gillibrand’s office opened a new investigation and dismissed Malik last week. Malik did not respond to requests for comment.” POLITICO

— SENS. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT.) and Gillibrand both have #MeToo stories in their operations.

THE LATEST ON THE BUDGET — JENNIFER SCHOLTES and CAITLIN EMMA: “Trump to seek $8.6 billion to finish border wall before 2020 election”: “President Donald Trump will ask Congress for another $8.6 billion to complete a 722-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a senior administration official told POLITICO on Sunday, part of a cost-cutting opening budget offer that will dismiss hopes for a grand budget deal and likely stoke fresh fears of another government shutdown.

“The president will make the request on Monday in his broader proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, which ends just one month before the 2020 presidential election. The sum — billions of dollars higher than the $5.7 billion border-security demand that sparked the 35-day government shutdown — will surely divide spending negotiators again this year, likely resulting in static funding levels for much of the rest of the government or another lapse.

“The administration already plans to use $8.1 billion in the current fiscal year to finish more than half of the wall by dipping into other funding sources, including through Trump’s controversial emergency order that Congress is moving toward rebuking. The $8.6 billion request for fiscal 2020 would allow the administration to complete all 722 miles, according to the administration official, who spoke on background.” POLITICO

— SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI and SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER’S joint response: “President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall, which he promised would be paid for by Mexico. Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson.

“At a time when our country faces challenges about jobs for the future, this money would better be spent on rebuilding America, and on education and workforce development for jobs for the 21st Century.”

THIS IS YOUR ANNUAL REMINDER that the White House budget is a particularly meaningless document. A White House budget is a list of priorities. It doesn’t become law, or have any other tremendous import otherwise. The budget is particularly useless this year, since Democrats control the House.

Good Monday morning.

INSIDE THE ROOM … AXIOS’ JONATHAN SWAN: “Trump tells RNC donors: ‘The Democrats hate Jewish people’”: “To prevent leaks from Trump’s Friday night Mar-a-Lago speech to RNC donors, security guards made attendees put their cellphones in magnetized pouches that they carried around like purses until they left the club. So leakers had to rely on their memories. …

“Referring to the recent anti-Semitism controversies with Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, Trump told the donors: ‘The Democrats hate Jewish people.’ Trump said he didn’t understand how any Jew could vote for a Democrat these days. … Trump said if he could run to be prime minister of Israel, he’d be at 98% in the polls, according to three sources who were there.

“Trump went off on what one guest called a ‘bizarre tangent.’ He described being home alone in the White House over Christmas ‘while the Democrats were in Hawaii.’ Trump described opening his curtain to look at Secret Service agents swarming the White House lawn. ‘They’re in the trees, on the lawn,’ he said. He said he saw agents wearing night vision goggles. ‘They’re in blackface,’ Trump added, jokingly referring to the masks over the agents’ faces. Trump joked that the agents were ‘in blackface’ because of the masks so maybe ‘they have to take them away,’ according to two sources who were there.” Axios

THE TRUMP-NETANYAHU ALLIANCE … NYT’S DAVID HALBFINGER in Jerusalem: “For now … the administration’s favors keep on coming: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just announced a stop in Israel on a Middle East swing beginning March 18. The political backup is almost certain to reach its peak a few days later, when Mr. Netanyahu is expected to get an Oval Office meeting, if not a formal White House dinner, during the yearly gathering of Aipac, the powerful pro-Israel lobby.

“It’s gotten to the point that analysts tracking the American assistance to Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign have taken to guessing what Mr. Trump might toss his way next: merely more plaudits, or perhaps a meatier bone, like endorsing Republican-sponsored legislation to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.” NYT

— SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.) had breakfast at Netanyahu’s house, and Netanyahu posted a video on Twitter. The video

2020 WATCH — WAPO’S TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA and JOSH DAWSEY: “Trump’s massive reelection campaign has 2016 themes — and a 2020 infrastructure”: “President Trump and his advisers are launching a behemoth 2020 campaign operation combining his raw populist message from 2016 with a massive data-gathering and get-out-the-vote push aimed at dwarfing any previous presidential reelection effort, according to campaign advisers, White House aides, Republican officials and others briefed on the emerging strategy. …

“The president’s strategy, however, relies on a risky and relatively narrow path for victory, hinged on demonizing Trump’s eventual opponent and juicing turnout among his most avid supporters in Florida, Pennsylvania and the Upper Midwest — the same areas that won him the White House but where his popularity has waned since he was elected.

“Some advisers are particularly concerned about the president’s persistent unpopularity among female and suburban voters, and fear it will be difficult to replicate the outcome of 2016 without former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as a foil.” WaPo

— ALEX ISENSTADT: “GOP meddles in Democratic nomination with takedown of O’Rourke”: “A prominent conservative group is thrusting itself into the Democratic primary with a TV ad assailing Beto O’Rourke — a move that comes as Republicans consider a broader campaign to meddle in the opposing party’s contest to take on President Donald Trump.

“The anti-tax Club for Growth is expected to begin airing a two-minute commercial in Iowa this week aimed at dampening liberal support for O’Rourke, who’s expected to enter the race any day. The spot paints the former Texas congressman as a politician dripping with ‘white male privilege’ who’s undeserving of the comparisons he’s drawing to Barack Obama. ‘With a charmed life like his, you can never really lose,’ the ad concludes. ‘That’s why Beto’s running for president — because he can.’” With the ad: POLITICO

— “Gabbard declines to say whether Assad is a war criminal,” by Quint Forgey: “Presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) declined Sunday to say whether Syrian President Bashar Assad is a war criminal, and declined to answer whether she would trust her own intelligence community if elected commander in chief.” POLITICO

— “Sanders campaign to be based in both D.C. and Vermont,” by Holly Otterbein

FED CHAIR JEROME POWELL on CBS’ “60 MINUTES”: SCOTT PELLEY: “Can the president fire you?” JAY POWELL: “Well, the law is clear that I have a four-year term. And I fully intend to serve it.” PELLEY: “So no, in your view?” POWELL: “No.” Video and transcript (hat tip: Morning Money)

THE JUICE …

— HOUSE MINORITY WHIP STEVE SCALISE (R-LA.) will announce that Eric Schmitz, formerly of SBA List, will be coalitions coordinator. Marty Reiser, Scalise’s policy director, will lead the business coalition operation.

— DON STEWART, former top communications aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is joining the Association of Global Automakers as EVP of public affairs.

— “Progressive Caucus PAC ramps up 2020 push,” by Laura Barrón-López: “The Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC is hiring its first-ever political director, part of a larger effort by the PAC to turn more attention to recruiting new candidates. David Keith — whose last role was as campaign manager for Democrat Randy Bryce, who ran unsuccessfully to succeed former Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin — will take on the new role.” POLITICO

TRUMP’S MONDAY — The president will have lunch with VP Mike Pence at 12:15 p.m. in the private dining room.

Marine One is pictured. | Getty Images

PHOTO DU JOUR: Marine One touches down on the South Lawn of the White House on Sunday, carrying President Donald Trump after a weekend at Mar-a-Lago. | Al Drago/Getty Images

UPDATE — “China orders MAX 8 planes grounded after Ethiopia crash,” by AP’s Christopher Bodeen in Beijing: “China’s civilian aviation authority ordered all Chinese airlines to ground their Boeing 737 Max 8 planes indefinitely on Monday after one of the aircraft crashed in Ethiopia. The Civil Aviation Administration of China said the order is to take effect by 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) Monday.

“It said the order, issued Monday morning, was ‘taken in line with the management principle of zero tolerance for security risks,’ because the crash was the second after another of the planes fell into the ocean off the coast of Indonesia in similar circumstances on Oct. 29, killing all aboard.” AP

— AP’S ELIAS MESERET in Addis Ababa: “Ethiopian Airlines has grounded all of its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft as ‘an extra safety precaution’ following the crash of one of its planes in which 157 people were killed … People from 35 countries died in the Sunday morning crash six minutes after the plane took off from Ethiopia’s capital en route to Nairobi. …

“Canada, Ethiopia, the U.S., China, Italy, France, Britain, Egypt, Germany, India and Slovakia all lost four or more citizens. Leaders of the United Nations, the U.N. refugee agency and the World Food Program announced that colleagues had been on the plane. The U.N. migration agency estimated that 19 U.N.-affiliated employees were killed.” AP

FOR YOUR RADAR — WSJ’S BOJAN PANCEVSKI: “How a Russian Gas Pipeline Is Driving a Wedge Between the U.S. and Its Allies: The Nord Stream 2 gas-transport project is a bone of contention with Washington, which fears it will make Germany too reliant on Moscow”: “Angela Merkel and her advisers, before a visit to the White House last spring, agreed on a priority: Avoid talk of Nord Stream 2. The German-Russian pipeline project had been a bone of contention between Berlin and Washington, which fears it will make Europe’s largest economy excessively reliant on Russian energy.

“When the German chancellor took her seat at the Oval Office table, though, President Trump left her nowhere to hide. ‘Angela,’ he said, according to people in the room, ‘you got to stop buying gas from Putin.’

“A year later, work continues on the gas link under the Baltic Sea financed by several Western firms and PAO Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled energy company. The dispute is coming to a head, in a graphic example of how Russia’s estrangement from the West, far from bringing its members closer, is driving a wedge between the closest of allies.” WSJ

MEDIAWATCH — “Fox News denounces Pirro comments on Omar,” by Quint Forgey: “Fox News on Sunday night denounced remarks by host Jeanine Pirro this weekend suggesting that Rep. Ilhan Omar supports Sharia law in defiance of the U.S. Constitution because she wears a hijab. ‘We strongly condemn Jeanine Pirro’s comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar,’ the network said in a statement. ‘They do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly.’” POLITICO

SPOTTED: former President Barack Obama playing golf at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club on Lake Manassas … David Petraeus on Sunday on a Cathay Pacific flight from Dulles to Hong Kong … Cecile Richards on Sunday afternoon walking along East Cesar Chavez Street in Austin …

… Beto O’Rourke in the Austin airport Sunday meeting “lots of people who were fans — including some TSA agents — a small group of people asked for photos and shook his hand,” according to our tipster.

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Nick Shapiro, global head of trust and risk management for Airbnb and an Obama WH and CIA alum. How he thinks the Trump presidency is going: “I wake up every day thinking I must still be asleep. I tell myself this must just be a crazy nightmare and that I hope I can remember to tell people about it when I wake up. Then, I assume when I do tell people about it, they will laugh and say, wow, can you imagine if he were actually president. That’s how I think the Trump presidency is going.” Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Michael Holley … MC Gonzalez, SVP of global public affairs at Estee Lauder (h/t Kara Carscaden) … Rupert Murdoch is 88 … Sam Donaldson is 85 … Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead is 57 … former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is 54 … Matt Sobocinski … Ben Becker of Precision Strategies … Curt Cashour … Jon Cohen, chief research officer at SurveyMonkey … Jason Herbert … Claire Burghoff, VP of public affairs at Cornerstone Government Affairs … Jen Mullin, VP of public affairs at Exelon … James Pollack … NBC News’ Miguel Almaguer … Austin Carson … Gale Norton is 65 … American Express’ Abby Rogers … Justin Weaver … POLITICO’s Emily Riley and Micaela Rodríguez …

… Amy Weiss, CEO of Weiss Public Affairs … Suzanne Hammelman … writer Charles McElwee is 3-0 … Christina Arvanites, producer at MSNBC’s “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell (h/t Hayley Andrews) … Michal Grayevsky (h/t Alex Levy) … Alice Stewart, CNN political commentator and NPR political contributor … Nik Holtan … Allison Muehlenbeck … Joe Quinn, VP of public affairs at the Aluminum Association, is 42 … Haley Viccaro … Laura Zimmerman … Justin Wilson … Nikki Budzinski … Rachel Dodsworth … Cookie McCarton … DoD’s Jeff Hayes … Harry Wolff is 4-0 … Jon Schneider … Carrie Pugh of the NEA … Tripp Wellde (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

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