With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA: Perhaps the best negotiators are not the people who tell everyone that they are the best negotiators.
A spending agreement was reached last night that will keep the government funded through the end of September. This will be the first significant bipartisan measure passed by Congress since Donald Trump took office.
— The White House agreed to punt on a lot of the president’s top priorities until this fall to avert a shutdown on Friday and to clear the deck so that the House can pass a health care bill. “This is going to be a great week,” Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, said on CBS this morning. “We’re going to get health care down to the floor of the House. We’re convinced we’ve got the votes, and we’re going to keep moving on with our agenda.”
— But Democrats are surprised by just how many concessions they extracted in the trillion-dollar deal, considering that Republicans have unified control of government.
Trump’s longtime lawyer Michal Cohen bragged during the campaign: “He’s an amazing negotiator, probably the best in this world.”
On Sunday, the president acknowledged he has a lot to learn. “I think the rules in Congress and, in particular the rules in the Senate, are unbelievably archaic and slow moving and, in many cases, unfair,” Trump said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “In many cases, you’re forced to make deals that are not the deal you’d make. You’d make a much different kind of a deal. You’re forced into situations that you hate to be forced into.”
— Now that the language has posted, here are the eight most notable areas Trump caved in his first big spending negotiation:
1. There are explicit restrictions to block the border wall. We knew last week there would be no money to start construction on a project that the president says is more important to his base than anything else. But the final agreement goes further, putting strict limitations on how Trump can use new money for border security (e.g. to invest in new technology and repair existing fencing). Administration officials have insisted they already have the statutory authority to start building the wall under a 2006 law. This prevents such an end run.
The $1.5 billion for border security is also half as much as the White House requested. Additionally, there are no cuts in funding to sanctuary cities, something a federal judge said last week would be required for the Justice Department to follow through on its threats. And there is also no money for a deportation force.
2. Non-defense domestic spending will go up, despite the Trump team’s insistence he wouldn’t let that happen. The president called for $18 billion in cuts. Instead, he’s going to sign a budget with lots of sweeteners that grow the size of government. Mitch McConnell made sure $4.6 billion got put aside to permanently extend health benefits to 22,000 retired Appalachian coal miners and their families. Nancy Pelosi made sure $295 million was included to shore up Medicaid in Puerto Rico. Chuck Schumer got $61 million to reimburse local law enforcement agencies for the cost of protecting Trump when he travels to his residences in Florida and New York. There is also another $2 billion in disaster relief money for states, which bought a couple votes. (Kelsey Snell, our lead budget reporter, has more examples.)
3. Barack Obama’s cancer moonshot is generously funded. The administration asked to slash spending at the National Institutes of Health by $1.2 billion for the rest of this fiscal year. Instead, the NIH will get a $2 billion boost – on top of the huge increase it got last year. Republican appropriators who care about biomedical research, including Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), delivered.
Trump also failed in his efforts to cut money for other kinds of scientific inquiry. For example, he proposed defunding the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy. Instead, it is getting a $15 million increase.
4. Trump fought to cut the Environmental Protection Agency by a third. The final deal trims its budget by just 1 percent, with no staff cuts. As part of a compromise, the EPA gets $80 million less than last year, but the budget is $8 billion.
5. He didn’t defund Planned Parenthood. Despite the best efforts of social conservatives, the group will continue to receive funding at current levels.
6. The president got less than half as much for the military as he said was necessary. Trump repeatedly prodded Congress to increase military spending by $30 billion. He’s getting $12.5 billion, with an additional $2.5 billion if/when he delivers a detailed plan on how to defeat the Islamic State. Many Democrats from states with bases and manufacturers, especially those up for reelection in 2018, wanted this too. Like Trump, they will tout the increased spending as a victory. The White House plans to call this a down payment on a much bigger investment down the road.
7. Democrats say they forced Republicans to withdraw more than 160 riders. These unrelated policy measures, which each could have been a poison pill, would have done things like get rid of the fiduciary rule and water down environmental regulations. On the other side of the ledger, this budget blocks the Justice Department from restricting the dispensing of medical marijuana in states where it has been legalized.
8. To keep negotiations moving, the White House already agreed last week to continue paying Obamacare subsidies. This money, which goes to insurance companies, reduces out-of-pocket expenses for low income people who get coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration justifies giving up on this because of the potential to resolve the bigger issue by repealing Obamacare.
— Soon after the deal was reached last night, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi quickly put out celebratory statements. But McConnell and Paul Ryan did not.
— The lack of aggressive messaging from Republican leadership, and especially the White House, late Sunday is one of the reasons that coverage is so lopsidedly bad for them in this morning’s papers and on cable news. Here are 10 examples:
- “Overall, the compromise resembles more of an Obama administration-era budget than a Trump one,” Bloomberg reports.
- The Associated Press calls it “a lowest-common-denominator measure that won’t look too much different than the deal that could have been struck on Obama’s watch last year.”
- Reuters: “While Republicans control the House, Senate and White House, Democrats scored … significant victories in the deal.”
- The Los Angeles Times describes the agreement as “something of an embarrassment to the White House”: “Trump engineered the fiscal standoff shortly after he was elected, insisting late last year that Congress should fund the government for only a few months so he could put his stamp on federal spending as the new president.”
- The headline on FoxNews.com is “Spending bill language omits border wall funding, sanctuary cities crackdown”: “It also rejects White House budget director Mick Mulvaney’s proposals to cut popular programs such as funding medical research and community development grants.”
- New York Times A1: “The deal should spare Republicans the embarrassment of seeing the government shut down on their watch. But it also gave a glimpse of the reluctance of lawmakers to bend to Mr. Trump’s spending priorities, like his desire for sharp cuts to domestic programs.”
- The Wall Street Journal’s headline notes the $2 billion for Obama’s moon shot, plus the EPA and Planned Parenthood being left intact.
- “Congressional negotiators basically told the Trump administration to take a hike,” David Nather writes on Axios.
- NPR says Democrats “flexed their leverage in spending negotiations.”
- Vox: “Conservatives got almost nothing they wanted.”
— The bigger picture: “Trump is a nightmare negotiating partner,” writes USA Today commentary editor Jill Lawrence, who wrote a book called “The Art of the Political Deal.” “The only constants with Trump are unpredictability and expediency. These are not, suffice it to say, the traditional cornerstones of getting to yes in politics.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— Joe Biden insisted last night that he’s not running for president in 2020, WMUR reports, but “then he held 800 first-primary state Democrats spellbound for 55 minutes by outlining his broad vision for the country in the era of Trump.” From the local TV station’s write-up: “Biden, keynoting the state Democratic Party’s major annual fundraiser with his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, at his side, quietly and emotionally thanked New Hampshire Democrats for their support following the death of his son, Beau Biden, in 2015. Biden then said he knew that visiting the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state would create speculation that he may be a candidate for president in 2020. ‘Guys, I’m not running,’ he said, looking to the back of the Radisson Hotel convention center at the reporters and cameras covering his visit. Many in the crowd groaned, and one man shouted, ‘Run, Joe, run!’”
— The New York Times, looking at the vast number of Democrats who are actively taking steps to prepare 2020 presidential campaigns, notes that the list of contenders may ultimately be the largest since 1976, when Democrats lined up after Watergate for a nomination seen as offering a short path to the White House. From Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin: “In a largely leaderless party, two distinct groups are emerging, defined mostly by age and national stature. On one side are three potential candidates approaching celebrity status who would all be over 70 years old on Election Day: Mr. Biden, and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. All three are fiery speakers inclined toward economic populism, and they have urged the Democratic Party to shift in that direction since its defeat in November.” From their story:
- Sanders is already planning his first return trip to early-voting Iowa in July, and plans to be the keynote speaker at the convention of a social justice organization that works closely with his political group, Our Revolution.
- Warren has mapped out an intensive speaking schedule: “Last weekend, she traveled to Detroit to address the annual fund-raising dinner for the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. She has used the release of her latest book, ‘This Fight Is Our Fight,’ to travel the country in recent weeks. This week, she will be the guest of honor at a fund-raising gala for Emily’s List, the Democratic women’s group, and in June, she will be the final speaker at a daylong liberal organizing meeting in San Francisco spearheaded by Susie Tompkins Buell, a prominent Democratic donor.”
- “In the Senate alone, as much as a quarter of the Democrats’ 48-member caucus are thought to be giving at least a measure of consideration to the 2020 race, among them Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California. All are closer to 40 than 80.”
- The fact Trump could win has emboldened other dark horses: “Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a 38-year-old veteran of the Iraq war who has been a pointed critic of Mr. Trump, has not ruled out running in private conversations. High-profile city executives — like Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, 46, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, 56, who did a tour of cable shows last week after overseeing the initial removal of Confederate statues from his city — may also consider the race. … Among Democratic governors, Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Terry McAuliffe of Virginia are seen as especially active in laying groundwork for 2020. Former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, who ran in 2016, has already returned to early primary states to campaign for Democrats.”
— Rupert Murdoch’s plan for world domination, continued: 21st Century Fox and the private equity firm Blackstone are in talks to launch a bid for Tribune Media, one of the largest television broadcasting companies in the country, CNN’s Dylan Byers reports: “The deal currently under discussion would see Blackstone and Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox forming a joint venture. Blackstone would provide the cash for the acquisition while Fox would add all its owned-and-operated television stations to the joint venture. Should a deal come to fruition, Fox and Blackstone will go up against Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns 173 local television stations in 81 markets and has already made a bid for Tribune’s holdings. With Tribune’s channels in its portfolio, Sinclair would reach more than 40% of the U.S. television market, which is not currently allowed under FCC rules, though those rules may change soon. Tribune owns 42 television stations throughout the United States as well as national channel WGN America. In 2014, it spun off its newspaper holdings into a separate company.” This raises a lot of questions about the Trump’s administration’s approach to antitrust issues.
GET SMART FAST:
- At least 14 people were killed and dozens injured in tornadoes, thunderstorms, and floods that have ripped through the South and portions of the Midwest. At least three tornadoes swept through East Texas, while flash floods pummeled Missouri and Arkansas. (Amy B. Wang)
- Pentagon officials identified the soldier killed in a roadside bomb near Mosul this weekend as 25-year-old First Lt. Weston C. Lee, an infantry officer from the 82nd Airborne Division. He joined the Army in 2015 and deployed to Iraq in December. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
- A new U.S. watchdog report said Afghanistan’s security forces are experiencing “shockingly high” casualties, while conflict has displaced record numbers of civilians. The report urges a “tough review” of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and changes in reconstruction aid priorities, as well as a possible rethinking of U.S. troop reductions. (Pamela Constable)
- A group of New Orleans protesters have launched a last-ditch effort to preserve their city’s Confederate monuments from impending demolition, standing vigil for the past week at three Civil War-era landmarks slated to be taken down. One has already been dismantled — and demonstrators are now fighting to keep the remaining statues off the chopping block. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
- Las Vegas will become the first U.S. city to offer a needle-exchange program through vending machines – seeking to provide intravenous drug users with easy access to free, clean needles in hopes of reducing the spread of HIV and hepatitis B and C. Individuals using the program will get an ID number to track use, and at least one of the machines will be located at a counseling center where users will be able to talk to professional counselors about their addiction. (Stateline)
- A hacker calling himself “The Dark Overlord” claims to have released the first 10 episodes of the next season of “Orange Is the New Black,” after Netflix failed to meet his demands for ransom. The move, if true, represents an audacious and highly illegal new frontier in digital piracy, which already costs the entertainment industry billions of dollars. (Ellen McCarthy)
- American composer Mohammed Fairouz says he was detained for hours after flying from London to JFK with no explanation other than his “Muslim name.” (Kristine Phillips)
- An Iranian-born media mogul who ran afoul of Iran’s government was fatally shot by group of masked assailants in Istanbul, who barricaded his luxury sedan with another vehicle before spraying the car with bullets. His Kuwaiti business partner was also killed. The brazen assault has raised questions about the safety of Iranian news professionals abroad, as well as law and order in a major Turkish city. (Erin Cunningham)
- The “Pokemon Go” craze may have waned months ago, but for one blogger who played the game inside a Russian church, the consequences may last much, much longer. Russian prosecutors detained the 22-year-old for “inciting religious hatred” last fall, and on Friday requested a sentence of 3½ years in prison. (Amy B. Wang)
- A famed mountain climber known as the “Swiss Machine” was killed while training near Mount Everest this week, becoming the first casualty in the spring mountaineering season that draws hundreds of climbers to the area. Local reports said he died while struggling to acclimate to a new route without oxygen. (Cindy Boren)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
— If you read just one story today –> “How the Republican right found allies in Russia,” by Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger: “Growing up in the 1980s, Brian Brown was taught to think of the communist Soviet Union as a dark and evil place. But Brown, a leading anti-same-sex-marriage activist, said that in the past few years he has started … finding many kindred spirits. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, has visited Moscow four times in four years, including a 2013 trip during which he testified before the Duma as Russia adopted a series of anti-gay laws. ‘What I realized was that there was a great change happening in the former Soviet Union,’ he said. ‘There was a real push to re-instill Christian values in the public square.’ On issues including gun rights, terrorism and same-sex marriage, many leading advocates on the right who grew frustrated with their country’s leftward tilt under [Obama] have forged ties with well-connected Russians and come to see [Vladimir Putin] as a potential ally.”
- Top officials from the National Rifle Association, whose annual meeting Friday featured an address by Trump for the third time in three years, traveled to Moscow to visit a Russian gun manufacturer and meet government officials.
- About the same time in December 2015, evangelist Franklin Graham met privately with Putin for 45 minutes, securing from the Russian president an offer to help with an upcoming conference on the persecution of Christians.
Key quote from Steven L. Hall, who retired from the CIA in 2015 after managing Russia operations for 30 years: “Is it possible that these are just well-meaning people who are reaching out to Americans with shared interests? It is possible. Is it likely? I don’t think it’s likely at all. . . . My assessment is that it’s definitely part of something bigger.”
— Trump tried Sunday to reassure anxious Republicans that the latest proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act would guarantee protection for those with preexisting conditions, but it’s unclear how. Paul Kane and Jenna Johnson report: “In an interview with CBS News’s ‘Face the Nation,’ Trump said ‘this bill has evolved’ over the past several weeks and will ‘beautifully’ protect those who have preexisting medical conditions. He highlighted the proposal to set up high-risk pools — but he also repeatedly seemed to suggest continuing the current mandate. ‘Preexisting conditions are in the bill — and I mandate it. I said, ‘Has to be,’’ Trump said, later adding that the proposal has ‘a clause that guarantees’ protection for those with preexisting conditions. At another point in the interview, the president said, ‘Preexisting is going to be in there, and we’re also going to create pools, and pools are going to take care of the preexisting.’”
“Trump’s comments illustrated the internal struggle Republicans are going through in their drive to meet the sometimes conflicting promises of lowering premiums and yet maintaining certain coverage requirements such as preexisting conditions. Trump and the vast majority of congressional Republicans regularly promised that their bill … would maintain the provision protecting those with preexisting conditions. But as House Republicans struggled to find votes for the repeal-and-replace legislation, Ryan agreed to support an amendment backed by a bloc of staunch conservatives that would allow states to opt out of these coverage requirements.”
NORTH KOREA LATEST:
— Trump did not rule out military action against North Korea if it pushes forward with its nuclear program. Kristine Phillips: “He’s going to have to do what he has to do. But he understands we’re not going to be very happy,” Trump said. When pressed by Dickerson, he neither confirmed nor denied whether he was referring to military action: “I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, we’ll see.” He also emphasized China’s role in putting additional pressure on Pyongyang, saying he has established a good relationship with President Xi Jinping: “I don’t think they want to see a destabilized North Korea. They certainly don’t want to see nuclear on — from their neighbor,” he said of China. “They haven’t liked it for a long time … The relationship I have with China, it’s been already acclaimed as being something very special, something very different than we’ve ever had. But again, you know, we’ll find out whether or not [Xi] is able to effect change.”
— John McCain discussed the possibility of a preemptive strike on Pyongyang. Asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” if Trump is considering the possibility, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said: “I don’t think so. But, as somebody said, this could be a Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion.” Asked if plans for a preemptive strike would change if North Korea was able to marry a delivery system with a nuclear weapon, he said: “I think that we have to consider that option as the very last option, and for a number of reasons. And one of the reasons is because there’s artillery on the DMZ that can strike Seoul, a city of 26 million people, and the carnage would be horrendous. It’s not just like the Cuban Missile Crisis, in that there isn’t any other aspects of it. This is very serious. Their capabilities of firing artillery on Seoul is absolutely real. And this, again, is why we have to bring every pressure to bear. And the major lever on North Korea today, and maybe the only lever, is China. And — but to say you absolutely rule out that option of course would be foolish.”
TRUMP DOES NOT CARE ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS, CONT.
— Trump invited controversial President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House on Saturday, following a phone conversation with the Philippine leader that White House officials described as “very friendly.” But the invitation – extended to an authoritarian leader accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers – drew fierce backlash from many human rights organizations across the globe. Kristine Phillips and Jenna Johnson report: “Thousands have been killed by police and vigilantes since Duterte took office and vowed to eradicate his country’s massive drug problem. The rising death toll has drawn criticisms from international human rights groups, at least one of which, the Human Rights Watch, has made the case for a criminal investigation of the Duterte administration.”
“Speaking glowingly of a man who boasts killing of his own citizens, inviting him to the White House, and saying nothing of his terrifying human rights record, sends a terrifying message, and entirely a different tone than many other parts of the U.S. government and the U.S. Congress would want to send,” said John Sifton, [Human Rights Watch] Asia advocacy director. “By essentially endorsing Duterte’s murderous ‘war on drugs,’ Trump is now morally complicit in future killings.”
— Trump extended the invite without consulting with his own national security team: “When [Trump] called … Duterte … White House officials saw it as part of a routine diplomatic outreach to Southeast Asian leaders,” the New York Times’ Mark Landler writes. “Mr. Trump, characteristically, had his own ideas. Now, the administration is bracing for an avalanche of criticism from human rights groups. Two senior officials said they expected the State Department and the National Security Council, both of which were caught off guard by the invitation, to raise objections internally. Mr. Duterte’s toxic reputation had already given pause to some in the White House. The Philippines is set to host a summit meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in November, and officials said there had been a brief debate about whether Mr. Trump should attend. It is not even clear, given the accusations of human rights abuses against him, that Mr. Duterte would be granted a visa to the United States were he not a head of state, according to human rights advocates. The timing of the announcement … encapsulated this president after 100 days in office: still ready to say and do things that leave people, even on his staff, slack-jawed.” (Earlier this year, the New York Times’ Daniel Berehulak documented Duterte’s brutal anti-drug campaign in a chilling photo essay, “They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals.” If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth a click).
— “Amid immigration setbacks, one Trump strategy seems to be working: Fear,” by David Nakamura: “In many ways, [Trump’s] attempts to implement his hard-line immigration policies have not gone very well in his first three months. His travel ban aimed at some Muslim-majority countries has been blocked by the courts, his U.S.-Mexico border wall has gone nowhere in Congress, and he has retreated, at least for now, on his vow to target illegal immigrants brought here as children. But one strategy that seems to be working well is fear. The number of migrants, legal and illegal, crossing into the U.S. has dropped markedly since Trump took office, while recent declines in the number of deportations have been reversed. Many experts … attribute at least part of this shift to the use of sharp, unwelcoming rhetoric by Trump and his aides, as well as the administration’s showy use of enforcement raids and public spotlighting of crimes committed by immigrants.” The most striking evidence that Trump’s tactics have had an effect has come at border with Mexico, where the number of apprehensions made by border control agents plummeted from more than 40,000 per month in 2016 to just 12,193 in March.
- “The bottom line is that they have entirely changed the narrative around immigration,” said Doris Meissner, who led the Clinton-era U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. “The result of that is that, yes, you can call it words and rhetoric, and it certainly is, but it is changing behavior. It is changing the way the United States is viewed around the world, as well as the way we’re talking about and reacting to immigration within the country.”
— New York Times, “Too Scared to Report Sexual Abuse. The Fear: Deportation,” by Jennifer Medina: “Cristina’s husband had hit and threatened her repeatedly for years, she said, but it wasn’t until last year that she began to fear for the safety of her young children, too. Reluctantly, she reported him and filed a police report. Cristina, an immigrant from Mexico who arrived in the United States as a teenager in the 1980s, began to apply for a special visa for victims of abuse that would set her on a path to citizenship and her own freedom. Then last month, she told her lawyer that she no longer wanted to apply. She was too fearful, she said, not of her husband, but of the government. Domestic violence has always been a notoriously difficult crime to prosecute. And for many undocumented victims, taking that step has become exceedingly difficult because of fears that the government will detain and deport them if they press charges.” “Everything we’ve ever told our clients is out the window,” said Legal Aid society director Kate Marr. “It’s so demoralizing and so frightening to imagine what happens if it continues.”
— New statistics show that about half of the 675 immigrants picked up in roundups across the country since Trump took office either had no criminal convictions or had committed traffic offenses as their most serious crimes, undercutting White House promises to first focus on immigrants who “pose a threat to the country.” (Maria Sacchetti and Ed O’Keefe)
SUNDAY SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:
— Reince Priebus said the White House has “looked at” potential changes to libel laws that would make it easier for Trump to sue news organizations that criticize him. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports: “I think it’s something that we’ve looked at,” Priebus told Jonathan Karl on ABC’s “This Week,” slamming articles “that have no basis or fact” and alluding to cable news reports about contacts between Trump officials and Russia. “How that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story,” he added.
— Reince also said Trump still wants to get rid of a carried interest loophole benefitting hedge fund managers and allowing them to pay a lower tax rate than most Americans. Most Republicans are not fond of this idea, and it was not included in Trump’s tax plan outline released last week. Jenna Johnson and Paul Kane report: “That balloon is going to get popped pretty quick,” Priebus said of hedge fund excitement on ABC’s “This Week.” “So just stay tuned on that. So, I mean, carried interest is on the table, and the president wants to get rid of carried interest. So that balloon’s not going to stay inflated very long. I can assure you of that.”
— Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham refused to say whether Steve Bannon would replace Sen. Jim DeMint as the next president of the Heritage Foundation, demurring on “Fox News Sunday” after host Chris Wallace asked whether it would be Bannon’s “safety net as he’s forced out of the White House.” “I can tell you,” Needham replied, “there’s a lot of speculation in the room and in the media that never misses a chance to divide and attack conservatives.” “With that non-answer, speculation over the fate of Heritage Foundation will no doubt reach a new fever pitch,” the Washington Examiner’s Philip Wegmann writes. “News of DeMint’s ouster has already sent shock waves throughout the think tank and reverberations through right wing circles in Washington, D.C.”
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
— Sebastian Gorka is reportedly leaving the White House. The Washington Examiner reports: “Gorka’s status in the West Wing has been the subject of speculation amid reports that the White House had weighed options that would place the former Breitbart editor in another areas of the administration. Gorka has served for months on the Strategic Initiatives Group, an internal organization within the White House, and as a national security adviser. His exit from the White House comes amid increased speculation that a reported lack of a security clearance prevented him from fully performing in his job.”
— A former director of an anti-immigration group, Julie Kirchner, is expected to be named as ombudsman to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today, ProPublica’s Marcelo Rochabrun and Jessica Huseman report: “The ombudsman’s office at USCIS provides assistance to immigrants who run into trouble with the agency, such as immigration applications that take too long to process or applications that may have been improperly rejected. The ombudsman also prepares an annual report for Congress in which they can issue audits and policy recommendations without consulting with USCIS in advance. The agency can also grant legal status to those in extreme circumstances, such as refugees and asylum seekers. In addition, the agency is in charge of adjudicating applications from undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children, sometimes referred to as ‘dreamers’ or DACA recipients.”
— Trump announced Friday that he will appoint prominent anti-abortion activist Charmaine Yoest to a top HHS post. Sandhya Somashekhar reports: “Yoest, a former Reagan administration official who until last year was president of Americans United for Life, will serve as assistant secretary of public affairs. In that position, she will help develop a communications strategy for the sprawling agency that includes Medicaid, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act and family planning programs. During her nearly eight years at the helm of AUL, the organization was pivotal in pushing Republican-led states to enact restrictions on abortion in the name of women’s safety. The organization developed model legislation to require women to undergo ultrasounds before obtaining the procedure and to cut off government funding to Planned Parenthood, among other actions.”
— Politico, “Trump starts dismantling his shadow Cabinet,” by Michael Grunwald, Andrew Restuccia and Josh Dawsey: “The White House is quietly starting to pull the plug on its shadow Cabinet of Trump loyalists who had been dispatched to federal agencies to serve as the president’s eyes and ears. These White House-installed chaperones have often clashed with the Cabinet secretaries they were assigned to monitor, according to sources across the agencies, with the secretaries expressing frustration that the so-called ‘senior White House advisers’ are mostly young Trump campaign aides with little experience in government. The tensions have escalated for weeks, prompting a recent meeting among [Priebus, Jared Kushner], and other administration officials … Now, some of the advisers are being reassigned or simply eased out, the sources said, even though many of them had expected to be central players at their agencies for the long haul.”
— “EPA employees targeted by Trump defend their role: ‘We’re here to protect public health,’” from the Chicago Tribune: “Most employees at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shy away from the public spotlight, focusing instead on the behind-the-scenes work of enforcing laws intended to protect public health and wildlife. Then Trump became president. At the EPA’s Chicago office, which oversees the agency’s work in six states around the Great Lakes, employees have participated in rallies protesting Trump’s policies, organized a social media campaign and showed up at community forums to promote what they do for a living. Outraged citizens forced Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress to back down from an attempt to take health insurance away from millions of Americans, the thinking goes. Perhaps they also can save the government’s environmental watchdog. ‘If nobody cares about us losing our jobs, that’s fine,’ EPA geologist Felicia Chase said … ‘The bottom line is the environment and public health are at risk. Everybody should care about that.’”
RETIREMENT WATCH – WHO IS NEXT?
— “One of the most influential Cuban Americans in Congress announced that she will retire next year, rather than seek reelection in an evolving South Florida district that once helped launch prominent Florida Republicans but is now moving toward Democrats,” Paul Kane reports: “Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen … will end a 30-year run on Capitol Hill next year as one of her party’s leading moderate voices on social issues. She will leave behind a district that [Trump] lost by 20 percentage points, the most Democratic-leaning district held by a Republican based on last year’s presidential contest. Part of her party’s wing that opposed Trump’s candidacy … Ros-Lehtinen told the Miami Herald that she was not retiring because of her differences with Trump or her prospects of a difficult reelection bid. Instead, she said it was the right time after nearly four decades in local and federal office.” Still, Democrats pounced on the news, rejecting her denials that it had anything to do with Trump. DCCC spokeswoman Meredith Kelly called it the “first of many retirements,” saying many Republicans will not want to defend the “embarrassment of GOP DC” and will instead choose to retire.
HOW SPECIAL ELECTIONS ARE CHANGING THE GAME:
— “GOP candidate now embracing Trump in Georgia’s 6th District runoff,” by Elise Viebeck and David Weigel: “With [Trump’s] approval ratings at historic lows, some Republican congressional candidates fear that embracing him will incur the wrath of moderate voters and doom their campaigns. Not Karen Handel. Handel went out of her way not to mention Trump while trying to rise to the top of a crowded GOP field during the first round of balloting … But since receiving the most Republican votes in the April 18 special election, the former secretary of state seems to feel a bit differently. On Friday, Handel was photographed welcoming Trump on the tarmac in Atlanta when he arrived to speak at the NRA convention. Trump later appeared at a high-dollar Handel fundraiser in downtown Atlanta, where he raised $750,000 for the campaign and told Handel she ‘better win.’ If Handel is able to keep the 6th District in Republican hands, it will be a sigh of relief for national Republicans, who have watched [John] Ossoff surge with the help of a national anti-Trump resistance and wondered how the president … will play in the 2018 midterm elections when their congressional majority is at stake …”
— “After a tight loss in Kansas, what’s a Democrat to do? Take on Koch and Trump, one garage sale at a time,” by Jessica Contrera: “Jan Manlove had posted advertisements on Craigslist and planted signs on street corners. ‘GARAGE SALE,’ they read, which was true, just not the full truth, because she needed people to show up. Now she was standing outside [ringing up a couple] … unaware that the money they were about to hand over would go to the Sedgwick County Democratic Women. The club helps Democrats run for office in Kansas — or ‘Deep Red Kansas’ … [where Trump] won by 20 points. The governor is a Republican. The mayor of Wichita is a Republican. The city’s most famous resident, Charles Koch, is a Republican mega-donor and a backer of the local congressman, Mike Pompeo, who Trump had recently picked to direct the CIA. Two days before this garage sale, there was a special election to choose Pompeo’s replacement. A Republican won. But the election results showed that for the first time in more than two decades, Sedgwick County … voted for the Democratic candidate, James Thompson, by two points. Here in Deep Red Kansas, there was suddenly a smidgen of blue. And so the newly optimistic Democrats were on to the next step: raising money for future campaigns. Even before congressional seats open again in 2018, there are school board positions and city council jobs to fight for. ‘Grass roots, we learned it from the Kochs,’ Manlove [said].”
— “Investments in Russia become focus in congressional race,” by Bobby Caina Calvan: “The leading candidates for Montana’s only congressional seat tangled Saturday over money, including taxes, campaign financing and $240,000 in investments by the Republican candidate that financial disclosures link to index funds with substantial holdings in Russian firms that are under sanctions by the U.S. government. The investments gave Democrat Rob Quist fresh ammunition to lob at Greg Gianforte during their only televised debate before the May 25 special congressional election. Libertarian Mark Wicks also took part in the debate. The sanctions were put in place by the Obama administration three years ago because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Money was a key issue of the debate, with Quist and Wicks teaming up against Gianforte to denounce the amount of cash he has thrown not only into the race for congress but also the $6 million of his own money he spent on his failed bid for governor last year. During the hour-long debate … Quist pounced on Gianforte’s investment during a question focused on North Korea. ‘I was really dispirited to hear the other day that Mr. Gianforte has a quarter of a million dollars in stocks in Russian companies that are on the sanctions list,’ Quist said.”
ELECTIONS ACROSS THE POND:
— “After hard-left turn under Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s Labour Party on course for historic defeat,” by Griff Witte and Karla Adam: “In 2015, Britain’s Labour Party tacked to the left, repudiating the middle-way philosophy that had won it three elections under Tony Blair. Voters responded by handing the party its worst defeat in three decades. Rather than scramble back toward the center, Labour lurched further left. The party elected as its leader Jeremy Corbyn, a white-bearded baby boomer from the back benches who, like Bernie Sanders in the U.S., ignited an improbable movement among young activists with his attacks on the rigged capitalist system and unquestioned fidelity to socialist ideals. Now, with less than six weeks to go before Britain votes once more, the Corbyn-led Labour Party is on course for an electoral beatdown so broad and deep it would make the drubbing the party took in 2015 look like a triumph. There’s even a chance that the party could fall apart altogether. … The decline of Labour — architect of the country’s vaunted [NHS] and one of two major parties in Britain for the past century — offers a cautionary tale for Democrats as they attempt to rebound from a humiliating 2016 loss to Donald Trump.”
— “Emmanuel Macron could fight off French populism. But it won’t be with his ideas,” by James McAuley: “They call him the ‘radical centrist.’ This is the way Emmanuel Macron, the photogenic, 39-year-old independent candidate poised to win the French presidency next weekend, is often described in the French and foreign press. But even Macron’s closest advisers say there is little about the political platform of a former investment banker that can be considered ‘radical.’ In nods to both the left and the right that mirror the programs of third-way centrists … Macron has proposed a middle way that would heavily invest in health and agriculture at the same time as it would trim a costly public sector. What is ‘radical’ about Macron, his advisers insist, is the candidate himself, a political outsider who, against all odds, is the only option for those who wish to protect France’s embattled political establishment. This, they insist, is Macron’s not-so-secret weapon in combating the rising tide of populism: if what he proposes is not quite a departure from the political status quo, he is not a familiar face.’ ‘It’s an oxymoron, ‘radical centrism,’’ [said economist and informal Macron adviser] Jacques Attali, a prominent French economist and public intellectual who has been an informal adviser to Macron for months, said in an interview. ‘It’s pragmatism.’ Not surprisingly, Macron has been called a French Bill Clinton.”
— “In France’s Poor Suburbs, Angry Voters May Skip Big Election,” by Alissa J. Rubin and Lilia Blaise: “For voters in the poorer, largely immigrant suburbs of Paris, the motivation to turn out for France’s presidential runoff seems clear: to defeat Marine Le Pen … who has pitched her campaign against immigrants and Muslims. But the reality of this election cycle in towns like Stains, where public frustration is high over the failure of politicians to deliver on past promises, is that many voters may simply choose to stay home on May 7 for the critical, final vote. Just how many voters abstain could determine whether Ms. Le Pen can upend expectations and beat Mr. Macron. The prevailing assumption is that a broad majority of voters [will come together] … in the name of turning back Ms. Le Pen and the far right. But a low turnout could threaten this belief and help Ms. Le Pen. In France’s poor suburbs, many French are of Arab extraction with parents or grandparents who came from Algeria, Morocco or Tunisia … For them, neither the right nor the left has delivered when it comes to making jobs more available and reducing discrimination. With an abstention rate of 38 percent … in the first round of the presidential election, Stains reflects a particularly high degree of disillusionment. [Now], many people see the race, as expressed in an old French saying, as a choice between ‘la peste et le choléra’ (the plague and the cholera).”
THE FOURTH ESTATE:
— “The night Donald Trump failed to break the White House correspondents’ dinner,” by Dan Zak: “His voters sent him to Washington to break stuff, and this weekend he tried to break the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association. As with some of his business ventures, he was not wholly successful. ‘They’re trapped at the dinner,’ the president boomed at a rally in Harrisburg, Pa. … ‘Which will be very, very boring.’ Instead, it was just fine. It was a bit like an off-year high school reunion: diminished numbers and fewer crazy stories but still no shortage of hors d’oeuvres and dancing and gossip. Everyone settled for sightings of Michael Steele and Debbie Dingell instead of Jon Hamm or a Kardashian. ‘This is the way it used to be, way back when,’ said veteran PR maven Janet Donovan … This year there was actually room to mingle without toppling a stick-thin starlet. There were no Silicon Valley entrepreneurs monologuing at the bloody mary bar. … It was vintage Nerd Prom — couples awkwardly dancing to Wham! while juggling their martini glasses. Journalism survived to drink another day, and so did this party, for now anyway.”
— “A skeptical climate-change column whips up a storm among N.Y. Times readers,” by Paul Farhi: “The New York Times thought it was bringing a fresh voice and some ideological diversity to its influential op-ed pages when it hired conservative columnist Bret Stephens from the Wall Street Journal two weeks ago. [But] the cancel-my-subscription outrage flowed freely after Stephens challenged the certitude about climate science in his first piece for the newspaper on Friday. While acknowledging that the planet has warmed over the past century and that humans have contributed to it, he wrote, ‘much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities. That’s especially true of the sophisticated but fallible models and simulations by which scientists attempt to peer into the climate future.’ It’s unusual for any specific column or news article to lead to mass subscription cancellations. But Stephens — who won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2013 … began drawing fire from Times readers even before he wrote a word for the paper. In a comment emailed to [The Post], Stephens offered this about the controversy he’s generated: ‘If democracy dies in darkness, as somebody’s been saying, then darkness also is a refusal to entertain and seriously engage opposing points of view.’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A lot of outrage online about this new ad:
Assistant to POTUS models in an ad for POTUS’s new Tower in Manila. President of Philippines just got WH invite. pic.twitter.com/zEDxTkGN17
— Peter Brack (@peterbrack) May 1, 2017
Lots on the juxtaposition between Trump’s Pennsylvania speech and Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner:
DJT: “A large group of Hollywood actors & Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital right now.” pic.twitter.com/Eir3WaUzWg
— Fox News (@FoxNews) April 30, 2017
I was there. Didn’t see any Hollywood celebrities. Just a lot of people celebrating the first amendment and a free press. https://t.co/1X66qX1Xkq
— Mo Elleithee (@MoElleithee) April 30, 2017
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) April 30, 2017
This Democratic group re-upped Obama’s roast of Trump in 2011:
— American Bridge (@American_Bridge) April 30, 2017
From one CNN personality to another:
— Van Jones (@VanJones68) April 30, 2017
This former Kasich and McCain adviser continues to have strong words for Trump:
No one — not in personal life, business or politics — has ever come out the better for being involved with Trump. America now suffers.
— John Weaver (@JWGOP) April 30, 2017
From Kasich himself:
Saddened the president continues to divide America with his rhetoric & policies. There is a better path and hope he finds it soon. #TwoPaths
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) April 30, 2017
Some reaction to Trump inviting Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House:
Trump bombs Syria to uphold human rights norms, then invites a guy known for overseeing death squads that kill drug users on sight. Okay.
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) April 30, 2017
Over last two weeks, Trump:
* invites murderer Duterte
* boosts fascist LePen
* congratulates Erdogan on dictatorship
* praises Kim Jong Un https://t.co/WKgN0KQNyb
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) April 30, 2017
The accusations of rights abuses against Duterte are so vast it’s not even clear he’d be granted a visa to the US if he weren’t president. pic.twitter.com/buhrmiyNJJ
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) April 30, 2017
Trump, who congratulated Erdogan on vote that was criticized as increasing his authoritarian power, invited Duterte to the White House pic.twitter.com/4DKTDo5ILF
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) April 30, 2017
We are watching in real time as the American human rights bully pulpit disintegrates into ash. https://t.co/VgVflWoMUf
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) April 30, 2017
From the editor-in-chief of the Weekly Standard:
Elevating another authoritarian. Repugnant. https://t.co/hZbwQGPURB
— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) April 30, 2017
Trump’s bombastic, divisive rally shows he is a dangerous narcissistic sociopath. Invite to psychopath murderer Duterte underscores threat.
— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) April 30, 2017
Lots of chatter about this column in the NYT:
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) April 30, 2017
Look who showed up at the climate march:
A march of a different kind:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— LA Times, “How Maxine Waters became ‘Auntie Maxine’ in the age of Trump,” by Sarah D. White: “Rep. Maxine Waters knows what ‘throwing shade’ means now. She urges people to ‘stay woke.’ In the past few months, young people have embraced 78-year-old Waters and her acerbic comments about [Trump], bringing the Los Angeles Democrat national fame in her 14th term, and a new nickname: Auntie Maxine. Since refusing to attend Trump’s inauguration, Waters, the longest-serving black woman in the House, has achieved icon-level status. Her image and quotes appear on T-shirts and posters. Twitter and Facebook are full of people rubbing their virtual hands in glee at what she might say next. Southern Californians have long been familiar with Waters … who is not known for holding her tongue. In 2011, she accused [Obama] of neglecting black communities, then a week later, said the tea party could go ‘straight to hell.’ ‘Nobody should be surprised about me,’ she said. But her derision of Trump goes far beyond previous criticism of political foes, and the new, norm-breaking president has energized her in a way other Republicans she’s opposed have not. In an age when the call from many on her side of the aisle is ‘Resistance,’ Waters has become a de facto leader of the charge.”
— The New Yorker, “How Trump could get fired,” by Evan Osnos: “By any normal accounting, the chance of a Presidency ending ahead of schedule is remote. In two hundred and twenty-eight years, only one President has resigned [and] two have been impeached … But nothing about Trump is normal. Although some of my sources maintained that laws and politics protect the President to a degree that his critics underestimate, others argued that he has already set in motion a process of his undoing. … Between October and March, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics received more than thirty-nine thousand public inquiries and complaints, an increase of five thousand per cent over the same period at the start of the Obama Administration. Nobody occupies the White House without criticism, but Trump is besieged by doubts of a different order, centering on the overt, specific, and, at times, bipartisan discussion of whether he will be engulfed by any one of myriad problems before he has completed even one term in office—and, if he is, how he might be removed.”
— New York Magazine, “The Reactionary Temptation,” by Andrew Sullivan: “Though it took some time to reveal itself, today’s Republican Party — from Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution to today’s Age of Trump — is not a conservative party. It is a reactionary party that is now at the peak of its political power. … There is, perhaps, a way to use reactionary insights and still construct a feasible center-right agenda. The left, for its part, must, it seems to me, escape its own bubble and confront the accelerating extremism of its identity politics and its disdain for millions of ‘deplorable’ white Americans … You will not arrest the reactionary momentum by ignoring it or dismissing it entirely as a function of bigotry or stupidity. You’ll only defuse it by appreciating its insights and co-opting its appeal.
Reaction can be clarifying if it helps us better understand the huge challenges we now face. But reaction by itself cannot help us manage the world we live in today — which is the only place that matters. There are no utopias in the future or Gardens of Eden in our past. There is just now — in all its incoherent, groaning, volatile messiness. Our job, like everyone before us, is to keep our nerve and make the best of it.”
— “The untold story of Baked Alaska, a rapper turned BuzzFeed personality turned alt-right troll,” by Oliver Darcy: “Tim ‘Treadstone’ Gionet was not always a supporter of [Trump]. And he worked at BuzzFeed, hardly an incubator for Trump supporters. But … as he put it, ‘BuzzFeed turned me into a monster.’ Specifically, a monster who opposed what he saw as political correctness gone amok. ‘I’ll never forget this story,’ ’Gionet said, recalling … the ‘aha moment’ that drove him toward Trump. “I was talking about the new Justin Bieber album. And I was like, ‘Dude, that new Justin Bieber album is dope. I have to admit … He is totally my spirit animal.’ And someone came up to me and was like, ‘Hey bro, you can’t say spirit animal, that’s culturally appropriating Native American culture and that’s not cool.’’ ‘I was like, ‘What?’ I had heard … about the dangers of political correctness, but I thought this was just exaggerated’” Gionet said. ‘I thought there was no way people in real life could be like this.’ Gionet said the incident, and others like it, sent him down a path that ultimately led to his resignation from BuzzFeed and eventual transformation into one of the internet’s most notorious alt-right trolls.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“GOP Lawmaker Wants To Pay For Trump’s Wall With Cash Taken From Innocent People,” from HuffPost: “During his presidential campaign, [Trump] repeatedly vowed to build a ‘big, beautiful wall’ on the U.S.-Mexico border … which has left Republican lawmakers in Congress and around the nation scrambling to find ways to finance the project. On Thursday, Oklahoma state Rep. Bobby Cleveland (R) floated a novel idea: Build the wall using funds taken though civil asset forfeiture ― a controversial practice that allows police to permanently confiscate property they suspect is tied to crime and then funnel the money back to department coffers. If cops in Oklahoma pull over a car and find thousands of dollars in cash, for example, they can seize it as ‘drug money,’ even if there’s no contraband in the car. The driver must then fight a difficult and often costly battle to prove that it came from a legal source. If he or she can’t, police will take the cash for good. Because the property itself is supposedly ‘guilty’ in these cases, cops can seize vehicles, jewelry, houses and, most commonly, cash, without ever charging the owner with a crime. In other words, they’re free to take property from legally innocent people.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Students who whoop, cheer and clap should face ‘consequences’ because they are excluding deaf people, delegates at the National Union of Students conference said.” The Telegraph: “Audience members were repeatedly warned that they must cease whooping to express support for a speaker, because it has a ‘serious impact’ on the accessibility of the conference. Delegates at the NUS annual conference in Brighton were encouraged to use ‘jazz hands’ instead of clapping – where students wave their hands in the air – as this is deemed a more inclusive form of expression. The Durham University student union proposed a motion at the conference that would see clapping and whooping banned at all future NUS events. The motion calls for ‘reduced cheering or unnecessary loud noises on conference floor, including whooping and clapping’ and warns of ‘consequences for those who ignore this requirement.’ In the past, NUS events have banned clapping on the grounds that it might ‘trigger anxiety.’”
Today is MAY DAY.
At the White House: Trump will sign a Law Day Proclamation before dropping by the Independent Community Bankers Association. In the afternoon, Trump will have lunch with Mike Pence, Rex Tillerson, and James Mattis.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— Warmth, humidity, and a chance of late storms. Today’s Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “A cold front approaches the region late today but, before it arrives, warm and humid air continues funneling through the region. There’s an outside chance of late afternoon showers and storms, but more likely they hold off until evening. Highs reach the 80s, with sticky dew points in the mid-60s.”
— The Washington Wizards lost Game One of the second round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics 123-111. It was an uneven performance.
— After goaltender Braden Holtby allowed three goals on 14 shots in the Capitals’ 6-2 playoff loss to the Penguins on Saturday night, Washington Coach Barry Trotz said that Holtby will start a pivotal Game 3 in Pittsburgh tonight.
— Six cans of Budweiser were waiting for Anthony Rendon at his locker in the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse last night, one for each of the six hits he hoarded in the Nationals’ historic 23-5 drubbing of the New York Mets at Nationals Park.
— But, but, but: Adam Eaton will probably miss the rest of the season with a torn knee ligament.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
See highlights of Hasan Minhaj’s WHCD speech:
Watch the whole thing (and read our annotated transcript):
Bob Woodward says the media is “not fake news:”
Samantha Bee welcomed Will Ferrell as George W. Bush:
Watch Trump roast the dinner as he spoke in Pennsylvania at the same time:
Trump reassured his supporters on the border wall:
The climate marchers on Saturday passed by the Trump hotel in Washington:
After a broken mic, this hockey crowd sings the Star Spangled Banner…in Canada:
— NHL (@NHL) April 30, 2017