As President Obama travels to the University of Chicago this afternoon to deliver a speech calling for Merrick Garland’s confirmation, Senate Republican leaders are expressing confidence they can hold firm through the November election in refusing to grant him even a hearing. If Hillary Clinton wins in November, there will be pressure to quickly confirm Garland so that she could not appoint someone who is younger and more liberal. If she loses, then the next Republican president will get to nominate someone else.
While the rest of the mainstream media is preoccupied with the Garland battle, conservative luminaries are increasingly looking ahead to next year and quietly touting Lee as a potential nominee. Republican senators like this idea, and Democrats are figuring out how they’d respond.
-- Trump promises that he will soon unveil a list of 10 to 12 names from which he would nominate a Supreme Court justice. “I’m going to announce that these are the judges, in no particular order, that I’m going to put up,” he told The Washington Post last week. “And I’m going to guarantee it. … Because people are worried that, oh, maybe he’ll put the wrong judge in.” He said he’s “getting names” from Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.
Lee “would be a very good choice, I think,” Sessions told me.
Heritage offered up a wish list of eight “highly qualified candidates” that includes Lee. Besides him and Paul Clement, a former solicitor general under President George W. Bush, the six others are sitting judges. For those who enjoy playing SCOTUS parlor games, none will come as a surprise: William Pryor Jr. on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, Diane Sykes on the 7th Circuit, Steven Colloton and Raymond Gruender on the 8th Circuit, Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit and Don Willett, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court.
John Malcolm, the director of the think tank’s Edwin Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, devised the list after consulting with other conservatives. “He’s a very bright lawyer,” Malcolm said of Lee in an interview. He praised him as an originalist with “intestinal fortitude.”
-- Right now, of course, Clinton leads both Trump and Cruz in head-to-head matchups, so Republicans are currently the underdogs in the Supreme Court fight. But if they win the White House, Lee would be a dream pick for conservative activists:
1. He has the right pedigree: Six years ago, fueled by tea party anger, he toppled Sen. Bob Bennett at a GOP state convention. His father, Rex Lee, was Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general. After graduating from Brigham Young University Law School, the senator clerked for Samuel A. Alito Jr. when he was on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit and then again after Alito's elevation to the Supreme Court. Lee was an assistant U.S. attorney in Salt Lake City and general counsel for then-Gov. Jon Huntsman before running for office himself.
2. He’s incredibly young: Lee is just 44. That means he could squeeze four or more decades out of a lifetime appointment.
3. He is dependably conservative. Grass-roots leaders are adamant that future GOP nominees have a long paper trail to avoid confirming stealth moderates. They still feel burned by David Souter, Sandra Day O'Connor and John Paul Stevens.
Heck, many Republican base voters feel betrayed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. because of his support for upholding the Affordable Care Act. Dropping the conservative Bush appointee's name at a Republican campaign event is a surefire way to draw boos nowadays. Cruz often finds himself defensively explaining away his support for Roberts’s confirmation. He tells audiences he would have picked Edith Jones instead of Souter in 1990 and Mike Luttig, for whom he clerked, instead of Roberts in 2005.
Lee, for his part, wrote an e-book in 2013 called, “Why John Roberts was wrong about Healthcare.” At an event to promote it, he said Roberts’s vote to keep Obamacare alive amounted “to a betrayal of his judicial oath.” He even likened the court’s decision to “a form of tyranny."
-- Asked if Lee will be on Trump’s forthcoming list, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks emailed: “Nothing to share at this time, but will keep you posted.”
-- Whether or not The Donald puts the senator on his list of possibilities, Cruz is far more likely to actually nominate Lee – one of only two senators to formally endorse him. "I think Mike would look pretty good in a robe," Cruz has said. He made a similar comment in Utah ahead of the recent caucuses there.
Unlike Trump, Cruz does not need Heritage or the Federalist Society to compile a list of conservative jurists for him. The former clerk for William Rehnquist served as Texas’s solicitor general and argued nine cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. If Cruz were president, he might decide he needs to keep Lee in the Senate as his point man, in an arrangement akin to the one Bill Clinton had with David Pryor and Dale Bumpers.
-- I asked 17 Republican senators yesterday what they thought of putting Lee on the bench, including seven of his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Most expressed unreserved support.
“That’d be so fantastic,” said Marco Rubio. “We should be so lucky!”
“I’m a big fan of Mike,” said Rand Paul.
“He’s well prepared for it, and I think we could still take Utah,” said Jeff Flake of Arizona.
“I’d want to make sure we could hold the seat in Utah,” said Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. “I think we could, but I’d still have to check.”
Others from the establishment wing of the party ducked. “I like Mike,” said Richard Shelby of Alabama. “He used to be a clerk over there! But that’s premature.”
John McCain said he’d prefer Lindsey Graham fill the vacancy. It was unclear if he was joking.
-- Lee also has some extraordinarily influential friends in the conservative movement:
The senator was the chief sponsor of the original bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks in the District. This effort has since been expanded nationally. This is the top legislative priority of the Susan B. Anthony List, a leading group in the effort to curtail abortion rights. “Senator Lee is a great ally to the pro-life movement and we have a solid relationship with his team,” said SBA List’s Mallory Quigley.
Mark Holden, the general counsel at Koch Industries, has worked closely with Lee and other senators to formulate a criminal justice reform package that could actually get enacted during Obama’s final year. Scaling back mandatory-minimum sentencing laws is a top legislative priority for Charles and David Koch, who as civil libertarians want to rein in what they see as government overreach.
“I think a lot of Senator Lee,” Holden emailed the 202. “He is very intelligent, disciplined, passionate, thoughtful, and principled. He is someone who is willing to work across the aisle with people who have different views than him to bring about positive change in society.… Senator Lee also is great on First Amendment free speech protections and a believer in limited government, which are critically important issues as well.”
Holden praised Lee for showing compassion as he advocates on behalf of Weldon Angelos, a first-time nonviolent offender who was sentenced to 55 years in prison for having a gun in his possession during three marijuana sales to an undercover informant in Utah. Lee has advocated clemency for Angelos and wants to change the law to make sure others don’t face similar penalties for nonviolent crimes.
-- Would Senate Democrats filibuster Lee?
“That’s the $64,000 question,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who was a justice on the Texas Supreme Court in the 1990s.
Democrats I canvassed were loath to trash a colleague with whom they’d like to legislate, especially when it comes to a job that they hope he will never be offered. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the ranking Democrat on the antitrust subcommittee that Lee chairs, laughed when I asked her if she’d participate in a filibuster of a Lee nomination. She said she won’t engage on such a hypothetical as long as Garland’s nomination is pending. “We have a nominee in front of us that we need to consider,” she said.
Lee’s record provides plenty of ammunition to justify a filibuster. And even if Democratic members were inspired to give their colleague a pass out of senatorial courtesy, liberal outside groups – specifically those concerned with protecting abortion rights – would go absolutely apoplectic.
Franklin Roosevelt was the last president to pick a senator for the Supreme Court, tapping James Byrnes in 1941. He only stayed on the court for 16 months.
-- Key Senate Republicans said privately that they would probably wind up invoking the nuclear option for Supreme Court nominees if their party manages to both win the White House and hold the Senate majority in November.
On the other side, if the GOP blocks Garland, Democrats will be in no mood to be conciliatory toward whoever a Republican president picks – whether Lee or someone else. Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), who will succeed Harry Reid (Nev.) as Senate Democratic leader, would almost certainly force a new president – Trump, Cruz or someone who emerges from the GOP convention in Cleveland – to expend as much political capital as possible on his pick – and maybe even block the first one.
-- Another question: Would Lee rather be a justice or senator?
Utah’s senior senator, Orrin Hatch, who is not as conservative as Lee, got elected in 1976. If Lee wants to keep his seat through 2056 and beyond in one of the reddest states in the country, he probably could. “I think he’d be good,” Hatch said when asked about Lee moving across the street to join the Supremes. “He’s certainly conservative enough!” The president pro tem then laughed heartily.
Hugh Hewitt, the conservative radio host who worked in Reagan’s Justice Department, called it a “great idea IF he is drawn to it.”
“Some great lawyers couldn't stand to be judges,” Hewitt emailed. “It is a lifetime Senate seat vs. lifetime SCOTUS appointment, and the latter is a quiet life of law school symposia and summers off with no fundraising calls. But also no fighting for agendas except in the longest of games. No idea what his personal preference is. But I'd applaud long and hard if he said yes.”
A year ago, Lee said he’d “consider it” if the job was ever offered to him. The senator’s office said yesterday he was not available for an interview. "Sen. Lee already has the job he wants and is looking forward to continuing his work pushing a conservative reform agenda in the Senate,” said spokesman Conn Carroll. Note that this is not a denial of interest.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- 20,000 Chinese-made scarves from Ivanka Trump’s clothing line were recalled by the U.S. government. “The scarves do not meet the federal flammability standards for clothing textiles, posing a burn risk,” reads the recall announcement from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. "The scarves, manufactured in China, are sold nationwide at Century 21, Lord & Taylor, Marshall, TJ Maxx and Stein Mart," Elahe Izadi reports.
-- A former congressman’s chief of staff was charged with using congressional funds to pay a campaign consultant. The Justice Department last night announced the eight-count indictment of David G. Bowser, who ran the office of Georgia Republican Paul Broun. "Prosecutors allege that Bowser hired a campaign consultant, Brett O’Donnell, and paid him nearly $44,000 in congressional funds," the AP reports. "A well-known Republican debate coach, O’Donnell pleaded guilty last September (for making a false statement) in an ethics case involving Broun. Bowser is also charged with obstructing a congressional investigation into the misuse of funds and with making false statements."
-- Clinton and Trump continue to lead in Maryland, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll. The former secretary of state has a “clear but narrowing lead" of 15 points (55 percent to 40 percent for Bernie Sanders). On the Republican side, Trump leads with 41 percent, besting John Kasich with 31 percent and Cruz with 22 percent. The poll shows Clinton beating Trump in a general election matchup by 35 points.
-- Nearly a third of Virginia Republicans would vote for Clinton, pick a third-party candidate or stay home if Trump becomes the Republican nominee, according to a just-released poll from Christopher Newport University. Thirteen percent of GOP voters said they would vote for Clinton, 13 percent would pick a third-party candidate and 3 percent would not vote at all. Meanwhile, the same “loyalty gap” doesn’t hold for Democrats -- just 4 percent say they would vote for Trump should Hillary become the nominee. “There’s a sizable distaste for Trump among Virginia Republican voters,” said Rachel Bitecofer, director of the Wason Center Survey Research Lab. “This adds up to a real advantage for Clinton in purple Virginia.”
GET SMART FAST:
- North Korea released an animated video depicting a missile attack on Seoul, a not-at-all-subtle threat that comes just days after a similar video was shown featuring Washington. (Adam Taylor)
- San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to require businesses offer new parents paid leave. The measure gives mothers and fathers six weeks off. (Danielle Paquette)
- Coal baron Don Blankenship was sentenced to a year in prison for his role in the 2010 West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 of his employees. (Mark Berman)
- The Justice Department sued to block the pending Halliburton-Baker Hughes merger, citing regulator concerns that the $34 billion deal would lead to decreased competition and higher prices. (Christian Davenport)
- The Labor Department finally issued a sweeping new fiduciary rule requiring brokers to act in an investor's best interests. The rule creates a stricter standard: financial advisers have previously only been required to offer "suitable" products. (Jonnelle Marte)
- The Obama administration plans to spend $589 million in existing federal funds to combat the Zika virus, using money previously designated to fight Ebola. Democrats faulted Republican lawmakers for failing to approve additional funding. (Juliet Eilperin and Kelsey Snell)
- The DEA will decide by July whether to downgrade marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug. (Christopher Ingraham)
- The DSCC launched a $1.1 million campaign to boost Katie McGinty ahead of this month's Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, tripling down on its bet that she is a better option than rival Joe Sestak to challenge Sen. Pat Toomey this fall. (Paul Kane)
- Sen. Joe Manchin said he “still has reservations” about confirming Garland after meeting with him, though he urged hearings to proceed. (Mike DeBonis)
- A New York judge ruled Kesha must stay in her recording contract with Sony, saying the alleged sexual, emotional and physical abuse by her producer did not amount to a hate crime. "Every rape is not a gender-motivated hate crime," said the judge. (CNN)
- A teacher was arrested for carrying a concealed firearm at a middle school in Newtown, Conn., the same town where 26 children and teachers were killed in a 2012 elementary school shooting. (Emma Brown)
- New York City parents filed a class action lawsuit against the local school system over classroom bullying. The suit is the first of its kind and says district officials failed to deal with an “epidemic” of violence against children. (Buzzfeed)
- California lawmakers advanced a bill to reduce eating disorders in the modeling industry. France now prohibits models from working if their BMI falls below a certain level. (Sacramento Bee)
- Tennessee lawmakers have resurrected a controversial “bathroom bill” that restricts the restroom use of transgender students. Business leaders are mobilizing to stop it. (Chattanooga Times Free Press)
- Texas authorities executed a prisoner convicted of killing and drinking the blood of a 12-year-old. (Mark Berman)
- Federal authorities said it’s “too early” to say whether the unlocked iPhone used by a San Bernardino terrorist contained useful information. Officials said they will disclose information when – and if – it is deemed appropriate. (Mark Berman and Ellen Nakashima)
- Scientists said a chemical used to make plastic IV tubes and catheters has been linked to attention deficit disorder. (Amy Ellis Nutt)
- A Rhode Island tourism campaign features footage from Iceland. The effort is also getting mocked for its confusing slogan: “Rhode Island: Cooler and Warmer." (New York Times)
- Merle Haggard died of complications from pneumonia. The country legend was 79. (Terence McArdle)
CRUZ'S NYC DEBUT WAS A DISASTER:
-- “GOP race moves to New York, where Trump dominates,” by David Weigel: “Two weeks ago, even before he began a string of gaffes … Trump lagged in Wisconsin polls. When he showed up in the city for an election eve rally, he was confronted with the unthinkable: empty seats. There is little risk of that in New York. ‘I can’t see Cruz getting much of a reception at all,’ said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), a congressman who has heaped scorn on Cruz’s Senate career. The winnowing of the GOP field has left more New York donors open to Cruz — but they are hardly flocking to him. [And] Kasich, who was blown out in Wisconsin, sees an opportunity if New York remains Cruz-skeptical … ‘No congressional district has Cruz higher than third,’ said Kasich strategist John Weaver. ‘He’s shown his contempt for New York, though that’s not to say he won’t come here and pander.’”
-- Trump pulls 52 percent of likely Republican voters in New York, according to a Monmouth University poll, followed by 25 percent for Kasich and 17 percent for Cruz. An amazing 57 percent of GOP voters said his controversial statements will have “no impact” on how they’ll vote.
-- Judging by yesterday’s campaign stop in the Bronx, Cruz has his work cut out for him. The Daily News said the Texas senator was “crucified” by voters for his comments on “New York Values” and immigration. “Residents and leaders derided him for insulting the city and the borough,” the article reads, “only to come crawling back for votes.” The Cruz campaign “took a page out of Trump’s book,” removing a loud heckler from the event. And Bronx voters haven’t gotten over a comment from the Texas senator in 2014 hitting them directly. “I understand Manhattan is very concerned with their security with the Bronx,” Cruz said. “But it’s a little different on 2,000 miles of the Rio Grande.”
- Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. called Cruz a hypocrite: “He not only offended New Yorkers, he offended Bronxites … [now] he’s here looking for money and votes,” said Diaz. “We in the Bronx know how offensive he’s been. We know the truth about our borough.”
- Cruz was forced to cancel his campaign event at a Bronx high school after students threatened a walkout.
Local headlines spared him no mercy: “Cruz’s campaign stop in the Bronx is a complete dud,” the New York Post reported. The wood in the less-subtle Daily News tells him to “take the F U train":
-- Even so, Cruz refused to walk back his "New York values" comment. “The people of New York know exactly what those values are,” said Cruz. “They’re the values of liberal Democratic politicians, like Andrew Cuomo, like Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, like Charlie Rangel, all of whom Trump has supported … If you want to know what liberal democratic values are, follow Trump’s checkbook."
-- Trump, still bruised by his embarrassing Wisconsin loss, is relishing Cruz's struggles in the Big Apple. “Do you remember during the debate when he started lecturing me on 'New York values,' like we’re no good?” Trump recounted during a rally. “I started talking to him about the World Trade Center … the incredible bravery of everybody ... We all know people that died. And I’ve got this guy standing over there … talking about New York values with scorn, distaste, with hatred, with hatred. So folks, I think you can forget about him.” (Jose A. DelReal)
-- To be sure, Trump also has plenty of adversaries in his home town – and they’re not mincing their words: New Yorker editor David Remnick, for instance, said he wants Trump to be evicted from the city. “Trump, for decades, occupied a kind of comic space in the New York ego-space,” he said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “He was the guy who discovered, 'If I just say outrageous things and behave like a cartoon of Louis XIV, I will become enormously famous … But now it's not a question of whether or not he gets to put his name on the side of a skyscraper. It's whether he has the nuclear codes."
TRUMP NOW MUST WIN 63 PERCENT OF THE REMAINING PLEDGED DELEGATES TO AVOID A FLOOR FIGHT IN CLEVELAND:
-- “As contested convention looms, Trump to hire ‘seasoned operatives’ to help,” by Jenna Johnson and Karen Tumulty: “Trump’s campaign will soon announce the hiring of several ‘seasoned operatives’ and ‘well-known, established names’ to help [him] quickly grow his operation and prepare for a likely contested convention, his campaign manager said … Protecting Trump’s delegate count has become [the campaign’s] most urgent priority. Top aides have assigned several staff members to the cause and Trump’s new delegate wrangler, Paul Manafort, met with his team in New York on Wednesday … A larger staff could limit Trump’s ability to micromanage his campaign … It also shifts at least some power away from his tiny circle of dedicated top aides … ‘The circle is getting wider and wider,’ said [Trump adviser] Barry Bennett. ‘Corey’s in charge, but we all have access, and we all have our marching orders.’ But Trump is Trump, and longtime staffers have said they do not want to stifle their boss’s priorities and authenticity, which has been a key to his success — even as concerned outsiders warn that it could lose him the election.”
-- “Paul Manafort has a history of working for strong men," PowerPost's Catherine Ho writes in a profile that just went live. "Over a 40-year career as a lobbyist and political consultant, Manafort and his firms have advised … a business group tied to [Philippines dictator] Ferdinand Marcos [and] Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted Ukranian president and Putin ally ... Now, he will manage the Cleveland convention efforts of Trump. It’s a less puzzling career choice than it might seem … Despite decades working on political campaigns, Manafort — whose main calling card for his new job was winning the 1976 contested convention fight for Gerald Ford — is not your typical Washington power-broker. But despite his low inside-the-Beltway profile, no one underestimates Manafort as a formidable opponent who is unafraid to go to the mat for controversial, polarizing clients. The Trump job marks his re-emergence onto the U.S. political scene, one longtime friend said. ‘He’s going to be a major influence on Trump,’ said [political strategist] Scott Reed. ‘This is one of the most impressive things I’ve seen the Trump organization do,’ [said lobbyist Vin Weber.] ‘Maybe the only impressive thing.’”
-- “Cruz runs rings around Trump’s bush-league convention prep,” by columnist George F. Will (filed from Cruz’s HQ in Houston): “Because Trump is a low-energy fellow, Cruz will be positioned to trounce him in Cleveland, where Trump’s slide toward earned oblivion would accelerate during a second ballot. Wisconsin has propelled Trump, a virtuoso of contempt, toward joining those he most despises: ‘losers.’”
- “On the eve of Wisconsin’s primary, the analytics people here knew how many undecided voters were choosing between Cruz and Trump (32,000) and how many between Cruz and John Kasich (72,000) and where they lived.”
- “Walls here are covered with notes outlining every step of each state’s multistage delegate selection process. (Cruz’s campaign was active in Michigan when the process of selecting persons eligible to be delegates began in August 2014.)”
- “Cruz’s campaign is nurturing relationships with delegates now committed to Trump and others. In Louisiana’s primary, 58.6 percent of voters favored someone other than Trump; Cruz’s campaign knows which issues are particularly important to which Trump delegates, and Cruz people with similar values are talking to them.”
- “The nomination process, says Jeff Roe, Cruz’s campaign manager, ‘is a multilevel Rubik’s Cube. Trump thought it was a golf ball — you just had to whack it.’”
-- But, but, but: “Even after Wisconsin win, Cruz struggles to get establishment GOP support,” by Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane: “Cruz has tapped former U.S. senator Phil Gramm (Tex.) to head up his outreach on Capitol Hill … Gramm said racking up endorsements has not been his main goal ... Instead, his target has been opening lines of communication and working toward crafting a platform that Republicans up and down the ballot can run on this fall. ‘My message has not been what we want from you, but what we want to do with you,’ said Gramm … But in a chamber where Cruz has irked his colleagues, the firebrand Texan is proving to be a hard sell. Take Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), a freshman conservative whose first choice for president was Rubio …As the Colorado Republican Party finalizes delegate selections this weekend, Gardner’s support might be a huge boost to Cruz, but no such endorsement is coming. ‘Any nominee is going to have to earn my support, just like they’ll have to earn the support of the delegates this weekend in Colorado,’ he said.”
— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Cruz's victory in Wisconsin prompted a spike in online chatter about the possibility of a brokered convention. Even Team Sanders got into the act, implying that the Democrats, too, may not settle their nominating contest until after the primaries and caucuses are over. In all, there have been more than 1 million tweets or stories that mentioned this summer's conventions and at least one of the presidential candidates, according to our analytics partners at Zignal Labs. That number has only grown as the primary season has continued. Of the 1 million convention mentions, more than 60 percent of those have come in the last 30 days. The chart below shows how interest and mentions of the conventions have grown since the beginning of the year. The peak came on March 15, after Kasich's victory in Ohio and some new hires on his campaign team:
While Sanders is trying to keep open the possibility of suspense in Philadelphia this summer, the convention attention is focused on the GOP side. Republicans have received 63 percent of the overall chatter and coverage since Jan. 1, with 71 percent of the talk centering on the GOP contenders. The non-convention talk is overwhelmingly driven by Trump (44 percent), while all three remaining candidates loom large in convention chatter. (illustrated by this GIF):
THE LATEST ON THE DEMOCRATIC RACE:
-- Hillary Clinton launched a “fierce, two-pronged attack” on Bernie Sanders, struggling to put a series of primary losses behind her, and underscoring deep frustrations in her campaign. In an interview on MSNBC’S “Morning Joe,” she questioned his qualifications to run the country, saying Sanders “has not done his homework.” “He’d be talking for more than a year about doing things he obviously hasn’t really studied or understood,” she said. (Juliet Eilperin and Anne Gearan)
-- Clinton also questioned his party loyalty, saying he is “not a full Democrat” and might not feel the same fealty to the party. "I think he himself doesn't consider himself to be a Democrat," Clinton said. "You know, look, he's raised a lot of important issues that the Democratic Party agrees with, income inequality first and foremost. But it's up to the Democratic primary voters to make that assessment." (She made similar comments in an interview with Politico's Glenn Thrush.)
-- Bernie threw some elbows of his own at a Temple University rally, saying he does not consider Hillary qualified enough to be president. “Secretary Clinton appears to be getting a little nervous,” the Vermont senator said. “Let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton, I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is through her super PAC taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest money. I don’t think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq.” (Anne Gearan and John Wagner)
-- General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt writes an op-ed in today’s Post: “Sanders says we’re ‘destroying the moral fabric’ of America. He’s wrong.”
-- Liberal activist Naomi Klein, meanwhile, endorses Sanders in an op-ed for The Nation.
-- “After months of restraint, Mexico adopts new strategy: Standing up to Trump,” by Joshua Partlow: “The rise of Trump and the anti-immigrant wave he is riding ... have alarmed the Mexican government so much that it has reshuffled top diplomats and … adopted a new strategy — to defend the image of Mexicans abroad. ‘In recent months, we have seen a growing anti-immigrant discourse in general, anti-Mexican in particular, and not exclusively from Trump,’ said a Mexican official … The U.S. is Mexico’s biggest trading partner, with more than $1 billion in bilateral trade each day, and millions of Mexicans live north of the border. The Mexican government is worried that Trump’s rhetoric and wider anti-Mexican sentiment could hurt foreign investment and tourism and lead to more damaging U.S. policies in the future. “We see an exacerbated mood, in some sectors, against our countrymen, against our country,” said [Foreign Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu]. “There is a fear on the part of our community in the United States that this spirit can grow and overflow and may generate hostilities."
-- “Obama antagonizing business interests on his way out the door,” by Juliet Eilperin and Jim Tankersley: “Obama has negotiated with business leaders periodically during his presidency and, at times, joined with them to push issues such as expanded international trade or comprehensive immigration reform. But in his last year in office, Obama seems to have shed any hesitation to take actions that critics might dub ‘anti-business,’ … The shift is evident in three controversial decisions the administration announced this week [including cracking down on inversions and the fiduciary rule] … Coming now, at a time when anger at corporate America is animating the presidential contests … they underscore the degree to which Obama’s approach to business issues has evolved through his two terms. They also illustrate how Obama is now attempting to leverage his powers to his party’s advantage in the race to succeed him as president.”
PANAMA PAPERS LEAK:
-- Three top Chinese officials have relatives who have controlled secret offshore companies. The implications, uncovered as part of the massive cache of documents leaked from a Panama law firm, come as a major embarrassment to China’s Communist Party, whose leaders waged an aggressive anti-corruption campaign. (Ana Swanson)
-- Paul Farhi reports on how the Panama Papers came to be published: “’It began with a message — anonymous, of course: ‘Hello. This is John Doe. Interested in data?’ The recipient, German newspaper reporter Bastian Obermayer, promptly responded that he was. What followed was almost unimaginable: ‘Doe’ began forwarding files that ultimately contained 11.5 million documents, four decades’ worth of digitized records from a Panamanian law firm … The Doe data dump to Obermayer and his colleague Frederik Obermaier in 2014 eventually triggered a unique cooperative project among journalists around the world. More than a year after Doe first contacted them at their Munich-based newspaper … [the journalists] still have no idea who their source is or why he or she (or possibly they) came to them. The little background they gleaned involves the source’s motivation, which Obermayer quotes this way: ‘I want you to report on the material and to make these crimes public.’ The source never asked for financial compensation, they said.”
-- The Panama law firm once listed an office in Miami but is now making itself “exceedingly difficult to locate” in the United States. From USA Today’s Alan Gomez: “Mossack Fonseca's Miami operations have virtually disappeared [since the Panama Papers leak] … The firm's website no longer lists a Miami office. Only a page archived by Google shows that the listing once existed” … The address listing, obtained in archives from the firm’s site and from Florida records, traces back to a waterfront condo in a gleaming Miami business district … And state records show that Olga Santini, the firm's Miami representative, is a manager for ‘MF Consult LLC.’ Yet her LinkedIn profile is no longer active, and she has no listed contact information.” USA Today reported “nearly all” of the 1,000-plus U.S. corporations created by Mossack Fonseca were located in Wyoming and Nevada, whose operations are “just as obscure.” “Those states have permissive corporate secrecy laws” Gomez writes. “Wyoming, in particular, allows corporations to be formed without any individual named in corporate records.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Jamie Lee Curtis and Sarah Paulson snapped this photo:
The White House held a Nowruz celebration:
Clinton and Sanders traded barbs on Twitter:
The daughter of a Sandy Hook victim attacked Sanders on Twitter:
Clinton amplified the tweet:
...which prompted reporters to press Sanders on the point:
The parents of Aurora shooting victim Jessica Phillips are also piling on Sanders. They are filing for bankruptcy and blasted Sanders in an interview with USA Today’s Heidi Przybyla that posted this morning.
If you're with Kasich, there's one set of numbers that looks really good:
Another take, from a journalist at the New Yorker:
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) didn't seem to realize he had endorsed Cruz:
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) met with Merrick Garland:
As did Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.):
Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) received this very cute letter from a young constituent:
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My team and I are hoping that we can help Isaac and his mom celebrate his double-digit birthday with a @whitehouse tour! They can be very hard to get because demand is so great, but my office is happy to help constituents apply for White House tours! Give us a call at (202) 225-5665 if you're interested!
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) mourned Merle Haggard:
David Gregory, who has joined CNN, posted images of D.C.'s spring foliage:
NASA found a massive black hole:
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Behemoth supermassive black hole weighing 17 billion suns was found in an unlikely place: in the center of a galaxy in a sparsely populated area of the universe. The observations, made by our Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini Telescope in Hawaii, may indicate that these monster objects may be more common than once thought. This computer-simulated image shows a supermassive black hole at the core of a galaxy. The black region in the center represents the black hole's event horizon, where no light can escape the massive object's gravitational grip. The black hole's powerful gravity distorts space around it like a funhouse mirror. Light from background stars is stretched and smeared as the stars skim by the black hole. Credits: NASA, ESA, and D. Coe, J. Anderson, and R. van der Marel (STScI) [Computer Simulated Image] #nasa #space #hubble #hst #gemini #telescope #blackhole #nasabeyond #astronomy #galaxy #science
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- USA Today, “Merrick Garland, John Roberts usually agreed during their two years on appeals court,” by Richard Wolf: “In 34 cases the two shared that led to significant decisions, Garland and Roberts agreed in all but five — an 85% rate of agreement. They ruled both for and against federal agency actions as well as employers, workers and consumers. They came down hard against terrorist activities involving Iran and Libya. They nearly always denied criminal defendants' efforts to reverse convictions or reduce sentences. Their few differences highlight Garland's more reliable support for government actions and Roberts' skepticism of federal power. In cases involving challenges to federal and D.C. laws regulating endangered species, false claims and gun ownership, Garland sided with the government against Roberts.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Glenn Grothman Joins Other Republicans In Admitting Voter ID Laws Are About Suppressing Democratic Voters." From Right Wing Watch: “A Milwaukee television reporter asked [Wisconsin Rep.] Glenn Grothman why he thinks the GOP has a chance to win Wisconsin in the general election, since no Republican has won the state since 1984. Grothman replied by arguing that ‘Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up, and now we have voter ID, and I think voter ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.’ [His] claim confirmed yet again what voter ID opponents have been saying all along: that GOP lawmakers throughout the country have tried to pass laws making it more difficult to vote in order to reduce the voting share of young people and people of color.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
"Missouri Republicans Are Threatening A Planned Parenthood Employee With Jail Time,” from ThinkProgress: “Republican lawmakers have been doggedly focused on Planned Parenthood for months, hoping to catch the national women’s health organization breaking laws related to fetal tissue donation. This crusade has taken a particularly aggressive turn in Missouri — where state senators are threatening to throw the head of St. Louis’ Planned Parenthood affiliate in jail. The senators are trying to hold the Planned Parenthood employee in contempt of court — because the clinic has refused turn over a broad swath of private medical documents, which the organization says would have violated federal privacy laws."
On the campaign trail: Here's the rundown:
- Clinton: Denver, Colo.; Bexley, Ohio
- Sanders: Philadelphia
- Cruz: Scotia, N.Y.
- Kasich: Bronx, Brooklyn, N.Y.
At the White House: President Obama travels to Chicago for a speech about the Supreme Court at the University of Chicago Law School and then goes on to Los Angeles for a DCCC fundraiser. Vice President Biden travels to Las Vegas to deliver remarks about the "It's On Us Week of Action" against sexual assault.
Coming attraction: President Obama will sit for an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday." It is his first appearance on the show since 2008.
On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m. to resume work on the FAA bill. The House is not in session.
Last, but definitely not least: Today is the Nationals home opener! The game starts at 4:05.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, came to a heavily Hispanic neighborhood in the Bronx and was asked — in Spanish — how he could come to such a community, where so many were born abroad, while supporting hard-line immigration proposals. Cruz nodded and answered the question in English. The Univision reporter who asked it interrupted the senator and requested that he answer in Spanish. Cruz then responded, in Spanish, that he can understand the language better than he can speak it. "I have the problem of a second-generation immigrant. I learned Spanish the same time I learned English. I mean, when I was a little kid, mis abuelos, ellos no habla ingles," Cruz said. "But to be honest, what I really spoke at home was Spanglish. And as you know in our community, that’s true with just about everyone, and certainly with their kids." (Katie Zezima)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Another cold day with some morning rain. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Rains arrive just in time for the morning commute and could produce a half an inch or more over much of the area. Winds come out of the the south in the morning but by afternoon shift to the west. This marks the end of the steadier rains and could even allow some breaks in the clouds in the afternoon. However, some pop-up showers may redevelop late in the afternoon. Highs should reach at least the upper 50s and even the lower 60s or higher if the sun sneaks out."
-- Federal inspectors launched an investigative inspection of Metro tracks on all six lines, identifying 10 “segments of concern” to target throughout the rail system. FTA officials said the “safety blitz” will not require shutdowns. (Michael Laris)
-- Maryland’s Board of Public Works voted unanimously to approve the $5.6-billion Purple Line contract, calling the 16-mile track a “game changer” for Maryland commuters. Construction on the project could begin as early as this year. (Katherine Shaver)
-- The Nationals beat the Braves 3-1.
-- The Wizards beat the Nets 121-103.
-- Virginia’s attorney general asked for the exoneration of a man charged in a 1982 murder, saying DNA evidence proved he wasn’t the perpetrator. (Derek Hawkins)
-- Police launched another search at the National Arboretum for 8-year-old Relisha Rudd, who disappeared 25 months ago with the janitor at a D.C. homeless shelter. Officials said the new search will involve divers in the nearby water. (Peter Hermann and Dana Hedgpeth)
-- Gov. Larry Hogan (R-Md.) asked Obama to throw his weight behind a proposed redistricting plan in the state, a last-ditch effort to win over Maryland’s Democrat-led legislature before it adjourns for the year next week. (Josh Hicks)
-- The largest nursing union in the country endorsed Donna Edwards in Maryland’s Democratic Senate primary. (Rachel Weiner)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Cecily Strong's brother ran Obama's confetti canon during his Senate race:
Comedian Maz Jobrani introduced Michelle Obama at the White House's Nowruz celebration (click for video):
FLOTUS talked about Sasha and Malia, plus how she likes to tease POTUS, during an interview with YouTube stars Megan Nicole and Daiana Hernández:
Spike Lee interviewed Sanders:
Lee said his family is split between Clinton and Sanders:
A DNC video features clips of Trump repeatedly complaining that people are being "unfair" to him:
Azealia Banks and Sarah Palin's spat, explained:
Katie Couric spoke with Valerie Jarrett about the Obama administration's response to the religious freedom laws in North Carolina and Mississippi. Watch the interview here.