Where Things Stand: This Should Change The Narrative

This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 5: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holds a meeting with CIA Director nominee Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., in his Capitol office on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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May 18, 2020 12:52 p.m.

But it probably won’t.

I wrote last week about my fascination with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s months-long crusade to use the media to pressure the secretary of state to run for Senate in Kansas. McConnell views Mike Pompeo as the ideal candidate: He has enough establishment support to unite the party in the key state that’s about to dive into a messy GOP primary over the open seat, where a top contender is polarizing, even in Republican circles.

And, he’s one of the few officials who’s suffered only minor blows to his reputation during a rocky Trump administration tenure. Any bruising the secretary of state endured as part of the impeachment investigation — specifically related to the Rudy Giuliani fueled campaign to oust former career ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from Ukraine — was long ago (likely) remedied for concerned voters by Trump’s exoneration in the Senate.

But news out of the White House this weekend should have a simmering effect on McConnell’s campaign to pressure the administration official into a Senate bid. Whether it actually will is another story.

According to multiple reports, President Trump fired former State Department Inspector General Steve Linick while the watchdog was probing Pompeo for potential misuse of an office staffer for personal errands, like walking the Pompeo family dog.

The key bit: Pompeo reportedly privately called for Linick’s removal beforehand.

There are other theories on the motivation behind the watchdog’s ouster, but the entire situation falls in line with the exact brand of ham-handed firings that have plagued this administration; oustings are charged with revenge for a lack of loyalty, either to Trump himself or those closest to him. If the reporting is true, in a normal world, Pompeo would face some sort of political repercussion for the act. McConnell would back off his endless push to fan Pompeo’s political aspirations. But I won’t hold my breath, etc.

Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following today:

What The Investigations Team Is Watching

Kate Riga is threading together the various reports on Linick’s removal.

Tierney Sneed covered Attorney General Bill Barr’s DOJ briefing this morning.

What The Breaking News Team Is Watching

GOP operative and former Bush administration official Karl Rove blew a clear dog-whistle this morning while wagging his finger at former President Barack Obama for criticizing the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19 in his virtual commencement speech to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). “It is so unseemly for a former president to take the virtual commencement ceremony for a series of historically black colleges and universities and turn it into a political drive-by shooting,” Rove complained on “Fox and Friends.” We’ll keep an eye on reactions to this statement.

Trump targeted Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) last night while he was complaining via Twitter about HHS whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright’s interview on “60 Minutes.” “This whole Whistleblower racket needs to be looked at very closely, it is causing great injustice & harm,” Trump tweeted. “I hope you are listening @SenSusanCollins.”

If You Read Anything On COVID-19 Today, Read This

Matt Shuham reports on a Florida congressman’s continued belief that there’s “no need” for him to wear a mask while milling around the Capitol or having conversations on the House floor. Matt’s been documenting the spread of right-wing misinformation about the virus for weeks, including the emerging political divide over mask-wear.

Earlier coverage of COVID-19 and right-wing misinformation:

Coming Up

2:00 p.m. ET: Trump will hold a roundtable discussion with restaurant executives and industry leaders.

4:00 p.m. ET: Trump and the first lady will hold a teleconference call with governors in the Situation Room.

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

‘COVID Toes’ Emerge As New Rare Sign Of Virus Infection — Associated Press

What We Are Reading

Wisconsin Conservatives Feel ‘Snookered’ By Court Justice — Scott Bauer

Dear Reader: A Letter From The Author Of ‘The Giver’ And ‘Number the Stars’ — Lois Lowry

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