Some people are just lucky, they don’t put on weight even by eating a cooked breakfast for every meal. For the rest of us though, we’ve got to watch our waistlines. You are what you eat, after all. Even if you work out, some say that diet accounts for 65% of the weight-loss battle, so we thought we’d bring you five of our favorite low cal recipes because we’re nice like that.

Our criteria insists that the recipes be cheap, quick and easy to make and be scrum-diddly-umptious, so without further ado, here’s our first, The Turducken, a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey. Total cost: $289. Preparation time: One month. Only kidding.

Grilled Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps (53 calories per wrap)

Though buffalo traditionally don’t have wings (not where I come from, anyway) adding the word takes anything from bland to yummy. This tasty recipe does away with carb-filled tortillas, instead using lettuce as a wrap. You will need:

3 large skinless boneless chicken breast
¾ cup red hot Buffalo Wings sauce
15-20 butter lettuce cups
¾ cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 avocado, diced
¼ cup sliced green onions
½ cup ranch dressing

First, cut your chicken into half inch cubes and add ½ cup red hot buffalo sauce to a bowl before covering and placing in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then preheat your grill to 400 degrees and grill the chicken for 8-10 minutes or until cooked right through.

Remove from grill and place grilled chicken in a bowl, toss with ¼ cup more buffalo sauce.  Place the chicken into your lettuce cups with diced tomatoes, diced avocado, a pinch of green onions, and a drizzle of ranch dressing.

Zucchini Bolognese (326 calories per serving)

Known as Courgetti in Europe, this dish uses thin strips of zucchini instead of pasta and low fat turkey mince instead of ground beef but still rates high on the taste-ometer.

1 lb. turkey mince (thigh or breast)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
button mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 x cans chopped tomatoes
2 chicken stock cubes
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 large zucchini
grated parmesan

Fry the the turkey mince until browned in olive (or coconut) oil, then scoop into a bowl and set aside. Introduce the onion to the pan and cook on a low heat until tender. Then add the garlic, followed by the carrot and the mushrooms, stirring for about 3 mins, until softened.

Reintroduce the turkey mince back into the pan, add the tomato purée, give everything a quick stir and stir in the chopped tomatoes. Fill 1 can with water and pour into the pan then crumble in the chicken stock cubes and bring to the boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for about 40 mins until the sauce has thickened and the veg is tender, then when the Bolognese is nearly ready, stir through the soy sauce and some seasoning.

Spiralize your pasta-thin strips of zucchini with a large noodle attachment. Heat a large frying pan with a little more oil and add your zucchini. Cook for 2-3 mins until slightly softened. Season with salt and serve topped with the turkey Bolognese, grated pecorino and basil leaves. Easy.

Red lentil & carrot soup (258 calories per serving)

We don’t want to exclude veggie-sauruses from our recipe list, and meat-o-sauruses – you don’t have to eat meat every dinner time, so why not try this easy, yummy and filling meat-free soup?

1 green onion, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 carrots, diced
3 oz. red lentils
1 vegetable stock cube

Heat olive or coconut oil in a pan, add the finely sliced onion and fry for 2 mins before adding the garlic and diced carrots. Allow to cook briefly over the heat.

Pour in 2 American pints (or 1 litre) of boiling water stir in with the lentils and stock cube, then cover the pan and cook over a medium heat for 15 mins until the lentils are tender. Take off the heat, stir in the parsley and serve into bowls, scattering with extra parsley leaves.

Avocado Pesto Linguine (Around 200 calories per serving)

This has got to be the easiest of them all, and so simple an idiot like me could follow the recipe. All you need is:

1 lb. linguine
1 avocado
⅓ jar of store-bought pesto
freshly grated parmesan
cherry tomatoes, halved
fresh basil

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook linguine according to package directions until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water, and return to pot.

Add the avocado and pesto to pasta along with ½ cup reserved pasta water and toss well to combine. Add tomatoes and toss. Serve with more parmesan, a sprig of basil and – Hey Pesto! A delicious, low calorie dinner… and leftovers for work tomorrow.

Cauliflower Fried Rice (142 calories per serving)

While this last dish doesn’t sound the most tasty dish in the world, you’re gonna have to trust us here, it’s actually really delicious and contains so few calories that your waistline might as well be on a one-way ticket back in time.

1 medium cauliflower head cut into florets
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 small onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
2 large eggs whisked
2-3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 spring onions/scallions thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Pulse the rinsed cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles rice.

Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet and sauté the garlic, ginger and onion

for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the peas and carrots, and cook until they are heated through, then slide the vegetables to the side, and pour your 2 beaten eggs onto the other side. Using a spatula, scramble the eggs.

Once cooked, mix the eggs with the vegetables. Add the cauliflower rice, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook for 4-5 minutes until tender and a bit crispy. Remove from heat, add the chopped spring onions. Serve to your disbelieving, ravenous family and sit back and watch them change their mind. We did!

So there we have it, 5 Favorite Low Calorie Recipes that even I could make. Go on – what are you waiting for?

One last pro tip before we leave you – singing and dancing while you cook burns calories and adds that extra special ingredient – ‘love’ to every meal!

Nerdcast: The 2016 postmortem


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It’s time for Episode 30 of the 2016 Nerdcast, POLITICO’s podcast on the race for the White House. Tune in each week to geek out with us as we dive deep into the political landscape, the latest numbers that matter, plus backstage dope on how politics really works.

We’re the people who spend Friday nights poring over poll numbers or the latest Federal Election Commission reports — so if you want to understand how the modern politics game is played, this is the podcast for you.

Story Continued Below

(Subscribe to the 2016 Nerdcast on iTunes)

POLITICO’s Kristin Roberts, Charlie Mahtesian, Scott Bland, Ken Vogel, Eli Stokols and Hadas Gold discuss what the pollsters got wrong and how the media should course correct.

Sanctuary cities stand firm against Trump


Lucia Quiej joins demonstrators on Nov. 16 to rally against President-elect Donald Trump, asking that the city of Homestead, Florida, be a sanctuary city.

At least three dozen so-called sanctuary cities across the country are standing firm against President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to crack down on them, according to a POLITICO analysis.

Trump has pledged that one of the top priorities for his first 100 days in office is to “cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities,” an unspecific term for jurisdictions that limit, in one way or another, their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agents.

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But with six weeks to go until the inauguration, POLITICO identified not one city that is reconsidering its “sanctuary” policies — such as not asking residents about their immigration status or detaining people solely because of that status — on account of the presidential election.

Instead, officials in at least 37 cities listed below have doubled down since Trump’s election, reaffirming their current policies or practices in public statements, despite the threat of pushback from the incoming administration, and at least four cities have newly declared themselves sanctuary cities since Trump’s win. Ten other cities have said they will wait to see what Trump does but are not currently making any changes, according to local news reports and inquiries from POLITICO.

There is no definitive list of U.S. sanctuary cities because of the term’s flexible definition. The 47 total sanctuary cities POLITICO identified were compiled from multiple sources, including a 2006 Congressional Research Service report, a 2014 Department of Homeland Security report and a 2016 Department of Justice memo. They range from small towns like Aberdeen, Washington, and Ashland, Oregon, to big cities like New York and San Francisco.

Some city officials just don’t take Trump’s threat seriously, while others are openly flouting a president-elect they see as hostile to immigrants. Regardless, legal experts say Trump would have a lot of trouble fulfilling his promise to withhold federal funds.

“It depends on how serious they get, but whatever is going to happen, this is going to end up in court,” said Bill Ong Hing, a law professor at the University of San Francisco and the founder of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

The Trump transition team did not respond to requests for comment.

Most local leaders avoid the ambiguous term “sanctuary city,” including Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, who said he thinks it is somewhat of a misnomer because it implies that such cities offer blanket protection from deportation when that is not the case. In reality, Dyer said Fresno’s policy limits police officers’ cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but they, as in almost every other sanctuary city, still must and do cooperate with federal authorities “when it is to assist them with criminal activity other than immigration status.”

Dyer doubts that Trump will follow through with his threat to withhold funds — and he’s not alone. Leaders of several cities — including Baltimore; Long Beach, California; Mesa, Arizona; and Springfield, Oregon — are satisfied with putting off any conversation about their sanctuary practices until Trump can prove that his funding threat is real. Tyler Gamble, the communications director of the New Orleans Police Department, said the city’s current policies have been approved by the Department of Justice, and he sees no reason to speculate on the future.

Legal experts seem to agree that the Trump administration would have a difficult time enacting the type of defunding it wishes to see. The most basic argument against the federal government’s ability to do that is nested in the Tenth Amendment. “It’s about federalism. It’s about separation of powers,” Hing said. Phil Torrey, a lecturer at Harvard Law School and the supervising attorney of the Harvard Immigration Project, explained that the Tenth Amendment gives broad powers to the states that include the ability to set policy agendas for local law enforcement, while it gives broad powers to the federal government to decide how to tax and spend dollars. The Supreme Court comes in when these powers collide, and the court has established precedent that the federal government cannot be overly coercive, Torrey said.

One such example is South Dakota v. Dole, a 1987 case that clarified what rules Congress must follow when attaching conditions to federal funds. In that case, the court ruled that the federal government could withhold some highway funding from cities that did not enforce the federal drinking age because it wouldn’t be enough money to be considered coercive and because it did not violate the “germaneness rule” since the drinking age condition was determined to be germane to the purpose of the funds: safe interstate travel. That second rule, in particular, will be harder to satisfy with sanctuary cities, Hing argues, because “most federal funds to cities and local governments are not germane to immigration enforcement.”

Another relevant Supreme Court ruling is National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, in which the Supreme Court in 2012 ruled unconstitutional a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would have blocked federal Medicaid funding to states that didn’t accept Obamacare’s proposed Medicaid expansion. Hing suggests that the Supreme Court struck down that provision because it “went too far” and was deemed too coercive.

Torrey said these ruling makes one thing very clear: “What the federal government can’t do at this point is basically pull funding wholesale from states and localities in order to get their local law enforcement agents to basically enforce federal immigration law.” There are, he noted, some Department of Justice grants set aside for local law enforcement that is arguably related to immigration enforcement and “could be at risk.” But Hing said that allotment is equivalent to a drop in the bucket, estimating it to be about $600 million total nationally. For context, San Francisco alone receives more than $1 billion annually in federal funds.

The fact that there’s no clear definition of sanctuary cities means it will be all the more difficult for Trump to implement any sort of defunding, Torrey said. “If the federal government is really looking to do this,” he said, “they’re going to have look at each individual sheriff’s office, and I just think that politically that’s not going to work, and logistically it doesn’t sound tenable at all.”

There are other actions besides the withholding of federal funds that the incoming Trump administration could take to reduce the number of sanctuary cities. Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, a research group that favors more restrictive immigration laws, said the most basic action the Trump administration could take is to clarify the expectations and obligations of local law enforcement officials. Vaughan said she believes the Obama administration’s “ambiguity” on ICE detainer requests has left sheriffs confused about their legal liability if they comply with such requests. (In many cities, the ACLU has pursued litigation against county jails that hold undocumented immigrants without court orders.) Vaughan said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, could clarify to those sheriffs that detainer requests are not optional and assure them that they will not face prosecution for assisting ICE.

As for what Vaughan describes as the “most egregious” sanctuary cities — those like Los Angeles or Chicago that openly defy even the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement efforts — she said they will likely lose the Justice Department law enforcement grants that Torrey mentioned and might even face prosecution by the department. It is very likely, she suggested, that the legality of their practices will ultimately be decided by a federal court.

Nevertheless, many leaders are ready to remain steadfast. Mayors or police spokespeople from Aberdeen; Princeton, New Jersey; Northampton, Massachusetts; and Las Vegas all told Politico that they have no plans to reassess their current practices. Similarly, in Ashland, the mayor, the city attorney and the police chief all asserted at a city council meeting on Nov. 17 that they have no intention of changing their sanctuary status because of the election. And in Evanston, an ordinance was adopted just last week that promises the city will remain welcoming to immigrants and limit cooperation with federal immigration officials.

In just the past few weeks, several other cities, including Urbana, Illinois; Northfield, Minnesota; and Pittsburgh, have begun to consider taking steps to formally become sanctuaries in defiance of the president-elect. Santa Ana, California, as well as the Vermont cities of Burlington, Montpelier and Winooski, have already passed resolutions to formalize sanctuary city status since the election.

Trump may have lowered the number of immigrants he hopes to deport from “at least 11 million” to “probably 2 million,” but even then, his administration will have a steep hill to climb without the cooperation of local law enforcement. The top 10 sanctuary cities by undocumented population (Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Austin, Newark, Denver, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and San Francisco) account for more than 2 million undocumented immigrants.


Municipal and police leaders from the following cities have publicly reaffirmed their sanctuary status (even if they don’t all accept the “sanctuary city” designation).

Appleton, Wisconsin
Ashland, Oregon
Aurora, Colorado
Austin, Texas
Berkeley, California
Boston, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Chicago, Illinois
Denver, Colorado
Detroit, Michigan
Evanston, Illinois
Hartford, Connecticut
Jersey City, New Jersey
Los Angeles, California
Madison, Wisconsin
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Nashville, Tennessee
New Haven, Connecticut
New York, New York
Newark, New Jersey
Newton, Massachusetts
Oakland, California
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Phoenix, Arizona
Portland, Oregon
Providence, Rhode Island
Richmond, California
San Francisco, California
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Seattle, Washington
Somerville, Massachusetts
St. Paul, Minnesota
Syracuse, New York
Takoma Park, Maryland
Tucson, Arizona
Washington, D.C.

The following cities are reported to have no plans at the moment to change their immigration-related policies or practices.

Aberdeen, Washington
Baltimore, Maryland
Fresno, California
Las Vegas, Nevada
Long Beach, California
Mesa, Arizona
New Orleans, Louisiana
Northampton, Massachusetts
Princeton, New Jersey
Springfield, Oregon

The following cities have formally declared themselves sanctuaries since the presidential election.

Santa Ana, California
Burlington, Vermont
Montpelier, Vermont
Winooski, Vermont

McMullin: GOP ignored Russian meddling in presidential election

Congressional Republicans knew about Russian attempts to meddle in the U.S. presidential election as those efforts were ongoing and chose to do nothing about them for fear of hurting the electoral chances of President-elect Donald Trump, former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin said Wednesday.

“Look, the truth is it’s been very obvious for leaders in Washington on the Republican side that the Russians have been undermining our democracy, or did undermine our democracy,” McMullin said at an event hosted by POLITICO Wednesday morning. “I know because I know for a fact that they know this. It was a topic of discussion during the election and they chose not to stand up.”

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McMullin ran for president as an independent, conservative alternative to Trump, who won the Republican presidential nomination despite lacking traditional conservative bona fides. Before jumping into the race last August, he was the chief policy director for Republicans in the House of Representatives and before that, was an operations officer in the CIA.

In a report released last October, the U.S. intelligence community stated that Russia had attempted to interfere with the American election process, launching cyberattacks against political targets. Trump has refused to concede the intelligence community’s assessment and has sought to push back against a CIA assessment that Russia launched its hacking efforts in an attempt to boost the president-elect’s candidacy.

Russian cyberattacks, which hacked into the email systems of the Democratic National Committee as well as politically influential individuals, were just part of the Kremlin’s efforts, according to McMullin. He said Republicans in Congress were aware that the Russian government also sought to undermine Americans’ faith in the election process and bolster Trump through RT America, the Kremlin-owned cable news station. Congressional Republicans also knew about online accounts created by the Russian government that backed Trump and attacked those who did not.

“They understood what was happening and they understood that that was probably only the tip of the iceberg,” McMullin said. “As a former intelligence officer, it’s hard to overstate how alarming this is and how alarming it should be.”

“We now have the intelligence agencies who have taken, candidly, their sweet time in coming out to say ‘yes, indeed Russia did attempt to undermine our elections, to influence our election’ and then more recently, you know, the reported CIA assessment that they did it on behalf of Donald Trump or to support Donald Trump, which I think, again, is obvious and not something we should need the CIA to tell us, based on all the other information we have.”

McMullin was especially troubled by Trump’s decision to nominate for secretary of state ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who has close business ties to Russia and was awarded the Russian “Order of Friendship” by President Vladimir Putin. McMullin said Tillerson “is a predictable pick” because he is “somebody who will not stand up to what Donald Trump intends to do, which is a realignment, a strategic realignment of the United States with Russia.”

Members of both political parties on Capitol Hill have called for an investigation into Russia’s efforts to meddle in last month’s election, and McMullin said he has more faith in the Senate than he does in the House when it comes to those investigations. He said specifically that he trusts Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and that more lawmakers should join them in investigating Russian interference. He said the issue should be bipartisan and should get more attention from the media, lines that earned him applause from the audience.

“This is what Russia does in Europe and has done with effect. The Republicans are sticking their heads in the sand on this issue as they did during the campaign,” McMullin said. “I will tell you, this is not a new issue. They knew during the campaign that this was happening and they chose not to say anything because they knew it would harm them politically. That is the issue, the sacrifice of principle for power, the sacrifice of the country’s interests for the party’s interests.”

Ivanka Trump: Speculation that I’ll be first lady ‘inappropriate’

Ivanka Trump says it is “inappropriate” to speculate that she will effectively serve as first lady in her father’s administration and occupy an office in the East Wing.

“I think it’s an inappropriate observation,” Trump told the ABC News program “20/20” for a segment set to air Thursday night. “There’s one first lady and she’ll do remarkable things.”

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President-elect Donald Trump’s wife, the former model Melania, was a reluctant campaigner, and she plans to stay in New York City for several months after the inauguration before moving to Washington so that their young son, Barron, can complete the schoolyear there.

But Ivanka, Trump’s oldest daughter, was a regular surrogate for the campaign and has advised him on policy issues including parental leave and the environment. Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, is also an incoming senior adviser to the president-elect, and the couple is moving to Washington with their three children.

All that has prompted widespread speculation that Ivanka may fulfill some of the first lady’s traditional duties in Melania’s place.

She pushed back on that in her interview with ABC, though. She also discussed her transition from leader at the Trump Organization to Washington, describing it as “emotional.”

“It’s emotional that I’m stepping away from my business, and my father will be president, and hopefully I can be there to support him and to support those causes I’ve cared about my whole professional career,” she said.

ABC also spoke with Trump’s two adult sons, Don Jr. and Eric, for the segment. Both sons are taking over managerial control of their father’s business empire, an arrangement that has not satisfied ethics experts, who say it does not eliminate Trump’s many financial conflicts of interest.

Eric, though, suggested that his father will be too busy to get involved with the business as president.

“My father has the biggest responsibility of any person, arguably, on the planet, and that’s to run the United States of America,” Eric Trump said. “His focus is going to be running this country.”

Governors face uncertainty in the Trump era


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“I don’t agree with his style, but he’s shaking it up,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said of President Donald Trump.

“Cautiously optimistic.”

“We’ll have to see.”

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“I don’t agree with his style, but he’s shaking it up.”

“I’m not sure what the answer is going to be.”

That’s how the several of nation’s governors described their feelings, hopes and expectations about the Trump administration. And after listening to them on Friday, it’s clear they still have a lot of questions — and few answers — when it comes to a new White House that has talked more in broad strokes than wonky specifics when it comes to policy.

Even some Republicans didn’t seem able to fully endorse the new administration.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said at POLITICO’s State Solutions Conference. Herbert said he was pleased with President Donald Trump’s cabinet picks.

“You have to surround yourself with good people,” he said. “I see him doing that, and I think he can have a successful presidency.”

Of the 11 governors interviewed at the conference, only one — Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who led a pro-Trump super PAC during the campaign — was unabashedly excited about President Trump.

“We believe we have a partner in the White House,” Scott said at the conference.

But it was Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson who may have best encapsulated the governors’ view of the entertainer-turned-President.

“I don’t agree with his style, but he’s shaking it up,” he said.

A record 46 of the nation’s 50 governors were in D.C. for the annual meeting of the National Governors’ Association, along with sideline meetings for the Democratic Governors’ Association and the Republican Governors’ Association. The state executives ate lunch with Vice President Mike Pence on Friday, and were scheduled to visit the White House for dinner with President Donald Trump on Sunday night, followed by meetings with White House staff and members of Congress on Monday.

The governors were unanimous in their opposition to Trump’s desire to crack down on foreign trade, fretful about his plans to replace Obamacare, pleased with his plans for an increase in federal infrastructure spending, and sharply divided on his push for immigration enforcement.

The governors, who mostly came out of the establishment wings of both political parties, unanimously broke with the White House on trade policy. No governor was ready for Trump to start slapping tariffs on imports and potentially starting a trade war.

“Trade is one of the truly essential ingredients of progress,” Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said.

“[Trump] doesn’t fit neatly into my conservative principles over time, one of those being trade issues,” Hutchinson said later.

New Hampshire GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, asked if he was worried about Trump’s renegotiation of NAFTA — Canada is a key trading partner for the Granite State — wasn’t sure of what the Trump administration’s next steps were.

“We’re watching it, but I’m not sure what the answer is going to be,” Sununu said.

On healthcare, Republicans were ready to repeal Obamacare and implement block-granting for Medicaid, but were also worried about the process and confusion if the law is repealed without a replacement.

Herbert, for instance, warned about passing a fix without some Democratic support, making Republicans wholly responsible for the health care system, premium hikes and consumer confusion.

“I’d rather do it right than quick,” he said.

Arkansas’ Hutchinson sounded a similar note: “I support a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but you have to know where you’re going after that.”

Democrats, on the other hand, repeatedly warned of the danger of repealing Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion and expressed doubt Republicans would succeed. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, a Republican-turned-independent, summed up the danger for his former party.

“Almost daily, I hear from people who are alive today because of Medicaid expansion,” he said.

Some issues saw more of a partisan division. Trump’s plans to rapidly ramp up the deportation of undocumented immigrants, including those who had committed only minor crimes, alarmed Democrats but won plaudits from Republicans.

“I can’t imagine that the administration is going to go out and have massive collections, massive deportations [of undocumented immigrants,]” Hickenlooper said. “But we’ll have to see.”

Hutchinson, on the other hand, said he read the White House orders on immigration and didn’t fully understand the fuss.

“All he’s saying is that he’s going to enforce the law,” he said.

Nerdcast: The bully pulpit


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It’s time for Episode 46 of the Nerdcast, POLITICO’s podcast on the White House and politics. Tune in each week to geek out with us as we dive deep into the political landscape, the latest numbers that matter, plus backstage dope on how politics really works.

We’re the people who spend Friday nights poring over poll numbers or the latest Federal Election Commission reports — so if you want to understand how the modern politics game is played, this is the podcast for you.


The POLITICO nerds discuss Donald Trump’s approval rating according to a new Fox News’ poll, the number of senate Democrats that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch needs to avoid getting stuck in a filibuster and more.

Lewandowski’s firm quietly inked deal with Venezuela-owned company

A firm co-founded by Donald Trump’s initial campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, quietly agreed to lobby for the oil company Citgo as the company, which is owned by the leftist government of Venezuela, was becoming increasingly embroiled in tensions involving the United States, Venezuela and Russia.

Officials with Lewandowski’s firm, Avenue Strategies, confirmed that last month it formalized a $25,000-a-month lobbying contract with Citgo.

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The officials initially told POLITICO that the firm had filed legally required paperwork revealing the contract to the U.S. government on Feb. 20. But Lewandowski’s co-founder in the firm, fellow Trump campaign aide Barry Bennett, subsequently clarified that it “was just an origination date,” and the firm was working to file the paperwork Wednesday.

As of Wednesday evening, that paperwork was not posted on the website of the Senate Office of Public Records, which processes and automatically posts such filings almost instantaneously.

Bennett said Avenue has yet to begin lobbying for Citgo and that “it’s not entirely clear” on what issues it will lobby. He stressed, though, that he will be the only firm employee who registers to lobby on the contract, and that Lewandowski “doesn’t really have a role” in it.

Sources familiar with the contract say that Avenue Strategies was brought on by Citgo to help provide access to the Trump administration amid calls for the U.S. to seize the company’s assets as a way to expand the impact of sanctions against Venezuela.

But the revelation of Avenue’s previously unreported contract with Citgo comes at an awkward moment for the company, Lewandowski and the Trump White House.

Trump ran on a promise to “drain the swamp” of special interest influence in Washington, and the increasing attention on the lobbying firm co-founded soon after the election by Lewandowski, who remains a close Trump confidant, threatens to undermine the president’s efforts to make the case he’s fulfilling that promise.

On Wednesday, the government-ethics watchdog group Public Citizen sent a letter to the Department of Justice and congressional lobbying oversight offices requesting investigations into whether Lewandowski was violating lobbying laws by not registering as a lobbyist, based on a POLITICO report about a newer company created by Avenue Strategies that appeared to be offering prospective clients meetings with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Bennett called the letter a baseless and partisan “witch hunt.”

But Bennett also acknowledged that Avenue Strategies on Wednesday dissolved the newer company, which was called Washington East West Political Strategies.

The company had distributed pitch materials to prospective Eastern European clients promising to arrange meetings with Trump, Pence and senior members of their administration, POLITICO revealed last week. Bennett said he and Lewandowski never saw the document, which he said was produced by Avenue’s partners in the company, an Azerbaijani oil executive and an American political consultant who works extensively in Russia.

The document “was a violation of our understanding with them,” Bennett said. “We don’t need the headache.”

Lewandowski issued a statement saying he had “no affiliation or involvement” and “never entered into any agreement with this firm.”

Bennett clarified that “Avenue Strategies owned the equity — and that is me and Corey — but he didn’t have any role.” Bennett didn’t respond when asked whether Avenue had dissolved other firms it had created with other partners to prospect in the Middle East, Canada and Central America.

Concerns about Lewandowski’s adherence to lobbying rules and boasts of access also have taken hold inside the White House, said two people who have discussed Lewandowski’s lobbying with administration officials.

And Citgo, the U.S. refining arm of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, is under increasing scrutiny as the Trump administration takes a tougher line against the cash-strapped government of Venezuela, which has been accused of human rights abuses and drug trafficking.

Complicating matters further, there are rising concerns that the Russian government-owned oil company Rosneft could be on the verge of taking control of Citgo. That’s because Venezuela’s national oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, took out a loan from Rosneft in December, offering as collateral 49.9 percent of Citgo’s shares. International energy market analysts have predicted that the economic crisis in Venezuela could lead PDVSA to default on its debt, which would put Rosneft on the cusp of controlling three of the largest and most sophisticated refineries in the U.S., plus three major pipelines and dozens of fuel terminals.

The involvement of Russia is fraught for Trump’s administration. The president’s team is under scrutiny from law enforcement and congressional investigators examining Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, including by stealing and disseminating emails from allies of Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

A bipartisan group of senators wrote a letter last month to Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, linking the election hacking and Russia’s alleged violations of arms control agreements with Rosneft’s position in Citgo.

The senators wrote that they are “extremely concerned that Rosneft’s control of a major U.S. energy supplier could pose a grave threat to American energy security, impact the flow and price of gasoline for American consumers, and expose critical U.S. infrastructure to national security threats.” They urged Mnuchin — in his capacity as chairman of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which has to sign off on acquisitions of U.S. assets by foreign companies — to prepare for the prospect that PDVSA might soon default.

“In the event Rosneft were to acquire Citgo, we would expect a thorough, conflict-free and expedient review,” the senators’ wrote in their letter to Mnuchin.

Bennett had previously vowed that Avenue would not lobby for an entity that was averse to U.S. foreign policy interests — specifically singling out Russia and China — and he said that if Rosneft took control of Citgo, “we would resign immediately. Don’t want that hassle.”

When asked whether Venezuela was averse to U.S. foreign policy interests, Bennett said “I don’t work for Venezuela. I work for a Houston-based company that has three plants in America and produces 19 percent of America’s gasoline. It’s an American company, Americans work there.”

Citgo spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did the White House or Treasury.

Citgo attracted attention last month, when it was revealed in a Federal Election Commission filing that the company donated $500,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, despite not having donated to recent presidential inaugurations.

The company has long employed established Washington lobbying firms and lobbyists, including Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and Cornerstone Government Affairs.

Bennett explained that Avenue’s deal with Citgo was a subcontract with a company called VantageKnight that was started by a veteran lobbyist named Manuel Ortiz, who previously represented Citgo while working at Brownstein.

Ortiz has deep ties on the Democratic side of the aisle, but no obvious connections to Trump’s administration. He did not respond to requests for comment, but sources say he also brought in Avenue Strategies to lobby for the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, which signed Avenue to a $125,000 contract covering the four months from March through June.

VantageKnight was paid $270,000 during the first three months of the year to lobby for Citgo, according to filings with congressional oversight offices.

The filings indicate that Ortiz lobbied Congress and the Trump administration on the “potential impact of U.S. energy and foreign policy restrictions” on Citgo’s “operations and valuation of assets,” as well as “sanctions related issues.”

Clinton launches new political group: ‘Onward Together’


NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03: Former US Secretary of State and WOV Honoree Hillary Clinton speaks onstage at the Ms. Foundation for Women 2017 Gloria Awards Gala & After Party at Capitale on May 3, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The Foundation for Women)
Hillary Clinton sent a blast email to supporters Monday afternoon asking people to sign up for her next venture.

Hillary Clinton is officially back in the political game.

Clinton sent a blast email to supporters Monday afternoon asking people to sign up for her next venture, Onward Together.

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“From the Women’s March to airports across the country where communities are welcoming immigrants and refugees to town hall meetings in every community, Americans are speaking out like never before,” Clinton emailed. “I believe more fiercely than ever that citizen engagement at every level is central to a strong and vibrant democracy.”

Clinton describes the group as “an organization dedicated to advancing the progressive vision that earned nearly 66 million votes in the last election. Onward Together will work to build a brighter future for generations to come by supporting groups that encourage people to organize and run for office.”

Specifically, Clinton mentioned Swing Left, Emerge America, Color of Change, Indivisible and Run for Something as the five groups Onward Together will initially support. “In some cases, we’ll provide direct funding to these organizations. For others, we’ll help amplify their work and do what we can to help them continue to grow their audiences and expand their reach,” she emailed.

“This year hasn’t been what I envisioned, but I know what I’m still fighting for: a kinder, big-hearted, inclusive America. Onward!” Clinton tweeted Monday.